The Popular Health Movement played a central role in natural healing. How Natural Healing Developed in America

How Natural Healing Developed in America

In Europe, physicians already had a centuries old monopoly over the right to treat patients. But in America, medical practice was literally open to anyone who called themselves a doctor.

The American public, newly liberated from England, was hostile to professionalism and foreign elitism of any kind. And, the educated physicians who immigrated to America from Europe were nothing more than Quacks practicing heroic medicine.

In America, the Popular Health Movement played a central role in the development of natural healing.

American physicians gradually substituted the simplicity of science for the autocratic traditions of Europe and gained social status and acceptance.

Contents of How Natural Healing Developed in America

  1. The 1700s--the Colonies
  2. Antebellum America--Age of Romanticism
  3. The Popular Health Movement (1820 - 1850)
  4. Postbellum America
  5. Modern life begins between the 1870s and 1880s
  6. Progressive Era of Health Care Reform (1890-1920)
  7. The 20th Century
  8. References

The 1700s--the Colonies

"When explorers and settlers arrived from densely populated Europe, they introduced diseases such as smallpox, measles, influenza, tuberculosis, whooping cough, scarlet fever, malaria, and gonorrhea. Africans brought smallpox as well, along with yellow fever, dengue fever, and malaria."[25]

  • Unlike the Spanish and French Colonies the British felt no obligation to supply health care to their colonies. Most British colonies had cross sections of healers such as barber-surgeons, apothecaries, midwives, and others without academic credentials.
  • As the New World was explored, the early European settlers noticed the robust good health of the Native American Indians. Tobacco was mistaken as the secret to their good health and was promoted in Europe as a new medicine.[6]
  • There were almost no substantial medical publications, even of standard European works, for nearly a century after the founding of Jamestown (1609).
  • In America, around the time of the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), the practice of medicine was seen as more of a part-time avocation. Many clergymen served as healers and many of them were quite competent by the standards of the day. Doctors were usually not educated.
  • Books that were popular were mostly how to books such as Every Man His Own Doctor, John Oliver's Advice on Pregnancy, John Tennent's Poor Planter's Physician, William Cadogan's Essays on Nursing and Child Care, Thomas Short on Medicinal Plants, Daniel Defoe's Accounts of London's Plague of 1665, and Nicholas Culpeper's Guide to Diseases and Therapies.
    • Women and male lay practitioners took care of most medical matters including births, injuries, and illness through the use of folk healing. Of course, American natural healing varied from locality to locality with major cities, like Boston , Philadelphia, and New York having hospitals and other medical practices approaching those found in Europe. Sanitation was a major problem in the larger cities.
  • Up to 1750s, most folk healers had little medical education beyond apprenticeships.
  • 1752>{Allopathy}The Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia became the first permanent general hospital in America built specifically to care for the sick.
  • 1760>{Allopathy}First licensure law calling for prospective examination of doctors was passed in New York City.
  • 1765>{Allopathy} First medical school in Philadelphia was chartered.
  • 1776> Declaration of Independence was signed July 4th.
  • {Allopathy}By the time of the American Revolution there were only 41 medical practitioners with a college degree in medicine.
  • 1787>The US Constitution was signed September 17th.
  • 1791>{Allopathy}Hospital first opens in New York City.

The whole of the 19th century in the United States was taken up with a fierce struggle between four different major medical schools:

1. Allopathy, Regular, or Heroic Medicine;
2. Homeopathy / Physiomedicalism;
3. Thompsonianism / Eclecticism; and
4. Hydropathy / Grahamism / Hygienists

for survival and supremacy.

The hygiene movement developed in America during the 19th century from the water cure and advocated no use of herbal medications.

Antebellum America--Age of Romanticism

"Contributing to the stagnation of scientific advances in the 19th century was the philosophical movement that dominated American society—Romanticism. Romanticism came to America from Europe between 1812 and 1861 as a revolt against the Age of Reason. Rather than rational empirical thought, Romanticism emphasized feeling, sensitivity, and the supernatural. As Romanticism mixed with Jacksonian democracy in the 1820s and 1830s, it developed many uniquely American traits, one of them being religious evangelicalism."[24]

  • {Pharmacology}Modern Pharmacology was made possible after the pharmacists had isolated pure substances from the raw herbs. These isolated and refined drugs "tend to produce effects of more rapid onset, greater intensity and of shorter duration."[2] Eventually this would lead to death from adverse drug reactions as a major cause of death from iatrogenic illness in the twentieth century.[4]
  • {Allopathy}Medicine would shift gradually to their present primary method of treating patients with prescription medications [5] from their historical use of bloodletting and purges.
  • {Herbalism}"Until the 1800s most drugs were given by mouth as preparations of crude plants: ground-up leave, flowers, and roots, or teas, extracts, and tinctures of them."[3] Natural healers using herbalism preferred using whole herbs that are slower acting. With whole herbs any adverse reactions to a herb are likely to be noticed by signs of nausea, before they become a major problem. For example, there are three stages to digitalis toxicity. The symptoms of the first stage are supposed to be gastrointestinal, usually nausea and vomiting. Administering digitalis as a whole herb (i.e., a tea made with foxglove) offers a comfortable margin of safety for catching any adverse drug reactions, at the first stage of toxicity. But, when digitalis is administered as a prescription drug, physicians are trained never to expect to see this first stage of toxicity as the pure drug form is too fast acting.[1]
  • One of the most overlooked facts about the 19th century was that "opium was on legal sale conveniently and at low prices throughout the century; morphine came into common use during and after the Civil War; and heroin was marketed toward the end of the century. These opiates and countless pharmaceutical preparations containing them 'were as freely accessible as aspirin is today.'"[31] One particularly favorite narcotic was laudanum (i.e., opium in alcohol). It was cheap and widely used to quiet infants.

