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A History of Naturopathic Medicine Throughout Time

In 1901, Dr. Benedict Dr. Lust bought the name Naturopathic Medicine to describe the practice of “nature doctors.” His school, New York Homeopathic Medical College, graduated its first class, just a year later. Thus the history of naturopathic medicine began its genesis.

Before he started his school, however, Dr. Lust became ill and returned home to Germany, looking for a cure for what he thought was tuberculosis.

A Bavarian Catholic Priest named Father Sebastian Kneipp helped Dr. Lust improve his health. He used hydrotherapy and naturopathic remedies. 

Through exercise, a proper nutritional diet, and herbalism, he helped Dr. Lust restore his health.

It was after this experience that Dr. Lust moved back to New York. In New York, he opened up his own health store and Naturopathic Medicine school and continued his own medical education.

Do you want to learn more about the fascinating history of Naturopathic Medicine? Keep reading!

What Is Naturopathic Medicine?

A History of Naturopathic Medicine Throughout Time | Naturopathic Dr

Also referred to ask “naturopathy, Naturopathic Medicine entails looking at the whole patient. It uses several traditional healthcare approaches and practices, most of which have been around for thousands of years. 

People opt to see naturopathic doctors for a wide variety of ailments. Naturopathic doctors help treat cancer, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and even depression and anxiety.

It’s not necessarily used as an alternative to modern medicine. Many times the two are used in conjunction with one another.

The way that it works is by using the natural healing powers of the body to help cure itself. Rather than just putting bandaids on or treating symptoms of a disease, it aims to treat the cause of the ailment.

Naturopathic doctors focus on several different treatments and life aspects, such as:

  • Herbs and dietary supplements
  • Homeopathy
  • Diet and lifestyle
  • Exercise therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Counseling
  • Practitioner-guided detoxification
  • Manipulative therapies

Many naturopathic doctors have a primary focus. They offer different treatments, depending on their practice, training, and the ailments of their focus.

More About the History

A History of Naturopathic Medicine Throughout Time | Naturopathic Dr

The Greek physician, Hippocrates, lived almost 2500 years ago. However, he was the first person to formulate the concept known as “the healing power of nature.”

And that same concept is one of Naturopathic Medicine’s fundamental principles.

He wanted to focus on the body’s ability to heal itself, also known as innate healing. The healing power of the body is self-organizing. It’s a programmed healing process of living systems within the body that establish, maintain, and restore health.

That same concept remained at the core of many different medicinal practices across the world.

Dr. Benedict Dr. Lust took the clinical practice of Naturopathic Medicine to another level by giving it a name and noting the many aspects of that practice. He practiced Naturopathic Medicine by integrating natural healing methods, such as:

  • Homeopathy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Lifestyle counseling
  • Botanical medicine
  • Manipulative therapy
  • Acupuncture

However, after WWII, people put their faith in conventional healthcare. They focused on advanced surgical techniques, antibiotics, and growing pharmaceutical companies.

This faith in conventional medical technologies still stands today. However, in recent years, many people have looked toward alternative medicines. These alternatives combat ailments and conditions like stress, depression, autoimmune disorders, and more.

In 1956 in Portland, OR, the National College for Naturopathic Medicine was established and is accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education.  The school continues to grow and changed its name in 2016 to the National University of Natural Medicine to demonstrate its broader scope of education.  Aside from the four-year post-graduate doctoral program, it also offers seven other programs including Classical Chinese Medicine and Nutrition. 

Naturopathic remedies are beneficial. They work on their own and in conjunction with other medicinal practices. Natural remedies depend on both the individual and the illness.

The History of Naturopathic Medicine and Treating the Whole Person

A History of Naturopathic Medicine Throughout Time | Naturopathic Dr

Naturopathic doctors focus on whole-patient wellness.

When you go to a “regular doctor,” they don’t always ask questions about your lifestyle or your past.

What they do is treat the issues, the symptoms, etc. and that is their primary focus.

Naturopathic science calls for something more.

Naturopathic physicians try to identify the underlying causes of a patient’s condition. 

They focus on the entire patient through the promotion of health and disease prevention. They address the whole disease or ailment by concentrating on the body, spirit, and mind.

The goal is to find the least harmful and most effective therapies. Those therapies work hand-in-hand with the body’s natural ability to restore and maintain optimal health.

Anxiety and depression plague people across the world. Diet, exercise, and meditation can help combat anxiety and depression. For many patients, there is no need for pharmaceutical drugs.

Even autoimmune disorders can often be alleviated through diet, exercise, and natural supplements.

What’s the Process?

A History of Naturopathic Medicine Throughout Time | Naturopathic Dr

The Naturopathic process is extensive and thoughtful. Every doctor begins with an interview. They then document their patient’s health histories and illnesses. They also look at primary complaints, previous family history, psycho-social characteristics.

Based on their interviews and monitoring, a naturopathic doctor will advise their patients. They’ll suggest nutritional medicine regimes and therapeutic exercise.

They’ll prescribe or administer natural medicines, such as:

  • Botanical extracts
  • Dietary supplements
  • Herbs
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Amino acids
  • Vitamins

They’ll often perform laboratory and diagnostic radiology tests. They also use imaging procedures like bone densitometry tests, ultrasounds, and radiographs.

A naturopathic doctor conducts physical examinations and physiological function tests, just like other doctors.

The main difference is that they assess the whole person, rather than just the symptoms or the ailment. Plus, they opt to use natural forms of medicine rather than chemical.

Naturopathic Remedies Are Thoughtful and Intentional

Naturopathic remedies are fantastic because they don’t overlook any aspect of a patient or their history. So while there might be two people with the same ailment, they’ll each have their own treatment path.

While it’s gained popularity in recent years, Naturopathic Medicine is nothing new under the sun. Many elements of Naturopathic Medicine have been used successfully for thousands of years. Do you want to know how we can help you restore, establish, and maintain your health? Get in touch with us for all your health-related questions!

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About The Author:

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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