Cover image for Nature cures : the history of alternative medicine in America
Nature cures : the history of alternative medicine in America
Whorton, James C., 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv, 368 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Notes: p. 311-359.

Includes indexes.
Reading Level:
1570 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
R733 .W495 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From reflexology and rolfing to shiatsu and dream work, we are confronted today by a welter of alternative medical therapies. But as James Whorton shows in Nature Cures, the recent explosion in alternative medicine actually reflects two centuries of competition and conflict between mainstreammedicine and numerous unorthodox systems. This is the first comprehensive history of alternative medicine in America, examining the major systems that have emerged from 1800 to the present. Writing with wit and with fairness to all sides, Whorton offers a fascinating look at alternative health systems such as homeopathy, water cures,Mesmerism, Christian Science, osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, and acupuncture. He highlights the birth and growth of each system (including European roots where appropriate) and vividly describes both the theories and the therapies developed within each system, including such dubiouspractices as hour-long walks barefoot in snow or Samuel Thompson's "puking and steaming" regimen. In particular, Whorton illuminates the philosophy of "natural healing" that has been espoused by alternative practitioners throughout history and the distinctive interpretations of "nature cure"developed by the different systems. Though he doesn't hesitate to point out the failings of these systems, he also shows that some "cult medicines" have eventually won recognition from practitioners of mainstream medicine. Throughout, Whorton writes with a light touch and quotes from contemporary humorists such as Mark Twain. His book is an engaging yet authoritative history that highlights the course of alternative medicine in the U.S., providing valuable background to the wide range of therapies availabletoday.

Author Notes

James C. Whorton is Professor of the History of Medicine in the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Medical historian Whorton's review of some two centuries of alternative medicine in the U.S. addresses many subjects whose names are familiar today, such as homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and Christian Science, and also some whose monickers and import are utterly strange, such as Thomsonianism, hydrotherapy, mesmerism, and eclecticism. The terms that "regular" medicine has applied to these "irregular" methods, evolving from "medical cultism" to "alternative medicine" to "complementary medicine," make clear the rising status of at least some of them. Whorton describes their theoretical backgrounds and marketing techniques (they often presented themselves as less violent therapies than such regular practices as, say, blood-letting). He graphically describes the practitioners and followers of each nonstandard therapeutic as well as selected treatments and their results. This well-documented history ministers to the realization that, as Whorton puts it, "There is nothing less scientific than making up your mind on a subject about which you know next to nothing." So read it and know. --William Beatty

Library Journal Review

Thorough, enjoyable, and rigorous, this study documents the major "unconventional" healing movements of 19th- and 20th-century America. Whorton (history of medicine, Univ. of Washington) traces the origins and influences of Thomsonianism, homeopathy, mesmerism, Christian Science, osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, and acupuncture, briefly discussing therapeutic touch, visualization, and prayer as well. The author also examines the rancorous history of medical licensing in the United States and leaves the reader with a sense that 21st-century healthcare will allow for a more conciliatory system of integrative medicine. He focuses on organized healing traditions and therefore does not examine the recent trend toward mass-market teas, supplements, herbal remedies, and other now-routine household therapies. This book fills a large gap left since the publication of Norman Gevitz's 1988 collection of essays, Other Healers: Unorthodox Medicine in America. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.-Andy Wickens, King Cty. Lib. Syst., Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Part I The Nineteenth Century: Natural Healingp. 1
1. The Hippocratic Heresy: Alternative Medicine's Worldviewp. 3
2. Every Man His Own Physician: Thomsonianismp. 25
3. Dilutions of Grandeur: Homeopathyp. 49
4. Physical Puritanism: Hygeiotherapyp. 77
5. Mgnetism and Mind: From Mesmerism to Christian Sciencep. 103
Part II The Early Twentieth Century: Drugless Healingp. 131
6. The Licensing Question: The Campaign for Medical Freedomp. 133
7. The Rule of the Artery: Osteopathyp. 141
8. Innate Intelligence: Chiropracticp. 165
9. Therapeutic Universalism: Naturopathyp. 191
Part III The Late Twentieth Century: Holistic Healingp. 219
10. From Medical Cultism to Alternative Medicinep. 221
11. The Holistic Health Explosion: Acupuncturep. 245
12. From Alternative Medicine to Complementary Medicinep. 271
Conclusion: The Twenty-first Century: The Age of Curapathy?p. 297
Abbreviationsp. 308
Notesp. 311
Indexp. 360