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While natural hygiene is promoted as a 20th century practice, it in fact has roots in a number of religious practices that go back to the 2nd century BC. The earliest nature cure practitioners were from Egypt, the Essenes, from the Aramaic Yssyn, or healer, were a Judaic religious group that flourished from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD. Some modern scholars and archeologists have argued that Essenes inhabited the settlement at Qumran, a plateau in the Judean Desert along the Dead Sea, citing Pliny the Elder in support, and giving credence that the Dead Sea Scrolls are the product of the Essenes. This view, though not yet conclusively proven, has come to dominate the scholarly discussion and public perception of the Essenes.
The Essenes were an order of pious men and women who lived lives of asceticism, spending their days in simple labor and their evenings in prayer. Josephus, the great Jewish historian, speaks of them in the highest terms. "They teach the immortality of the soul," he says, "and esteem that the rewards of righteousness are to be earnestly striven for." The name Essenes is supposed to be derived from an ancient Syrian word meaning "physician," and these kindly folk are believed to have held as their purpose of existence the healing of the sick in mind, soul, and body. They are believed to have developed the tradition of healing the sick and poor as a Christian tradition.
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According to Edouard Schuré, they had two principal communities, or centers, one in Egypt on the banks of Lake Maoris, the other in Palestine at Engaddi, near the Dead Sea. Some authorities trace the Essenes back to the schools of Samuel the Prophet, but most agree on either an Egyptian or Oriental origin. Their methods of prayer, meditation, veganism, and fasting were not unlike those of the holy men of the Far East. Membership in the Essene Order was possible only after a year of probation. This Mystery school, like so many others, had three degrees, and only a few candidates passed successfully through all. The Essenes were divided into two distinct communities, one consisting of celibates and the other of members who were married.
Saint David (c. 500–589) (known in Welsh as Dewi Sant) was a church official, later regarded as a saint and as the patron saint of Wales. The Monastic Rule of David prescribed that monks had to pull the plough themselves without draught animals; to drink only water; to eat only bread with salt and herbs; and to spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed: to say "my book" was an offence. He lived a simple life and practiced asceticism, teaching his followers to refrain from eating meat or drinking beer. His symbol, also the symbol of Wales, is the leek.
All Eastern Orthodox Church monastics also refrain completely from meat, and many abstain from dairy and seafood. Eastern Orthodox Christians, laity and monastics, abstain from animal products on Wednesdays and Fridays, and during Lent and Advent. This is not for environmental or animal welfare reasons, but for spiritual reasons. There is a concept that especially meat can induce unwanted "passion," the disposition to sin.
The practices of hygiene and veganism thus have their origins in Western religions, specifically Judaism and Christianity. As articles of diet, Moses condemns by name and description all purely carnivorous birds and animal for eating. In the two enunciations of the Adamic bill of fare, attributed to the Almighty by Moses, in Genesis the first and third chapters, there is a comprehensive and scientific hygiene which proves that Moses was inspired, or otherwise an expert in modern hygienics four thousand years ago. Christian vegetarianism, as it is called, is based on the extension the compassionate teachings of Jesus, the twelve apostles and the early church to all living beings through vegetarianism. Many Christians through the centuries thus adopted vegetarianism for nutritional, ethical, environmental or other spiritual reasons.
In the early christian periods, there was no single, organized, practice of medicine. Believers struck down by injury or disease could turn to folk medicine, prayer, spells, mysticism, or visit an established physician if such were available. The boundaries between each, magic and medicine, and even professional, were mixed and fluctuating. Classical medical texts, such as those by Galen, were widely used on the basis of authority rather than experimental confirmation.
As Christianity grew in influence, a tension developed between the church and folk medicine, since much in folk medicine was considered magical, or mystical, and had its basis in sources that were not compatible with Christian faith. Spells and incantations were used in conjunction with herbs and other remedies. Such spells had to be separated from the physical remedies, the herbs and minerals, or replaced with Christian prayers or devotions. Similarly, the dependence upon the power of herbs needed to be explained through Christian concepts which were in development. Thus we have adopted herbs from folk medicine like St. John’s Wort, Blessed Thistle, Christ’s Back, etc. The church taught that God sometimes sent illness as a punishment, and that in these cases, repentance could lead to a recovery. This led to the practice of penance and pilgrimage as another means of curing illness.
