The Hygienic Revolution
By: Herbert M. Shelton
Reform means a change of
externals. Reform is a
patchwork program and is
justifiable only when the thing
that is to be reformed is
basically sound and worth
Revolution, on the other hand, is a
change from within; it corrects evils at
their roots instead of making them more
bearable by patching them; it is a fundamental reconstruction or the
replacement of an old order with a new. Revolution is imperative when the old
system, like the medical system, is rotten to the core and contains nothing
Revolutions grow out of revolutionary situations and are not the work of
agitators. Along with events and their consequences, dictated, not by the
intelligence of man, but by what he conceives to be essentially non-rational
forces of power and need, man and his institutions take new directions.
Although from Hippocrates to Galen and especially from the Renaissance to
Jennings and Graham, efforts at medical reform had been legion, no
fundamental change in medical systems had ever taken place.
What came about at this time appears much like the fulfillment of history by its
own natural agents.
Out of the contradictions, confusions, chaotic and heterogeneous collection
of delusions that were called the art and science of medicine, out of the
conflict of the schools, out of the obvious failure of medicine to fulfill its
promises and out of the refusal of the medical men to consider the normal
needs of life in their care of the sick grew the need, nay, the urgent necessity,
for a revolutionary reconstruction of biological thought and a resurrection of a
biological view of man's needs.
The whole medical system of Western society was in a state of chaos and
confusion. It is not surprising that the revolution had its first beginning in
France, where medicine was most progressed.
As early as the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were physicians in
France who discarded drugs and relied upon "nature" and "good nursing."
By the middle of the century the number of these had swelled and they
adopted a special name for themselves.
In Germany the water-cure was launched at about the beginning of the
second quarter of the century. In Sweden, the Ling system soon rose to
popularity. In Britain Andrew Combe, M.D., and William Lamb, M.D., attempted
to lead the people into physiological ways of caring for themselves.
Combe attempted to found his practice upon physiology; hence, it should not
surprise us that it had much in common with the Graham system in this
country. So great was the influence of Combe's works that in some places,
where people took regular exercise, bathed regularly, secured fresh air and
adopted all processes of physical education, the practices were called by the
name Combeing. Lamb had much correspondence with Graham.
About the reform and revolutionary movements of Europe we have little to say
in this book, as we are primarily interested in the development of the system
of Natural Hygiene, which took place on American soil.
In a general sense it is probably correct to say that the revolution in Europe
and that in America were interrelated and interconnected; it is certain that they
exercised considerable influence upon each other.
Especially did the works of Priessnitz, Schrodt and Rausse of Germany, Ling
of Sweden and Lamb and Combe of Britain influence the American scene.
The French school seems to have exercised very little influence outside of
France. So far as the present author knows, the history of the French
revolution has not been written.
As evidence of the influence exerted by the American movement upon
European thought and practice, American Hygienic journals and books had a
wide distribution in England.
Trall, Nichols and Gove lectured in England, while Nichols and Gove
published in England a magazine entitled, the Herald of Health. An abridged
edition of Graham's Science of Human Life was also published in that country.
Theobald Grieben of Berlin published in the German language the following
translations of books by American Hygienists: Tea and Coffee, by Alcott;
Chastity, Science of Human Life and Fruits and Vegetables, by Graham;
Science of Love, by Fowler; Diseases of the Sexual Organs, by Jackson; and
Sexual Abuses, by Trall.
A German translation of The Curse Removed by Nichols (a book on painless
childbirth) was translated by a German physician and published in Germany.
The physician played fast and loose with the translation and made Nichols
recommend drugs in the German edition.
It was into the milieu of doubt and uncertainty; of disease and death that
Sylvester Graham threw a stone in 1830. A rock hewn out of physiological
truth could not help destroying many fallacies and providing a way of escape
for the thinking and observing members of society.
A revolution was started that will not cease until the old order has been
completely demolished and a new one fully established. Only the existence of
a revolutionary situation, created by the failures and contradictions of medical
theories and practices, made possible the immediate and widespread
acceptance of the truths announced by Graham, his contemporaries and
As Graham's lectures and writings represent the launching of a crusade for
health and what he called "physiological reform" of the people and not the
actual beginning of Hygienic practice, I shall begin this story with his
predecessor, Isaac Jennings, M.D. A writer in The Science of Health, January
1876, includes Jennings along with Trall and others as worthy of veneration
for their revolutionary work.
Jennings launched no crusade and his work had not been made public at the
time Graham launched his crusade--hence the tendency to start with Graham.
I shall consult chronology rather than the beginning of the public work at this
Jennings says that he made his debut in medicine under the flag of Cullen,
having studied under the celebrated Professor Ives of New Haven, Conn. and
Yale. After 20 years spent in the regular drugging and bleeding practices of
the time, during which his confidence in drugs and bleeding had grown
steadily weaker so that his lancet had been sheathed and his doses were
fewer, further apart and smaller, he discontinued all drugging in 1822 and
relied thereafter on Hygienic care of the sick, using water drops and bread
pills to meet the demands of his patients for "medicines" for another 20 years
before he made public the secret of his phenomenal success.
Writing in 1852 on the occasion of the publication of Jenning's second book
The Philosophy of Human Life R. T. Trall, M.D., said of his career:
"Dr. Jennings is widely known as the advocate of the 'orthopathic' plan of
treating disease--a plan whose details mainly consist in placing the patient
under organic law, and there leaving him to the vis medicatrix naturae.
From the dawn of creation down to the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and
fifty-two, this method of medicating the vital machinery has been 'eminently
successful;' and the personal experience of the author of the work before us
demonstrates the reasons of its superior efficacy over the drug-shop
appliances, so widely and so fatally popular.
With a mind well constituted for critical observation, and the right opportunity
for calling its powers into action, Dr. Jennings, after having received a
thorough medical education, commenced the practice of the healing art
But his zeal to relieve his fellow-creatures of their maladies, secundem artem,
was not rewarded by the results he had been instructed to expect. He noted,
also, in consultation with his more experienced professional brethren, that old
doctors, as a general rule, gave much less medicine than young ones.
The former trusted more to nature; the latter trusted all to drugs. This led him
to doubt the prevalent ideas of the faculty of medicine; and further
observations induced him to discard them altogether.
While enjoying an extensive practice in Derby, Conn., some thirty years ago,
he changed his manner of doctoring the people to an extent little suspected by
his patrons of the time. Laying aside the well-filled saddle-bags, he furnished
one pocket with an assortment of breadpills; another pocket was stored with a
variety of powders made of wheaten flour, variously scented and colored; and
a third pocket with a quantity of vials filled with pure, soft water, of various
With these potencies in the healing art, he went forth 'conquering and to
conquer.' Diseases vanished before him with a promptness unknown before.
His fame spread far and wide. His business extended over a large territory; in
fact, no other physician could live at the trade of pill-peddling in that place.
Such was, and ever has been, and such ever will be the consequences of
substituting innocent placebos, of the do-nothing medication, for that which
consists in sending a score of physiological devils, in the shape of apothecary
stuff, into the stomach, blood, bones, and brain.
Dr. Jennings, before removing from Derby to Oberlin, Ohio, disclosed the
secret of his remarkable success; and, although his customers were generally
still inclined to 'stick to the old doctor,' it is hardly probable that at this day there
are many who have not fallen back into the slough of despond, medically
speaking, so difficult is it to induce people to think and act rationally for
The general plan of the work is sufficiently expressed by its title. We commend
it to the general inquirer after truth, more especially the medical man. It seems
to us impossible that any candid physician of the old school can peruse its
pages without getting some of the dark and foggy delusions, and musty
unphilosophical theories of that school, driven out of his head, to run like the
swine of an ancient parable, down to the sea of oblivion, and be there drowned
out of the recollection of men."