Herbalism, Homeopathy, and Natural Hygiene
developed during the Health Reform Movement.

The Popular Health Movement (1820 - 1850)

The Popular Health Movement is usually dismissed in conventional medical histories as the high-tide of Quackery and medical cultism because the medical licensing laws were repealed in almost all of the states by the 1840s.[9]

Here we see people, including some physicians, advocating a return to the nature of forests and the fresh air of mountains. They had many ideas about good nutrition, clean water and fresh air, exercise, sunshine and herbs. The Popular Health Movement was a reaction against the role of elitist highly educated physicians who used heroic medical treatments.

  • They offered advice on good nutrition before the modern science of nutrition even existed and without the help of any modern peer reviewed journals. That means their healthy lifestyle advice pre-dated the health advice offered by the American Heart Association on healthy diets by at least one hundred years. "Regardless of their particular bent, all of the food reformers had a common philosophy: bad eating habits led to social disorder. Like physical fitness proponents, they saw a connection between reshaping the body and reshaping American society to improve the individual and the country."[24]
    • Alcott, William A. The Young House-Keeper or Thoughts on Food and Cookery. Boston: George W. Light, 1838.
    • Alcott, William A. The Laws of Health: Or, Sequel to "The House I Live In." Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1857.
    • Smith, John. Fruits and Farinacea, the Proper Food of Man; Being an Attempt to Prove from History, Anatomy, Physiology, and Chemistry that the Original, Natural, and Best Diet of Man is Derived from the Vegetable Kingdom. New York: Fowler & Wells, 1854.
  • "The prevention of illness through exercise and nutrition was an outgrowth of ... [alternative] medicine. It was a small step from movements like hydropathy which advocated the 'natural' healing powers of water to the idea that fresh air, healthy food, and exercise could be beneficial."[24]
  • 1803>{Dietary Reform} Samuel Hahnemann, founder of homeopathy, wrote Treatise on the Effects of Coffee (23 pages) in Germany, translated by William LaMartine Breyfogle in 1824. Thus, Hahnemann was one of the first to start the idea, that coffee and tea, as stimulants, should be considered to be an alkaloid poison. In an age where narcotics were as commonly used as we use aspirin today, the early health reformers recognized the addictive nature of caffeine, and commonly preached that they were alkaloid poisons as dangerous as the opiates.
  • 1810>{Homeopathy} Samuel Hahnemann wrote Organon der Heilkunst in Germany which explained the theory of homeopathic medicine. This book full of vitalistic notions talked about both vital powers and vital fluids.
  • 1820-1845>{Herbalism}Samuel Thompson (1769-1843) founded Thompsonianism and was an important figure in the development of American herbalism. He believed disease resulted from a clogged system. Detractors called his system the steam-and-puke method. The two main pillars of Thomsonianism were the native vomit-inducing herb lobelia, which he employed as a counter-poison, and heat as a method for curing disease. Thompsonianism became a major influence on the development of two other forms of American herbalism: Eclecticism and Physiomedicalism.
  • 1822{Natural Hygiene}Isaac Jennings, MD (1788-1874) is known as the Father of Natural Hygiene. Jennings received his medical degree from Yale University. After about 15 years of allopathic practice Jennings founded Orthopathy, Greek for truth in disease. Believing symptoms of illness was nature's way of purifying the body, he advocated solely hygienic nursing and comfort, rather than the use of drug medication treatments. Jennings was famous for treating his patients with placebo pills made from bread. He wrote three books, Medicine Reform (1847), Philosophy of Human Life (1852) and Tree of Life (1867). He founded and published the Water Cure Journal and Herald of Reform.
  • 1828-Civil War>Jacksonian democracy: "For success in this [frontier] environment, the specialized skills - of lawyer, doctor, financier, or engineer - had a new unimportance."[22]
  • 1823>{Herbalism}The Association of Eclectic Physicians was founded.
  • 1825>{Homeopathy}German immigrants brought homeopathy to America. Homeopathy is an alternative system of medical practice based on the principle that drugs that produce in a healthy person the same pathological effects that are symptomatic of the disease, can cure diseases. It had its greatest popularity in the late 19th century when 15% of the doctors in America were homeopaths.
  • 1830s>{Herbalism}Eclectic Medicine was founded by Dr. Wooster Beach (1794-1868) as a school of Reformed Medicine. Eclecticism promoted the value of using small dosages of a single remedy to treat the person as a whole, as well as whole herbal preparations over the use of isolated active ingredients of a particular plant. At its peak, Eclecticism claimed more than 20,000 qualified practitioners in the United States. Eclectic medicine offically ended in 1939 due to a lack of financial support of its medical schools from philanthropists.
  • 1830-1850{Natural Hygiene}Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), founder of Grahamism, was a Presbyterian minister who preached on temperance and stressed whole-wheat flour and vegetarian diets. Beyond diet, Graham recommended hard mattresses, open bedroom windows, chastity, cold showers, loose clothing (so that your skin can breath fresh air), pure water and vigorous exercise. He was a controversial author and lecturer. He also started the nation's first health food store, health bookstore, and health food restaurant. Graham was the first to talk about the importance of bulk matter in food, over a hundred years before the importance of dietary fiber became widely recognized by the science of nutrition.
  • 1830-1860>{Natural Hygiene}75 Health Spas were opened.
  • 1832-1890>{Public Health} The major years were 1832, 1849, 1866, and 1873 for cholera epidemics in America. By 1890, cholera was practically controlled. The public health response to these cholera epidemics was to provide clean water supplies and sanitation.
  • 1838>{Physiomedicalism}Physiomedicalism was founded by Dr. Alva Curtis (?-1881). "The physiomedicalists emphasized the use of sanative, or nonpoisonous, botanical remedies to balance functions and enhance vitality."[28] This school of medicine recognized that some disease symptoms were positive, eliminative and reconstructive efforts of vital energy, while other symptoms resulted from physical impediments to the body's attempts to heal itself (or, what Florence Nightingale would later call poor nursing). Physiomedicalism classified herbal medicines by their effect on the circulation system.
  • 1840s>{Hydropathy}Hydropathy was based on the presumed therapeutic properties of water. In its many variations, it encompassed prolonged bathing in spas, intensive drinking of water, and the promotion of sweating.[8] The standard allopathic medical practice of the time was to deny water to the acutely sick patient. Interest in the water-cure started from the observation that fever patients tended to recover when they were given water to drink.
  • 1844>{Homeopathy}American Institute of Homeopathy became first national medical society.
  • 1844>{Hydropathy} Dr. Joel Shew introduces an European system of hydrotherapy, the water-cure, to the United States. Hydropathists professed to be able to do with water everything that they had formerly sought to do with allopathic drugs. "The hydropathic system had three treatments: the general application of water by bath, the application to a particular part of the body, and internal cleansing by drinking or injecting."[24] Shew later adopts the Hygieo-Therapy dietary and exercise plan, as well as its emphasis on fresh air and sunlight.
