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Wade Boyle 1945-1993.
Dr. Wade Boyle, Naturopathic physician, educator, author, publisher, and associate editor of Medical Herbalism, died of cancer on October 3, 1993, at the age of forty-eight. Boyle was a scholar of the Eclectic and Physio-medicalist botanical literature and of the history of nature cure in Western Europe and the U.S. He was also a careful clinical observer who contributed significantly to the development of Naturopathic botanical medicine.

Boyle received a bachelor's degree in English from the College of Wooster and a Master of Divinity from Hartford Seminary Foundation, Connecticut. While working as a minister in Hartford, he learned about the vegetarian diet and alternative medicine. He first heard of Naturopathic medicine on a Connecticut radio talk show, and sought treatment from the physician, an experience which whetted his appetite for the art. Upon receiving a catalogue from the National College for Naturopathic Medicine, was disappointed to set that, despite his advanced education, would need to spend six more years in school to obtain his M.D.

"I was thrashing around trying, to figure out what to do with my life." he said of that to me in an interview shortly before his death. He had a dream that he was in an airport; his father had a heart attack and Boyle could not figure out what to do for him He woke very upset about the helplessness he felt, then took the dream as direction for his life and resolved to study Naturopathic medicine. "I never really thought of Naturopathic medicine as a way to make a living," Boyle related, "but rather as a way to take care of my family when they were sick." He eventually was able to provide what he called "rational medical care" when his father suffered from cancer.

Boyle graduated from National College in 1983, completed an internship there, and moved to eastern Ohio, a state which has no provision for licensing Naturopathic physicians. After some research he discovered a law on the books for the practice of "mechanotherapy," and eventually successfully sued the state to obtain the right to practice under that law.

For eight years he worked at Mantell Clinic in Cranberry, Pennsylvania -- outside Pittsburgh -- using herbs, hydrotherapy, fasting, and nutrition to treat thousands of chronically ill patients, many of them suffering from cancer. He taught at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and the Chautaqua Institution. He was a popular presenter in botanical medicine at continuing education seminars of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and served as an advisor in materia medica for the Naturopathic Physician's Licensing Exam.

I first met Wade Boyle at a lecture he was giving at a Naturopathic convention. From the podium he called himself a "meat and potatoes" herbalist, clarifying this by joking that his "placebo factor" was probably pretty low. This prompted a reaction from the audience when he next explained that, to really know a proper herbal prescription, he had to "get his hands on the patient." The crowd thought he was talking about gaining an intuitive insight. Boyle then proceeded to explain the element of a botanically oriented physical examination, solidly grounded in the basics of anatomy and physiology, using various palpation techniques to find the indicated herbal remedy. Palpation for liver enlargement, for instance, can help distinguish between different botanical liver strategies, or palpation of the pulse in the epigastric artery can determine the state of stagnation in the spleen, and indicate other remedies.

Those who knew Boyle will remember his humility, his kindness, his wry sense of humor, his careful attention to both scholarly and clinical details, his passionate love of both nature cure and medicinal plants, and his desire to preserve these for humanity in an era dominated by reductionist medical science.

Among his legacy for the community of medical herbalists are Naturopathic Hydrotherapy, Reading the Eye, Pulse and Tongue for the indicated Remedy. The Herb Doctors, and Official Herbs: Botanical Substances in the United States Pharmacopoeias, 1820-1990.

The loss of Boyle to American herbalism is the equivalent of losing, in mid-life. Eclectic giants Harvey Felter or John Uri Lloyd, or the modern phytotherapist R. F. Weiss. We would have benefited greatly from another thirty years of Boyle's observations, teaching, publishing.

He is survived by his mother, wife, two sisters, and three sons, Contributions may be made to the Wade Boyle Fund, c/o AANP, 2366 Eastlake Ave. E., #322, Seattle, WA 98102.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Paul Bergner