Many nonaccredited correspondence schools issue “degrees” and certificates which suggest that the recipient is a qualified expert who can provide rational advice about nutrition or health care. These documents are promoted as though they are equivalent in meaning to established credentials—which they are not. One of the most prolific was the Clayton College of Natural Health (CCNH), of Birmingham, Alabama, offered “degrees” and certificates in “natural health,” traditional naturopathy, “holistic nutrition” and related subjects. CCNH described itself as “the world’s leading college of natural health” with over 25,000 graduates. In July 2010, it suddenly announced that it was closing. This article explains why I recommend avoiding its alumni.
According to 2003 version of the CCNH Web site:
In the late 1970s Lloyd Clayton, Jr., N.D., who had recovered his own health through natural healing, established an eco-friendly herb company. Soon, his new company was inundated by customer inquiries regarding herbs and how to use them. Delighted to discover such strong worldwide interest in natural health, he and family members created two distance learning colleges in 1980: The Clayton School of Natural Healing and American Holistic College of Nutrition. Coming together in 1997 as Clayton College of Natural Health, the school now offers college degree programs in traditional naturopathy, natural health, holistic nutrition, continuing education for graduates, certificate programs in herbal studies, healthcare professional studies, and iridology, and concentration programs in herbology, iridology, and nutrition and lifestyles .
Application packets I collected in 1983, 1985, 1989, 1991, and 1995 provide additional details. During the early 1980s, the school was called “Dr. Clayton’s School of Natural Healing” and the credentials offered were “a beautiful hand lettered diploma displaying your training as NUTRITIONAL CONSULTANT, MASTER IRIDOLOGIST, MASTER HERBOLOGIST.” The tuition was $800 for the nutrition consultant course and $425 for either of the other courses. A brochure stated that Clayton had received his doctor of naturopathy degree in 1978 and was a “specialist in herbology and massage.”
By 1985, the school was called “The Clayton School of Natural Healing,” the catalog offered a “Doctor of Naturopathy” program, and Clayton’s product line had expanded to include homeopathic products and vitamin and mineral formulas. In 1985, East/West Journal reported that the tuition was $695 for a 100-hour course . In 1991, the school offered “Doctor of Holistic Health” and “Doctor of Science” Programs. By this time, tuition for the “Doctor of Naturopathy” program had risen to $1,735 with a $300 discount if the entire amount was paid in advance. The application form in the packets from 1983 through 1991 was a single page that asked nothing about previous education. The only apparent requirements for admission were a name, an address, and payment of tuition.
The 1995 catalog stated that the Clayton School of Natural Healing and the American Holistic College of Nutrition had been “brought together as part of the American College of Natural Health.” By this time, the catalog had expanded to 48 pages and offered bachelor, master’s, and doctoral programs leading to eight different degrees, with tuition ranging from $1,435 for the Master of Science in Natural Health to $4,485 for a B.S./M.S./doctoral program. Unlike previous versions, the catalog was printed on high-quality paper and the application form asked about educational and work experiences.
Each packet I received was accompanied by a list of “Dr. Clayton’s” herbal products. Over the years, the product line gradually expanded to include homeopathic as well as vitamin and mineral products. For many years, the “Wellness Guide” on the Dr. Clayton’s Naturals Web site contained a table of “remedies” to explain the intended purposes of the products. The targeted ailments included acne, asthma, candidiasis, fibromyalgia, infection, kidney stones, hepatitis, impotence, parasites, and dozens of other health concerns. These claims were illegal.
In 2003, CCNH tuition fees for the “degree” programs ranged from $3,500 to $8,800, with discounts available for prepayment.
Accreditation constitutes public recognition that an educational program meets the administrative, organizational, and financial criteria of a recognized agency. In the United States, educational standards for schools are set by a network of agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) or the Council on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation (CORPA). USDE and CORPA do not accredit individual schools, but they approve the national and regional agencies that do so. Almost all such agencies are voluntary and nongovernmental. Nonaccredited schools offering health-related instruction almost always advocate unscientific concepts. Moreover, is not possible to learn to properly care for patients without lengthy supervised experience with patients, which most nonaccredited schools, including Clayton, do not offer. Clayton states that it is accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and the American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board. However, these are not recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education, which means that “accreditation” by them is meaningless.
In 1998, an official of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization concluded that Clayton’s naturopathy graduates would not be eligible for licensure in Oregon . During the course of its investigation, the department acquired four diplomas issued to one “graduate” (Joyce M. Randrup) during a 14-month period. Randrup’s “Doctor of Naturopathy” diploma was dated January 25, 1988, and her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. diplomas were all dated March 28, 1989.