Writing in 1853, N. Bedortha, M.D., records that after 15 to 20 years of the
bread pill and pure water practice, Jennings "burst the bubble he had been so
long inflating, and came out before his medical brethren, and before the world
a sworn enemy of all drug medication."
He adds that:
"Surprise and chagrin seized his medical friends, but the effect upon the
community in which he practiced was various. Some denounced him as an
imposter, unworthy of confidence or patronage, and were ready to stone him
for deceiving them; while others, who were the more elevated portion, though
confounded by the ruse practiced upon them, took the doctor by the hand and
said--If you can cure our diseases without the use of medicine, then you are
the doctor for us."
Jennings continued his no-drug practice, which he called the "let alone"
practice, for another 20 years before he retired. He worked out a theory of
disease, diverse from any that had preceded him, which he called Orthopathy.
Disease, in this theory, is a unit and, in its various forms of fever,
inflammation, coughs, etc., is entirely true to the laws of life, which cannot be
aided by any system of medication or any medication whatever; but, relying
solely upon the healing powers of the body and placing his patients in the
best possible conditions for the operation of the body's own healing
processes, by means of rest, fasting, diet, pure air and other Hygienic factors,
he permitted his patients to get well.
Bedortha records that Jennings was never successful in getting his theories
and practices accepted, although many "warm friends" adopted his views.
Although so great was the success of Jennings and so far did his fame
spread, that Yale University conferred an honorary degree upon him in
recognition of his unheard-of success, many of his former patients
complained, when he publicly revealed his plan of care, that Jennings had
charged them for "medicines" they had not received and deserted him.
They would no longer employ him. It was not enough that he had saved their
lives (many of them would have died had they been drugged in the regular
manner), greatly shortened the period of their illnesses, relieved them of the
chief expenses of disease, preserved their constitutions unimpaired and
preserved their health.
Oh, no. They wanted what they had paid for; they had not paid for services,
but for "medicines." Had they employed drug-giving physicians, many of
them would not have lived to pay their drug bills; but this did not weigh, in
their judgment, in Jennings' favor.
An editorial in the Herald of Health, January 1865, says of Sylvester Graham,
who was not a physician that he was:
"Pre-eminently the father of the philosophy of physiology. In his masterly and
celebrated work, the 'Science of Life,' he has given the world more philosophy
and more truth concerning the primary and fundamental laws, which relate
man to external objects and to other beings, than any other author ever
did--than all other authors ever have.
Though his writings are in poor repute with the medical profession, and his
vegetarian doctrines are condemned by the great majority of medical men of
the present day, no one has ever undertaken to controvert his arguments, and
probably never will. To him, as to all other pioneers in the Health Reform, the
customary remark applies: he was an assiduous worker and thinker.
His book has now been before the people of this country about thirty years,
and has been republished and circulated extensively in Europe, and is
everywhere regarded as the pioneer work in the great field of Physiology and
Hygiene. For a few years preceding his death, which occurred in 1851, he had
been engaged in writing a 'Philosophy of History,' to which he had devoted
much time and close and careful study, one volume of which has been
He died at the age of fifty-seven. No doubt he would have lived many years
longer if he had labored more moderately. It should be stated, however, that
he inherited a frail constitution, and before he grew to manhood, he was
regarded as in a decline, and was saved from fatal consumption only by a
resort to those agencies and conditions which are now understood by the
phrase, Hygienic Medication."
Hygienic Medication at the time this editorial was penned included the use of
modalities of the "Water Cure" whereas Graham's recovery took place before
Priessnitz had originated his water cure.
The importance attached to the work of Graham is further attested by a
statement made in this same editorial that the lectures and writings of Graham
and Alcott had previously prepared the public mind for the investigation of a
new mode of treatment.
Here reference was had to hydropathy or the water cure, which was
introduced into America from Germany in the early forties of the last century.
Also, there is the statement made by Robert Walter, M.D., in an article in the
January 1874 issue of The Science of Health, that:
"Sylvester Graham, with 'The Science of Human Life,' made a great step in
advance; and, though some of his theories are not what later developments
would approve, he nevertheless made a valuable attempt at systematization."
A writer in the Herald of Health, January 1865, said:
"R. T. Trall, M.D., is the discoverer of the Philosophy of Medical Science, and
the father of the system of Hygienic Medication. While others have done much
to agitate the public mind, and develop great truths in the healing art, it was left
to him to solve the great primary problems, which must underlie all medical
systems, and to base a theory of medical science, and a system of the Healing
Art, on the laws of nature themselves.
No author except him ever traced medical problems back to their starting point,
and thereby discovered their harmony or disharmony with universal and
unalterable law. In this manner he has been enabled to do what no other
author before him ever could do, explain the nature of disease, the effects of
remedies, the doctrine of vitality, the medicatrix naturae, and the laws or
conditions of cure.
His philosophy goes back of all medical systems and proves to a positive
demonstration the fallacy and falsity of medicating diseases with poisonous
Hygienic medication, therefore, is, with him, a system, full, perfect, complete,
and of universal application. Knowing that the system he teaches is grounded
in scientific truth, he boldly challenges all the medical men and all the scientific
men of the earth to meet and oppose it; but no one accepts the challenge;
although they continue to drug and dose their patients into premature graves.
Probably no man who has lived in modern times has been more persistent and
consistent, more active and uncompromising, as an author and practitioner. If
all of his writings in the form of books, journals and lectures could be collected
together, they would make quite a respectable library.
His professional correspondence and practice have also been extensive and
arduous, and when we add to these circumstances the fact that he is engaged
in writing and has nearly ready for the press, several works of greater
magnitude and importance than any he has yet given to the world, on which he
has expended already much time and labor, it will be readily understood that he
can have few idle moments." Herald of Health Journal
In a discussion with an allopathic physician, a Dr. Wilson, in the Journal,
February 1854, Trall said:
"It was the good fortune of my patients that I had the good sense to discover
the falsity of many medical doctrines, and the benevolence to repudiate the
practice of many of the most destructive of the drug-shop appliances, even
before I was made a 'graduate.'
Hence, I never administered such deadly drugs as nitre and tartar emetic,
which you know or ought to know are the common medicaments in candies,
lozenges, cough syrups, soothing cordials, etc., that are so generally fed to
children, per advice of Allopathic doctors; never used leeches nor scarificators;
never bled much, nor blistered much, nor gave much mercury; in short, during
my whole career as a 'regular,' my drugifications were continually growing
'small by degrees and beautifully less,' till there was not force enough of
poison left to kill a baby or mar a shadow."
Although far from being alone in the creation of the modern system of
Hygiene, these three men may justly be said to have contributed most to our
understanding of this field of knowledge and art.
Hygiene is not the gift or invention of any man or group of men, nor of any
association of men. It is not a creation of the laboratory, nor the result of
discoveries that were made only after centuries of painstaking research.
Its modern pioneers were brilliant men who were not afraid to depart from the
ruts of orthodoxy and search for truth in despised places, but they were not
men of the cloistered laboratory.
Writing in 1840, Graham said:
"When with an honest and earnest heart, I looked steadily to nature for
illumination, and with guileless of a little child, said, 'Give me truth! she poured
her clear and discriminating light into my soul--not with the overwhelming
splendor of full day, but with increasing degrees as I was able to receive and
endure, and employ profitably withal.
In short, I had no sudden revelations of Nature's great truths; I made no
sudden changes in my diet and general regimen; but as I received instructions
I advanced, laying aside a little here and a little there, till, by virtue of
unremitting and untiring perseverance in research and investigation, and
careful experiment and observation, I was at last permitted to step upon the
broad threshold of that great system of physiological and psychological truth,
which as a humble instrument in the hands of Divine Providence, I am now
suffered to promulgate to the human world."
