Naturopathy is the first western holistic medical practice to emerge in Europe, pre-dating the modern ‘holistic’ practices by at least a century. In fact the modern drive toward producing ‘holistic medicine’ is in my opinion, an attempt to reinvent the wheel.
History and Principles of the discipline of naturopathy
The principles and practice of naturopathy/natural therapeutics are as old as man himself. They derive from a combination of knowledge of folk medicines, bone setting, herbal cures, dietary regimes, traditional medicine systems and the Hippocratic school of medicine – each contributing knowledge to the foundation of its theories. In recent times the traditions of the Eastern medical systems have begun to be included in western naturopathic practice. The tradition of naturopathy is an intimate part of the history and social fabric of Europe and of our forebears. Naturopathy is an eclectic medical system that is continually incorporating ‘the best of the best’, growing, evolving and improving.
An irony of naturopathy is that we continue to use methods of treatment that the ‘orthodox’ allopathic world of medicine has forgotten about. Many of our methods would be familiar to the pre-first world war doctor who had to manage with very small arsenal of ‘drugs’ and had to rely on the inherent healing abilities of nature.
Naturopathy emerged as a modern practice in 1895, when a German doctor, Scheel, used the term to describe his own methods of multi-disciplinary treatment. It was again applied by Benadict Lust, in 1902, to his combination of natural therapies, which aimed to: ‘raise the vitality of the patient to a proper standard of health’. This aspiration is fundamental to the belief and practice of naturopathy, which is also sometimes called nature cure, natural medicine or nature medicine.
This aspiration to raise the vitality and health of the patient using natural principles and working in harmony with the body and with nature underlines the basic philosophy of naturopathy – that when given the opportunity the body will always strive towards health and is its own best healer. Many doctors worked on the basis of these principles during the 19th century, some using hydrotherapy and all advocating the importance of good diet, fresh air and exercise. Their ideas were taken up by later practitioners and remained popular and largely unaltered until the advent of scientific advances, such as the discovery of penicillin, around the time of the Second World War. These appeared to offer such perfect answers to medical problems that interest in natural based cures diminished. By the 1960’s, however, natural medicine began to be revised as a valid alternative to allopathic methods of treatment and has been gaining in popularity ever since.
The final word can be summed up perfectly via this excerpt taken from a letter written by Socrates to Plato: (c. 400 BC) “….. you have heard eminent physicians say to a patient who comes to them with bad eyes, that they cannot cure his eyes by themselves, but if his eyes are to be cured, his head must be treated: and then again they say that to think of curing the head alone, and not the rest of the body also, is the height of folly. And arguing in this way they apply their methods to the whole body, and try to treat and heal the whole and the part together. And this is the reason why the cure of many diseases is unknown to the physicians of Hellas, because they are ignorant of the whole, which ought to be studied also; for the part can never be well unless the whole is well.”