"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 drugopathically. 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 hues. 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 themselves.
"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 published since. 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.'"