The Life and Death of the Naturopathic Movement

How Dr. Lust Helped Shape Naturopathic Medicine

Nature is very interesting

Benedict Lust, ND, DO, MD (February 3, 1872 - September 5, 1945), born in Michelbach, Germany, was one of the founders of naturopathic medicine. When Lust worked as a waiter in Baden-Baden, Geneva, and then New York City, New York, he became ill. Lust thought that it could have been tuberculosis and thought that he did not have long to live, so he went back to Germany and was looking for anything that could act as a cure.

Father Sebastian Kneipp, a Bravarian Catholic Priest and a proponent of hydrotherapy, helped Benedict Lust improve in health. Father Kneipp’s theories, like Benedict Lust’s, were somewhat influenced by Vincenz Priessnitz (1799-1851) who was a strong believer in natural cures. Priessnitz also advocated hydrotheraphy during the 1820s. Alternative forms of healing, along with faith in God, helped Father Kneipp develop his own system of naturopathic medicine. And even though he is mostly associated with hydrotherapy, he also believed in herbalism, exercise and good nutritional diet mostly consisting of wheat, grain and fruits.

After returning to the United States, Benedict Lust opened his own health store. He would later decide to enter into the world of medicine, officially graduating from the New York Homeopathic Medical College in 1901. Subsequently, he went on to graduate from the Universal College of Osteopathy in New York where he would be given his osteopathic degree.

During 1902, after purchasing the naturopathy rights from Dr. John Scheel, he opened an American School for Naturopathy in New York City, New York. It was the first medical school dedicated to naturopathy in the world. Dr. Lust also founded the American Naturopathic Association, the first organization of naturopathic doctors in the United States. In 1918, he published the Universal Naturopathic Encyclopedia alongside the holistic magazine known as Nature’s Path.

His magazine featured people from around the world who also believed in his works. Take, for example, Paramahansa Yogananda, who contributed articles based on Indian concepts such as yoga and ayurveda. These Eastern holistic practices were introduced to millions of people in the United States. Also, yoga and ayurveda, due to health-related techniques, would have a profound effect on American society decades to come. Eastern religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism  would become popular in American culture, within decades.

In the United States, Dr. Benedict Lust was dubbed the “Father of Naturopathy.” Because he was a practicing medical doctor, the medical profession could not officially call him a quack. However, when he practiced holistic medicine, members of his own medical community would badly criticize him. Nevertheless, when he allowed drastic nude bathing at his health resorts, he would breach public decency codes. Not always accepted, Dr. Lust would always scuffle with the state and federal laws in defense of the naturopathic ways of medical techniques. Doing radical things takes a while to linger in some societies.

Dr. Benedict Lust is often noted as being the "Father of Naturopathic Medicine," and help popularized the art of naturopathic medicine in the 19th century.

The “Natural Cure Movement” which was sweeping across Europe stressed the importance of going back to the ancient roots of medicine. Meanwhile, in Scotland during the 1880s, Dr. Thomas Allionson advocated hygienic medicine which promoted natural diet, exercise, demoted stressful overwork, alcohol, and tobacco usage.

It was close to the same thing which Father Kneipp promoted while living in Germany and teaching Benedict Lust. Father Kneipp did not believe in overeating, drinking tea, coffee, or alcohol. He professed in a spiritual and humane “reliance upon the cosmic forces of man’s nature.” He would also have a huge influence on how Benedict Lust would value and progress holistic medical cures while in New York City. He sent Lust to the United States to spread holistic, drugless methods. Lust opened holistic centers known as North American Kneipp Societies.

In 1901, in New York City, Dr. Lust founded the American School of Naturopathy which would replace the North American Kneipp Societies. The North American Kneipp Socities were renamed Naturopathic Societies. In 1919, Dr. Lust would dissolve the Naturopathic Societies and created the American Naturopathic Association.

Several schools offered the Doctor of Naturopathy degrees (ND). A naturopath was licensed under naturopathic practitioner laws in 25 states. Subsequent to that, the popularity of naturopathy started to decline. Criticism about naturopathy, the practitioners, and the growth of modern medicine were a few reasons why. The chiropractic schools which offered ND degrees started to decrease due to the broadening in scope of the laws governing the practicing of naturopathy.

The American Medical Association attacked the heterodox-style medical systems during the 1930s - 1940s. Finally, in 1968, the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare concluded that naturopathy was not rooted in proper medical science and was not adequate enough to prepare university graduates to make appropriate diagnosis to patients. This is one huge reason why the U.S Health, Education, and Welfare (now United States Health and Human Services) would never recommend expanding Medicare coverage with the usage of naturopathic treatments.

What Is Naturopathy?

Now Reading
The Life and Death of the Naturopathic Movement
Read Next
Fenty Beauty Opens Room for Discussion About the Makeup Industry