Once all of these practices were questioned by the masses. These men and women helped revolutionize their respective fields and push forward the idea of alternative medicine and new practices. While these practices were one time considered outrageous they are now readily accepted by most sources of medicine.

We celebrate the top 50 pioneers of Alternative Medicine.

  1. Dr. Paul Bragg - Year: 1895-1976 - Fields: Exercise, Nutrition - Country: USA -

    Dr. Bragg helped bring natural health to the nation’s attention by advocating for deep breathing, water fasts, organic food, juicing and exercising. Often referred to as the Father of the Health Movement in America,” Bragg opened a bevy of health centers in Los Angeles during the mid-1920s. A clear pioneer of today’s organic movement, Bragg opened some of the first health food stores in the nation. He also opened health inspired restaurants and was one of the first people in California to open a spa. In 1929, Bragg began touring the country on an extended lecture series regarding health. Eventually he formed The Bragg Health Crusade, a ground-breaking televised health show. The hourlong show consisted of exercises, health recipes, demonstrations and interviews with famous health experts. Bragg is also considered instrumental in health cuisine. His biggest contribution may have been focus on exercise, something that was not taken seriously before Dr. Paul Bragg walked the earth.

  2. Adelle Davis - Year: 1904-1974 - Fields: Nutrition - Country: USA -

    After graduating from Cal Berkley in 1927, Adelle Davis would spend her life drawing attention to nutrition. An educated nutritionist, she began her career working in hospitals and schools in the 1920s. By the 1930s, she relocated to the West Coast, where she worked as a consulting nutritionist. There she advocated for unprocessed foods and spoke out against food additives. Davis was one of the first to publicly criticize the corpitization of food. Davis predicted the increase in food additives, chemicals and GMO’s. Warning people far before the mass media publicized the opposition. She was a best selling author, selling over 10 million copies during her life. During her time Davis received a great deal of backlash for her comments regarding nutrition, some of her peers wanted nothing to do with her. While she paid a price for doing the right thing, many of her quotes hang in eternity. “A Great deal of sickness is caused by refined foods” she also stated that “ We are literally at the mercy of the unethical refined food industry, who take all the vitamins and minerals out of food. She helped popularize the notion that a big breakfast, a medium lunch, and a small dinner were the way to go when it came to daily meals. When it was all over, Adelle Davis had a significant impact on the way people think about and understand food.

  3. Daniel David Palmer, Year: 1845-1913 - Fields: Chiropractic - Country: USA-

    In 1895 Doctor David Palmer met Harvey Lillard, a janitor whose hearing was impaired. Palmer claimed the man's hearing was restored after adjusting his spine. He then developed the theory that misalignment of bones in the body was the basic underlying cause of all “dis-ease”. Palmer thought that the majority of these mis-alignments were in the spinal column. While not entirely accurate, these two theories would one day launch into a worldwide practice. In 1897 he opened the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport and started teaching his techniques. Lawsuits followed and after a brief time in jail, Palmer sold the school to his son. The son expanded the school and the general knowledge of chiropractic. Palmer moved west, opening several new schools in Oklahoma, California, and Oregon. Although the relationship with his son became strained, the two helped to pioneer the Chiropractic practices for the next century.