Not by divine revelation, as so many have claimed for their "discoveries" but
by a close and careful study of nature did all these men come to their
Hygiene represents a return to that pristine mode of living that emerged with
man when he first appeared on the earth; it is a revival of something precious
that had been all but lost during the course of ages, thanks to the corrupting
and perverting influences of shaman, priest, physician and trader.
These, with their false systems and false teachings, have led the race astray.
When and where ignorance and superstition have prevailed with all their
mind-beclouding and debasing influences, there disease and crime abound.
These three men--Jennings, Graham and Trall--together with Alcott, Taylor
and others in this country and Combe and Lamb in England set the world to
thinking on Hygiene. They were great men, greater by far than were Napoleon
or Alexander. Any man who gives the world valid ideas and elucidates
genuine principles is a man whom the world most wants and will come,
ultimately, to admire.
All but two of the pioneer Hygienists were medical men who had become
disillusioned with medical practices and were honest and courageous
enough to seek elsewhere for truth. These two were Sylvester Graham and
The revolution here described required a complete and radical change in the
mode of thinking of the people.
They had to be biologically reoriented and had to be weaned away from the
supernatural orientation fostered by the priest craft. They had to learn that life
is subject to law and order and is not at the mercy of capricious and
They had to learn the truth about the relations between the living organism
and the many elements of its environment; especially did they have to learn
the true relations of drugs to the organism. They had to learn that health is
man's normal state and that disease is abnormal.
It was necessary for them to understand that man is the builder of his own
diseases and that disease does not come upon them without cause. It
became necessary for them to learn that acute disease, instead of being the
enemy it had long been regarded, is a remedial process.
It was necessary for them to understand that living organisms are self-healing
and that all the caretaker can do that is of any constructive value for the sick
is to provide wholesome conditions and usable materials, it is especially
necessary that they learn that cure and curing represent false ideas and false
practices. Most of the world still has these facts to learn.
The Evolution of Hygiene
Important as individual effort undoubtedly is, there is always a need for
organized effort and cooperative work in the promotion of any truth. This fact
was early recognized in the Hygienic movement and in 1837 a group of
Graham's students founded in Boston the world's first physiological
society--The American Physiological Society.
Physiology, at that time, was in its infancy and American physiology, in
particular, hardly existed. William Beaumont had only a year or two before he
issued his work on the physiology of digestion.
Claude Bernard, the great French physiologist, was still unknown, while the
German school of physiology was without influence in this country. It is
hardly likely that a society of professional physiologists could have been
formed anywhere in the world at that time.
The American Physiological Society was formed nearly 50 years before
physiologic science had advanced sufficiently to permit the formation of the
Physiological Society in England and before a second American Physiological
Society was formed in this country.
These followers of Graham were not so much interested in physiological
research, involving experiments upon animals, as in the promotion of a
knowledge of physiology among the laity and the establishment of ways of
living based upon physiology.
Although it is not known whether Dr. William Alcott attended the first meeting
of the Society, he did attend later meetings and became a member. On
February 11, 1837, an organization meeting was held at which a constitution
Many ladies of the Society were of the opinion that the subjects discussed
were of too delicate a nature for a mixed audience and thought there was a
need for a woman to lecture to ladies alone.
Mary Gove, who had but a short time before opened a Graham Boarding
School at Lynn, Massachusetts, came forward and offered to fill this position.
A Woman's Physiological Society was formed and lectures were given to
women, often separate lectures for married and unmarried women.
Mrs. Gove's lectures were a great success and continued to be carried on for
a number of years, even after the Physiological Society ceased to exist. In
1846 these lectures were published in book form.
Two health conventions were held by the American Physiological Society
under the general term of the American Health Convention. The first of these
opened in Boston, May 30,1838.
The second American Health Convention was held in New York under the
joint auspices of the American Physiological Society and the New York
Physiological Society on May 18, 1839.
Physiological societies were formed in several cities, including Oberlin
College in Oberlin, Ohio, where Dr. Jennings became a member.
Among the other activities promoted or supported by the Society were The
Graham Journal of Health and Longevity, edited by David Cambell, numerous
tracts on health and diet, the establishment of the Library of the American
Physiological Society and a provision store, which may properly be called the
world's first health food store.
An effort was made to establish a Physiological Infirmary in Boston to provide
physiological care for the sick. Although the American Physiological Society
of Boston did not last much beyond its first three years, in 1850 the
Providence, Rhode Island, Female Physiological Society was still carrying on
under that name, and the ladies of Boston were also still functioning as a
The movement initiated by Graham and Alcott and measurably contributed to
by Mary Gove, and which was early joined by Dr. Jennings, represents the
beginning of the Hygienic movement.
The American Physiological Society numbered among its members in the
various cities several medical men, but it would carry us too far afield to list
the names of these and it is not known how many of them actually abandoned
the drugging practice and confined themselves in the care of the sick to
This was only the beginning and many subsequent men, especially Trall,
Taylor, Nichols and Jackson, added their weight and thought and their
experience to the evolution of the new but old way of life.
Writing on the health reform movement in December 1853, Dr. Alcott
designates the physiological as distinct from the hydropathic part of the
He mentions also that "our periodicals and our books also repudiate as absurd
the idea of curing disease" and that "all the elements of hygiene, and these
only, are the true materia medica."
Alcott lectured far and wide on Hygiene. It is important that we keep these
distinctions in mind. The physiological reform had its origin in this country.
Hydropathy had its origin in Europe. The two movements mingled and ran
along together for a time, but they were separate and distinct and must be
understood in this way if we are to grasp in clear outline the evolution of the
In an editorial in the Journal, May 1858, Trall speaks of those "who do not
distinguish between water treatment and hygienic treatment" thus setting the
two systems apart from each other.
When, in 1851, Trall's Hydropathic Encyclopedia was published, it was offered
to the public as a "complete system of practical hydropathy and hygiene."
At least as early as 1853, Trall's institution was listed as a hydropathic and
Hygienic institute. In August 1855 Trall carried the announcement of the
issuance of the Quarterly Report of the students of the third term of the
Hygienic Institute, 15 Laight St., New York.
In an editorial in the Journal, July 1858, Trall declared it to be the only journal
in the world, which "advocated a strictly Hygienic system of the Healing Art,
the only journal in existence devoted to the cause of a universal health
In April 1862 he issued a call for the formation of a National Hygienic
Association, to be made up of Hygienic practitioners, male and female. In 1860
Trall issued a booklet on the Principles of Hygeio-Therapy.
In 1862 Trall delivered in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington his famous
lecture, The True Healing Art, or Hygienic Versus Drug Medication.
It should be recorded that after this lecture was delivered, there was a heavy
demand that it be delivered elsewhere. Complying with this demand, Trall
delivered this lecture in several other cities.
Writing in November 1873, Trall said that:
"Allopathic physicians could be named both in this country and in Europe who
had immediately abandoned the whole drugging system after reading The True
Healing Art, and that some of them were then practicing Hygienically."
In 1872 The Health Reformer, of Battle Creek, Michigan, published a small
work by Trall under the title, The Hygienic System, in which he defined the
Hygienic System as "the treatment of disease by Hygienic agencies."
Although a small work, it briefly outlines the theory and practice of Hygiene
and I should record that it was among the favorite books treasured by Dr.
Writing in the January 1858 issue of the Journal, A. F. Compton, M.D.,
distinguished between "the allopathic" and "the Hygienic system."
Roland S. Houghton, M.D., who never became a Hygienist, both lectured and
wrote on Hygiene and hydropathy, one of his books being entitled: Three
Lectures on Hygiene and Hydropathy.
The preamble of the constitution of the American Hygienic and Hydropathic
Association of Physicians and Surgeons, established in 1850, says that:
"its objects shall be the diffusion of those physiological principles which are
usually comprised under the term Hygiene, and the development of the
therapeutic virtues of water to their fullest extent, on a strictly scientific basis,
and with special reference to the laws of the human system, both in health and
disease . . ."
