Health A-Z Archives: Natural Hygiene


The beginnings of natural hygiene go back thousands of years. Over 2000 years ago, Hippocrates taught basic natural hygiene principles. Hippocrates is often referred to as the father of modern medicine, although modern medicine today seems far removed from his teachings.

Hippocrates established medical theory on rational scientific principles, and he believed that disease had only natural causes and not supernatural ones. Furthermore, he regarded the human body as a whole organism, treating patients in what we today call a holistic manner with proper diet, fresh air and attention to habits and living conditions.

The Hippocratic Oath, named after Hippocrates, was meant to give the medical profession a sense of duty towards humanity.

The Hippocratic Oath

•To reckon him who taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him and relieve his necessities if required; to regard his offspring as on the same footing with my own brother, and to teach them this art if they should wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation, and that by precept, lecture and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the art to my own sons and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by stipulation and oath, according to the law of medicine, but to none others.

•I will follow that method of treatment which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.

•I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; furthermore, I will not give to any woman an instrument to produce abortion.

•With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my art. I will not cut a person who is suffering from a stone, but will leave this to be done by practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter I will go into them for the benefit of the sick and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and further from the seduction of females or males, bond or free.

•Whatever, in connection with my professional practice, or not in connection with it, I may see or hear in the lives of men which ought not to be spoken abroad I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret.

•While I continue to keep this oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men at all times, but should I trespass and violate this oath, may the reverse be my lot.”

Apparently those entering the medical profession no longer say the Hippocratic Oath. One wonders why.

Many Natural Hygienists based their initial research on the Scriptures. Genesis 1 verse 29 states:

“Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

Returning to More Recent Times

Natural Hygiene, as it is today, can be traced back to Dr Isaac Jennings (of Oberlin, Ohio, USA) who, after practising medicine for 20 years, began to ask questions when, during a fever outbreak in the summer of 1815, a patient who rested, drank water and did nothing, recovered in absolute record time compared to patients who had been medicated. Based on this, Dr Jennings noted similar results with many other patients.

He then went on to treat many patients with what must have been one of the first placebo (dummy pill) treatments. In 1822 he gave up medical pills, plasters, powders and potions and treated patients with pills made from bread and vegetable-coloured water for the next 20 years. This he only did to keep the patients’ confidence in him. He would then advise his patients to correct their lifestyle and diet to a more natural approach. He then practised for a further 20 years the “do nothing mode of treating disease.” He wrote three books, “Medicine Reform” (1847), “Philosophy of Human Life” (1852) and “Tree of Life” (1867).

Natural hygiene was often referred to at this stage as Orthopathy meaning TRUE or RIGHT AFFECTION or BEHAVIOUR.

Dr Jennings had a great influence upon Dr R T Trall, who went on to do more for the hygiene movement than any man, next to Dr Herbert Shelton.

Dr Russell Thacher Trall was born in 1812 in Connecticut, and after graduating from a regular or Allopathic School of Medicine, he practised as a regular Doctor for 12 years. Dr Trall was remembered as an independent and thinking mind whilst at medical school (much to the dismay of his professors).

After spending some time in Europe to investigate so-called hydro-therapy at various clinics, he returned and designed or developed a system, which he called Hygieo-therapy. He set out to promote the welfare of mankind by teaching the Laws of Life and the conditions of health so as to prevent rather than cure sickness and disease.

He was the founder of The New York Hydrophatic and Physiologist School, later changed to The New York College of Hygieo-Therapy. It had the right to confer the degree “Doctor of Medicine” and admitted both sexes (very daring for those days). Besides having a fully equipped laboratory and large library, the College/School taught Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Pathology, Psychology, Hygiene, Dietetics, Callisthenics, Theory and Practice of the “Healing Art” diagnosis, Therapeutics, Jurisprudence (science or the philosophy of law), nature cure, water cure and other subjects including dissection. The faculty members were all doctors in their various fields from chemistry to surgery and obstetrics.

At about the same time, Sylvester Graham (born 1794) entered Amherst College to study as a Minister of Religion. Whilst there, he studied anatomy and physiology. He left the ministry later to lecture on the Science of Human Life.

During a cholera epidemic in 1832, he went around teaching and lecturing on the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains in the diet, as well as abstinence from meat and meat products, alcohol and other stimulants or narcotics, correct sleeping, bathing, clothing and exercise habits to avoid cholera, with astounding results.

At the time, the average person (influenced strongly by Europe) believed that animal flesh and flesh broths with a little good wine and complete abstinence from most fruit and vegetables were the best way to escape cholera! This was backed by the then “Board of Health”.

Many others followed the Natural Hygiene route, such as Drs Susana and Mary Dodds, Dr A M Ross, Dr Joel Shaw, Dr G H Taylor, Dr J C Jackson – the list is almost endless.

Most of these people wrote books with titles such as “The Natural Cure”, “How Nature Cures”, “The Exact Science of Health”, “The Fasting Cure”, etc.

Today’s natural hygiene was very much developed by Dr Herbert M Shelton, another disillusioned medical Doctor who wrote the “Bible” of natural hygiene, “Human Life, its Philosophy and Practices of Orthopathy”, and who, for many years, ran his Health School in San Antonio.

One of his students, Virginia V Vetrano, went on to become one of the founders of the Institute of Natural Hygiene or Life Science, which unfortunately no longer exists.

Today, much can be learned from books written by Bernarr Macfadden, Ross Horne, Dr Robert S Mendelsohn, Dr Henry G Bieler, and Dr Weston Price, Dr Dean Ornish and Udo Erasmus. In South Africa, people like Professor Bernard Meyer (Physiologist), Professor Meiring (Chemical Pathologist), Dr A R P Walker and Dr André Kruger can be seen to be carrying the torch of the modern medical reformer.

The basis then of natural hygiene is that we are designed to be healthy.

Health is Normal and Natural, Disease is Not and that Health is as a Result of Healthy Living and that alone.

You cannot buy health! If you could, Howard Hughes and Aristotle Onassis, two of the richest men in the world, would not have died prematurely.

Natural hygiene teaches that using drugs, medicines, herbs, vitamins, supplements, etc. are unnecessary and in fact, harmful. Natural hygiene teaches that the best way to help a body in a sick or diseased state is to “intelligently do nothing” at the same time, establishing the conditions of health which are fresh air, pure water, rest and sleep, wholesome foods (especially fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds), cleanliness, comfortable temperature, sunshine, exercise, constructive work, emotional poise, self mastery, recreation and a pleasant environment.


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