Obituary: Dr Jan de Vries, naturopath

Jan de Vries, well-known naturopath who had several clinics across Scotland. Picture: Martin Hunter
Jan de Vries, well-known naturopath who had several clinics across Scotland. Picture: Martin Hunter
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Born: 26 January, 1937, in Kampen, Holland. Died: 7 July, 2015, in Holland, aged 78.

The renowned Dr Jan de Vries was one of the most eminent naturopaths – practising the science of alternative medicine employing a wide array of natural treatments, including homeopathy, herbalism, and acupuncture. He gained a worldwide reputation for his remedial counselling and his methods of treatment were followed by politicians, film stars, sports personalities and members of the royal family.

He was a leader and a pioneer in alternative medicine who helped many through his clinics in Troon, Edinburgh, Glasgow and south-west Scotland.

De Vries became a close friend and medical adviser to the television presenter Gloria Hunniford and her daughter Caron Keating, who died from cancer in 2004.

In 2002 Hunniford and De Vries co-wrote a bestseller – Feel Fabulous at Fifty. She paid tribute to his work yesterday: “Jan became part of our family structure. He was just kind – seriously kind and compassionate.

“He was so hands-on with Caron and he used to go and see her when she was going through the middle stages of cancer. He was a wonderful man with his time and spirit.”

De Vries was the son of a cigar maker and was brought up by his mother after his father and older brother were deported by the Nazis. His mother courageously worked for the Dutch resistance and provided refuge for many escapees. He admired her tremendously. “She was something special,” he said.

He was brought up in war-torn Holland and when an RAF plane was shot down in his village he was made responsible for the burial of the navigator. Bodies were dragged out of the plane which had crash landed in the River Issel. De Vries tended the navigator’s grave.

Years later the navigator’s family from Scotland visited the grave and asked him to stay with them in Scotland. When he did so he sat next to a delightful young lady called Joyce. “That lady,” de Vries always recalled, “is now my wife and has been for more than 45 years. We suffered a lot in the war but that was one of the benefits that came out of it.”

De Vries studied pharmacology at Amsterdam University, graduating in 1958. He recalled in his autobiography how he attended a lecture on complementary medicine with some misgivings. “Homeopathy,” he wrote, “was good for spinsters and old wives.” He recorded that a colleague told him he had a small mind. That man was Alfred Vogel, a noted Swiss doctor who specialised in homeopathic medicine and, in time, De Vries became his most ardent supporter.

De Vries continued his studies of acupuncture in China, where he also researched into the manner of breathing and plant medicine. He worked with Vogel in his clinic in Teufen, Switzerland and studied osteopathy in Germany.

He carried out research into insomnia throughout his career and remained enthusiastic about the power lavender possesses in helping insomniacs to sleep. “Just put a few sprigs on your pillow at night,” he advocated.

In the late 1960s de Vries and Vogel opened a series of homeopathic pharmacies in Holland and in 1970 his wife inherited Mokoia, a property in Troon. The family settled in Ayrshire and he centred his company, Bioforce UK, in Scotland. Later he set up the non-residential clinic at Auchenkyle, Southwood Road, Troon.

De Vries wrote widely on the subject of complementary health and campaigned for it to be more widely recognised. He repeatedly stated that herbal medicine has no side effects and that “so much can be done without drugs”.

His most recent book was on cancers that affect women. De Vries was adamant that “it is important to talk about cancer. It had a lot to do with what you eat and drink.” He argued that as the stresses in everyday life increase it was important that people eat fruit and vegetables and take exercise. “Physical and emotional trauma exacerbate cancer,” he suggested.

He put a great deal of work into several projects which have brought alternative medicine and orthodox medicine closer. De Vries believed that a combination of the two methods of medicine would be of great benefit to those suffering from debilitating illnesses.

De Vries was a keen golfer and an enthusiastic organic gardener.

He was a most gracious and courteous man whose resonantly Dutch accent was peppered with delightful Scottish inflexions and phrases. He is survived by his wife and four daughters.