To understand natural healing, one must understand natural healing philosophy. The practice of Naturopathy has three main components: philosophy, science, and therapeutics. In Chiropractic this is called the “three-legged stool” of science, art, philosophy.

Naturopathic science encompasses more than materialistic science, and is a way of interpreting information that is indeed scientific, but seen through a vitalist lens. An example of this might be that a lower body temperature points to lowered vitality, not simply the thyroid's lack of ability to produce hormones. This is especially useful if the patient has normal thyroid test numbers, but has fatigue with a temperature below 97 degrees. This type of thinking leads to critical problem solving and developing a rationale for treatment.

Therapeutics is the how and why the different techniques are applied in a given situation. An example would be using hot packs for chronic muscular rheumatism, and cold packs for acute inflammation or trauma. While this example sounds simple and rather conventional, if similar thinking is applied through a whole range of therapeutic endeavors, then one truly understands how to use hydrotherapy. For instance, who would think that placing one's hand in ice water can lower the brain's temperature and induce relaxation of the nervous system? Another classic example is using a hot foot bath to draw down fever which usually shows up as a red face and hot head.

So it would seem that from the above that a good understanding of physiology and applied therapeutics is the key to natural healing (which we are here calling naturopathy). The third component of philosophy combines with science and art to produce clinical excellence and takes Naturopathy to another level. While Naturopathy does not have a monopoly on vitalist thinking, it is essential to the practice of its therapeutics. Here's a list of some of principles of Naturopathy:

First, Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)

The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)

Treat the Cause (Tolle Causam)

Prevention (Praevenire)

The Physician is a Teacher (Docere)

Treat the Whole Person (Tolle Totum)

Additional principles can be found through other lists offered by different Naturopathic practitioners or organizations.

After Chiropractic, Naturopathy has the best preserved vitalist philosophy from the late 19th and early 20th Century. This is possibly because these two disciplines were the last in line to be created of the alternative medical systems. They also had strong vitalist practitioners in their traditions.

Distance Learning, Part 2

(Back on the CAM, Herbal, and Naturopathic trail)

The modern version of the correspondence course is distance learning. No one questions now that colleges or high schools or even post graduate studies can take place through a computer or over long distance without the student setting foot in a classroom.

My observation is that all trainings, even college education, are only preparation to enter a field or profession. Education is not a guarantee of excellence, but simply that the student has met the minimum requirements to practice or work in their chosen field. One acupuncture school graduate I knew said that his education, after four years, was really just enough to begin to understand Chinese Medicine. It would take many years for him to become truly competent and become excellent. In the mean time he and his fellow graduates would start “practicing.” Massage school, not matter how good the school, only prepares you to enter the profession. The first thousand massages, the first thousand bodies you lay your hands on is the apprenticeship.

Competence in practice is gained on the job, through experience, and after learning the theoretical basics, fundamental techniques, and lexicon of a particular field. Many Chiropractors I know believe that the actual practice of Chiropractic can be learned in 2-3 semesters of learning after extracting the extraneous medical knowledge and educational padding that has accrued in their four year educational process. (I also know a few Chiropractors who said what they needed to know to give adjustments in practical terms could be learned in three weeks). Ironically, many Chirorpactors have to graduate before they can learn Chiropractic philosophy and truely understand their profession's history.

I have not taken any distance learning course in Naturopathy. I'm sure there are some exellent courses out there. At some point I would hope that a student of such a course would have a mentor, tutor, and ultimately a practical exam. I have taken and studied herbal courses through distance learning. All the criteria I have have laid out as being important were met. There was a mentor, there were tests, there was a graduatiion exam (which I took closed book), and there were practical classes that had to be attended “on campus.” I found this process as being deeply rewarding and a true educational experience. I spent many hundreds of hours beyond the credit hours awarded studying herbs and herbal healing. Every moment of it has benefited me and my patients.