Thus it will be seen that at the very outset, this organization made a sharp
distinction between Hygiene and hydropathy.
A man traveling in Iowa and selling the Water-Cure Journal, stopped at the
home of a physician. The physician was out, so the man attempted to sell a
subscription to the Journal to his wife. "No" she said, "that's Graham's
system. I don't believe anything in it. I've heard of Grahamites that died."
I recount this story, not to emphasize the fact that for Grahamism to be good
the Grahamites had to live forever, but rather to stress the fact that, both
professionally and popularly, the Water-Cure Journal was associated with
It was a common complaint against Hygienists that they "dashed Graham into
everything." His influence was far greater than the infrequent references to
him would indicate.
When, in 1853, Trall wrote that "all persons . . . whose living is physiologically
bad, may rightfully consider themselves as the particular 'shining marks' at
which Death levels his arrows" he wrote after the theories of Graham, not
those of Priessnitz.
When people discontinued the use of tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol and animal
foods, they were following Graham and Alcott, not Priessnitz.
Writing on what he called "A Chapter of Water-Cure" in an article published in
the September 1851 issue of the Journal, E. Potter, M.D., begins by saying:
"Six years ago, this past winter, I commenced the study of Dr. Graham's
Lectures on the Science of Human Life." Then he tells briefly of his previous
mode of living, his suffering and his use of drugs. Immediately after reading
Graham, he made several radical changes in his way of life and he says: "I
never felt so well in my life."
Potter says that sometimes he strayed from the Graham System and that
when he did so, he never failed to experience a physiological impairment
proportioned to his departure.
He tells us also that he had ceased to use drugs and that he had no occasion
to use them. If this was a chapter on "water-cure" as understood by the
practitioners of the time, what justification can be offered for crediting the
man's changed way of life and changed practices to the reading of the work
Certainly, Graham's work was not a water-cure work and was published
before the water-cure was introduced into America.
A woman, writing in the Journal 1854, of her experiences with both allopathy
and hydropathy, frankly acknowledges her debt to Graham, whom she had
known personally and who had visited her home, and to his teachings and
thought of Grahamism as a part of hydropathy.
In discussing the "Theory and Practice of Medicine" in the Journal, November
1858, D. A. Gorton, M.D., quotes approvingly from Graham's Science of Human
In the January 1861 issue of the Journal, Trall replies to a series of questions
asked by a sick man, under the title, "Physiological Living" this taking us back
In the February 1861 issue of the Journal is an article under the title: "Rearing
Children Physiologically" which also takes us back to Graham.
Writing in 1850, Thomas Low Nichols, M.D., said:
"Sixteen years ago, while attending medical lectures at Dartmouth College,
when Dr. Muzzy, the eminent surgeon, was a professor in that institution, my
attention was directed to the influence of diet and regimen, and I adopted, as an
experiment, what has been commonly, but very improperly, called the Graham
system of diet; for if the system is to be named after any man, it might with
much greater propriety be called the Pythagorean, or even the Adamic.
A system practiced by the primeval races of mankind, by many of the sages of
antiquity, by the wisest and purest men of every age, and by a majority of the
human race in all ages, surely ought not to receive the name of a modern
lecturer, who, whatever his claim to zeal and science, can have none to
This does not tell the whole story. As a result of listening to the lectures of
Graham, young Nichols abandoned the study of medicine and became a
newspaper reporter. Several years were to pass before he resumed the study
of medicine, this time in New York City, which he was never to practice.
After graduation, he established himself in what was called a hydropathic
practice; but it was in reality a combination of Hygiene and hydropathy. This
practice he was to continue for the remainder of his life, until his retirement at
an advanced age.
The force of Nichols' argument is patent to all, but it should not be overlooked
that it was largely due to the zeal and original thinking of Graham that this
plan of eating was revived in America and even in Europe.
What is even more to the point is the fact that the Graham System was and is
vastly more than a system of diet and that he may justly have laid claim to
much originality of thought.
It is to his credit, also, that he based his dietary plan on physiology and
comparative anatomy and not, as did Pythagoras, upon a belief in
reincarnation. Graham did not believe that animals housed the souls of men
and women who had died and that, for this reason, to kill an animal is murder.
Graham was not unaware of the water-cure movement and of the association
of physiological reform with the movement, and was a regular reader of the
In a letter published in a Northampton, Massachusetts, paper, where Graham
lived, Graham endorsed the Journal as "one of the most valuable publications
in our country."
This letter was reproduced in the Journal of March 1851. It is not to be
accepted as an endorsement of hydropathy. At a previous date Dr. Jennings
had endorsed the Journal, but Jennings was very outspoken in his
opposition to hydropathy. The fact is that the Journal carried more
information about Hygiene than it did about hydropathy.
Writing in the Science of Health, July 1873, Mrs. Julia A. Carney tells some of
her experiences, as a young girl, with Graham and the Graham System. She
mentioned that, for many years, those who "would not accept the gospel of
Hygiene which he preached" called him "maniac" "fanatic" and "fool."
She tells us that:
"When as a mere child, scarcely yet in my teens, I often saw Dr. Graham at the
house of a friend, the senior publisher of his 'Science of Human Life.'
He was then engaged in superintending the passage of this work through the
press, and I first read it in the original manuscript. Receiving from the author a
large share of attention and petting because of a real or fancied resemblance to
some young friend (his own daughter I think), perhaps also from the eager
interest with which his new theories inspired me, my juvenile mind then
received its first impressions of Hygienic reform.
While, therefore, not believing all of his opinions entirely correct, nor strictly
complying perhaps with all I do perceive, I am yet indebted to his works, and
others which I was induced to pursue by the interest thus awakened, for an
incalculable amount of good.
For, although my physical constitution, if I ever had any, had been poisoned by
as large an amount of allopathic drugs as ever fell to the lot of mortal child to
swallow, and survive; yet, thanks to 'all kinds of strange notions,' then
imbibed, I soon regained a degree of health quite unexpected to my anxious
friends, many of whom were thus induced to examine the 'notions' more
From a complimentary copy of his 'Lectures, etc.,' received at that time and
preserved until now, perhaps because to my young mind complimentary
copies of new books involved new experience, I quote as follows: . . ."
These references to Graham and Grahamism are but a few of many contained
in the Journal and in the Science of Health, which indicates the strong,
influence that Graham exercised in the movement.
Many more such references could be quoted, but these are sufficient.
Inspired by the temperance movement, in which he had been an active
worker, Graham wanted to know why temperance should be limited to
With this question in his mind he delved deeply into the subject and came up
with answers that have proved very satisfactory for millions of people. Under
the vivifying influence of Grahamism, new ideas rapidly emerged.
The medical historian, Richard Harrison Shryock, says in The Development of
Modern Medicine (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1936), of Graham's
crusade for physiological reform:
"Personal hygiene was an old story, but carrying it to the people with the
fervor of a crusader was something relatively new."
He credits Graham with sincerity, but limits the existence of what he calls an
"articulate hygienic cult" which grew up around the name of Graham, to the
decades from 1830 to 1860.
Somewhat contradictorily, he says that the most effective means of reaching
the public was the "health papers" of which he says some 80 appeared in the
United States from the year 1830 to 1890.
He says of these "health papers" most of which were ephemeral, that "their
cumulative influence may have been of some significance" for, he adds:
"Certain it is that their publication coincided with an improvement in the
hygienic habits of the American people."
Perhaps in an effort to cast a slur at Graham, Shryock says that Graham
established "Ladies Physiological Reform Societies" but makes no mention of
the Physiological Reform Societies that were composed of men.
