Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation. Naturopathy favors a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and generally avoids the use of surgery and drugs. Among naturopaths, complete rejection of biomedicine and modern science is common.
The term "naturopathy" is derived from Greek and Latin, and literally translates as "nature disease". Modern naturopathy grew out of the Natural Cure movement of Europe. The term was coined in 1895 by John Scheel and popularized by Benedict Lust, the "father of U.S. naturopathy". Beginning in the 1970s, there was a revival of interest in the United States and Canada in conjunction with the holistic health movement. Today, naturopathy is primarily practiced in the United States and Canada. The scope of practice varies widely between jurisdictions, and naturopaths in unregulated jurisdictions may use the Naturopathic Doctor designation or other titles regardless of level of education.
Naturopathic practitioners in the US can be divided into three categories: traditional naturopaths; naturopathic physicians; and other health care providers that provide naturopathic services. Naturopathic physicians employ the principles of naturopathy within the context of conventional medical practices. Naturopathy comprises many different treatment modalities such as nutritional and herbal medicine, lifestyle advice, counseling, flower essence, homeopathy and remedial massage.


Monsignor Sebastian Kneipp, 1821–1897

Benedict Lust, 1872–1945

Some see the ancient Greek "Father of Medicine", Hippocrates, as the first advocate of naturopathic medicine, before the term existed. The modern practice of naturopathy has its roots in the Nature Cure movement of Europe during the 19th century. In Scotland, Thomas Allinson started advocating his "Hygienic Medicine" in the 1880s, promoting a natural diet and exercise with avoidance of tobacco and overwork.
The term naturopathy was coined in 1895 by John Scheel, and purchased by Benedict Lust, the "father of U.S. naturopathy". Lust had been schooled in hydrotherapy and other natural health practices in Germany by Father Sebastian Kneipp; Kneipp sent Lust to the United States to spread his drugless methods. Lust defined naturopathy as a broad discipline rather than a particular method, and included such techniques as hydrotherapy, herbal medicine, and homeopathy, as well as eliminating overeating, tea, coffee, and alcohol. He described the body in spiritual and vitalistic terms with "absolute reliance upon the cosmic forces of man's nature".
In 1901, Lust founded the American School of Naturopathy in New York. In 1902 the original North American Kneipp Societies were discontinued and renamed "Naturopathic Societies". In September 1919 the Naturopathic Society of America was dissolved and Benedict Lust founded the American Naturopathic Association to supplant it. Naturopaths became licensed under naturopathic or drugless practitioner laws in 25 states in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Naturopathy was adopted by many chiropractors, and several schools offered both Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) and Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degrees. Estimates of the number of naturopathic schools active in the United States during this period vary from about one to two dozen.


Naturopathy focuses on naturally occurring substances, minimally invasive methods, and encouragement of natural healing. As funding for complimentary medicine research increases, Naturopaths are able to rely more heavily on evidence based research. Prevention through stress reduction and a healthy diet and lifestyle is emphasized, and pharmaceutical drugs, ionizing radiation, and surgery, are generally minimized.


Naturopaths use a wide variety of treatment modalities, focusing on the concept of natural self-healing rather than any specific method.[8][28] Some methods rely on immaterial "vital energy fields".
A consultation typically begins with a lengthy patient interview focusing on lifestyle, medical history, emotional tone, and physical features, as well as physical examination. The traditional naturopath focuses on lifestyle changes, not diagnosing or treating diseases. Practitioners of naturopathic medicine hold themselves to be primary care providers and in addition to various natural approaches seek to prescribe prescription drugs, perform minor surgery and apply other conventional medical approaches to their practice. Naturopaths do not generally recommend vaccines and antibiotics, and may provide alternative remedies even in cases where evidence-based medicine has been shown effective.

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Coppied and Edited by Judd Bryant