History and the Formative Years
Naturopathic medicine grew out of alternative healing systems of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but traces its philosophical roots to the Hippocratic school of medicine (circa 400 BC). Over the centuries, natural medicine and biomedicine or techno-medicine (a term coined to refer to the currently dominant school of medicine) have alternately diverged and converged, influencing and shaping one another.
The term "naturopathy" was coined by Dr. John Scheel of New York City and purchased and made popular by Benedict Lust. Lust had been exposed to a wide range of practitioners and practices of natural healing arts. He was a student of Father Kneipp, a great practitioner of hydrotherapy. Lust brought Kneipp's hydrotherapy with him to America from Germany 1892. In 1902, he founded the American School of Naturopathy. The years from 1900 to 1917 were formative ones for naturopathic medicine in America. Here converged the American dietetic, hygienic, physical culture, spinal manipulation, mental and emotion healing, Thompsonian/eclectic and homeopathic systems.
Lust founded the American Naturopathic Association, which was incorporated in 18 states. He invested a great deal of his funds and resources in an attempt or organize a naturopathic profession. He published the first "Yearbook of Drugless Therapy." Annual supplements were published either in The Naturopath and the Herald of Health or Nature's Path, which commenced publication in 1925.
The Halcyon Years
From 1918 to 1937, great interest and support for naturopathic medicine emerged from the public. The philosophical basis and scope of therapies diversified to encompass botanical, homeopathic, and environmental medicine. In the early 1920s, a "health fad" movement reached its peak in terms of public awareness and interest. Conventions nationwide were well attended by professionals, the public, and even several members of Congress.
The naturopathic journals of the 1920s and 1930s provide much valuable insight into the prevention of disease and the promotion of health. Much of the dietary advice focused on correcting poor eating habits, including the lack of fiber in the diet and an over-reliance upon red meat as a protein source. In the 1990s, the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute confirmed the early assertions of naturopathic physicians that such dietary habits could lead to degenerative diseases, including cancers associated with the digestive tract and the colon.
Suppression and Decline
From 1938 - 1970, growing political and social dominance of allopathic medicine led the way in the legal and economic suppression of naturopathic healing. In the mid 1920s Morris Fishbein, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, made a mission of attacking naturopathic physicians, accusing them of quackery. Public infatuation with technology, introduction of "miracle medicine," World War II's stimulation of the development of surgery, the growing political sophistication of the AMA through the leadership of Fishbein, and the death of Benedict Lust in 1945 all combined to cause the decline of naturopathic medicine and natural healing in the States.
American courts began to take the view that naturopathic physicians were not true doctors, as they espoused doctrines from "the dark ages of Medicine." Drugless healers were intended by law to operate without "drugs", which became defined as anything a person could ingest or apply externally for any medical purpose. Lack of insurance coverage, lost court battles, and a hostile legislative perspective progressively restricted practices and eliminated funding for naturopathic education.
Naturopathic Medicine Reemerges
The counter-culture of the late 1960s, the publics growing awareness of the importance of nutrition and the environment, and America's disenchantment with organized institutional medicine (when its limitations and prohibitive expense became apparent) resulted in increasing respect for alternative medicine and the rejuvenation of naturopathy. A new wave of students were attracted to the philosophical precepts of the profession, bringing an appreciation for the appropriate use of science and modern college education.
In order for the naturopathic profession to move back into the mainstream, it needed to establish accredited institutions, perform credible research, and establish itself as an integral part of the health care system. In 1978, the John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine (later renamed Bastyr University) was formed in Seattle Washington by Joseph E. Pizzorno, Jr., ND, Lester E. Griffith, ND, William Mitchell, ND, and Sheila Quinn to teach science-based natural medicine. Bastyr became the first naturopathic college to become accredited.
There are presently seven C.N.M.E. recognized naturopathic medical colleges in the U.S. and Canada.
With three (now seven) credible colleges, active research, and an appreciation of the appropriate application of science to natural medicine education and clinical practice, naturopathic medicine began its journey back to the mainstream.
While the naturopathic physicians of the past century were astute clinical observers, they lacked the scientific tools to assess the validity of the concepts. In the past few decades, a considerable amount of research has provided the scientific documentation for concepts of naturopathic medicine, and the new breed of scientifically-trained naturopathic physicians is utilizing this research to continue developing the profession.
NDs are licensed in Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington, Porter Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and have a legal right to practice in Idaho and the District of Columbia. Naturopaths also practice in other states without official government sanction; however, without licensing standards individuals with little or no formal education may proclaim themselves naturopathic physicians without medical school education or board testing so make SURE the ND you go to is creditable. If he or she is in our database they are. If they are not, feel free to email us and we will check your ND out to make sure he or she is creditable and if so we will let you know and add him or her to the database.
Naturopathic medicine is at the forefront of the paradigm shift occurring in medicine. The scientific tools now exist to assess and appreciate many aspects of natural medicine. It is now common for conventional medical organizations that in the past have spoken out strongly against naturopathic medicine to endorse such naturopathic techniques as lifestyle modification, stress reduction, exercise, and toxin reduction.
Most importantly, consumers are demanding a wider range of health care services. Patients want to start with the least invasive of techniques. Naturopathic physicians fill a gap, answer a demand and bring to the public a "bilingual" healthcare provider with an understanding of both natural and allopathic medicine. We are the knowledgeable gateway to true health care system.