He would seem to be trying to make it appear that Graham was preying upon
"gullible women." I do not want to be unfair to Shryock, who is the only
medical historian of whom I know who has favorably discussed Graham and
his work. If I have misjudged his intent, it is only because it is a general rule of
medical writers to attempt to discredit Graham.
Medical deprecations of Graham's work began very early. One Dr. Bell wrote
a Prize Dissertation on Diet, in which, while presenting the generally prevailing
public and professional view of the subject, he took advantage of the
occasion to castigate Graham.
He reduced Graham and Grahamism to smoldering ruins with such matchless
and devastating logic as "utopian dreamers" "modern empirics and modern
innovators" "self-conceited and opinionated dogmatism" "visionary novelties"
"new sect of fanatics" "men of erratic and visionary genius" "modern
Pythagoreans" "bigoted exclusives" etc., etc.
The first annual meeting of the National Health Association was held in
Caneserage Hall in Dansville, New York, in the evenings of the two days of
September the 14th and 15th, 1859.
Arrangements were under the immediate auspices of Dr. James C. Jackson
and his associates. Dr. Trall served as chairman and proceeded immediately,
upon taking the chair, to explain the fundamental and radical differences
between the Hygienic System and the systems of drug medication.
The convention unanimously elected Dr. Trall as president of the Association
for the ensuing year and elected 29 vice presidents from states as far apart as
Maine and Texas, Vermont and Utah, New Hampshire and Mississippi.
At this convention it was made clear that "to restore the race to its primitive
condition" of health and vigor, it is necessary to unfold and demonstrate the
principles of Hygiene and to wean men and women from the ancient pillbox
and drug shop.
It was noted that the spirit of inquiry on the subjects of health and disease had
been awakened and men were beginning to question the divinity of disease
and to wonder if health is not of God.
Should health not be the rule and disease the exception, they asked. The
necessity of studying the laws of life and their relation to human health and
happiness in the practical application of these laws in our daily life was
This was not the beginning of organized effort to promote Hygiene, but it
marked a milestone in the progress of the new movement. It is a matter of
satisfaction to the author that he can record that there has been an
uninterrupted effort to promote the principles and practices of Hygiene down
to the very time he writes these words.
If you ask: what has the Hygienic movement accomplished during the years of
its existence--what have we to show for our labors? We answer first by
asking a counter question: "what has been accomplished by the false cures
and fraudulent treatments?"
What have the other schools to show for the compromises they have made,
for their betrayal of the real principles of Hygiene? How have the sick profited
by their desertion of truth?
Their one positive achievement has been to obstruct the growth of a genuine
revolutionary health movement.
But let us answer the question. Millions of pages of tracts, books and
magazines have been broadcast over the land, almost over the world; indeed,
thousands of lectures have been delivered; many Hygienic practitioners have
been created to serve the people and these covered much of the land and all
grades, conditions and ranks of society have been reached and people by the
thousands have turned to Hygiene and flown from drugs.
Great armies of invalids have been restored to health and the average life
span has greatly increased. All of this influence countered the poisoning
practices of the medical profession and led to the permanent adoption by all
of the people of some of the Hygienic System.
The people have learned to bathe, to eat more fruits and vegetables, to
ventilate their homes, to get daily exercise, to avail themselves of the benefits
of sunshine, to cast off their fears of night air, damp air, cold air and draughts,
to eat less flesh; they have adopted better modes of food preparation.
It is true they have forgotten who it was that promulgated these things; they
have lost the record of the tremendous opposition to these things that the
medical profession offered.
They believe that the medical profession was responsible for the decline of
disease and death, for the decline of the infant death rate, for the inauguration
of sanitation, and for the increased average life span.
They believe this because the medical profession, controlling the media of
communication, has indoctrinated them with the idea.
Neglect of the Hygienic needs (especially of the need for rest, fresh air and
water) is not as persistent nor as criminal today, thanks to the work of
Hygienists, hydropathists and nature curists, as it was a hundred years ago;
but the total Hygienic program is far from having been accepted.
By line upon line, precept upon precept and volume upon volume, the
workers for a revolution in the way of life have done a good job.
Jackson declared that the changes in medical practices that occurred during
his lifetime had been due "clearly and wholly to the promulgation of the
principles" of Hygiene.
They had come about, he said, during the period that he and Dr. Trall had
been "recognized as Hygienic practitioners." "For half of a lifetime of an entire
generation" he said, "has this Journal (the Water-Cure Journal ) been the
advocate of the Hygienic theory of treating disease."
Let it not be said that medical schools were quick to adopt the principles and
practices of Hygiene. In The Science of Health, March 1873, Trall quotes the
following statement from an article on "Medical Schools" which appeared in
the New York Medical Record:
"The principles of Hygiene, too, with sanitary laws, should have appropriate
places in our systems of education."
Then referring to the importance of Hygiene and sanitation and pointing out
that medical men in general were ignorant of them, Trall asked:
"Where, among the one hundred and fifty medical colleges of the civilized
world, is there a chair of Hygiene or a professorship of sanitary laws?"
Answering his own question, Trall replied:
"Not one can be found except in the Hygeio-Therapeutic College and this is not
regarded as 'regular' by the regular profession."
He says that:
"Soon after the establishment of the 'Hydropathic and Physiological School' in
New York some twenty years ago, a chair of Hygiene was introduced in the
principal medical college of New York, and professorships of hydropathy were
introduced into three Eclectic colleges.
But the chair of Hygiene soon ran out, and has been vacant ever since; while
the professorships of hydropathy all ended at the end of the first college
term-in one instance in mid-term. Why these chairs could not work
harmoniously with the others, the reader need have no difficulty in imagining.
It was soon discovered that the Hygiene was ruining the materia medica, while
the hydropathy was drowning out all the druggery."
Trall regarded the plan proposed by the Medical Record as both
"revolutionary and ruinous." He said that its adoption "would in a few years
close three-fourths of all the medical colleges on the face of the earth, and
destroy nine-tenths of the medical practices of the world."
It would, he added, also "be very damaging to the business of the Hygienic
physicians everywhere, for as things are now, three-fourths of their business
consists in treating invalids for diseases which the medicines of the drug
systems have occasioned."
Medical colleges and the medical profession were not only neglecting
Hygiene, but their practices were producing so much iatrogenic disease that
Hygienic practitioners were kept busy trying to repair the flood of damages
that flowed from the drug-satchels of the physicians.
With their lancets, their pukes and purges, their blisters and their stimulants,
in a word, with their poisons, they were busily engaged not only in disease
producing, but in killing their patients.
Without poisons the minds of the medical men would be blank, so far, at least,
as their treatment of their patients is concerned. Poisons are almost their sole
stock in trade. Poisons legitimately belong to them and we will let them have
them. We have no need for them.
We have a broader basis of action and in comparison with which, theirs sinks
into insignificance. Let them have their cherished illusions along with their
indispensable poisons; but let the people, who have to suffer the
consequences of the poisoning practice, emancipate themselves from its
To them, the poisoning practice is not a messenger of life, but of disease and
death. The truth of this is contained in every medical report that is issued.
Quietly, and at different places, the details of the application of the great
principle of employing only the normal things of life in the care of the sick is
working its way into the consciousness of the people and a complete system
of Natural Hygiene is about to dawn upon the world.
The doctrines of the Hygienic System are new. Its principles and the
application of these principles have now been before the world but a century
and a quarter; and, although a comparatively few persons have studied its
basis and mastered its fundamental premises, and many have obtained some
general knowledge of its application, the majority of the people really know
little about it.
Beginning with Graham's lectures and the publication of the Graham Journal
of Health and Longevity, the Hygienic movement pushed forward with vigor
As early as 1850 the Water-Cure Journal had a circulation of 18,000. Wherever
the journal circulated there was invariably an improvement in the Hygienic
habits of the people and a corresponding decrease in the fatal cases of
disease and an immense saving to the people.