Most monasteries developed herb gardens for use in the production of herbal cures, and these remained a part of folk medicine, as well as being used by professional physicians. Books of herbal remedies were produced, one of the most famous being the Welsh, Red Book of Hergest, dating from around 1400. The manuscript contains a collection of herbal remedies associated with Rhiwallon Feddyg, founder of a medical dynasty that lasted over 500 years - 'The Physicians of Myddfai'.
The "medical art" in America during the colonial period had been simple and unpretentious. There were no medical schools and few physicians. The facilities afforded the student for learning medicine consisted chiefly in the familiar association with rural practitioners, the observing of their procedures and a diligent observation of such opportunities as colonial society afforded. Inquiring individuals, men skilled in woodcraft, and expert housewives learned the use of so-called medicinal plants (and other simple means) which they gathered from the fields and forests. They also learned many healing secrets from the American Indians who knew the medicinal virtues of many indigenous plants, the "medicineman" and women among the American Indians. It is well known that eclectic medicine of America, as well as homeopathy, gained much of their herbal materia medica from knowledge gained from American Native Medicine men, women, and folklore. Such herbs as indian coccle (Cocculus), indian tobacco (Lobelia), indian nettle (Acalypha), Vitex trifolia.--Indian Arnica, and indian hemp (Apocynum), are well known.
Dr. John H. Scheel, a German-born homeopath, coined the word naturopathy in 1895 for a system of dietary restrictions and herbal remedies that conspicuously included fasting as a treatment, all founded on a view of vitalism, promoted as a philosophy by Henri Bergson, Samuel Hahnemann, among others. Scheel's "naturopathy" itself stemmed back to the thought of the Rev. Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian clergyman and inventor of the Graham cracker, who believed that diet and morality were related and who taught that vegetarianism helped keep the libido in check. Rev. Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian clergyman and inventor of the Graham cracker, believed that diet and morality were related and who taught that vegetarianism helped keep the libido in check.
Smokh   Sylvester Graham (July 5, 1794 – September 11, 1851) was born in Suffield, Connecticut, and was ordained in 1826 as a Presbyterian minister. He was an early advocate of nature cure and dietary reform in United States, most notable for his emphasis on vegetarianism, and the temperance movement, as well as sexual and dietary habits.
In 1829 he invented Graham bread, and the recipe first appeared in The New Hydropathic Cookbook (New York, 1855). It showed that Graham bread was made from unsifted and unbolted flour and free from chemical additives such as alum and chlorine. Graham argued that chemical additives in bread made it unwholesome. The use of additives by bakeries was a common practice during the Industrial Revolution to make bread whiter in color, and more commercially appealing. Darker wheat bread was considered the fare of country rubes. Refined bread was a status symbol of the middle class because of its "purity and refinement" in its color and was purchased, rather than home-made. Graham believed that a firm, crusty bread made of coarsely ground whole-wheat flour was more nutritious and healthy.
At the turn of the century, began the introduction of another unrefined cereal advocated by the Christian, John Harvey Kellog. John Harvey Kellogg (February 26, 1852 – December 14, 1943) was an American medical doctor in Battle Creek, Michigan who ran a sanitarium using nature cure methods, with a particular focus on nutrition, enemas and exercise. Kellogg was an advocate of vegetarianism, and is best known for the invention of the corn flake breakfast cereal with his brother, Will Keith Kellogg.
