The term 'naturopathy' was coined in 1885 to describe a rapidly growing field of natural therapeutics in response to the toxic interventions typical of the so-called heroic age of medicine. This field evolved from a combination of traditional practices and health care approaches popular in Europe, particularly hydrotherapy practiced by physician/priest, Father Sebastian Kneipp. These methods were brought to America in the late 19th century and further developed in the early 20th century to form what eventually became a distinct profession. Dr. Benedict Lust (MD) is credited for bringing naturopathy to America and forming the profession after being cured by Father Kneipp and studying under many prominent 'naturopaths' in Europe. Dr. Lust is considered the father of American naturopathy for pioneering the development of the profession. After securing the term 'naturopathy' he further popularized/sustained the movement after starting the first naturopathic college around 1900. This new profession of naturopaths flourished in North America during the early 20th century, but fell into a decline during the mid 1900s due to the emergence of the pharmaceutical industry and subsequent political/social dominance of allopathic medicine. The 'back-to-nature' and ecological movements of the late 20th century helped ignite a resurgence of naturopathy. It has since been refined into a legitimate medical profession with federally accredited medical schools and licensure laws. While the naturopathic profession continues to develop, increased public demand for more natural/sustainable methods along with the struggle of our health care system has situated naturopathy to be at the forefront of the current paradigm shift in medicine.


Like with other conventional medical colleges, institutions for teaching naturopathy were started by practicioners with an apprenticeship model and privately funded. As noted above, Dr. Lust is credited for forming the first naturopathic educational institution, the American School of Naturopathy, which offered a two-year general course and included the different branches of naturopathic methods. A trend developed and, at it's peak, there were about 20 schools of naturopathy that existed. Although the education at this time was unique and vital, it suffered because of a lack of professional unification and accreditation standards. This, along with the release of the Flexnor Report (study of medical education standards calling for reform), forced most naturopathic schools to close. At the same time the last naturopathic educational program was dropped in the 1950s, the National College of Natural Medicine opened its doors. Two other naturopathic colleges opened by the late 1970s. With the subsequent development of accreditation and other governing boards, naturopathic medical education is now well established and flourishing in North America. There are currently seven accredited naturopathic medical programs offered at eight campus locations across North America.

For more information about the history and current status of naturopathic medicine, please visit the following websites:

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

ND Health Facts

National Institute of Health