So vigorous was Hygiene promulgated and so great was the enthusiasm with
which the people accepted it, it was estimated in January 1852 that the
practitioners of the two and somewhat commingled schools--hydropathy and
hygeiotherapy, outnumbered the practitioners of any of the medical
schools--allopathic, homeopathic, eclectic and physio-medical--in this country.
One does not get a true picture of this situation, however, unless one
understands that many of the hydropathists also used drugs and that an
occasional Hygienic practitioner was not above a "little drugging" now and
So vigorous was the drive against the drugging systems that the medical laws
were repealed in a number of our states. During this period when the powers
of the state could no longer be used to deprive people of their right of private
judgment in their choice of modes of care, medical societies were formed by
groups who voted themselves the "salt of the earth" the "regulars" etc.
These organizations were intended to influence and mold public opinion and
let the world know who were the regulars, who was scientific, and who were
the quacks and empirics.
Medical schools conferred the title Doctor of Medicine as a part of the move to
create a select monopoly; medical journals, medical societies and lecturers
endeavored to suppress all empiricism, while they wrote and declaimed
against "quackery" until the very word became odious and quack became a
synonym for a knave or a fool.
Medical societies mistook their function when they endeavored to put down
all plans of care of the sick but their own.
When assembled for the purpose of free discussion of medical subjects, for
the collection of facts, the establishment of principles and the investigation of
new truths, they are useful auxiliaries to the cause of progress; but when they
do little more than regulate the rate at which each member shall bleed, blister,
purge and tax, or transfuse, inoculate, operate and tax, and the particular
courtesy that they shall extend towards each other and how they shall treat
the outside "barbarians" they fail in any worthwhile mission.
The establishment of a mode of medication by the state is an infringement
upon one of our most precious rights and an injury to the cause of truth and
the progress of science.
Such an establishment never can suppress empiricism; for when all other
systems have been suppressed, empiricism will flourish in the one allowed.
The state has no more right to establish one school of medicine above others
than it has to establish one church above all others. It is important that the
people shall be free in their choice of means of care and any curtailment of
this basic freedom is tyranny.
So far as medical colleges teach science, they travel in the right direction; but
when they desert science and teach an empiric mode of medication and give
to their arts an air of mystery, they serve neither God nor man.
So long as medical colleges promulgate the superstition that drugs have
curative power, they will continue to be curses to the race.
Naming diseases in two or three ancient languages is but a camouflage for
ignorance. Writing prescriptions in a language which their patients cannot
read serves to confuse the minds of the people.
When the medical colleges contribute to and give countenance to these
mysteries, they do not serve the cause of science and human advancement.
Could the colleges of medicine confine themselves to the teachings of the
sciences that are connected with medicine and to seeking to erect a mode of
practice upon these as a basis, they could become worthwhile institutions;
but so long as they continue to mystify disease and to teach that it can be
cured by poisons, they not only reject science, but they aid and abet the
patent medicine industry.
Hygiene is properly defined as that branch of biology, which designates the
conditions upon which health depends and the means by which it may be
sustained in all its virtue and purity while we have it, and the means upon
which its restoration rests when we have lost it.
It is the scientific application of the principles of nature in the preservation and
restoration of health. We may also define Hygiene as the science of normal
It comprehends all the laws that determine the changes in living organisms
and all the conditions, which conduce to or interfere with normal growth and
It traces these conditions to the unerring laws of nature and thereon
establishes its science of life.
It demonstrates the great primary principle of human action that all permanent
good, all enduring happiness and all true advancement are found only in
obedience to these laws.
Hygiene does not neglect the care of the sick. All true care of the sick
recognizes and applies these same laws of nature in providing the needs of
the sick and the removal of abnormal conditions.
Disease results from disobedience to organic laws. Hygiene, as applied to the
sick, is not the mere employment of diet, or of fasting; but it enters into all the
causes of disease, seeking to remove these, and supplies all the needs of life
in assisting the efforts of nature in restoring health.
It provides a simple and healthful diet, carefully adapted to the assimilating
powers of the body; it demands pure air and warmth; it provides rest or
invigorating exercise as demanded, with other physical and normal Hygienic
A system of mind-body care that is valid both for a state of health and for one
of illness must have as its most prominent feature appeal to the
representatives of modern science, a principle capable of unifying all valid
means and measures when caring for the organic body when well or sick.
Such a principle will set each factor-element of a sound system of care in its
proper place and thereby create a grand harmony and an easily understood
It must be both universal and eternal in application; it can only rest upon one
true principle; hence, it will be absolutely identical for each and every human
being without regard to race, creed or color, without reference to climate,
altitude, age, sex or occupation.
A system of care that must satisfy such enormous demands cannot be of an
ephemeral nature nor something susceptible of merely local application.
It must not be a fabricated system that some man or group of men have
woven together out of disrelated elements, but must be constituted of every
elemental factor of life itself.
It cannot take aim at one special condition of the human body and mind, one
special field of knowledge or organic experience.
It cannot be partial to any one form of life or to anything that has to do with the
support of life. It must leave open every conceivable opportunity for
It cannot be a mere fragment of truth; it must be truth itself. Otherwise it will
not meet the demands made upon it. It will serve to divide rather than to unify
the processes of caring for the well and the sick.
It will result in discord between the means of care and the means of
restitution, between the powers of life and the means with which to support
If it is not truth itself, it will run counter to its professed principles and create
biological antagonisms instead of biological harmonies.
Instead of becoming a basis for the attainment and maintenance of human
health and sanity and of an enduring stability of structure and function, it will
become a source of weakness and disease.
Hygiene is not the gift or invention of any man nor group of men nor of any
succession of men, but the pristine way of life with which man emerged when
he first came upon the earth.
The majestic strength of Hygiene lies in its naturalness, in its utter fitness to
meet all the needs of the human organism. The wonders for which it is
responsible are latent in its simplicity, in its harmony with the forces of life and
in the absence of destructiveness in its relations to the body.
The practices of Hygiene grow out of the plainest truths; so far as it is a
system, it is founded in the nature of things. When we interfere with the
natural systems, we soon discover that our own systems, which we try to
substitute for the natural systems, are inadequate and result in wreckage.
Having thus shown that Hygiene legitimately takes cognizance of needs of
health, we must seek to know the way, which is right and live by it. We must
seek to know the way, which is wrong, and shun it.
Exact truth, simple nature, clear sunlight, pure air, fresh soft water, proper
food, cleanliness, appropriate exercise, congenial temperature, rest and sleep,
correct habits, obedience to the laws of life-are these too radical for the
The view that natural living means living the uncultured and precarious life of
the rudest tribes is both shortsighted and false.
Whether civilized or not, man lives a natural life when he lives in accordance
with the laws of his being. There is much in the lives of the rudest tribes that
is very unnatural and unphysiological.
We need to know not only the factor elements that constitute a system of
Hygiene, but we must recognize and integrate all of the many and sometimes
apparently contradictory facets of life, to the end that we may understand how
to live in every particular.
Violence is needed to hold asunder elements, which are conjoined in nature,
but we have much violence in civilization.
It was Galen who classified food, water, sunshine, warmth, air, exercise, rest,
wakefulness, the passions and affections of the mind, bowel movements, etc.,
as "non-naturals" and this false classification or unrecognized echoes of it,
remains with us to this day.
After all its high and beautiful imaginings, life is prosaic and eats bread--and
this bread is a necessity.
In this connection, it is necessary that we keep in mind that Hygiene is not
merely a collection of means of caring for the body, but also a group of
correlated and integrated principles by which to apply these means.
These principles are eternally antagonistic to the drugging system.
When Trall declared that if Hygiene were adopted by medical men it would
inevitably destroy medicine, he had in mind Hygiene as taught and practiced
He had no thought that physicians would endanger their system by
endorsing washing the hands and scrubbing the teeth.