  • 1847>{Allopathy}The American Medical Association was founded in order to suppress competition from other methods of treatments. The organization described the practices of opposing sects as quackery, and its first action was to ban referrals to lay healers and nonorthodox physicians, such as homeopaths.[10]
  • 1848>{Herbalism}A Guide to Health by Benjamin Colby delineated the basic practices and philosophy of Thomsonian Medicine.
  • By the 1850s, ordinary citizens of every social class went out to find alternatives to the regulars or allopaths. Middle and upper class patients in considerable numbers liked the careful personal attention and cautious dosing of homeopathy as well as the hygienic discipline of hydropathy.
  • 1850s>Domestic refrigeration was introduced in the form of ice boxes from the mid 19th century to the 1930's. As the ice used to cool food was melted it was replaced with ice bought from commercial manufacturers in urban areas.[29]
  • 1850>{Hydropathy}"Hydropathy was so popular that it had its own magazine, The Water-Cure Journal, published by O. S. Fowler's company and boasting a circulation of 50,000 in 1850."[24]
  • 1853>{Natural Hygiene}William Alcott, MD (1798 - 1859) designates the hygienic system as distinct from the hydropathic part of the movement. The problem with the water-cure was that it did not require a radical change in lifestyle. Hydropathy merely substituted water for drugs.
  • 1853>{Natural Hygiene} Russell Thacher Trall, MD (1812-1877) founded an establishment in New York City for Hygieo-therapy, or the water-cure treatment called the Hygeo-Therapeutic College. He edited the New York Organ, a weekly temperance journal, and the Hydropathic Review, a quarterly magazine, from 1845 to 1848, and was an author of many health related books such as the Hydropathic Encycolopedia in 1852. Trall is the person who was most responsible for separating hydropathy from the hygienic system.
  • 1857>The first refrigerated railway car was introduced by the Chicago meat packing industry.[29]
  • 1857>{Natural Hygiene}Trall wrote in the Water-Cure Journal that he had no faith in the virtues of water in the treatment of disease. "All the virtue we have to deal with," he said, "exists in and is a part of the living organism." He said that he had "as much faith in the virtues of calomel, arnica, peltatum, or lobelia, as we have in the virtues of cold water, and we fear that those who talk about the virtues of either have a very erroneous or imperfect idea of the true basis of the healing art." In other words, Trall was complaining that use of the water-cure, as a quick fix, did not require a radical change in lifestyle for successful treatment. Only a change in lifestyle promoted true healing.
  • 1859>Charles Darwin publishes his On the Origin of Species, in London England. People in the 19th century would soon become less than convinced that everything about a human being could be explained biologically. The medical profession obsessed with its mechanical materialism from the perspective of the 19th century person would end up attacking far more than just unscientific alternative medicine. Mechanical materialism was a direct attack upon the Christian faith and its notion of a soul as well as an attack upon all Classical Western values. When science attacks alternative medicine, it is really claiming that everything about a human being can be explained by biology. For with biomedicine all Classical Western values such as bravery, loyalty, hard work, and free will are only a matter of molecules, genetics, and the right combination of prescription medication. The public would soon develop a mistrust of the new and rapid ascendance of science that precluded any belief in the ability of a person to rise above carnal needs and desires. The 19th century American public would soon see fasting as proof that people could live through divine grace rather than by the normal laws of nature. Interest in Spiritualism would soon develop as a direct response to mechanical materialistic Darwinism as a form of scientific religion that proclaimed that it could scientifically study the soul.
  • 1860>{Allopathy}Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), U.S. author and physician famously "promoted the healing power of nature in a widely known annual address" voicing therapeutic nihilism when he said "that if the whole materia medica, as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be so much the better for mankind, and all the worse for the fishes."[12] In other words, therapeutic nihilism was a health reform movement among physicians that advocated a return to vitalism or the healing power of nature heresy. Therapeutic nihilism is currently being treated like a dirty word in contemporary scientific medical literature, which strongly attacks any association to it. (For example, scientific authors go to extremes to claim that William Osler, M.D. was not a therapeutic nihilist. According to them, Osler merely avoided writing reckless prescriptions, especially compound prescriptions, at a time when reckless prescriptions and poly-pharmaceuticals was the standard medical practice.) Therapeutic nihilism dominated most of the second half of the 19th century and the progressive era. And, played a large role in bringing heroic medicine to an end and the start of scientific biomedicine.
  • 1861>With the onset of the Civil War national attention focuses on survival and brings the luxury interests of the Popular Health Reform Movement to an end.
  • 1861>{Faster is Better?}The Western Union Company completes the first transcontinental telegraph line.
  • 1861-1865>{Natural Hygiene}The Civil War causes Health Spas everywhere to close. Two Civil War soldiers died of disease for every one killed in battle, or some 560,000 soldiers died from disease during the Civil War. About half of the deaths from disease during the Civil War were caused by intestinal disorders, mainly typhoid fever, diarrhea, and dysentery. Malaria struck approximately one quarter of all servicemen. The remainder died from pneumonia and tuberculosis. Outbreaks of these diseases were caused by overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in the field. Risks from surgery were great. Doctors in the field hospitals had no notion of antiseptic surgery, resulting in extremely high death rates from post-operative infection.[23]
  • 1861>{Natural Hygiene}Writing in an editorial, Trall continues to write: "Water possesses no power whatever to cure any disease. Nature is the remedial principle." Hydropathy was only a reform movement, rather than a revolution, that sought merely to substitute water in the form of baths, hot and cold applications, enemas, douches, packs, fomentations, dripping wet sheets, etc., for drugs.
  • 1862>{Natural Hygiene}Trall delivered in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. his famous lecture: The True Healing Art, or Hygienic Versus Drug Medication.
  • 1863>{Dietary Reform}Their prophet Ellen White, and others formally organized the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A month later, White instituted health reforms based upon a vision from God that people wishing to live a life of the spirit have a sacred duty to attend to their health. She advocated a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which could contain small amounts of dairy products and eggs. And, abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and the caffeinated drinks of coffee and tea. Today, the Adventists run many hospitals, natural food stores, and vegetarian restaurants and an institution of higher education, Loma Linda University.
  • 1866>{Dietary Reform} Seventh-day Adventist Ellen White opened the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan. A health reform institute that would care for the sick and teach the principles of healthful living to the public.
  • 1869>{Faster is Better?}The American transcontinental railroad was completed which enabled travelers to go from coast to coast in only 7 days.
  • Only the alternative movements of homeopathy, natural hygiene and eclecticism managed to last from the 1830s through the rest of the 19th century.