I would say that there is a necessity for distance learning in alternative medicine. There are very few places to learn quality traditional naturopathy, herbalism, or other forms of natural healing. Unlike the modern medical educational system, you can't go to your local community college to take a course on herbal healing like you can nursing. One day there will be institutions like that in the United States. In the mean time we have to get education where we can.


Alternative Medicine: Distance Learning

Alternative Medicine: Distance Learning

(This would include Herbs, Naturopathy & Natural Healing)

Distance learning has been a part of natural healing education in America since at least the early 1900s. In an earlier post, I commented on an offering by Benedict Lust, the father of Naturopathy, in which he offered to teach nature cure through a correspondence course.

Correspondence courses have had a bad odor about them in the not-too-distant past. I remember comic books from the 1960s that offered to teach home auto mechanics and criminal investigation through correspondence. This seemed unlikely to me even then as a child. Later, there were correspondence courses offered on television by companies who used minor celebraties to pitch for them. It seemed like an endless list of professions they offered training in for the prospective student. I'm sure the question in many people's minds then as now was whether they were legitimate trainings or certifications.

A partial answer to “legitimacy” is that many skills and professions are not licensed or regulated. However one obtains training is then entirely legitimate if there is an actual course of training and the company or institution offering the course is not a diploma mill. (Diploma mills I shall address at a later date). If there is an adequate course of training that prepares a person for entry into a field or profession, then that is all anyone could ask for. I have come to this conclusion based on my own experience, and have a number of reasons to back this up. I shall give two here.

There is a lot of book work in learning natural healing, far more than most people understand. A student should be able to study and read books and course material at a distance as well as in a class room. It is important to have homework or tests that are sent in and read and graded. There should be a mentor or teacher that the correspondence student has to ask questions of or to monitor the student's progress. If those requirements are met, then there is no shame learning through a “correspondence course.” Let me reiterate: there is no quickie way to deeply learn natural healing–you have to study, study, study, and many of the books are very expensive. Then you have to practice.

Distance learning is now an accepted part of our culture. People expect to be able to take college level courses at a distance on the computer. There are some for credit classes in alternative medicine offered at universities and accredited schools. Some of them can be taken online. The material and literature those courses are drawn from are not from higher education, but from books and practices developed by practitioners from over a hundred years ago. Some of those practitioners may have started out with correspondence courses. Distance learning in alternative medicine has come full circle.


Naturopathy–Home Study

Medical analyst Brian Altonen, MPH, MS posted this on his blog:

THE MODERN HOME STUDY COURSE IN NATUROPATHY. BENEDICT LUST, N.D., D.C., D.O., M.D., Butler and Mount Dora, NJ, and New York, NY. (Advertising Pamphlet)







Spinal Manipulation

Short Wave Radiation

Colonic Therapy

Scientific Fasting & Dietetics


Commentary by Laurence Layne: There are a few overlapping components in the Home Study training course. Does spinal manipulation mean Chiropractic? if referring to Chiropractic, then it would at a minimum have to be 1895 or later when Chiropractic was established. There were very few Chiropractors before 1900. Lust lists DC–doctor of Chiropractic–as one of his credentials. Also in theory, “Naturopathy” as a term was not used by Lust until 1902. The initials ND behind his name would indicate this course was created after 1902. Licensure as an MD–medical doctor–could have meant that he passed a state medical exam; a number of states required doctors of whatever school, including irregulars like Osteopaths or Eclectics to take the same state boards as MDs.

Home study courses were available for other forms of natural healing in that era. Both Chiropractic and Massage were offered as “home study” at different points. There were also “How-To” books on Osteopathy.

The range of therapies are consistent with what Dr. John Kellogg practiced in Battle Creek, Michigan and what many classic Naturopaths practiced in the United States and later in the United Kingdom.

