A Brief History

Naturopathic medicine is one of the oldest continuously licensed health care professions in the country. Its roots lie in German traditions of “Water Cure” or 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 water cure 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 detoxification as ways to improve and maintain good health. Dr. Lust opened the first health food store in the early 1900s. Naturopathic medicine grew quickly as a profession and by 1925 there were approximately 2,500 practicing naturopathic doctors and more than a dozen schools. At this point, homeopathy was integrated into the practice of Naturopathic medicine. During this time period, regulations were enacted in many states, with about half of the states licensing or regulating naturopathic medicine.

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 centered on the allopathic medical model and the increased use and development of drugs and 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.

There are several states and territories that license Naturopathic Doctors to practice primary health care including AK, AZ, CA, CT, DC, HI, ID, KS, ME, MT, NH, OR, UT, VT, WA, PR, U.S.V.I.

Several other states, including Florida, are actively moving toward licensure of naturopathic physicians. Those states include Wisconsin, New York, Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and Massachusetts.

The “Brief History of Naturopathic Medicine” is an excerpt from the California’s Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine January 2007 Report.