The Remarkable International Reach of Pizzorno-Murray’s Textbook and Their Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine

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BookI was recently charged to contact science-based natural medicine pioneer Joseph Pizzorno, ND, to see if he would donate a copy of the Textbook of Natural Medicine (NM) to an auction for an organization of integrative health and medicine practitioners in Puerto Rico. I was tapped to make the request as I had been his close colleague in the re-emergence of naturopathic medicine in North America from 1983-1993. The book, first published in 1985 by Pizzorno and his coauthor, Michael Murray, ND, is an icon. It was the first of its kind to link natural medicine as thoroughly as possible to existing scientific evidence for specific conditions. With globalization, the new sources of evidence were increasingly available. The original loose-leaf binder format (pictured) was meant to be responsive to the changing and already growing international evidence base. Pizzorno was then president of what would become Bastyr University. Murray was a 1985 graduate of the now thriving university’s founding program in naturopathic medicine.

In the course of the e-exchange, I asked Pizzorno for an update on sales of the textbook and the related volume that the two subsequently created for consumers, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.  He shared that the Textbook has been thorough 4 editions with a total of 100,000 copies. Said Pizzorno:  “We decided to call the binder version of the Textbook of NM the first edition, even though it was updated around 30 times with new/revised chapters, growing from 1 volume to 2 over its 14 year run from 1985 to 1999.” The book, now in bound form, has been translated into Japanese, Italian, and Cyrillic. The encyclopedia has had 3 editions with a total of now more than 2,000,000 copies sold. The consumer-focused volume has been translated into Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and Yugoslavian.

Pizzorno bowed to his co-author, Murray: “I don’t think many know how huge an impact Mike has had advancing this medicine not to just consumers but doctors as well.” He notes that most of the chapters in the textbook were written by Murray, starting with the first edition in 1985. Murray and Pizzorno have since each authored multiple books on natural health and medicine themes.

Comment: It is difficult to overstate the impact of these two volumes on the growth of integrative health and medicine. The impressive sales numbers for such reference texts evoke images of impact on person health via well-thumbed copies in clinics and homes worldwide. More important, in the mid-1980s, publicly linking natural medicine with science only happened in obscure pharmacognosy meetings and research divisions of pharmaceutical firms seeking to turn botanicals into pharma gold.  The very phrase “science-based natural medicine” that we began to use was a striking announcement of a nascent cultural blossoming. Today, we see many similar volumes. We are accustomed to hefty, thoroughly referenced texts and online resources on herbs, nutrition, energy medicine, nutritional supplements, healing foods, women’s health, integrative medicine, and more at one’s fingertips.

The influence of the two did not end there. Murray would become the best known exponent and spokesman for the standardized extract approach to botanical preparations with which he became linked as a businessman. Both books raised consciousness about these more research-ready herbal forms. I recall the 1985 Bastyr Executive Team meeting when Pizzorno proudly pulled the first copy of the first edition of the book out of its box as part of the ritual “News & Goods” portion of the weekly agenda. In such moments, paradigms creak—and shift.


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