Hygiene seeks to establish and understand the natural laws, or the regularity
with which health and disease happen and to build on this sure basis of law.
Lacking a rational, cohesive framework of valid principles, all the facts in the
world fail to gain meaning.
In fact, under such limitations, one may drown in facts. The limitations also
tend to undue emphasis on subjective factors. Because it is based upon valid
principles, Hygiene affirms its supremacy and its eventual acceptance by the
peoples of the world. This will result in the eventual oblivion of the schools of
Hygienic means health preserving. Practically, it implies the observance of
the laws of life. It pertains to the integrity of everything that lives. It applies to
the vegetable and animal kingdoms as much as to the human realm. Every
form of life has its appropriate Hygiene.
As there in a basic oneness of life, human Hygiene, animal Hygiene and plant
Hygiene, despite their obvious variations, are basically one. This is the
reason we said earlier that a valid system of Hygiene will be universally
The recuperative agencies and influences of nature with which living
organisms are surrounded, both in woods, fields, gardens and public parks,
are such as have a normal or physiological relationship to the living organism,
such as the virtue hidden in pure air, the wholesome substances contained in
foods, the great value of sunshine and warmth, the beneficent effects of pure,
cool water, both as drink and as bath, the vital value of the many and varied
forms of physical exercise, the open window that transforms the chamber of
sickness into the cheerful abode of health, rest and sleep that restore flagging
energies, the judicious use of fruits, the natural food of man, and last but not
least, as it occupies a most exalted place in the essential factors of healthy
and healthful existence, the potent influences of the emotions upon the
body--both in health and in disease, are needs common to all forms of life.
We propose no "faith cure" but would emphasize that the mind has more to
do with the condition of the body and recovery from a state of disease than
many have any idea or are willing to allow.
Why not include the giver of drugs among our arrangements for health?
Because he has nothing to do with the human organization while under the
conditions of health, but only while in a state of disease, and then only to
further outrage the laws of life by administering the foes of life and health.
In the words of Trall: "We repudiate all the teachings of all the drug schools in
the world, so far as principles are concerned." Our system of Hygiene "has its
principles in the laws of nature themselves."
It is logical to assume that in a primitive and natural state of society, normal
intuition (instinct) would control the activities of the organism of man, as it
does of other animals, and that good health would predominate.
Is it heresy to say that man is fully endowed in the germ to carry on the
functions of living without the benefit of "pedagogic warrants" that he is
possessed of an inherent, though now well suppressed, knowledge of life?
It is through the means of the senses and the instinctive demands of the
organism that those means that pertain to organic life and development are
distinguished by man.
Man possesses animal appetites, which he inherited along with his structure
as integral parts of his organism. By this is meant that he possesses desires
for food, water, activity, rest, sleep, the urge to reproduce himself, the urge to
defend himself from danger or to flee from it, etc.
It is not necessary that we assume that these appetites are inherited
tendencies from some ape-like ancestor. They are part of man as they are
part of all other animals, because man has the same need for them.
They are expressions of the inner needs of man himself. We talk of how close
to the surface are man's "animal appetites" always with the connotation that
there is essentially something base with these appetites. Never was a greater
Natural Hygiene (no other hygiene is valid) must comprehend the whole man
in all of his relations of body and mind and in all his relations to his
Hygiene is a plan of living that is adapted to human beings and not to spiritual
creatures. It is adapted to supply the physiological needs of a living
organism, not one that fills the organism with exotic and adventitious
materials of a deleterious character.
The Hygienic System is based squarely upon the ascertained facts and
principles of physiology and biology. What is urgently required today is a
revolutionary new orientation of biology.
It is an unfortunate fact that biologists and physiologists conceive it to be
their duty to supply a basis for the drugging practice and not to supply valid
principles for a way of life.
Of all animals man should be the healthiest, for he has it within his power to
control the elements of his environment in his own interest and to provide
himself with all the elements of a healthy existence.
He has the intelligence required to investigate and understand his elemental
needs and to apply these under all the varying circumstances and conditions
of life. His resources are never as limited as are those of the lower animals.
An analysis of hygiene, as it is understood and practiced by man of today,
reveals it to be very inadequate and filled with elements that are far from
If we think only of the food factor in the plan of conventional hygiene, we are
confronted with a food supply that violates the very cardinal principles of
Yet, the conventional authorities in medicine and in the field of accepted
hygiene accept and approve this processed and refined diet, together with
condiments and additives, and also accept and approve what they call
"moderation" in tea and coffee, tobacco, alcohol, poisoned soft drinks, etc.
This is the reason it became necessary to supplement the term Hygiene with
the adjective, Natural, in order to distinguish it from the spurious hygiene
taught by medicine.
A rational Hygiene will study and understand exactly and precisely the nature
and influences and the uses of air, water, food, sunlight, rest, sleep, activity or
exercise, temperature, clothing, housing, noise, the emotions, the sex life,
occupations, habits, environment and other factors of living, and apply the
knowledge daily, hourly, constantly, acting ever and always in proper relation
to the laws of life, to the end that health may be preserved and restored.
Hygiene does not pay an exaggerated attention to exercise alone or to diet
alone or to sunshine alone or to emotional poise alone or to any other factor
A well-rounded, correlated and integrated system which includes all the
conditions and materials of healthy life and that excludes all the conditions
and materials that are inimical to health is essential, as health must be built
and maintained as a unit and must rest upon a total way of life.
It is certainly wrong to withhold from the body a full supply of all of its needs
in keeping with its capacity to utilize them. Only harm can result from habitual
excesses of any kind, such as overeating, overeating on some particular food
factor, over activity, sexual excesses, too much water, over sunning and other
forms of excess. Health is based on the proper use and not the abuse of the
normal factors of life.
The Hygienic System embraces all the laws of life. It does not consist, as
many suppose, of merely eating certain types of food, or of fasting, but in the
observance of all the important principles upon which health depends--in
eating pure food, breathing pure air, avoiding improper drink and so forth.
Surrounded and governed by influences of this kind, the animal kingdom, or
that portion of it which is not corrupted by man, is living in uninterrupted
health and to suppose that mankind suffer without cause or that they could
not be equally free from disease, or to attribute their sufferings to Divine
Providence, as is often done, is folly.
Hygiene must embrace in its scope all the details included in the foregoing
brief outline of its resources.
To suggest a too inclusive reliance upon food alone or exercise alone or
fasting alone or upon some other single Hygienic factor, irrespective of the
physiologic needs of the system, is to fail of complete success.
As important as may be the gains made from an outdoor life, we should not
permit these to blind us to the importance of all other Hygienic needs of the
well and the sick organism.
We cannot expect full results in any case when we partially or completely
subjugate all of the Hygienic factors to one.
If we resort to diet to the neglect of all else in the life of the individual, whether
well or sick, we may do considerable good, but we certainly will fall far short
of doing all the good that can and should be done.
The Hygienic System is simply the intelligent and lawful application of all the
life requirements brought to bear upon the living organism in due proportion
and according to need.
These means maintain the body in health, when properly used; they are
adequate to the needs, and nothing else is, of the body in sickness.
So simple are the conditions that wild nature lays down for human care that
every man may look after himself once the people have been educated out of
ages-old fallacies and have returned to the simple truths of nature that man
knew in his prime.
Every man and woman should understand the demands of nature and should
be able to apply his or her knowledge to his or her own body and mind.
A tree that has its roots in soil adapted to its wants and has all other
conditions indispensable to its growth and development will grow into a
beautiful tree. So also with man.
The first condition of his true and healthy development is found in the normal
supply of all the conditions of a healthy life.
"Who so would build individual or social life without health" said Dr. Nichols,
"is like the man who would raise trees without roots, build houses without
foundations, or attempt any other stupid and useless enterprise."