Postbellum America

"By the middle of the 19th century, ... [sanitation] reforms made the northern cities healthier than the countryside. Rural areas, however, could not afford the public health measures that improved conditions in the largest and most prosperous cities. Cholera was a major killer on wagon trains heading West. Yellow fever, malaria, hookworm, and other maladies still prevailed in the South, which experienced major yellow fever epidemics in the 1850s and in 1873. These epidemics led to the creation of the National Board of Health and a federal quarantine system."[25]

  • Health care is centered on the individual practitioner, rather than on the institution or in science.
  • {Allopathy}Science, like the hospital, almost overnight came to assume a vastly altered and expanded position in the medical world of postbellum America.
  • 1870s -1900>{Allopathy}In America, Jacksonian mistrust had given way to the scientific optimism of an industrial revolution.[21]
  • 1870s-1880s>Support for the restoration of medical licensing was sought among all the competing groups.
  • {Allopathy}The Germans became leaders in pharmacology and in medical training. Many Americans went to Germany to attend medical school. German-trained American doctors became harsh critics of U.S. medical education and urged medical schools to reorganize along German lines. Harvard and John Hopkins were the first to do so. The regular's medical schools adopted the Harvard-Johns Hopkins model and dropped botany in favor of pharmacology.
  • 1873>{Nursing}First training school for nurses in America was opened by Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) who was also the first female physician in this country (1849).
  • 1873>{Nursing}Three training schools for nurses were established in New York.

Americans who lived through the second half of the nineteenth century experienced the most fundamental changes in how people experienced reality since the start of Western civilization.

Modern life begins between the 1870s and 1880s.

The pace of life begins to speed up. People began to notice how the acceleration of the perception of the duration of time and the apparent shortening of physical distances was inducing stress in them. Americans who lived through the second half of the nineteenth century experienced the greatest, most fundamental changes ever experienced by mankind: electricity, telephone, telegraph, and the railroad.[26] Western notions of stress was a direct consequence of theses technological accelerations that began to really take off during the second half of the 19th century. People in our modern times have to do more things, with less and less time to do them in.

