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Herbert Shelton: The Hygienic System: The Use of Sunshine

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Herbert Shelton is America’s most well known teacher of Natural Hygiene system of health. In his book The Hygienic System, Herbert Shelton teaches about the many uses of sunshine to heal the body and improve physical, mental, and emotional health. This excerpt includes scientific evidence about the use of sunshine in plants, animals and humans, helping us to understand the necessity of sunshine for all life on our planet.

The Hygienic System: Fasting And Sunbathing

By Herbert M. Shelton

Chapter XL The Use Of Sunshine

Dr. James C. Jackson wrote: “I think it may be said with perfect truth, that no living organism, of whatever species, whose subject has a brain, a pair of lungs, stomach, bowels and back-bone, can ever be equal in the exhibition of capacities, if it be kept in shaded sunlight, to what it would be if permitted to follow out its own habits in unshaded sunlight. * * * Superior qualities are uniformly found existing in animals of the same species as these live in unshaded sunlight. This is just as true of humans as it is of animals; whoever lives habitually in the sunlight grows strong. This is not only true of the body itself in its various parts, but is true of the intelligent and responsible faculties which reside within the body. If women lived in the open air as much as men do, they would have capacities as much greater than now as men have now greater capacities, than they would have if they lived in homes like women.”–How to Treat the Sick Without Medicine.

The manner in which sunlight is used to produce the effects that follow is not well understood, and many theories, some of these very ridiculous, have been offered to explain its use. That it is used in some way similar to the uses of vitamins seems certain to me. I look upon it as a catalyzer and its action that of catalysis. A catalytic agent or substance is one which possesses power to instigate a chemical reaction without itself being transformed or destroyed in the course of the process.

Most of the chemical changes with which the chemist is familiar require something to “touch off” the reaction. Thus explosives require a jar or a shock to cause them to explode. Hydrogen and oxygen gases, if mixed in the dark do not unite. If mixed in the light they unite explosively. Photography is based entirely upon the power of light to instigate chemical change or reaction. That plants and animals make use of this power of sunlight is certain.

Sunlight is vitally important in the nutritive processes of both plant and animal life. Perhaps we cannot call it a food, but we can, at least, call it an accessory nutritive factor. Its office would seem to be somewhat like, if not identical with that of the vitamins. Take away sunlight and all life upon earth would perish. In the tropics, where the sunlight is most abundant, life exists in greatest profusion. In those portions of the earth where nights are longest and days are shortest, and where long winters prevail, life is either absent altogether or it consists of poorly developed forms.

Under the influence of light, plants both excrete and absorb oxygen. The absorption of oxygen goes on continuously; but its excretion takes place only when the plant is exposed to light. The plant leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air. They employ the carbon in producing starches and sugars and release the oxygen which may again be used by animals.

Light enables plants to assimilate carbon dioxide and convert it into plant substances. The carbon dioxide is transformed into formaldehyde and this in turn is polymerized to sugar by the action of light. A carbohydrate is thus formed by plant metabolism under the influence of light.

Photosynthesis is the manufacture of carbohydrates out of carbon dioxide and water in the chlorophyll-containing parts of plants exposed to sunlight. Both chlorophyll and xanthophyll are associated in the process of photosynthesis; chlorophyll being the most important. The radiant energy acting in the synthesis of carbohydrates has been shown to be located in the visible spectrum. Red, orange and yellow light rays are considered most important light rays in plant assimilation, blue and violet show the least synthetic energy.

Green leaves chiefly absorb the red rays and only absorbed rays are chemically active. It has been said that, “It is the red rays which make a green world; it is red rays which make life possible; and the rosy cheek is in truth on fire with the red light hidden in the green leaf.”

The starch of fruits and some plants, like cane and beets, is converted into sugar in the ripening process. This conversion requires the action of light. Heat will accomplish part of the work, but the perfection of these sugars requires the work of ultra-violet rays.

Sunlight is essential to the production of both the green coloring (chlorophyll) of the leaves and the many colors of the flowers, stems, leaves and fruits. The beautiful colors of flowers cannot be produced or perfected without light.

