The one universal natural Hygienic influence that man has most denied himself is sunshine. Inhabiting a system, as we do, of which the sun is the center and the chief source of heat, light and energy, we are essentially heliacal. It is not possible for us to attain and maintain a full degree of health unless we establish and maintain our normal relations to the solar orb. We are constituted for life in the sunshine and we need the benefits of regular contact with the rays of the sun, needing not only its warmth, but other of its elements.
So important is sunshine to the phenomena of life that there are many who regard the sun as the source of life and the fountain of all organic energy. Its heat, its light and its other rays are so indispensable to all growth, both plant and animal, and to the preservation of health, that we deny ourselves sunshine to our own undoing. Water and air and food, by themselves, are not enough to provide for the most perfect results in nutrition; by these alone the highest development is not attained and the most nearly ideal growth is not achieved.
The sun is probably not the source of life as is taught and as was believed by the sun-worshipping peoples of the past, but it is a vital ingredient in the material formula that makes life possible. The effects of the heat and light of the sun upon plant and animal life is constructive. Life's synthetic processes require the sun's rays in their work. Artificial heat, on the other hand, can be very destructive. Men pine for oxygen--fire destroys it. Vegetation, through the agency of the sun, increases the amount of oxygen in the air. No wonder many people have worshipped the sun as a god; no wonder there have been those who regarded fire as the devil!
Man has tended to deprive himself of the sun's rays and to live in darkness. In both summer and winter, in cold and heat, in dry and wet, man's false draperies hang about him, cling to him, are almost a part of him; while, both by day and by night, he hides himself in noisome enclosures of wood or brick or stone and escapes from the great outdoors of air and sunshine in which birds, beasts and insects move untrammelled above and on the earth in the enjoyment of a health and vigor of which he never even dreams.
The proud owner of a fine home will often expatiate with glowing enthusiasm upon the harmony of colors and outlines and shadings and groupings in frescoes and pictures and carpets and curtains, forgetful that her folly may mean a perfect work of art, inhabited by a poor, weak imitation of some work of God. The successful artist is almost deified while the true fashioner of nature is almost forgotten. Her carpet may be thick and soft, but it is never so delightful to the foot as the softly yielding sod of the great outdoors; it may be exquisitely colored and its patterns may be a delight to the eye, but no human art can make anything so beautiful as the flower-gemed countryside. Its look of cleanliness is but treachery, for it stores up dust and gasses. However beautiful a house, it shuts out the sunshine. Its darkened interiors may prevent the fading of the colors of the draperies and rugs, but they deprive the human cheek of its color and rob the human eye of its sparkle.
We have no means of measuring the extent to which the human organism has been debilitated by being deprived of sunlight (we expose only our hands and faces), but we may be sure that it is considerable. We are certain, today, that direct exposure of the body to the solar rays is important to the preservation and restoration of health. This was doubted and derided when Graham first suggested it.
Writing in The Science of Health, March 1875, Ernest Wellman, M.D., said: "If air is a necessity to human life, how much more so, if the comparison is permissible, is sunlight. Indeed, this is nature's great and primary vitalizing influence--the indispensable necessity to the existence of all forms of life, animal and vegetable . . . nature's richest productions, whether animal or vegetable, are found where the light of the day is unobstructed. The luxuriance of the tropics is due to light and heat, while the sterility of the frigid zone is due to a lack of them . . . in the same climate and under the same influences other than sunlight, the difference between those (men) who have it in abundance and those who are shut out from it, is very marked indeed. Animal organizations any more than vegetable cannot be fully and properly developed without sunlight in abundance. A weed may grow in the shade, but the finer fruits are found only under the direct rays of old Sol . . . rickety children are to be found seeking darkness rather than light; the well-developed, highly wrought, vigorous and normal productions of nature are only produced and flourish in the light of day. A tadpole, if deprived of sunlight, instead of progressing into a respectable frog, will remain a tadpole or, degenerate into some monstrosity . . ."
Trall was summoned to appear as a witness in an accident. He was invited by the head of the hospital where the patient was cared for to examine the hospital. The hospital was clean and well provided. To Trall's question about what proportion of his crippled patients recovered, the hospital head made the significant reply: "Nearly all on the sunny side of the hospital recover, while many on the shady side linger along till gangrene sets in, when death comes to their relief."
Trall expressed surprise that patients should be placed in rooms where the chances were against recovery and asked: "Why not have sunny rooms for all?" The physician and surgeon answered: "The hospital is not large enough for this, and when the good rooms are all full, those who come in later must accept such accommodations as we can furnish, whether they live or die. We do the best we can with the rooms at our disposal. As soon as south-side rooms become vacant, we remove north-side patients into them, and so keep them always full."
"What a picture is this!" exclaimed Trall. "We fall on the ice and break a leg; or from a ladder and break an arm; or we are smashed or burned in a railway train; or run over by a Broadway omnibus, and carried on a stretcher to the New York Hospital. The rooms on the sunny side--in which we are expected to recover--are all full, while the rooms on the north or shady side--in which patients are expected to linger till gangrene sets in, when they are expected to die--await us. We enter alive and come out a corpse," all for lack of sunlight.
"Live," said Trall to the readers of The Science of Health, "at least a part of the time in the sunshine. Never mind the fading carpetswhat are they when compared with life and health? Sleep in well aired and ventilated rooms, and thus throw off and throw out all impurities emanating from human bodies." Besides living much in the sunshine and fresh air, he advocated sleeping in well ventilated bedrooms in which the sun has shown during the day.
With sunlight around, above, below, everywhere, how shall we relate ourselves to it, asked the early Hygienists, that we may receive the highest degree of benefit from it? What is man's appropriate personal relationship to sunlight? Is it sufficient, for his health, that it shall reach his eyes, face and hands, while it is excluded from the rest of his body? They answered these questions by saying that the sun should come in contact with the whole body. Sun bathing in the nude was advocated and practiced, also sun bathing in thin cotton gowns of white. They considered colored clothing and experimented with it and found that it screens out much of the beneficial rays of the sun.
They said that, as a rule, sun baths are not to be taken by those in a feverish condition, but were to be taken wherever "there is torpidity, inanity, lifelessness or the like." Applying the Hygienic precept, remove the cause and the effects will cease, they said: "When want of sunlight has been the cause of disease, sun-bathing must be a valuable hygienic" measure.