Short Wave Radiation probably refers to diathermy. Electrotherapy could be a number of applications, but would include the Sine Wave (sinusoidal) Machine. Hydropathy is hot and cold water applications–hydrotherapy. Fasting and Dietetics can refer to simple diet regimens like fiber cereals, but also juicing. Massage at that time would have been Swedish Massage. Colonics, or colon water irrigation, included enemas. Osteopathic technique would have included many soft tissue techniques, not just a high velocity thrust like Chiropractic. Virtually all these modalities (with appropriate training) are within the scope of practice of many modern Massage Therapy licenses (especially Florida).

The fact that this course was “home study” indicates that many of the modalities could be studied through books and manuals. However, proper application would require mentoring and class room learning.



Naturopathy–A Tiered Profession

The world is divided into Naturopathic Physicians and Traditional Naturopaths. One is the good, Ahura Mazda, the god of creative order and the other is the evil Ahriman, who seeks to destroy order and goodness with his horde of demons. Where you stand on the issues and whose side you support then defines who is walking in the light and who is with the tide of darkness..

Naturopathy is a “tiered” profession, politically, legislativlly, and philosophically. There are Naturopathic Physicians and Traditional Naturopaths. The “Physicians,” while they receive a lot more medical training, don’t necessarily receive any better training in basic natural healing than the “Traditionals.” In fact, some would argue that Traditional Naturopaths tend to be more natural and vitalistic in their approach. Both schools have maintained that their natural practices are benign, non-invasive, and support the body’s innate forces for healing. It would be hard then, to make the case that such practices “endanger the public.” Yet Naturopathic Physicians have sought to restrict the practice of the Traditional Naturopaths in many states, claiming they are the only ones qualified to practice natural healing.

Fortunately, we are a in relatively sane period of health freedom. Many states have seen through the arguments of the Naturopathic Physicians. California, and Minnesota, for instance have laws in place that allow both classes of Naturopaths to practice. This trend of tiered professions is going to continue. It has already happened in Physical Therapy with the institution of a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Nutrition Dietetics is moving towards a clinical doctorate also and there are Doctor of Nutrition programs already in existence. Chiropractic has essentially the same divide. There is a significant group in that profession who would like to be Chiropractic Physicians (many already use that term). One the other hand, there are traditional Chiropractors who don’t want to mix medical practice with hands-on adjustments. Ironically, it was the Chiropractic schools who kept Naturopathy alive by offering ND degrees into the 1950s. It would probably be the best for their profession (and all of us) if Chiropractic develops formal tiering. What natural healing professionals and consumers need is open practice legislation that supports a variety of philosophical approaches and techniques–as long as the individual practitioner has training and met some kind of qualifying standards.


Naturopathy was a coined word created to describe simple healing practices that assisted the vital force in healing the body. This was around 1900, and generally accredited to Benedict Lust, the “Father of Naturopathy.” The natural healing practices he promoted originated in Europe with water cure in the 19th Century, going back as far as Father Kneipp and Victor Presnitz (1822).

At the turn of the century, the new profession needed to differentiate itself from other natural healing at the time–for example American water cure (hydropaths) and bone setters (osteopaths). Thus the word “naturopaths.” This era could be called the classical period of Naturopathy, and the practices attributed to the discipline back then could be called Classical Naturopathy or Traditional Naturopathy. The components of Classical Naturopathy included:

  • Fasting
  • Water Cure (Hydrotherapy)
  • Diet
  • Sunning (Heliotherapy)
  • Air Baths
  • Exercise
  • Massage
  • Breathing

(Have you ever heard of the old adage “Fresh Air and Exercise”)

Over time other therapies were added to this list:

  • Electrotherapy
  • Manipulation
  • Herbs
  • Homeopathy
  • Mental Therapeutics
  • Colonics

All kinds of natural healers could be classified as Naturopaths. Dr. John Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan fame, used a number of classic Naturopathic treatments. The name “Kellogg” is primarily associated with breakfast cereal, but these products were originally developed to supply natural fiber to the diet and cleanse the colon. Kellogg’s clinical approach consisted of of a number of natural therapies, but four primary modalities seem to be special interests in his books:

  • Hydrotherapy
  • Electrotherapy
  • Diet
  • Massage

Other techniques such as colonics (enemas), remedial exercises, and breathing were used plus classical Naturopathy like heliotherapy.

