Before 1870, medicine in the United States was completely unregulated. The lack of regulation and the limited effectiveness of 19th century regular medicine encouraged the development of multiple competing medical sects during the century. The three largest medical sects were regulars(traditional physicians), homeopaths, and eclectics. Even though these three sects were the most prominent, numerous other medical systems were created and survived on the margins. Eclecticism, osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, and hydrotherapy are just a few of the medical sects born during this era of United States history. At the very end of the 19th Century, a new medical system called naturopathy was created by Benedict and Louisa Stroebel Lust. Unlike many of the 19th Century medical sects created, naturopathy has persevered to this day. Naturopathic healing was founded and based on number of influences including botanics, hydrotherapy, eclecticism, temperance and vegetarianism.
John Hopkins University Press has published a new book by Susan E. Cayleff about the history of naturopathic healing entitled Nature’s Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America. Her book is a comprehensive account of both the origins of the naturopathy and examination of the controversial views by held naturopathic practitioners such as anti-vivisection, anti-vaccination, and the dangers of processed foods, pharmaceuticals and environmental toxins. Interestingly, women played a role not just in the creation of naturopathy, but were critical to its development and survival into 21st century. Cayleff’s book is an intriguing addition to the medical and social history of the United States.
Susan E. Cayleff is a professor in the Department of Women’s Studies at San Diego State University. She has written Wash and Be Healed: the Water Cure Movement and Women’s Health, Wings of Gauze: Women of Color and he Experience of Health and Illness, Babe: The Life and Legend of Babe Didrikson Zaharis, and co-authored with Susan Stamberg – Babe Didrikson: The Greatest All-Sport Athlete of All Time.