CCNH’s courses have included instruction in “alternative” cancer treatments, aromatherapy, “the ayurvedic approach,” Bach Flower remedies, biochemical individuality, spectro-chrome (color) therapy, detoxification, enzymatic nutritional therapy, fasting techniques, homeopathy, imaginal healing, iridology, psychodietetics, reflexology, therapeutic touch, and “methods for determining your own optimal supplement levels.” I have not reviewed the actual course materials, but all of these methods involve irrational theories and methods. The nature of CCNH’s teachings is also reflected in the brazen claims of its graduates. Here are a few examples of people who have listed one or more “degrees” from Clayton or the American Holistic College of Nutrition:
- Ward EW. Bond, who hosts a TV show called “Think Natural,” obtained a “PhD in nutrition” from Clayton in 1999. He claims to have created successful management programs for interstitial cyctitis, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, ALS and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Hulda Clark (1928-2009), author of The Cure for All Cancers and The Cure for All Disease, is an unlicensed naturopath who claimed that all cancers, AIDS, and many other diseases are caused by “parasites, toxins, and pollutants” and that she could cure them with herbs and a low-voltage electrical device, sometimes within hours. Most of her patient contact was at a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. Clark claimed to be doing research but never had a paper published in a medical journal . Her naturopathic degree was from Clayton.
- Ann Louise Gittleman has a “PhD in Holistic Nutriton” from Clayton in additiion to a legitimate masters degree in nutrition education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Her 30+ books include The Fat Flush Duet, which claims that weight loss requires “the purging of toxins from the body,” and Guess What Came for Dinner: Parasites and Your Health (1993), which that misrepresents the prevalence of parasitic infections among Americans. For those who have them—or think they do—she recommends using laxatives and other “intestinal cleansers,” colonic irrigation, plant enzymes, dietary measures, and homeopathic products—none of which would actually provide effective treatment for any type of parasite. She also states that “folklore instructions suggest that any course of treatment for worms should begin around the full moon when the parasites become more active in the system.” Although she correctly indicates that “many effective drugs are used against parasite infections” she incorrectly suggests that they are more likely to cause harm than good. She also sells “fat flush” and other dietary supplement products on her Wen site.
- Gillian McKeith, author of You Are What You Eat and Living Foods for Health, is a television commentator and sees patients at her McKeith Research Centre in London, England. A booklet she wrote states that she “conducts clinical research, publishes findings, and treats illness through comprehensive biochemistry” and “believes that most disease can be eradicated with the proper application of a natural and nutritional approach.”  She also operates McKeith Research Ltd., which markets “organic living food supplements.”  From 2002 to 2004, one of her Web sites described her as “the world’s top nutritionist” and stated that she had “spent several years” training for master’s and doctorate degrees in holistic nutrition from the American Holistic College of Nutrition. Like Clark, McKeith has never reported any research in a medical journal.
- Bill Misner, director of research and product development for Hammer Nutrition, lists “Ph.D. (High Honors) & M.S. (Honors) Holistic Nutrition.”
- Linda Rector Page, a prolific author, has degrees in naturopathy and holistic nutrition from Clayton
- Tony Perrone, has a “PhD” from CCNH. In 2008, his Web site stated that he was “one of the nation’s leading nutritional authorities” and had been practicing “alternative medicine and clinical nutrition” for 17 years. In 2010, the site stated that he was “among the most effective alternative medicine and anti-aging specialists in the world,” had been labeled by the media as “nutritionist to the stars,” and “works with clients with nearly every imaginable illness.”
- John Pillepich has a “Ph.D. in holistic nutrition” from CCNH in addition to bachelor and masters degrees from accredited schools. A former director of product development at the Brain Bio Center, he works with Dr. Eric Braverman and serves as “chief science advisor” for Total Health Nutrients. He also operates SupraHealth, which markets dietary supplements and provides “customized healing programs” to people who e-mail their concerns and questions related to 18 categories of health problems listed on the SupraHealth site .
- Amy Yasko, who does business as Holistic Health International and the Neurological Research Institute in Bethel, Maine, includes ND and NHD from CCNH among the six credentials listed in her resumé. Her special interest is in treating autistic children. One of her Web sites claims that using natural herbs and medicines, she has has been able to “halt and in most cases have reversed the effects of chronic adult inflammatory diseases including ALS, MS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, SLE, Myasthenia gravis, heart disease, sarcoidosis and polymyalgia rheumatica, among others.” 
- Robert O. Young, author of The pH Miracle, The pH Miracle for Diabetes, and The pH Miracle for Weight Loss, claims that health and weight control depend primarily on proper balance between an alkaline and acid environment that can be optimized by eating certain foods. These claims are false .Young offers educational retreats that include a private blood cell analysis and “nutritional consultation” at his 45-acre estate in Valley Center, California. In 1996, under a plea bargain, Young pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempted practice of medicine without a license and was promised that the charge would be dismissed if he stayed out of trouble for 18 months. Young claimed that he had looked at blood samples from two women and simply gave them nutritional advice . The blood test he advocates (live-cell analysis) has no scientific validity . Young’s “credentials” include doctoral degrees in nutrition, science, and naturopathy from the American Holistic College of Nutrition. His Web site claims that he “has been widely recognized as one of the top research scientists in the world,” and his book states that he “has gained national recognition for his research into diabetes, cancer, leukemia, and AIDS.” Yet he, too, has had nothing published in a recognized scientific journal. In 2014, Young and two associates were arrested and charged with multiple counts of grand theft conspiring to practice medicine without a license .
