Book Review: Combining Old and New: Naturopathy for the 21st Century

Dr. Robert Thiel, ND, PhD, the author of “Combining Old and New: Naturopathy for the 21st Century” (Wendell Whitman Publishers, Indiana USA, 2001) is a nationally recognized researcher, scientist, and traditional naturopathic practitioner. I take pains to refer to the author as a traditional naturopathic practitioner as distinct from a naturopathic physician owing to a schism that has taken place between two lines of thought and practice in contemporary naturopathy. The point warrants emphasis as Dr. Thiel and his work are very clearly identified with one of them, and that one is the classical naturopathy (not ‘naturopathic medicine’) of Drs. Benedict Lust, Bernard McFadden, John Christopher and the Lindlahrs. Consonant with the philosophy of classical naturopathy, Dr. Thiel believes and makes a convincing argument for the fact that both basic research and clinical science demonstrate that through natural interventions, the body can heal itself of both chronic and acute ailments.

This very thorough and very readable work embraces both a history of naturopathy from its remotest origins in antiquity, through its development in 19th century Europe, its pioneering work in America and its elaboration up to the present day as well as a survey of the various schools of thought and philosophies within the naturopathic current and an overview of the diagnostic and therapeutic modalities used by classical naturopaths and embracing the whole range of material, medicinal, mechanical and mental therapies.

Well-organized, well researched and yet very enjoyable, this work will be useful to several types of reader: the patient who has grown disenchanted with the deficiencies of the conventional biomedical model of healing; the individual considering undertaking training for the professional practice of naturopathy; and both alternative healers as well as the mainstream biomedical practitioners who wish to do more for their patients by making a commitment to their own and their patients’ education in the prevention and non-invasive treatment of disease.

The book includes extensive extracts from the works of such luminaries as J.H. Kellogg, M.V. Kulkarni, Royal Lee, G.J. Drews, J.H. Tilden, H. Lindlahr and other early naturopathic educators.

A testimony to its breadth and its depth, this book is recommended for those reviewing for the examinations conducted by of the American Naturopathic Medical Certification and Accreditation Board for the ‘Certified Traditional Naturopath’ designation and has been adopted as a standard introductory textbook by several naturopathic training institutions.

I strongly recommend this work by Dr. Thiel to anyone seriously interested in the field of classical naturopathy and the insights it offers into contemporary health issues. Its technical character does not make it labored reading, and for that reason it is well suited to both professional and lay audiences.

Review provided by William Courson, BVSA, D. Ayur., an Ayurvedic Practitioner, faculty member and the College Dean of Institutional Development at Sai Ayurvedic College & Ayurvedic Wellness Center.

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