The subject of health with the means of its attainment and the promotion
thereof worthily constitutes a science by itself and as such we shall regard it,
in all our considerations of the subject, as being founded upon thoroughly
Hygienists have taught from the beginning that an abounding health is man's
normal condition--that sickness is abnormal.
It is obvious to all who will take a candid view of the matter that man is
constituted for beauty and health and that he becomes diseased and ugly as
a result or consequence of violating the laws and requisite conditions of his
The possibilities of disease, of impairment, of change, are great and manifold;
but with all the liabilities, the securities against them are ample and man has
but to keep within these proper limits and life to him will be a succession of
pleasurable events without a taint of bitterness. Health is his normal
condition, sickness an abnormal state.
Hygiene sweeps a large area in its compass. Its claims are based on
foundations as broad as the physiological and biological necessities of man.
It sweeps within its orbit his pathological as well as his normal state.
It establishes for itself a marked distinctiveness and professes, over, above
and independent of the systems of medicine, to be complete in itself, requiring
only the assistance of surgery, to have in itself a sufficiency of means to meet
the emergencies of disease.
But slightly more than a century and a quarter have elapsed since the
Hygienic revival was first launched.
But a century and 45 years have elapsed since it was demonstrated by an
extensive experience, as Trall said in the July 1872, issue of The Science of
Health, that all so-called diseases are better managed without drugs.
The Hygienic System is one by which both the well and the sick are cared for
solely by the employment of Hygienic materials and influences.
A Hygienic substance or influence may be defined as one that is conducive to
the promotion of health.
But, lest this definition be regarded as ambiguous, let us re-state it thusly: a
Hygienic material or influence is one that is normally employed by living
organisms in their development, growth and function. It is that upon which
Hygiene thus becomes the employment of materials, agents and influences
that have a normal relationship to life, in the preservation and restoration of
health according to well-defined laws and demonstrated principles of nature.
There must always be a normal relation between the living organism, whether
well or ill, and the material things and conditions that contribute more or less
perfectly to sustain physiological phenomena.
If we pause for a minute and consider the fact that these substances and
influences supply the very materials out of which life and health are built up,
that each of them has a direct, positive and indispensable role to serve in
those vital processes by which living activities are maintained at every
moment, then we have something tangible, impressive, directly addressed to
the reason, carrying full conviction to the mind, that an adequate supply of
each of these basic needs of life is essential to supply the positive, urgent and
constant demands of the vital organs for materials to sustain them in a state
of health and vigor.
It is not correct, however, in speaking of the application of Hygiene to the sick,
to speak of Hygienic medicines, for there are no Hygienic medicines.
The term medicine is from a Latin word meaning healing. A medicine is a
healing agent. But healing is a vital process and is not done by any agent. In
truth, there are no medicines of any kind.
There is no such thing as the practice of medicine, because nobody can
practice healing. Hygiene preserves health and restores it with the use of
those elements on which existence itself depends.
If health is man's normal state, the means for its maintenance and restoration
must be outside of any arrangements that shall include a profession whose
claim to confidence is that it deals audaciously with poisons as remedies.
What is sadly lacking among the members of the various schools of curing is
a knowledge of the laws and conditions that are favorable to the healthy
development and healthy actions of the living organism.
The possession of such knowledge would enable them to make a practical
application of all influences and materials that are favorable to healthy actions
and higher developments.
In an article published in the Journal, June 1855, D. W. Hall, M.D., said of these
influences and materials, that they "are all embraced in what this school (the
Hygeo-Therapeutic School) recognizes as Hygienic agencies."
On this occasion, Dr. Hall said:
"Understanding, as we do, the two systems (the medical and the natural) to be
mutual antagonists, there is an important duty devolving upon us. If we and
our successors and cooperators live true to our own principles as we now
understand them, our reward will be in a revolution of the whole medical
This is a significant challenge to Hygienists, not to work for reform, but for the
overthrow of a false system and supplanting it with a true one.
Do not any of you decide positively that there is no truth in our philosophy of
life and in our practices because sometimes some of our number get sick.
Do not condemn Hygiene until it has been lived in all its perfection and then
failed. To believe in Hygiene is not enough; it is necessary to be totally
We must make due allowances for the unfavorable circumstances under
which many of our number exist. We do not live in a world that is organized
on Hygienic principles.
We have many who profess that we would all be better off if we drank only
water and ate less flesh food, yet keep right on drinking tea, coffee, alcohol
and soft drinks and eat liberally of flesh.
They permit their appetites, feelings and passions to run away with their
judgment. We have stressed the importance of a full Hygienic program and
the evils that flow from a lack of one thing needful.
Impatient men and meddlesome women are never content to be quiet and
permit the processes of nature to operate without interference. They are
forever tampering and tinkering with the functions of life--they meddle with
their stomachs, bowels, livers, kidneys, skin, etc.
Instead of letting their vital organs and their functions alone, they meddle with
them so much that they impair and cripple them. They must always be "doing
something." They meddle with the processes of life in sickness in the same
manner and to a much greater extent.
We can no more live Hygienically by one act of Hygiene than we can support
our bodies by eating once in a lifetime.
Constant reception of truth, daily living Hygienically, are indispensable to
wholeness of life. Those Hygienists who are only intermittent in their Hygienic
living should not expect desirable results.
Nothing can better illustrate the self-reliant vitality, the inherent truthfulness of
Hygiene, than its everyday triumphs over the many and formidable obstacles
that are placed in its way.
So intrinsically superior is the Hygienic way of caring for the human organism
to any other system ever offered to man or practiced by him, that nothing is
needed to commend it to the general judgment and acceptance of man but a
full understanding of it.
Hygiene, as a system of care both of the well and the sick, is manifestly based
on principles that command the respect and allegiance of the candid, because
of its foundation on physiological law.
"No man" said Jesus, "putting his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for
the kingdom of God."
The principle here expressed is that when you have abandoned the old and
inferior ways for new and superior ways and look back and lust after the
inferior ways, you are not worthy of a place in the better sphere.
It should be impressed upon all who want to live a truly Hygienic life that,
looking back, longing for the inferior ways, returning at intervals to them and
not looking steadfastly ahead, leads to failure.
Writing in The Science of Health, May 1875, W. Perkins, M.D., said: "So long as
we would live pure and free of pain, we must continue the Hygienic
The sick man, having recovered health by a Hygienic program, can expect to
remain well only so long as he continues to live Hygienically. He should know
that if he returns to his old disease-building mode of living, he will again
It is true and the truth may as well be expressed, that it is much more difficult
to live Hygienically at home, in a great many instances, than to do so away
from home. It is more difficult to live a life true to principle at home among the
accustomed indulgences than among strangers.
It is much more difficult to deny ourselves and our friends, too, than to deny
ourselves only. As for the strangers we meet in our travels, they care not
what we eat or drink or how we behave.
It is easy enough everywhere to eat right if we have principle and are willing to
do so; but, if we are but half-hearted in our efforts and not convinced of our
principles, it is amazing how many things get in our way.
It is quite difficult for many people to understand that Hygienic materials and
influences may become causes of disease, that they may do so by abuse.
Everything is ours to use, not to abuse. Bad effects result from the abuse of
any normal, wholesome thing of life.
We may drink too much water; we may bathe too much or too often; we may
take water at wrong times; we may not get sufficient water. Water is not to be
condemned because somebody drowned in the lake last week; but neither is
it to be abused, because its abuse may result in injury and death.
The over consumption of the best of foods will produce trouble. Too much
sunshine, too much exercise, too much of anything becomes harmful. The
old adage: "The more of a good thing the better" is simply not true.
By: Herbert M. Shelton
Excerpted From: Man's Pristine Way Of Life 1968
Article: The Hygienic Revolution
Complete Book Free Online: Man's Pristine Way Of Life