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Reflections on the History of Naturopathic Medicine

by Mar 4, 2024

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“In a word, naturopathy stands for the reconciling, harmonizing, and unifying of nature, humanity and God…To cure disease by poisoning its symptoms is medical manslaughter.” -Benedict Lust

This week’s post is a reflection on an article from the January 1902 edition of The Naturopathic and Herald of Health, as written by Benedict Lust. Reading the piece 120 years after its publication illuminates the differences that characterize the period of history during which it was written from that of the present. Three specific observations that are immediately noteworthy to me as a modern reader are the captivating prose, the direct references to Divinity, and the simple acceptance with which the author speaks of death.

These elements are apparent by nature of sheer contrast to the present day when colloquial speech is dictated by practical concision, reference to God and religion is largely avoided, and an obsession with eternal youth renders discourse on our mortality quite rare. I take pleasure in the humbling irony of being exposed to new perspectives through reading an article from the past. 

Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised by the statement that ‘criticism, fair, full and unsparing is the one thing of value you can give this paper,’ followed by the petition to ‘tell us wherein the paper is inefficient or redundant or ill-advised.’ Lust’s request for criticism is noteworthy to me because it is in contrast with the modern upbringing that encourages the avoidance of criticism due to a fear of the pain that it brings, as well as an implied notion that criticism poses a threat to one’s unique individual identity. This avoidance comes at high costs, namely hyper-sensitive adults who are easily offended, and the fact that discourse within the context of an echo chamber is far more common than the habit of productive debate.

Modern society is characterized by strong division of perspective and people do not often welcome the notion of being challenged and changed through the painful process of critique, but prefer the comfortable alternative of existing within affirming spheres of thought. The tragedy is it creates a vicious cycle that begets yet more isolation and division. Attention to criticism may not be pleasant – in fact, it may be downright painful at times – but it remains a most powerful faculty for growth and development if we let it.

I believe the field of naturopathic medicine, and transitively myself as a future practitioner, hold a unique place within today’s society to learn from Lust’s final plea and not only remain open to criticism, but to value it for the gift that it is. In the amusing irony of paradox, our setting aside of pride for vulnerability might not lead to weaker and less dignified individuals as we are often led to believe, but in fact to stronger and more loving ones.

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About the Author

Leah Gusching

Leah Gusching

Greetings! I am a student of natural medicine because I enjoy the beauty reflected in the human body and spirit. I believe the best medicine is the gift of grace that, once received, heals the posture of the heart. To relax, I like talking with my husband, reading books, and swimming in the ocean when available. Please feel free to reach out!

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