  4. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya Year: 1888-1989 - Fields: Yoga, Ayurveda - Country: India - Krishnamacharya is considered the father of modern yoga in the west. Often credited as the most influential Yoga teacher in the 20th century. In school, he focused his studies on logic and Sanskrit, Krishnamacharya studied with the yoga master Sri Babu Bhagavan Das. Krishnamacharya sought to further his yoga studies by seeking a master named Yogeshwara Ramamohana Brahmachari, who was rumored to live in the mountains beyond Nepal. After 12 weeks of walking, Krishnamacharya arrived at the school, a remote cave at the foot of Mount Kailash. Under Brahmachari’s tutelage, Krishnamacharya spent seven and a half years studying the therapeutic aspects of yoga. He was the teacher to renown Yoga experts Bks Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, T.K.V. Desikachar, A.G. Mohan and Indra Devi. He held degrees in all the six Indian philosophies. The India native is widely considered as the architect of Vinyāsa, the sense of combining breathing with movement. He possessed thorough knowledge of nutrition, herbal medicine, the use of oils, and other remedies. According to Krishnamacharya the source of a disease is in a particular area of the body, could effect many other systems in the body, both mental and physical. He would work with patients on a number of levels including adjusting their diet; creating herbal medicines; and setting up a series of yoga postures that would be most beneficial. He authored four books on Yoga, Yoga Makaranda 1934, Yogaasanagalu 1941, Yoga Rahasya and Yogavalli 1988. Krishnamacharya particularly stressed the importance of combining breath work with the postures of yoga and meditation to reach the desired goal. His yoga instruction reflected his conviction that yoga could be both a spiritual practice and a mode of physical healing. Krishnamacharya approached every student as “absolutely unique,” in the belief that the most important aspect of teaching yoga was that the student be “taught according to his or her individual capacity at any given time”.

  5. Joe Weider - Year: 1919-2013 - Fields: Fitness, Nutrition, Weight Lifting - Country:USA-

    A pioneer of the modern fitness movement, Weider brought strength and fitness to the public’s consciousness. At age twelve, Weider purchased two used bars and built a set of barbells from surplus railroad parts, and began training. Two years later he competed in his first amateur contest and lifted more than any competitor in his weight class earning him a national ranking. His goal was to one day publish a magazine that would provide accurate, complete weight training advice. In August 1940, he published the first issue of Your Physique. The magazine was an immediate success, in his 60-plus years in publishing, Weider oversaw a publishing empire that included, Muscle & Fitness, as well as Muscle & Fitness Hers, Flex, Men’s Fitness, Shape, Fit Pregnancy, and Natural Health. In 1946, Weider and his brother Ben formed the International Federation of Bodybuilders to promote a healthy lifestyle and organize competitions. In 1965 Weider created the Mr. Olympia contest, and in 1978 he went on to create the Ms. Olympia contest. His greatest contributions to the sport of bodybuilding are the Weider Training Principles. Compiled in 1950, after twelve years of study, these theories and techniques forever changed the understanding of building a strong body.

  6. Rudolf Steiner - Year: 1861-1925 - Fields: Organic Farming, Spirituality, Education - Country: Austrian Empire - Attempting to find a synthesis between science and spirituality, Rudolf Steiner went on a life long journey. His early philosophical work which he termed "spiritual science", he began to apply the thinking characteristic of Western philosophy to spiritual questions. In 1907, he began working with artistic media, drama, the movement arts and architecture. Steiner establish various endeavors, including Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture and anthroposophical medicine. He based his epistemology on Johann Wolfgang Goethe's world view, in which "Thinking is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colors and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.” Perhaps his biggest contribution goes to the development of organic farming. His work led to the development of a broad range of complementary medications and supportive artistic and biographic therapies. Homes for children and adults with developmental disabilities based on his work can be found in Africa, Europe, and North America.

  7. David E. Smith - Year: 1939-Present - Fields: Addiction Therapy/Drug Abuse - Country: USA - Smith is a medical doctor that specializes in addiction medicine, the psycho-pharmacology of drugs and proper prescribing practices for physicians. He is the Founder of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics of San Francisco, a Fellow and Past President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Past President of the California Society of Addiction Medicine, Past Medical Director for the California State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, Past Medical Director for the California Center for Substance Abuse Policy Research, and former adviser to the Betty Ford Center. When Smith started his free Haight-Ashbury clinic it was among the first of its kind in the United States. While at the Haight-Ashbury clinic several important figures in the future of alternative medicine would study under Smith. The doctor brought a real personal care for each and every patient that visited the clinic. He would help reshape parts of health care, drug therapy and overall human care. Smith helped provided free health care to people who simply didn’t have any alternatives or means to their own health care.

