The history of all medicine contains the roots of naturopathic medicine. The fact that we have to precede the term medicine with naturopathic, as a distinction, is relatively recent (150 years). Prior to that, all reliable medicine was characteristically naturopathic. The grandfather of Naturopathy is Sebastian Kneipp. He first integrated many of the primary components into a healing system in his Bavarian practice in the mid 19th century. His treatments brought together hydrotherapy, herbalism, nutrition, exercise and spirituality. He published his concepts in a book called “My Water Cure” in 1886.
If Kneipp is the grandfather of Naturopathic medicine, then Benedict Lust, one of Kneipp’s students is the father of North American Naturopathic care. After being treated and cured by Father Kneipp, Lust moved to America where he studied Homeopathy and Osteopathy. He also added valuable concepts to the profession that he learned from yoga and Ayurvedic practices. Eventually he started the Naturopathic Society of America and a naturopathic college. He championed the effort to have naturopathic medicine recognized politically and appreciated by the general public.
During the early 20th century, Naturopathy flourished in North America with the efforts of the early pioneers. The many immigrants from Europe were accustomed to being treated by the followers of Kneipp and this approval transferred smoothly to their new neighbors in North America. The increasing success of surgical treatment, anti-naturopathic political forces and the general concept that new medical technology would cure all diseases lead to a decline in the numbers of Naturopathic schools and doctors from the 1930s to the 1970s. Mainstream medicine demanded specific research evidence that for most naturopathic treatments is extremely challenging or not possible simply due to the individualized care that is at the heart of the naturopathic care. This lead to naturopathic doctors being admonished in the media and the number of naturopathic doctors diminished due to decreasing demand. A few stalwart minds held the course, advocating for the human body’s innate ability to restore itself as a more promising means to achieve and maintain health. These individuals revived and revitalized the profession as people learned that drugs and surgery could only take them so far, especially in the areas of chronic disease and prevention.
Today the number of naturopathic doctors and patients are growing as individuals discover (or rediscover) an better way to take control of their own lives. The profession is regulated and licensing primary care doctors in five Canadian provinces, sixteen US states and two US territories. These jurisdictions only accept doctors who graduate from CNME accredited programs that have passed standardized North American Licensing Examinations.
Natural doesn’t mean old. The principles of naturopathic medicine have remained true to those used by Father Kneipp and Dr Lust but we have discovered new ways to diagnose and treat many conditions. Today, the naturopathic doctors at Ocean Park Natural Therapies use many techniques ranging from ancient to cutting edge to promote the healing of their patients. It is important though that we recognize the value of those that either developed or persevered in intense adversity the medicine that we deliver every day; we strive to honour this lineage of healers with our practice and our lives.
If you are interested in reading more on the history here are a few resources that we recommend.
- The History of Naturopathic Medicine: a Canadian Perspective – Dr Iva Lloyd
- Nature Cures: The History of Alternative Medicine in America – James C Whorton, PhD
- My Water Cure: Fr Sebastien Kniepp
- Nature Cure Philosophy and Practice Based on the Unity of Disease and Cure – Dr Henry Lindlahr