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History of Naturopathic Medicine

As a distinct health care professional, Naturopathic Medicine is over 125 years old. The term "Naturopathy" was first coined in 1885 by Dr. John Scheel, a German homeopath practicing the methods of Kneipp and Kuhn at his Badekur Sanitarium in New York. Benedict Lust purchased the name in 1901 to describe the eclectic practice of "nature doctors". At the time, Naturopathy embraced all known means of natural therapeutics, including diet, herbs, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, exercise, and manipulative therapies, as well as psychological and spiritual counseling.

Naturopathic medicine developed at a time when there was tremendous change and advancement in North America with respect to health care. Homeopathy had been brought to America in 1833 by Dr. Constantine Hering, Osteopathy was established by Andrew Taylor Still in 1874, and Chiropractic medicine was established in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer. Many of the early naturopaths held multiple designations and there was an acceptance and appreciation for the different forms of healing

The first school of naturopathy was founded in New York City by Dr. Benjamin Lust, and graduated its first class in 1902.

The Oregon Association of Naturopathic Physicians was founded in 1909, and is the oldest association representing naturopathic doctors in North America.

By the 1920's, naturopathic medical conventions attracted more than 10,000 practitioners and there were over twenty naturopathic medical schools. At the time, Naturopathic Physicians were licensed in most states, including Oregon, which formally licensed naturopathic doctors in 1927

Naturopathic medicine experienced a decline in the 1940s and ’50s with the rise of pharmaceutical drugs, technological medicine, and the idea that drugs could eliminate all disease. As one after another ND degree program closed down, National University of Naturopathic Medicine was founded in Portland, OR to keep the medicine alive.

After decades of disturbing trends of pharmaceutical side effects, rising death rates from adverse drug reactions, and a growing body of evidence on the myths of "safe and effective drugs," the profession has experienced a resurgence in the past two decades as a health–conscious public has sought alternatives for conditions that conventional medicine has not adequately addressed.

Since the late 1970s, three more naturopathic colleges have opened, and National University of Natural Medicine’s enrollment has quadrupled. This growth is in direct response to the changing needs of our society; not only is the public demanding a medical model in which the individual plays a more active role in her/his health and healing process, but doctors also want a medical model that is more patient–centered and holistic.

Today, the World Health Organization's Director General Dr. Margaret Chan states: "The two systems of traditional (including Complementary and Alternative (CAM) therapies) and Western medicine need not clash. Within the context of primary health care, they can blend together in beneficial harmony, using the best features of each system, and compensating for certain weaknesses in each." In this spirit of collaboration, the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy for 2014-2023 requires member states to promote universal health coverage by integrating traditional and complementary medicine services into health care service delivery and self-health care as appropriate.

Oregon is well on its way to achieving the World Health Organization's goal of achieving truly integrated medicine. Let OANP help you find a naturopathic doctor today!

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Phone: 503-262-8586