Naturopathic medicine has a long and distinct history as a health care profession and philosophy.
Naturopathic medicine, as a distinct health care profession, is almost 100 years old. It has its origins in the philosophy of Hippocrates and in the healing wisdom of many cultures. Hippocrates, a physician who lived 2400 years ago, is often considered the earliest predecessor of naturopathic doctors, particularly in terms of his teaching that “nature is healer of all diseases” and his formulation of the concept of vis medicatrix naturae– “the healing power of nature.” This concept has long been at the core of indigenous medicine in many cultures around the world and remains one of the central themes of naturopathic philosophy to this day.
Benedict Lust practiced in the 1800’s and is considered the father of naturopathic medicine in the United States. In the early 20th century, practitioners of a variety of medical disciplines joined together to form the first naturopathic medical societies. Naturopathic medical conventions attracted more than 10,000 practitioners, there were more than 20 naturopathic colleges, and naturopathic physicians were licensed in most states.
The increased popularity of pharmaceutical drugs and technological medicine in the 1940’s and 50’s created a widespread belief that these therapies could eliminate all disease and led to the decline of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medicine has experienced resurgence over the past twenty years because a health-conscious public is seeking alternatives to conventional medicine.
Naturopathy continues to grow and evolve as a body of knowledge. Naturopathic medicine as an organized profession is committed to research and development. It incorporates many elements of scientific modern medicine.