  • 1875>{Natural Health}John Harvey Kellogg (1852–1943) upon graduating from medical school in 1875, Kellogg began working at the Adventist's Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan. He became the superintendent of it in 1876 when he was only 24 years old. And, renamed it the Battle Creek Sanitarium (Sans) in 1878 because it was a place where people could learn how to stay well. Under his direction, the Sans soon became a luxurious amusement center for the rich and famous to visit.
  • 1876>In Dakota territory, at the Little Big Horn, General George Armstrong Custer was killed.
  • 1876>{Faster is Better?}Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.
  • 1876>{Faster is Better?}Seth Thomas first introduced wind-up alarm clocks.
  • 1876>{Biomedicine}Robert Koch (1843-1910) proved in Germany that anthrax (Milzbrand) was caused by a specific bacterium, at a time when people still thought that most diseases were caused by poisonous bad air (i.e., miasmas). This event marks the official birth of preventive medicine and the very premature birth of biomedicine. Allopathy unofficially ends, while biomedicine begins.
  • 1879>Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb.
  • 1880>{Modern Stress}George Beard, MD, a neurologist, wrote A Practical Treatise on Nervous Exhaustion (Neurasthenia). Neurasthenia, or Nervous Exhaustion, was defined as a condition of general malaise, and was attributed by Beard to the stresses of modern life. It was the first book to express the concept that your mental life can have a profound negative impact upon your physical health. Beard completed his pre-med studies at Yale in 1862, and received his medical degree from New York's College of Physician's (now known as Columbia University) in 1866. He became a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York in 1886. Beard, a real physician, was one of the most important American electrotherapists of the 19th century. His contemporary critics referred to him as the "P.T. Barnum of medicine." Beard's nervous exhaustion of neurasthenia would eventually develop into the modern concepts of Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.[27]
  • 1881>Clara Barton, Civil War nurse and student of Hygiene, founds the American Red Cross and becomes its first president.
  • 1881>{Faster is Better?}Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) introduces time-motion studies, where workers' movements are dictated in order to maximize efficiency and boost speed.
  • 1881>{Modern Stress}{Lifestyle Diseases}George Beard, MD wrote American Nervousness. Neurasthenia was first described as American nervousness. Beard saw a significant correlation between American social organization and nervous illness. Beard wrote: "American nervousness is the product of American civilization." Unlike other countries, America offered its inhabitants the possibility of unlimited freedom which resulted in unlimited ambition among the populace. Beard wrote: "It has long seemed the especial province of Americans to abuse their nerves from the cradle to the grave." A deficiency in nervous energy was the price exacted by industrialized urban societies, competitive business and social environments, and the luxuries, vices, and excesses of modern life. "The chief and primary cause of ... [the] very rapid increase of nervousness is modern civilization, which is distinguished from the ancient [civilizations] by these five characteristics: steampower, the periodical press, the telegraph, the sciences, and the mental activity of women." American nervousness was alarmingly frequent "among the well-to-do and the intellectual, and especially among those in the professions and in the higher walks of business life, who are in deadly earnest in the race for place and power."
  • 1886>Statue of Liberty was unveiled in New York Harbor.
  • 1888>{Biomedicine}The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists was formed.
  • 1889>{Biomedicine}Johns Hopkins Hospital opens, followed four years later by the opening of the School of Medicine which was modeled after German universities that emphasized research and laboratory studies.

Osteopathy, Chiropractic, and Naturopathy
developed at the turn of the century.

Progressive Era of Health Care Reform (1890-1920)

"The Progressive movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries addressed the health problems of the urban poor. Its many reforms included meat inspections, the Pure Food and Drug Act, and pasteurization of milk."[25]

