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Nature Cures: The History of Alternative Medicine in America [Hardcover]

James C. Whorton
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Book Description

Aug. 15 2002
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 mainstream medicine 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 dubious practices 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 available today.

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From Library Journal

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
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Walter Johnson, the homeopath quoted at the close of the preface, referred to his practice as a "medical heresy" and his colleagues as "so-called heretics." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Hardcover
Nature Cures presents the history of alternative medicine in America, showing that the recent rise of alternative medicine actually reflects two centuries of competition between mainstream medicine and unorthodox systems. In providing a running history of alternative medicine, author James Whorton enables readers to analyze the progress, successes and failures of both traditional and alternative treatments.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Presents the history of alternative medicine in America Dec 7 2002
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Nature Cures presents the history of alternative medicine in America, showing that the recent rise of alternative medicine actually reflects two centuries of competition between mainstream medicine and unorthodox systems. In providing a running history of alternative medicine, author James Whorton enables readers to analyze the progress, successes and failures of both traditional and alternative treatments.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nature Cures: The History of Alternative Medicine in America Aug. 10 2009
By D. Timothy Mccoy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The value of this book to me is the historical context of the sometime strained relationship between natural medicine and "western medicine". History indeed repeats itself. Natural, alternative medicine grew out of a disenchantment with traditional medicine. As today, people began searching for answers other than what they were receiving from their doctors. The stories are informative and illuminating and really help one understand the chasm between the two worlds. I have not completed the book so I am simply at the stage of understanding the problem. I hope the book offers some type of solution that allows these polarized sides with similar hope for outcomes to work together on what might get us out of the healthcare crisis we are currently in.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great price Oct. 3 2010
By Cool Shaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The book was just what I needed, not in bad shape, and for a great price. Thank you!
3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Regarding Naturopathy's Essential Science-Ejected Vitalism: Jan. 18 2008
By Robert J. Cullen - Published on Amazon.com
Vitalism is a profoundly science-ejected concept, though many CAM or 'natural health' cabals falsely claim that vitalism survives scientific scrutiny.

I quote: "naturopathic medical practice nevertheless is still comprised of distinctive therapies backed by faith in nature [...] detoxification, like all other therapies, is meant to serve the more basic purpose of strengthening the vis medicatrix. Naturopathy still means trusting in nature to cure [...per] 'confidence in the perception of a vital force or life force.' Hence, today's hydrotherapy procedures are justified in terms that Lust, or even Thrall, would commend: hydrotherapy provides 'general stimulation of the vital force' [...] naturopathic medicine thus retains much of the old in its now 'science based natural medicine' [p.291]."

When is an article of faith {a purposeful life spirit that runs physiology} unprofessionally / falsely labeled a medical scientific fact?

Naturopathy.

CAM: there be monsters here.

-r.c.
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