Sunlight helps plants to tear down compounds and to synthesize new ones. Both phases of catalysis are represented in its work. It aids them in transforming one of its products into another. The chemical effects of light are related to the processes of photo-synthesis, photolysis, photopolymerisation, photo-oxydation, and reduction, photoisomerisation.

An examination of a leaf in the early morning reveals little or no starch. After a few hours of exposure to the sun’s rays, plenty of starch will be found in it, the quantity increasing with the length of exposure to the sun. If two pieces of cork or cardboard are pinned closely to opposite sides of the leaf, the covered part of the leaf will be much whiter, in a few days, than the rest; and if the rest of the leaf is left exposed to the sun’s rays, a test with iodine will show the presence of much starch in the healthy green part, while the paler or covered part contains little or no starch.

A plant kept in darkness grows colorless, flaccid and stunted. Given sunshine, it soon regains its color and unfolds bud, leaf, flower and fruit. Moss, mould and fungi are all that can grow in a cave. Deprived of sunlight, the plant dies outright or puts forth a sickly, colorless growth. If any rays of light chance to filter through the coverings of the plant, the plant will bend towards the light in its effort to receive the little understood, but nonetheless actual benefits of the light. If it fails, it soon withers and dies. The pale colorless plant deprived of sunlight, is said to be etiolated.

The stalk of a potato that sprouts in the cellar will be as white as chalk and as tender as bleached celery and the substance of the potato will be exhausted without a new vegetable being formed. Put the potato out-of-doors, where it will receive sunshine, and it will put forth green leaves, its stalk will become thick and strong, it will grow and produce more potatoes.

Etiolation is the change in appearance and structure of the plant caused by growth in absence of light. Chlorophyll is lacking in etiolated dicotyles and monocotyles, and its absence makes the yellow pigment, carolin (formerly called etiollin), evident. Red light, free from blue or violet rays, produces all the etiolation, except lack of chlorophyll. The more refrangible portion of the spectrum is the important portion in determining growth and structural modification in plants. Etiolation is not limited to monocotyles and dicotyles, but appears in gymnosperms, ferns, mosses, algæ and fungi.

Plants turn their leaves and flowers to face the sun, and some of these, like the sun-flower, follow the sun around, seemingly in order to have the largest possible area exposed to its radiations. Bonnier subjected Alpine plants to dim light and high humidity and converted them into arctic plants.

I quote the following from Rational Diet, p.p. 25-26 by Otto Carque: “Of the many experiments which have been made so far to demonstrate the beneficial effects of sunlight, that of John Blayton is the more remarkable and significant. In order to determine whether the indirect or diffused daylight, perhaps during a longer period of time, has the same effect as the direct sunlight, he selected twelve bean plants of the same variety and in the same state of development. Then he planted them in such a way near one another, that six always had full direct sunlight while the other six received only the diffused daylight. In October, the pods were harvested and the weight of those exposed to the sun’s rays was found to be in the proportion of 29:99 that of the dried beans 1:3.

“This result was to be expected, but in the following year, when all the plants grown from the same seed received the full amount of sunlight, the surprising fact was ascertained that those which had been raised in the shade only yielded half the amount of the previous year’s harvest, while in the fourth year, they blossomed but did not mature. The deprivation of sunlight during one summer weakened the stock in such a degree that the species became extinct after four years.”

This series of experiments reveal that the absence of sunlight has a harmful effect upon the germ-plasm and is thus an actual cause of racial degeneracy. We are dealing with a more important element of Natural Hygiene than has heretofore been realized.