  8. AmmaMata Amritanandamayi - Year: 1953-Present - Fields: Hinduism, Peace - Country: Indiana - Amma is a Hindu spiritual leader and guru who is revered as a saint by her followers. Growing up, she would bring people of need, food and clothing from her own home. Her family, which was not wealthy, punished her. In 1981, seekers had begun residing at her parents' property in Parayakadavu, in the hopes of becoming her disciples. In 1987, Amma began to conduct programs in countries throughout the world. In 2014, for the first time in history, major Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox Christians, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist leaders, met to sign a shared commitment against modern-day slavery organized by the Global Freedom Network. In July 2015, Amritanandamayi delivered the keynote speech at a United Nations Academic Impact conference on technology and sustainable development. She stresses the importance of meditation, karma, yoga, selfless service, and cultivating personal qualities like compassion, patience, forgiveness, self-control, etc. Amma's network of charity organizations, provides food, housing, education, and medical services for the poor. This network has built and/or supported schools, orphanages, housing, and hospitals in over 40 countries. In the United States, the organization has provided soup kitchens and hot showers for the homeless. The hospital located in her home country offers medical care on a sliding scale, allowing people to pay what they can afford. On September 11, 2015, Amritanandamayi donated $15 million dollars to the Government of India's Namami Gange "Clean the Ganges" program for the construction of toilets for poor families living along the Ganges River. On December 9, 2015, Amritanandamayi donated $736,486 to the flood relief fund established by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. At Amritanandmayi's direction, 500 volunteers from her organization helped to rescue victims and distributed food, clothing and medicine.

  9. Pehr Henrik Ling - Year: 1776-1839 - Fields: Massage, Gymnastics - Country: Sweden - Ling pioneered the teaching of physical education in Sweden and is credited as the “Father of Swedish massage”. In 1804 he established a gymnastic institute in Sweden and began a routine of daily exercise. After discovering his daily exercises had restored his health, Ling decided to apply this experience for other peoples benefit. He saw the potential of adapting techniques to promote better health and thus attended classes in anatomy and physiology. Ling ended up going through the entire curriculum for the training of a medical doctor. He then outlined a system of gymnastics, exercises, and maneuvers divided into four branches: pedagogical, medical, military, and aesthetics. Ling finally obtained government cooperation in 1813, and founded the Royal Gymnastic Central Institute. It was opened for the training of gymnastic instructors in Stockholm, with Ling appointed as principal. Ling invented physical education tools like the box horse, wall bars, and beams. He is also credited with developing calisthenics and free calisthenics. Orthodox medical practitioners were opposed to the claims made by Ling and his disciples. By 1831, Ling was elected a member of the Swedish General Medical Association, which demonstrated that his methods were worthy of professional recognition.

  10. Wim Hof - Year: 1959-Present - Fields: Body Work, Extreme Conditioning, Breath Work - Country: Netherlands - Known as the “Iceman”, this extreme athlete is noted for his ability to withstand extreme cold. He attributes this to his Wim Hof Method (WHM) breathing techniques. Hof says that the WHM can treat or help alleviate symptoms of illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and cancer. He set out to spread the potential health benefits of his breathing techniques, working with scientists around the world to prove that his techniques work. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S. stated that by consciously hyperventilating, Hof can increase his heart rate, adrenaline levels, and blood alkalinity. Hof holds 26 world records, including one for longest ice bath. In 2007 he climbed to 22,000 ft altitude at Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts and shoes. In 2008 he broke his previous world record by staying immersed in ice for 1 hour, 13 minutes and 48 seconds. In 2009 Hof reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro within two days - wearing only shorts. Hof completed a half marathon in Finland, with temperatures close to −4 °F - dressed in nothing but shorts - and finished in 5 hours and 25 minutes. In the same year, Hof ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water. There are many variations of the Wim Hof Method. Each cycle goes as follows: take a powerful breath in, fully filling the lungs. Breathe out by passively releasing the breath, but not actively exhaling. Repeat this cycle at a steady rapid pace thirty times. Hof says that this form of hyperventilation may lead to tingling sensations or light-headedness. After completion of the 30 cycles of controlled hyperventilation, take another deep breath in, and let it out completely. Hold the breath for as long as possible. These three phases may be repeated for three consecutive rounds. Hof may help unlock some secrets within the mind for years to come.  


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01 Mar 2019

By Bradley Aden