  • 1890-1920>{Allopathy}During the Progressive Era, medicine chose to look to the biological roots of disease rather than to the illness as experienced by the patient. The basic structures of twentieth-century American medicine--its focus on biomedical science, its reliance on technologically based hospital care, and its systems for medical education and training--were firmly in place by the end of the Progressive Era.[17]
  • 1890s>{Faster is Better?}The popularity of new sports governed by the clock, like football and basketball, grows dramatically.
  • 1890>The use of refrigerators was confined to the restaurant and the brewing, dairy and meat-packing industries.[29]
  • 1891>{Osteopathy}Andrew Still starts his practice of osteopathy in Missouri.
  • 1892>{Biomedicine}Sir William Osler, MD (1849-1919), the father of psychosomatic medicine, published his Principles and Practice of Medicine. Bloodletting was still being recommended in it, as well as in the 1923 edition. Osler wrote: "During the first five decades of this century, the profession bled too much, but during the last decades we have certainly bled too little."[7] Like their arrogance, physicians are known for their preference for treating patients with heroic medical measures.
  • 1894>{Biomedicine}The first cesarean section was performed in Boston.
  • 1895>{Chiropractic}Daniel David Palmer, founded chiropractic.
  • 1895>{Naturopathy}Benedict Lust (1872-1945) opened the Kneipp Water-Cure Institute in New York City.
  • 1897>{Natural Health}Dr. John Harvey Kellogg served the first serving of corn flakes at the Battle Creek Sanitarium as a health food. Health foods would soon be sold through the mail as a way of taking the Sans experience home.
  • By 1900>Horses outnumbered cars 21 million to 8,000. And with so many horses, the accumulation of horse manure was a major health problem.
  • 1900>{Biomedicine}Fewer than 7% of U.S. doctors were AMA members in 1900. Allopathic physicians began to refer to their type of practice as scientific medicine to differentiate themselves from their competition whom they called quacks. From its start, the AMA promoted educational reforms that tended to promote its own type of medical practice as the only legitimate one. State licensing examinations began to favor allopathy over homeopathy, and the AMA's control over the licensing boards eventually brought the pluralistic system of medical care in the U.S. to an end.[11]
  • 1900>{Physiomedicalism}The Philosophy of Physiomedicalism by Dr. J. M. Thurston was published. Thurston broaden the scope of physiomedicalism which formerly just concentrated on the role of the circulation system in disease to also include the autonomic nervous system. "The human organism was perceived as essentially a realm dominated by vital force expressed as functional actions. In disease conditions its nature is inherently resistive, eliminative, and restorative. For instance, vital action of the body was seen as the most powerful antiseptic; so while fever was controlled, it was not subdued. Cleansing the cellular environment by assisting elimination was deemed necessary before nutritive processes and restoration could begin. While herbs could assist healing, overprescribing by amount or number of remedies was considered counter-productive, since the body responds better to being coaxed than driven."[28]
  • 1900>{Naturopathy}The first issue of The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, begun and was edited by Benedict Lust.[28]
  • 1902>{Naturopathy}Benedict Lust purchased the rights to the term naturopathy from John H. Scheel, who had coined it in 1895.
  • 1902>{Naturopathy}American Institute of Naturopathy opened.
  • 1903>{Dietary Reform} Seventh-day Adventist Ellen White published Education. She wrote, "Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, in proper combination, contain all the elements of nutrition; and when properly prepared, they constitute the diet that best promotes both physical and mental strength."
  • 1905>{Biomedicine}The JAMA began accepting advertising from the Patent Medicine companies.
  • 1905>{Natural Health}John Harvey Kellogg first published: The Simple Life in a Nutshell, a tract on 60 rules for Biologic Living where Kellogg suggests that lifestyle affects your longevity. He advocated natural foods with no meat, sugar, or stimulants (coffee, tea, alcohol). His concept of biologic living reflected the key elements of natural health: a healthy diet, exercise, vitamins as the "the real elixir of life", and stress reduction.
  • 1906>{Processed Foods}Will Keith Kellogg, added sugar to the corn flake recipe and began marketing them as a cold breakfast food.
  • 1909>{Mind-Body Connection}Richard Cabot, MD (1868-1939) publishes his Social Service and the Art of Healing and wrote: "I found myself constantly baffled and discouraged when it came to treatment. Treatment in more than half of the cases...involved an understanding of the patient's economic situation and economic means, but still more of his mentality, his character, his previous mental and industrial history, all that brought him to his present condition in which sickness, fear, worry, and poverty were found inextricably mingled."[18]
  • 1910>{Biomedicine}The publication of Abraham Flexner's Medical Education in the United States and Canada. The Flexner Report, commissioned by the AMA, criticized the medical education of its era as a loose and poorly structured apprenticeship system that generally lacked any defined standards or goals beyond the generation of financial profit.
  • 1913>The first home electric refrigerator, called the Domelre, was put on the market on the market in Chicago for $900, at a time when the average annual income was less than $2,000.[30]
  • 1916>{Naturopathy}The Herald of Health and Naturopath magazine, published by Benedict Lust, "began a regular Phytotherapy [i.e., plant cure] Department (subtitled The American Herb Doctor). It was edited by M. G. Young and discussed human ailments and medicinal herbs."[28]
  • 1917>{Pharmacology}The Trading with the Enemy Act allowed German drug patents to be handed over to US firms under government license. War World I ended Germany's former domination of medical research, training, and pharmaceuticals.
  • 1918>The United States stood 17th out of 20 nations in mortality rates.

The high-technology of medicine becomes firmly housed in the hospital. Hospitals are transformed from institutions designed for long-term care of the sick into facilities designed to test, treat and release patients as fast as possible.

Most of the decline in infectious diseases occurred in the early part of the 20th century well before the introduction of vaccines targeted at these diseases.

The 20th Century

"By the turn of the 20th century, the United States was a major center for medical research, and vaccines, antiseptic methods, and preventive measures substantially improved medical care. One estimate is that by 1910 a patient had a 50-50 chance of being cured by a doctor's advice. As the 20th century began, deaths from communicable diseases were generally declining, although deaths from tuberculosis and influenza remained significant. At the same time, degenerative diseases of old age, such as heart disease, started to become more common causes of death."[25]

