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History of Naturopathic Medicine

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Naturopathic medicine is one of the oldest continuously licensed health care professions in the country. Its roots lie in German traditions of hydrotherapy advocated by Sebastian Kneipp in the mid-19th century. Dr. Benedict Lust, considered to be the Father of Naturopathic Medicine, expanded upon the European hydro and herbal therapies to develop a comprehensive philosophy and system of health which he brought to the United States around the turn of the century. In 1901, Dr. Lust opened the American School of Naturopathy in Manhattan.

Its approach emphasized diet, exercise, physical medicine, herbs, and homeopathy as ways to improve and maintain good health. Naturopathic medicine grew quickly as a profession and by 1925 there were approximately 2,500 practicing naturopathic doctors and more than a dozen schools. During this period, regulations were enacted in many states, with about half of the states licensing or regulating naturopathic medicine. This rise in popularity created strong opposition from allopathic medicine, which labeled naturopathic medicine as "quackery."

Naturopathic medicine experienced a significant decline in popularity from the post World War II era until the 1970s as most health care at that time centeredon the allopathic medical model and the increased use and development of drugsand antibiotics. In the 1970s, with increased interest in holistic and alternative health care, naturopathic medicine experienced a resurgence of interest with expanded educational programs and state licensure.

In the past 30 years, naturopathic medicine has experienced dramatic growth with new schools being established, standardization of education and accreditation, and expanded research on safety and efficacy of naturopathic practices. In 2003, California became the 13th state to recognize naturopathic medicine and provide licensure to naturopathic doctors.

Naturopathic Medicine Today

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct and comprehensive system of primary healthcare that uses natural methods and substances to support and stimulate the body’s self-corrective process.

Currently, 14 states, the District of Columbia, and the US territories of PuertoRico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. The Alliance for State Licensing (Alliance) is a group of representatives from various state naturopathic associations that align with each other to shareinformation, support, and experience in their quest for licensure, under theauspices of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. According tothe Alliance, the states of Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia have introduced legislation during the lastyear or will be introducing legislation next year.

The states of Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin are moving towards legislation in the near future.

By the California Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine

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Updated: Dec 21 2013