The Sociopolitical Status of U.S. Naturopathy at the Dawn of the 21st Century

Abstract

Naturopathic medicine in the United States had its inception around the turn of the 20th century. Subsequently, it underwent a process of relatively rapid growth until around the 1930s, followed by a period of gradual decline almost to the point of extinction due to biomedical opposition and the advent of “miracle drugs.” Because its therapeutic eclecticism had preadapted it to fit into the holistic health movement that emerged in the 1970s, it was able to undergo a process of organizational rejuvenation during the last two decades of the century. Nevertheless, U.S. naturopathy as a professionalized heterodox medical system faces several dilemmas as it enters the new millennium. These include (1) the fact that it has succeeded in obtaining licensure in only two sections of the country, namely, the Far West and New England; (2) increasing competition from partially professionalized and lay naturopaths, many of whom are graduates of correspondence schools; and (3) the danger of cooptation as many biomedical practitioners adopt natural therapies.