  • {Biomedicine} Vaccines for measles, scarlet fever, pneumonia, tuberculosis, typhoid, diphtheria, and poliomyelitis were not introduced until after 1935, long after the significant decline in incidence for these infectious diseases took place.[19]
    • The power of water to cure disease is based on its ability to lower body temperature during fevers and on its ability to wash away dirt and germs. Staying disease free in a social environment is in large part a result of low-tech general cleanliness. Historically, plagues were caused by humans polluting their environment and then living in their own filth. Clean water supplies and the sanitary processing of garbage, horse manure, and human waste developed without debate or double-blind peer reviewed research published in respectable journals. Improved public hygiene infrastructure in urban areas is what resulted in the decline of infectious diseases that occurred in the early part of the 20th century. Diseased patients were also isolated from the general population in hospitals.
  • 1920s>Woman suffrage and prohibition were big issues.
  • 1920>Radio became a commercial broadcasting medium.
  • 1921>{Naturopathy}Naturopaths begin to publicly struggle over whether their profession should utilize herbal medicines. An editorial appeared in the Herald of Health and Naturopath magazine that addressed the concern in a profession claiming to be drugless as to whether herbs were indeed drugs. "In response to the question, 'Are herbs drugs?' the early naturopathic belief was, simply stated, 'Herbs are vegetables'"[28]
  • 1922{Natural Hygiene}Herbert M. Shelton, ND, DC (1895-1985) published An Introduction to Natural Hygiene. Shelton coined the term Natural Hygiene and started the downward spiraling trend of popularizing the concept to the point of it becoming totally ridiculous, away from its original roots. As poorly written as Shelton's literary works were when compared to Fit for Life written by the Diamonds, Shelton reads like an intellectual giant.
  • 1923>There were 20,000 refrigerators in the United States.[29]
  • 1925>General Electric starts selling their Monitor Top, the first electric refrigerator to see widespread use.[30] "By 1929, fifty thousand Monitor Tops had been sold."[29]
  • 1926{Natural Hygiene}John H. Tilden, MD (1851-1940) published Toxemia Explained: The true interpretation of the cause of disease which established the Natural Hygiene thesis that the true cause of all disease is the accumulation of toxins in the blood.
  • 1927>{Naturopathy}An AMA study listed 12 naturopathic schools with fewer than 200 students among them.
  • 1928>{Natural Hygiene}Shelton's How-to-Live magazine is published.
  • 1930s>{Biomedicine}The movement to specialized medicine really startes taking off as the hospital takes an increasingly central role in medical life.
  • mid-1930s>{Naturopathy}Naturopaths begin identifying with herbs and expanding their herbal repertoire.[28]
  • 1930>{Natural Health}John Harvey Kellogg wrote: The Biologic Life: Rules for Right Living, a tract where Kellogg argued that people were becoming "neurotic, daft, dyspepsic, and degenerate" as a result of "the perversions of our modern [American] civilization ... [which] are responsible for the multitudinous maladies and degeneracies which yearly multiply in number and gravity."
  • 1931>{Natural Health}John Harvey Kellogg establishes the Miami-Battle Creek Sanitarium at Miami Springs, Florida.
  • 1939>{Natural Hygiene}Shelton's Hygienic Review magazine is published.
  • 1940s>{Biomedicine}Western conventional modern medicine is intricately linked to the scientific method and that most of the research in the field focuses on minute aspects of the body's functions and on the direct observation of chemical and bacterial processes in the treatment of disease.
  • 1940s>{Mind-Body Connection}Henry Beecher coined the term 'placebo effect.' He discovered during World War II that pain experienced by wounded soldiers could be controlled with saline injections. Subsequent research will soon show that up to 35 percent of a therapeutic response to any medical treatment could be attributed to the power of belief.[19]
  • 1940s>{Naturopathy}The Naturopath magazine wrote: "The ingesting of anything had generally been opposed on the grounds that most people would prefer to swallow a remedy rather than exercise or work constructively on their health. Though nature cure taught that medicine was unnecessary, many difficult cases responded well to nonsuppressive herbs. Herbal simples encouraged elimination of waste through gentle stimulation of excretory organs, and also supplied cells and glands with nutrition in small doses that could readily be assimilated. The fundamental difference between the medical and naturopathic approach to using herbs lay in their preparation. Conventional medicine used preparations made by laboratory methods, extracting the most active constituents, which could transform many relatively safe herbs into toxic drugs. Naturopaths used herbs or their simple extracts in their natural, whole state."[28]
  • 1941>There were three and a half million electric refrigerators in the United States. "Roughly 45% of American homes were taking advantage of mechanical refrigeration by the time we entered the Second World War."[29]
  • 1941>The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
  • 1946>"Mass production of modern refrigerators didn't get started until after World War II."[30]
  • 1948>{Natural Hygiene}The American Natural Hygiene Society is founded.
  • 1950s>{Biomedicine}"Modern antibiotics—including sulfa drugs and penicillin first used during World War II—became available to the American public in the postwar years. These drugs provided the first effective weapons against bacterial infections, and their use transformed medicine in the 1950s."[25] Medical specialization took a dramatic jump. The success of both hospitals and medical specialization was mediated through the rapid expansion of laboratory technologies. Medicine's crisis derives from a fundamental defect namely, adherence to a model of disease no longer adequate for the scientific tasks and social responsibilities of medicine. The simplistic biomedical approach of medicine generally looks for single, very specific causes for illnesses, with correspondingly specific treatments, like antibiotics for infections, that are expected to be effective for that illness in most people, under most conditions.
  • 1950>The Korean War began.
  • 1954>{Biomedicine}The polio vaccine was developed.
  • 1955>"80% of American homes now have refrigerators."[30]
  • 1963>President Kennedy was assassinated November 22nd.
  • 1965>The War in Vietnam began to escalate.
  • 1969: Man set foot on the moon for the first time on July 16th.

Confirmations of the unscientific nature of orthodox medicine starts coming in as many physicians start to openly realize the poverty of scientific evidence to support the majority of current medical practices.

