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Naturopathy, or “natural medicine,” is one of the most important branches of alternative medicine, exerting an influence far beyond the actual numbers of its formal practitioners. Named by Benedict Lust at the turn of the century, its immediate roots go back to the spa treatments of nineteenth century Germany, but its founding principles can be found in the writings of Hippocrates and other healers of the ancient world. 1 The defining principle of naturopathy is vis medicatrix naturae, or nature’s healing power. From this perspective, disease is caused by departing from the natural way of living, and health is established by returning to it.
Much of conventional medicine’s current interest in diet and lifestyle came into being through the influence of naturopathic practitioners....