The greater part of a seed of a plant constitutes a lunch-basket for the baby plant that lies as an embryo or germ in one end of the seed. Mature plants take the raw materials of the soil, water and air, and, with the aid of sunshine, produce their own food. Quite an equipment of roots, green leaves and other organs are necessary to do this. The tiny plant, just emerging from the seed, or coming up through the soil, is not so equipped, so that a few days must elapse before it will be able to produce its own food out of the raw materials, and thus be self-supporting. The seed is a store-house of food for the embryo plant, just as the egg is a storehouse of food for the embryo bird, and just as the bird could never develop, except its food be prepared for it in advance, so, the little plant, if left without food to carry it through its embryonic stages, would die. It is, therefore, supplied with enough previously prepared food to enable it to construct its own food-securing roots, leaves, etc.

When we consider that one squash plant in the garden requires fifteen miles of root and that each corn stalk in the field requires about a thousand feet of root to extract the calcium, sulphur, iodine, potassium, sodium, magnesium, etc., from the moist soil around them, we get some idea of the great amount of root structure required to take up the soil elements for food. View, then, the immense surface these and other plants expose to the sun and air, in the form of leaves, to take the elements from the air and to convert the soil elements and the elements from the air into plant substances and we begin to understand why plant-seeds are lunch baskets for the “embryo” plants resting in one end of them. Until their leaves are developed, so they can make use of sunshine, they are not able to utilize the elements of the soil.

Dr. Trall pointed out that “in some of the lower animals the process of metamorphosis is arrested by deprivation of the solar influence. The tadpole, for example, instead of developing into the frog, either continues to grow as a tadpole, or degenerates into some kind of monstrosity; and the specimens of human monstrosities, developed abnormally, in consequence of the absence of a due degree of ‘Heaven’s first-born,’ are neither few nor far between in the underground tenements of large cities.”

Colors of animals, butterflies and birds, as well as the development of the eyes of mammals, are determined by light. Complete absence of light not only results in blindness in animals, but even in eyelessness. The young of blind fish and crustaceans have normal eyes, but mature forms may be entirely eyeless. Light is responsible for pigmentation in animals and for changes in color.

The animal body does not assimilate calcium in the absence of sunlight. The noted physicist, Eddington, has shown that the ultraviolet rays of the sun are capable of ionizing sodium, calcium, and perhaps hydrogen, magnesium, silicon and iron. Sodium is only singly ionized while calcium is doubly ionized by these rays. lonization is a splitting up of the atoms into their constituents. (Double ionization is the splitting off of two ions.). I do not know how much this ionization of calcium and sodium, by the ultra-violet rays, has to do with the use of these and other elements in the body, but suggest that further study of the subject may be productive of results.

Chickens raised in the sunlight produce harder and thicker shells on their eggs. Chickens, geese and other birds raised in the dark put on fat more rapidly. Calcium does not seem to be “laid down” in the absence of sunlight. Children born in the Spring and Summer, and dying in the Winter, show less rickets than those born in the Fall.

A few years since, some experiments were performed on rats at the Johns Hopkins University. Eighteen rats were fed a diet which was known, from previous experience, to produce in rats, rickets, which resembles in every way the same “disease” in man. Twelve of these rats were sent to New Haven, Conn., where they were exposed to the sunshine for about four hours daily for about two months. The other six rats were kept in Baltimore and raised in well-ventilated, but poorly lighted rooms. At the end of the period the rats were all killed and examined. The report states that in the rats exposed to the sun no evidences of rickets were found. Their condition was normal with the exception of the bones, which were more delicate than in rats of a corresponding age which had been raised on a more satisfactory diet. An abundance of fat was present. The rats raised in Baltimore, away from the sun, presented but scant fat, as well as evidence of rickets.

Are we to conclude from this experiment that sunlight can be made to take the place of a proper diet? Shall we conclude that the sun’s rays supply the lacking food elements? Not at all. We can only claim that rickets is due to a combination of “causes,” among which is lack of sunlight. It is evident that the required food elements were present in the diet but that the rats out of the sunshine were not able to extract and assimilate them. The other rats under the beneficent effects of the sun’s rays were enabled to extract the food elements and assimilate them.

The phosphorus and calcium content of an infant’s blood rises and falls with the seasons, there being less in Winter and more in Spring and Fall. Dr. Hess, of Columbia University, has pointed out that in New York City, rickets reaches its peak in March–that is, at the end of Winter after months of deprivation of sunshine.