Clayton’s “Rebuttal to Quackwatch”
In January 2009, Clayton published what it called a “rebuttal” to this article that contained misinformation about me collected from the Internet . Most of the misinformation was part of a libel campaign that has targeted me for several years . One paragraph illustrated the extraordinary degree of baloney that my critics have concocted in their attempt to damage my credibility:
In 2002, health writer Helke Ferrie decided to test Quackwatch’s insistence that it relies on public support, according to the Quackwatch representative with whom she spoke. According to Ferrie, when she attempted to apply for membership she was told the annual fee was $25,000. When Ferrie said, “That’s fine, send me the membership application,” the voice on the other end asked if she was calling on behalf of a corporation. When Ferrie indicated that she was not calling for a corporation, the Quackwatch representative said, “We prefer corporate members.”
This passage appeared in an article in Vitality magazine in 2002  and is a complete fabrication. I have never said that Quackwatch relied on public support—or any support—because it doesn’t. As noted on my Web site, donations are welcome, but if they don’t cover the expenses of operating my Web sites, I pay the rest out of my pocket . Ferrie’s claim that she spoke with a “Quackwatch representative” is rather odd because nobody but me “represents” Quackwatch and she never spoke with me. Her story about applying for membership is even stranger because Quackwatch has not been a membership organization since the mid-1970s, and when it was, membership was free.
In 2008, Alabama, which had been a haven for substandard schools, began implementing a new rule that private, degree granting, post-secondary educational institutions must be accredited by a recognized agency or be a candidate for accreditation. As of October 1, this requirement applied to any such institution that applies for initial licensure or renewal . Clayton’s license was due to expire on December 1, 2008, but the Alabama Community College Web site indicates that it was renewed until January 31, 2011. Clayton was able to remain licensed by becoming a candidate for accreditation by the Distance Education and Training Council for a new program that would lead to a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. However, it had to drop its naturopathy program.
In July 2010, the Birmingham News revealed that Clayton was “preparing to cease operations” and its demise was the result of the economic recession . However, former employees have told me that there were other factors.
In November 2010, a class-action suit was filed on behalf of an estimated 5,000+ people who had enrolled in CCNH and submitted most or all of their tuition in advance. The suit alleges that CCNH had refused to refund tens of millions of tuition dollars for programs that were not completed .
The Bottom Line
I believe that CCNH did have one potentially valuable aspect. Its credentials are a reliable sign of someone not to consult for advice.
- A natural birth. CCNH Web site, archived April 19, 2003.
- Miller BW. Natural healing through naturopathy. East/West Journal 15(12):55-59, 1985.
- Young DA. Letter to William S. Fishburne III, Feb 12, 1998.
- Barrett S. The bizarre claims of Hulda Clark. Quackwatch, Nov 9, 2004.
- McKeith G. Miracle Superfood: Wild Blue-Green Algae. Los Angeles: Keats Publishing, 1999.
- About McKeith Research. McKeith Research Web site, accessed Aug 6, 2005.
- Have a customized healing program designed for you—FREE! SupraHealth Web site, accessed Feb 10, 2015.
- Dr. Amy’s message. Neurological Research Institute Web site, accessed October 16, 2008.
- Mirkin G. Acid/alkaline theory of disease is nonsense. Quackwatch, Feb 6, 2003.
- Herbalist in Alpine pleads guilty to reduced charge. Deseret News (Salt Lake City), Feb 5, 1996.
- Barrett S. Live blood cell analysis: Another gimmick to sell you something. Quackwatch, Feb 23, 2005.
- DA charges two with conspiracy to practice medicine without a license:
Defendants using I-V yreatments on patients at avocado ranch. San Diego County District Attorney news release, Jan 24, 2014.
- Clayton College of Natural Health responds to Quackwatch. CCNH Web site January 27, 2009.
- Barrett S. A response to Tim Bolen. Quackwatch, Oct 12, 2008.
- Ferrie H. The quackbusters. Vitality, May 2002.
- Barrett S. Who funds Quackwatch? Quackwatch, Jan 26, 2009.
- Guidelines for policy 720.01: Private school licensure in Alabama. Revised 2008.
- Diel S. Birmingham-based Internet college to close, blames economy. Birmingham News, July 10, 2010.
- Class-action complaint. Goldberg et al v. Clayton College of Natural Health, Inc., Magnolia Corporate
Services, Inc., Lloyd Clayton, Jeff Goin, William Fishburne, and Kay Channell.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern District, filed Nov 5, 2010.
This article was revised July 31, 2019.