The Canadian Naturopathic Foundation

History of Naturopathic Medicine

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The History of Naturopathic Medicine

Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived 2,400 years ago, first formulated the concept of “the healing power of nature”. This concept has long been at the core of medicine around the world and remains one of the central principles of naturopathic medicine. 
In North America, naturopathic medicine traces its origins to Dr. Benedict Lust. He used the term "naturopathy" to describe a clinical practice which integrated such natural healing methods as botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutritional therapy, manipulative therapy, acupuncture and lifestyle counselling. 

The American School of Naturopathy was founded by Dr. Lust in New York and graduated its first class in 1902. Naturopathic practitioners formed the Naturopathic Society of America and established naturopathic colleges and large health centres throughout North America. By 1920, naturopathic practice was well established in Canada. Laws regulating naturopathic practice were enacted in Ontario by 1925, British Columbia in 1936, Manitoba in 1943 and Saskatchewan in 1952. The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) has been representing the profession’s interests in Canada since 1955. 

After the Second World War the more traditional healing practices lost ground as the world placed its trust in advancing surgical techniques, the introduction of antibiotics and the growth of the pharmaceutical industry.  This was an era of scientific reductionism and an almost blind faith in the medical “miracle”. This approach continued through the 1950s. 

In the last twenty years, public desire for greater control in the health care process and a growing dissatisfaction with high tech solutions to health problems, has resulted in a resurgent interest in the natural methods of preventive health care. This trend has increased demand for naturopathic services as people seek ways to improve their health, cope with day-to-day stresses and avoid illness.

Naturopathic medical education began in Canada in 1978 with the founding of the Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine (OCNM) in Toronto. OCNM offered post-graduate courses in naturopathic medicine to chiropractors, dentists and medical doctors.  By 1983, the first four-year, full-time program was offered at OCNM and enrolment was expanded to include students with a University degree who had completed the appropriate prerequisites. In 1992, the College became the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) to better reflect its mandate to educate students from across Canada. Application rates for CCNM’s programs have grown over 10 times since 1991.  In 2000, the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine opened in British Columbia to further support the growing demand for naturopathic doctors in Canada.


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