  • 1970>{Biomedicine}Science based medicine first appears[13] with the McMaster Medical School in Canada that used a clinical learning strategy that eventually develops into Evidence-Based Medicine. It further came into vogue in the 1980s at University of Harvard. The real boost to EBM and its formal acceptance by conventional medicine came in 1995 at Oxford, UK with the establishment of the Center for Evidence-based Medicine. All weak points of scientific approach to medicine are concentrated in its biomedical model of the disease.[14] "A patient is nothing more than a 'disease case', a trigger of a given 'disease unit'. The disease is the exclusive matter of interest and intervention of a physician, who should only recognize and fight a disease, and nothing else."[15]
  • 1972>{Biomedicine}The American Hospital Association adopted a Patient's Bill of Rights.
  • 1977>{Mind-Body Connection}George L. Engel, MD (1913-1999) first proposed the biopsychosocial model of health, illness and healing. The simplistic biomedical model assumes that all disease is caused by structural anatomic or biochemical abnormality. The physician's responsibility is limited to finding the abnormality to be cured. But without an easily discovered abnormality, as in the functional gastrointestinal disorders, the simplistic biomedical model fails. In contrast, the complex biopsychosocial model is concerned with illness, the subjective sense of suffering or reduced capacity to function. The biopsychosocial model is a much more complex, 'systems theory' approach to health and illness. It does not look for single, specific causes for illness, but sees health, illness and healing as resulting from the interacting effects of events of very different types, including biological, psychological, and social factors. All of these are seen as systems that affect on another and interact with one another to affect individual health. In the past decade, even as medical technology has advanced rapidly, there has been an increased appreciation of the value of the mind-body connection systems approach to managing both functional disorders and chronic disease.
  • 1990s>Health care costs reach 14% of U.S. GNP.
  • 1993: World Wide Web becomes popular.
  • 1996>{Mind-Body Connection}Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine[16] is published. The healing force of nature heresy makes its way back into academic medicine, but is still ignored by most physicians. Darwinian Medicine proposes that descriptions of disease in current biomedical textbooks omit a crucial section - an evolutionary explanation for why humans are vulnerable to this disease. It is concerned with questions like: What is the utility of cough, fever and anxiety? A question that was answered by Isaac Jennings, and others, in the Hygiene movement over 100 years ago.
  • 1998>{Biomedicine} Michael L. Millenson publishes his Demanding Medical Excellence: Doctors and Accountability in the Information Age. "Millenson decries the lack of scientific-based medical practice and medicine's failure to wake up due to its own historical studies. He cites data that 85% of current practice has not been scientifically validated despite medicine's claims of the physician-scientist."[20]

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How Natural Healing Developed in America Comments:


  1. Andrew Weil, M.D., Health and Healing, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1998, pages 102-104.
  2. Ibid., page 99.
  3. Ibid., page 97.
  4. Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. JAMA. 1998 Apr 15;279(15):1200-5. PMID: 9555760
  5. "Once a diagnosis is made, allopathic medical treatment is based almost exclusively on the administration of drugs."
    Andrew Weil, M.D., Health and Healing, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1998, page 96.
  6. Griggs, Barbara. Green Pharmacy : A History Of Herbal Medicine. New York: Viking Press, 1981, page 99.
  7. Osler W. The Principles and Practice of Medicine: Designed for the Use of Practitioners and Students of Medicine. New York: D. Appleton; 1892, page 530.
  8. Weiss HB, Kemble HR. The great American water-cure craze: a history of hydropathy in the United States. Trenton, UJ: Past Times Pr; 1967, page 18.
  9. King LS. Medicine in the USA: historical vignettes. III. Medical sects and their influence. JAMA. 1982;248:1221-4.
  10. Salmon JW, Berliner HS. Health policy implications of the hilistic health movement. J. Health Polit Policy Law. 1980;5:535-53.
  11. Berliner HS. A larger perspective on the Flexner report. Int J Health Serv. 1975;5:573-92.
  12. John H Warner, The Therapeutic Perspective: Medical Practice, Knowledge and Identity in America, 1828-1885, Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1986, pages 28, 33.
  13. Ramsey P. The patient as person. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1970.
  14. Polanyi M. Personal knowledge. 2nd ed. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; 1973.
  15. Zalewski, Z. Importance of Philosophy of Science to the History of Medical Thinking. CMJ 1999; 40: 8-13.
  16. Nesse R., and Williams G. Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine, Vintage Books. 1996.
  17. Rosenberg CE. The Care of Strangers: The Rise of America's Hospital System. New York: Basic Books, Inc.; 1987.
  18. Cabot RC. Social Service and the Art of Healing. New York: Moffat, Yard, and Company; 1909.
  19. McKinlay, JB; McKinlay, SM. Medical measures and the decline of ortality. In P. Conrad & R Kern (Eds.), The sociology of health and illness: Critical perspective. New York,, St. Martin's Press, 1981,Pages 12-30.
  20. Gunn IP. A critique of Michael L. Millenson's book, Demanding medical excellence: doctors and accountability in the information age, and its relevance to CRNAs and nursing. AANA J. 1998 Dec;66(6):575-82. Review. PMID: 10488264
  21. Starr P. The Social Transformation of American Medicine. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1982: 79-144.
  22. Boorstin DJ. The Americans: The National Experience. New York: Vintage Books, 1965: 115-23.
  23. United States Army, Surgeon-General's Office. The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1870-1888.
  24. From Quackery to Bacteriology: The Emergence of Modern Medicine in 19th Century America, University of Toledo Libraries
  25. People: Growth of U.S. Population
  26. Stephen E Ambrose, Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinetal Railroad 1863-1869. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
  27. Schafer ML. [On the history of the concept neurasthenia and its modern variants chronic-fatigue-syndrome, fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivities] Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr. 2002 Nov;70(11):570-82. Review. German. PMID: 12410427 [Abstract]
  28. Francis Brinker, The Role of Botanical Medicine in 100 Years of American Naturopathy. HerbalGram. 1998;42:49-59. [Online]
  29. Ruth Schwartz, More Work for Mother:The Ironies of Household, 1941..
  30. The Great Idea Finder, Refrigerator, 2006.
  31. Hubert S. Howe, "A Physician's Blueprint for the Management and Prevention of Narcotic Addiction," New York State Journal of Medicine, 55 (February 1, 1955): 341-348.

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