As previously pointed out, it was known to the ancients that “sunshine feeds the muscles.” Today every athlete employs sunbathing as a regular part of his or her training. For it not only adds to the size and qualities of the muscles, it increases the calcium in them and adds to their enduring powers. The firmness of the athletic muscle requires calcium in considerable amounts. Such muscles contain far more calcium than flabby ones. After exercise their calcium content is diminished. Muscles subjected to proper sun exposure grow larger, firmer, and have their contractile powers enhanced even without exercise, due partly to the increase of lime in them, and partly to improved nutrition in general.

Milo Hastings tried raising a thousand chickens in an airy, sunless building, by feeding them an abundance of green food — lettuce, rape, chard, etc. He says: “I nursed and nourished those thousand chicks most carefully and never once let them out of doors; but I fed them green leaves galore and far more abundantly than any outdoor chicks would have been able to provide for themselves. My chicks thrived for a few weeks and then began to spraddle and sprawl, and developed bow-legs aplenty. One hundred of them died from their mal-formations and inability to get around to their food. Then I turned the rest of them out of doors, and they recovered promptly, and the weak legs grew strong, though the worst of them remained twisted and bent at ridiculous angles.”

The skin that has become weakened by clothing serves as a less effective barrier to infectious matter from the outside. Medical books list about twenty different forms of skin inflammation, about forty different varieties of hypertrophies, thirty-five atrophies, several forms of neurosis, several varieties of skin hemorrhages, about sixty to seventy kinds of new growths, and many parasitical affections. These skin “diseases” appear almost wholly among the much clad denizens of the hot house condition we proudly term civilization, and are seldom, some of them never, met with among the unclad races. George Wharton James, author of What the White Man May Learn From the Indian, says:

“While there is no doubt that the uncivilized and unclothed Indian occasionally suffers from a few forms of skin disease, I can abundantly testify from my thirty years intimate association with the tribes of the Southwest, that amongst those who have been least in contact with civilization, there is so little skin disease as to make it inappreciable. For many years I scarcely saw a skin disease amongst them, and when the skin would be torn or injured in any way, as I have often seen it, by their falling from a horse, by riding through the forest after deer and catching the projecting limbs of trees, etc., the rapidity with which the wound healed was both surprising and enlightening. It was enlightening in that it revealed to me the advantage, from this standpoint at least, of their life over mine. When my skin was torn there was a good deal of pain and it took a long time to heal, and yet I was far healthier than many white men. Yet what to me was a severe skin wound they regarded as a trivial affair, paying little or no attention to it, and the rapidity with which it healed justified their scornful laugh at my warnings that they take care of it lest greater evil ensue.”

Mr. James also says: “I have never seen an Indian with a poor head of hair or with dandruff or any other disease of the scalp.”

In general the pigmented skin is more resistant to infections and pathological causes. Even nipples that are covered with a delicate, lightly pigmented skin are more liable to become sore from sucking. During pregnancy the nipple aerola becomes pigmented to lessen the disadvantages incident to nursing. A good coat of tan also increases resistance to both cold and heat.

A skin, well-pigmented in response to sun-bathing, tends to become firm and strong, but at the same time delicate and soft, almost silk-like in texture. Sunshine is the finest cosmetic. Increased turgor, followed, in a short time by a filling out or padding out of the exposed skin and a smoothing away of wrinkles results from sunbathing. Increased beauty is the outcome.


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This entry was posted on Sunday, December 27th, 2015 at 4:07 pm and is filed under Books.

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One Comment

Mary said:

on December 21st, 2009

Another excellent post Lincoln ~ thank you!

…and I can vouch for the truth in the last paragraph, because it has happened to me, after I started nude sun-bathing last summer.

I took a sun bath for an hour each day (half an hour each side ~ weather permitting) and I noticed my skin firmed up and at the same time became more delicate & silky, looking like much younger skin, just as is stated above.

It really really works!!!


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