Herbalist profile

Mehdi and Farhang Khosh: Naturopathic doctors          

Behind the reception area at Natural Medical Care here in Lawrence, Kansas, the Khosh brothers navigate their way through thousands of bottles of natural remedies. They are surrounded by solid extracts, tinctures, capsules, teas, powders, suppositories and homeopathic treatments, all carefully sourced.

Mehdi (left) and Farhang Khosh at their offices.

Mehdi and Farhang Khosh work to contribute to the overall understanding of medicine, a goal they share with us at the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program. For immune support, they would prescribe a mixture of Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia (plants we have collected for testing). For memory and brain support, Mehdi pulls a bottle of Ginko biloba extract from the shelf, and for gastrointestinal problems, licorice root is prescribed.

Their knowledge of natural medicine is based on both personal experience from a young age and doctoral training at Bastyr University in Seattle. The brothers also come from a long line of healers, traced back to their ancestor, Avicenna (980-1037 CE), considered to be the “father of all botanical herbal medicine” in the Persian herbal tradition.

Their heritage has been a useful tool in their work as naturopaths, as they refer to Avicenna’s books as well as teachings and memories from their grandfather, Ahmad Safari, back in Iran.

 They began learning from their grandfather at a young age. They would watch their grandfather gather herbs, make tinctures and administer medicine to a patient.

 “We were always watching what he was doing,” Farhang said. “He did it with me, and I learned.”

 This kind of hands-on experience was crucial to Mehdi and Farhang’s understanding of natural medicine. They described an example of their grandfather’s healing method. A pilot had come to him with a damaged spine after a parachuting accident. For two weeks, the man stayed with the Safari family and was treated with a natural remedy. Every day, their grandfather would take him to the Zarineh Rud River, put salve on his back, along with a spine support, and bury him in the hot sand. After two weeks, the man was walking with crutches, and after four months, he relied only on a cane.

 “My grandfather was constantly dreaming of herbs for his patients,” Mehdi said. “He was a very spiritual man. When no other doctors could help this man, my grandfather could.”

Mehdi and Farhang were persecuted in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in 1979 because of their Bahá’i religious beliefs. Bahá’i is a minority religion in this mostly Muslim country, and the brothers were targeted for their unwillingness to fight for Iran when Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, invaded the country in 1980. They fled Iran and found a new place to learn at the University of Kansas. They chose Kansas because two of their best friends had recently moved to the United States, settled in Kansas to study at KU, and encouraged Mehdi and Farhang to study there too.

They earned bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry here at KU then moved to Seattle to continue studies Bastyr University, where they each received a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. Bastyr is a specialized university with a multidisciplinary curriculum in science-based natural medicine. The Khosh brothers went through two years of general science and another two years of clinical rotations, when they saw patients under supervisions of clinicians.            

Herbal tinctures -- part of the extensive apothecary at the Khosh brothers' offices.

Naturopathic doctors are required to pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination, called the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam, in order to receive a license. These examinations are taken in two parts. The first part is taken after two years of study and focuses on basic science knowledge. The second part comes after four years of training. After both board examinations, they complete their residency.

Study at Bastyr complemented the Khoshes’ traditional knowledge of herbals. While their grandfather relied on dreams and teachings from his father, he did not know the science behind the herbs to teach Mehdi and Farhang. Bastyr gave them the formal knowledge they needed to understand their traditional knowledge, and they continue to use both experiences in their work at Natural Medical Care.

 “It was folk medicine,” Farhang said. “Now I can explain why I am giving this herb to a patient.”

The Khosh brothers constantly update themselves on new findings in natural medicine. Licensed naturopathic physicians must fulfill annual state-mandated continuing education requirements. The state of Kansas requires 50 hours of continuing education for licensed naturopathic physicians. The Khoshes attend conferences each year on naturopathy and alternative medicine. They also read new articles, books and research papers on these subjects.

 The brothers walked me through a typical preliminary appointment with a patient. First, they interview the patient for an hour, going over family history, symptoms and stress levels. They explained that, after diagnostic testing and blood work, they treat the root cause of the illness and use natural remedies in conjunction with nutritional and lifestyle education.

 The Khoshes provide important resources to the community and the region through their alternative medicine options.  From the Zarineh Rud River, to the University of Kansas to Bastyr University, and back to Lawrence, Mehdi and Farhang have learned medicine in a complementary hands-on and traditional method that enables them to treat patients on an individual basis.

They know us at the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program, follow our projects, and support the efforts of the program to put the scientific research behind the botanical remedies they use.     

“It makes our job easier,” Mehdi said.

 — Kim Scherman, Undergraduate Assistant
Communications and Research