History of Naturopathy

“Nature is doing her best each moment to make us well.  She exists for no other end.  Do no resist.  With the least inclination to be well, we should not be sick.”

Henry David Thoreau
The History of Naturopathy – The Beginning

Natural medicine has its roots in ancient societies.  Hippocrates recognized the “healing power of nature” 2400 years ago.  Natural medicine has been practiced since we conceptualized medicine, but it wasn’t until Dr. Benedict Lust who coined the term “naturopathy” to describe a clinical practice which integrates botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutritional therapy, manipulative therapy, acupuncture, and lifestyle counseling.  Naturopathy, or “nature cure” relies on empowering people to make the best decisions for their health.

The recognized “father” of naturopathy is Sebastian Kneipp, a priest who credited curing himself from Tuberculosis in the Danube.

Naturopathy has a rich relationship among pioneering peoples, subsequently flourishing in America in the early 1900’s.  The American School of Naturopathy was founded by Dr. Lust in New York with its first graduating class in 1902.  Naturopathy has always been holistic in both its practice and ideals; women and African Americans were admitted 20 years before the first allopathic school.

Naturopathic medicine was very popular until the 1930’s.  At this point the conventional medical practice began its grip on the healthcare industry by:

  • Bloodletting and mercury dosing were discontinued and replaced them with therapies that resembled naturopathic herbs.  These treatments were less toxic and more effective.
  • Pharmaceuticals began subsidizing medical schools.
  • Medicine started lobbying legislation to restrict other health care systems in order to control the whole market.

Naturopathy was just about extinguished in the 1950’s.  At this time, a small band of idealists started teaching the principles out of a basement in Portland, Oregon.  People heard about this movement, and this little group grew into a college, the National College of Natural Medicine.  From here, 3 United States colleges have been created.

Sources: National College of Natural Medicine, Bastyr University, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences

How does Naturopathic medicine differ from Allopathic medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a “system of medicine that focuses on prevention of illness and the use of nontoxic, natural therapies.”

The entire paradigm of natural medicine is different than its Western counterpart.

Old Approach

  • Body is a machine
  • Body and mind are separate
  • Eliminate disease
  • Treat symptoms
  • Specialize (only treat one organ system)
  • Heroic measures
  • Objective focus (labs, charts, statistics)
  • Physician should not be attached emotionally, be neutral, detached, indifferent
  • Physician is all-knowing

Naturopathic Approach

  • Address the whole person
  • The body and mind are interconnected
  • Emphasize achieving good health
  • Treat underlying cause
  • Integrated approach
  • Focus on subjective information (patient experience)
  • Physician’s caring and empathy are critical to healing
  • Physician is partner in healing process
  • Patient is in charge of health care choices
Naturopathic medicine is based on 7 principles:
  1. First, do no harm.  In Latin, primum no nocere
  2. Nature has healing powers.  Vis medicatrix naturae
  3. Identify and treat the cause.  Tolle causum
  4. Treat the whole person
  5. The physician is teacher
  6. Prevention is the best cure
  7. Establish health and wellness

The need for naturopathic medicine is greater than ever.  Healthcare costs are skyrocketing, people are being neglected, with disease-care taking center stage.

Patient Satisfaction

Not only in natural medicine cost-effective, clinically effective, but people are very satisfied with the person-centric approach.  People who utilize natural medicine are more satisfied with the results of their treatment than are patients who receive drugs and surgery as solutions.  In a study from the Netherlands, people who were seeing a “complementary physician” reported better results for almost every condition.  Also, out of 24 conditions compared between natural and conventional treatments, people reported better results in 21 of those conditions using natural therapies.  For most of the common ailments, natural therapies provide better success rates in treatment.

It is very unfortunate when Naturopathic medicine is said to be pseudoscience.  Actually, there is a huge number of studies that have been done and are currently being done studying herbs, homeopathy, and diet.

Just as an example, on cumin alone, there are now 92 entries on cumin seed alone in NIH database.

While studies on natural treatments remain low, because they cannot be patented, there is new research being done exploring its benefits.

Common Ailments Natural Medicine Treats
  • Allergies
  • Anemia
  • Anxiety
  • Cough
  • Depression
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Emotional instability
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling ill
  • GI disease
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Insulin resistance and syndrome X
  • Itching or burning
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain
  • Palpitations
  • Sexual problems
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin rash
  • Stiffness
  • Thyroid Conditions
  • Weight Gain




Murray, Michael T.. Encyclopedia Of Natural Medicine, revised 2nd ed. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Print.


W.T. Oojendijk, et al., What is Better?  An investigation into the Use and Satisfaction with Complementary and Official Medicine in the Netherlands (Netherlands: Institute of Preventative Medicine and the Technical Industrial Organization, 1980).