Kellogg gained fame while working at the Battle Creek Sanitarium which ran on Seventh-day Adventist Church principles. He believed that most disease is alleviated by a change in intestinal flora; that bacteria in the intestines can either help or hinder the body; that pathogenic bacteria produce toxins during the digestion of meat that poison the blood; that a poor diet also favors harmful bacteria that can then infect other tissues in the body. The intestinal flora can be changed by the diet of the individual, with a well-balanced vegetarian diet that favors low-protein, laxative and high-fiber foods; and that this natural change in flora could be sped by enemas seeded with favorable bacteria, or by various regimens of specific foods designed to heal specific ailments. His colonic irrigations, a professionally refined form of enema designed for hospital use and applications, was developed before the turn of this century. In 1906, Dr. Kellogg published a comprehensive approach to hydrotherapy and in his book he advocates colon hydrotherapy for many conditions including: biliary and hepatic disease, toxemia, surgical shock, colitis. and cholera.
Smokh   John harvey Kelogg, M.D., was an advocated of wearing white clothing. He used colonics, hygiene and massage as part of the treatment at the sanitarium in Battle Creek.
Natural hygiene thus holds that the true cause of disease is toxemia, or poisoning in the blood, a long held view of Christian tradition. Natural Hygiene claims that these toxins are in part, a normal product of metabolism or living, but a large source of toxins percolates in the human bowel produced by bacteria and fungi. Many medical investigators in the late 1800's and early 1900's isolated some 90 species of bacteria that produce toxins, and that they proliferate in the bowels of people who are constipated and eat large quantities of animal flesh. .
Advocates of Nature Cure also point out that that denervating habits, or nerve energy destroying personal habits, such as worry, the abuse of stimulants like coffee, and even vaccinations; builds up toxins in your blood. Denervating (i.e., wasted nerve-energy ) activities prevents toxins from being eliminated from your blood. Natural hygiene theories rely on fasting, a vegan diet, water cure, and drinking juices and herbal teas, as the prime treatments for toxemia.
Natural hygiene practitioners often operate fasting clinics and fasting retreat centers. Patients undergo fasts and then they may be placed on a raw food diet for a length of time equal to the number of days of their fast. They claim that, as a result of fasting and prayer, people often recover from cancer, arthritis, asthma, digestive problems, high blood pressure, heart problems, and many other diseases. For the purposes of natural hygiene, fasting means eating nothing, drinking only water and getting lots of rest.
According to natural hygiene advocate Dr. Herbert Shelton the body enters a state of Autolysis or self-digestion in about the fourth day of a fast in which the body can break down disease tissues and even cancerous tissues and eliminate them.
Advocates say that attempting to do a long fast (5 days or more) without the supervision of a natural hygiene practitioner is not recommended. Certain individuals might be capable of more depending on age and health. Others may not be ready for even 1 day if there are complicating health issues like obesity or diabetes. Furthermore, they do not recommend fasting for the treatment of diabetes, cancer of the kidneys, cancer of the liver, and states of severe anemia.
Nature Cure is thus a term applied to a method of treating disease using the resources of God and nature with the body's inherent ability to self-heal. Generally, it is applied to the use of methods not including the use of the ordinary resources of orthodox medicine, synthetic and toxic drugs, and surgery. Drugs are abjured, as are vaccines, serums and other medical measures. Complete reliance is placed on such "natural" agencies as diet, abstinence, with righteous use of food, water, sunlight and air. Special establishments exist where the cure can be undergone, but most of the regime can also be carried out under suitable home surroundings.
The measures adopted are, of course, quite usual ones in ordinary medical practice, though they are possibly carried out by the adherents of the nature cure school with an enthusiasm that does not always exhibit under ordinary medical treatment. No one can deny that the adoption of a regime in which some measure of return to more natural habits of living is the main feature can have anything but a good effect on chronic conditions of disease. They are too often neglected in medical practice and too much reliance placed on drugs, placebos, and surgery. This is, however, not to say that the well-tried resources of modern medicine and surgery are to be spared as is too often advocated by some of the zealots of "Nature cure." The element of faith on the part of the patient and the confident assuranee of the Nature cure practitioner are not the least important factors in producing the good results that are sometimes attained by this method. Here again the regular 'doctor of medicine' may have something to learn.