The important thing to remember is that whatever technique was involved, it was intended to rally the vital forces of the patient’s body. To the degree that this was successful, then healing occurred, with a righting of the metabolism from the visceral to the cellular level. This is the definition of “healing” in the Naturopathic model. There’s a lot more to the practice of Naturopathy, but that is the core essential philosophy, that the life force be restored in its function of running the body in a balanced way–as Nature designed it.

That was the way things used to be. Like many professions these days, Naturopathy has changed. There are two groups of people claim the mantle of being the authentic ND or Naturopathic Doctor. One group is the Naturopathic Physicians. They have introduced medical education into their curriculum and believe that they are on a higher plane because they utilize the medical model and are like “real doctors.” The second group is called Traditional Naturopaths and are less educated in regular medicine, but more closely adheres to the old methods and philosophy. They believe they are more “pure” in their approach to Naturopathy.

After examining their claims and looking at the evidence, I think the Traditional Naturopaths are just as qualified to practice natural healing as their brethren, in fact more likely to use their therapies in the simple, vitalistic way that Naturopathy was originally practiced. No political or philosophical battle is black and white, but I believe that natural healing is essentially benign if used with common sense and most people will benefit. It adheres to the concept of Do No Harm.

The Evolution of Natural Healing

I was introduced to natural healing, the professional variety, through Chiropractors and a few Naturopaths. There was exposure to the milieu natural through the Post Counter-Cultural Explosion of the 1970s, but most information came through lay people like myself who just shared cool things with other like-minded souls. There were very few people making a living doing massage; there was no acupuncture, no herbalists (a few herbologists were around but none in my area), spiritualists, psychics, Cayce mongers, and natural hygienists–but one was never quite sure what that discipline entailed–nudism? colonic irrigation? people that smelled funny and drank carrot juice? The only professional healers that I knew about had the credentials DC or ND. Now, years later, I realize that I probably have more training than most of the NDs I met back then, and know more about natural healing than all the knowledgeable DCs who turned me on to so many mind-blowing ideas.

Things have changed for sure. There are so many excellent classes, schools, and teachers out there. A number of disciplines have masterful teachers, and accomplished practitioners. The range of practitioners, depending on the discipline, or the area one is in, run the gamut of great to excellent to good to merely competent.The below average or seriously bad weed themselves out. Unlike regular medicine, it's a cash business, and the public supports those who help them get well.

Our culture is changing and natural healing is becoming part of it. The rate of acceptance of wholistic and vitalist models of healing is accelerating. People don't understand it all and they aren't supposed to. They are drawn to what's natural. It is the practitioner's job to educate them in healthy practices. We are now living in a fitness and wellness culture, so much so that even the medical industrial complex is having to adopt some of our natural healing principles and philosophy. If they don't, they will not only lose market share, but the people's faith in their form of medicine altogether.

I have seen this shift happen since the late 1970s. So many people have worked so hard to make this happen. So many have given so much to create a better world of healing. It has been beyond the understanding of the intelligentsia, the big brains, the industrialists, the shapers of opinions, and the government. People are more empowered now. They are students of natural healing. The practitioners, especially the excellent ones, are the teachers of health, what some define as a “true physician,” an educator.

We all started out with a blank page. Isn't that what the educational process is? We were Know-Nothings. Now we are Know-Somethings. I fondly remember many of the things I was turned on to even if I can't remember all the people or names that were involved. I've in turn passed on those things to my patients and the people in my world. It's important to remember the humble beginnings of the Natural Healing Revolution so that we don't forget that a lot of it is the application of basic principles to living. No matter how many degrees or institutions are created to perpetuate professional natural medicine, it started out as a philosophical interpretation of Nature and how to live naturally.