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  • Nature’s Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America by Susan E. Cayleff
  • Samuel Adu-Gyamfi
Nature’s Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America. By Susan E. Cayleff. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 2016.

The author of this masterful piece was stimulated by an idiosyncratic predilection for women’s studies and medical history. Focusing on the hybrid approach, she uses both documentary and non-documentary sources from what she refers to as “historical predecessors” of natural healing and treads the path of continuities and discontinuities, ambivalence and successes of the Naturopathic traditions from when it began to the twentieth century. This is situated within the socio-political transformations and the roles as well as the interactions of the Naturopath leaders with the external forces like the Allopathic physicians and the American Medical Association (AMA), as well as the persistent legal tassels that led to apparent persecutions, among other things. The biographical sketches embedded in the discourse are useful. The data for this work was not based on convenience but the amount of materials that speak to the issues. The possible defect in the study was cured by dissociation from the popular responses of Naturopathy and the exaggerated position of the clientele.

This book is further legitimized by the argument that, as Naturopaths gained some form of legitimization, it precipitated the need to narrate the history of their philosophies, predecessors, proponents, therapeutics, and institutionalization. The narrative in this book points toward dislike for pharmaceuticals, environmental toxins, and atomic energy. It also touches on the opportunities that were created for women to have authority through the care of their own and their families’ health rather than the cultural reliance on professional expertise and science. Additionally, it tells the story of how Naturopaths forged alliances with natural healers whose vision, philosophy, and training differed from their own. This book does not only give praise but also highlights the internal schisms among members and leadership of the Naturopaths that weakened their public identity.

Chapters three, four, and five of this book pay attention to the fact that Naturopathy has spiritual connotations and that, in the 1890s, these were ideas that could not be easily defined, much less today. The spiritual component is not solely Christian or behavioral, as explained under the constructive principles of nature and personal responsibility, disease causality, toxaemia theory, vital force, and germ theory. The other pages focus on conscious living, individual traits, mental health location, and simple life. A full chapter is devoted to Luisa Stroebel Lust and Benedict Lust, an influential couple in America’s Naturopathy history.

In chapter six, the reader’s attention is drawn to the mid-nineteenth century America that witnessed a competition for clients between alternative theories or Naturopathic and those from the allopathic or the regular sect. The period that followed witnessed the issue of patents and how Naturopaths and the AMA sought to regulate the production and prescription of remedies; the Anti AMA sentiments and social class warfare and battles in the press, among others. In chapter seven the author discusses what she refers to as “medical monsters,” essentially Naturopathy’s disgust for vivisection and vaccination as well as their dislike for the use of animals for experimentation. [End Page 108]

In chapters eight and nine the author treats the subject matter of legal battles as well as the professionalization and definition of nature cure. She argues that especially from the 1900s to 1940s, Naturopaths were constantly faced with arrests and lengthy trials. With the professionalization of naturopathic physicians, schools and methods became necessary to halt the legal persecutions. In chapters ten and eleven discussions focus on the deepening divides which spilled over after the death of Lust; this led to entrenched factionalism from 1949–1969 as well as the 1970s and beyond. It was rather a good omen for the practice in the 1980s and 1990s, especially when people still felt that toxic drugs and dangerous surgical complications scared a growing number of patients away from mainstream medicine.

The reader’s attention is drawn to present-day health concerns; the fact that many people today are looking for natural health solutions in the United States that...


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pp. 108-109
Launched on MUSE
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