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The Circuitous History of Alternate Medicine: Many healing modalities we use today were initially met with skepticism, says Dr. Harlan Sparer.

Dec 24, 2015 08:28AM ● By Dr. Harlan Sparer

Not all the modalities that we see and employ today were universally embraced upon their debut. In fact, many were received with skepticism and even contempt. Some chiropractors were arrested in the 1920s for practicing medicine without a license, and many turned health care into a religion in order to treat patients. There were a few states where it was legal, but they were mainly rural. Their dispute with the American Medical Association (AMA) continued until the 1950s, when chiropractic gradually became legal. Louisiana became the last state to accept it in the early 1970s.

The U.S. Supreme Court made a watershed ruling in 1983 that made their status uniform around the country. The profession of osteopathy, founded in 1895, went a different route. In the 1960s, it was absorbed by the AMA as an accepted part of their protocols.

Nutritional approaches to health care began their popular rise in the early 1930s. Norman Walker advocated colon cleansing and regular frequent consumption of raw vegetable juices. This was picked up by Dr. Max Gerson, an M.D. in Germany. Gerson claimed success in curing cancer and other chronic diseases, first in his native Germany and then in New York, where he became licensed and quietly continued his radical approach.

He made the mistake of testifying about his results to Congress in 1946. Their response came within a decade, resulting in license revocation, accusations of malpractice and an early death. His methodology was chronicled in his classic book A Cancer Therapy: Results of 50 Cases, published in 1958, shortly before he died. His work has continued into present days, with many variations dovetailing from this seminal work.

Dr. Wilhelm Reich continued Dr. Sigmund Freud’s work on psychology and psychiatry, discussing human sexuality with great frankness in the 1950s, which met with significant obstruction in a very sexually repressed decade. He was de-licensed and died shortly thereafter. Some of his work was continued by Ida Rolf and gradually became accepted decades later.

Acupuncture began to be popular in the 1970s and 1980s, first practiced underground, and then licensed in the late 1990s. Medical doctors could then legally practice it with no education requirements whatsoever—those in many states could practice it with 100 hours of training. Acupuncturists with a five-year certificate in the U.S. struggled for years to gain licensing and have now achieved parity.

Dr. Harlan Sparer is a DNFT chiropractor practicing in Tempe. He can be reached at 480-245-7894 or [email protected]. For more information, visit or user/drharlan11.