This section is from the book "The Hygienic System: Fasting And Sun Bathing", by Herbert M. Shelton. Also available from Amazon: The Hygienic System Vol III Fasting and Sun Bathing.
Arnold Rikli, who died in 1907 at the age of 97, is regarded as the originator of the modern practice of sun-bathing. For over half a century he prescribed sun-baths in his institution established at Weldes Krai, on the Adriatic Sea, in 1855. This institution in Austria attracted patients from all over the world. Rikli wrote seven books about his methods, of which the principal ones were translated into the Spanish, French and Italian languages. It would be a reasonably safe guess that Loncet, Finsen and Rollier were all acquainted with the work of this "irregular" or nature cure practitioner. F. Thedering, M.D. (Germany), Dr. Liek, A. Monteuius, M.D. (France), Laurason Brown, M.D., Saranack Lake, N. Y., each give Rikli credit for his work, although Dr. Brown attempts to hide his true character by calling him a physio-therapist.
Waldvogel, of Bohemia, in 1755, had advocated sun-bathing; but he had few or no followers; while Madame Duhamel, at Berck, exposed tubercular children to sunshine as far back as 1857, believing that sun-bathing would hasten recovery. Dr. Lahman employed the "Sun and Air Cure" in his institution in Germany, as did Bilz in his famous institution; Bilz employing it as early as 1872-73. Sun-bathing has continued to grow in popularity in all parts of Europe and has been adopted by both the Youth Movement and the Nudity Movement.
In America, the first advocate of sun-bathing was Sylvester Graham, who declared, while discussing the evils of clothing in "Lectures on the Science of Human Life."--p. 638: "My object is not to advocate bodily nudity in society; although I cannot doubt that morality would be greatly improved by it, in the course of two or three generations, if in all other respects mankind conformed to the true laws of their nature; * * *.
"If man were always to go entirely naked, the external skin, the anatomical structure and functional character and relations of which we have fully contemplated, would be preserved in a more healthy and vigorous state, and perform its functions more perfectly, and thereby the whole human system in all its properties, powers and interests would be benefited; the circulation, and particularly the venous circulation which is near the surface, would be more free and unobstructed; respiration, or breathing would also be more free, full and perfect; voluntary action would be more unrestrained and easy; the bones be less liable to disease and distortion; all the muscles of voluntary motion would be better developed and more powerful; in short the anatomical development and symmetrical proportion, and the physiological power, and functions of every part in the whole system, would be more perfect, and, as a natural consequence, the sensual appetites would be more purely instinctive, and exert a less energetic and despotic influence on the mental and moral faculties, and imagination would be deprived of its greatest power to do evil."
Following close upon Graham's heels, Dr. Trall placed great emphasis upon the power of sunlight, both in health and disease. He discusses it at great length in his Hydropathic Encyclopedia, p.p. 304-307 (Vol. 1). He declares that "abundant sunshine" should "be allowed special prominence in the remedial plan" in "Cachexies--scrofula, in its various forms of humors and tumors, glandular enlargements, white swelling, cutaneous eruptions, fever sores, rickets, lumbar abscesses, hip disease, otitis, ophthalmia, etc., as well as plethora, scurvy, elephantiasis, cancer, etc."
In his Water-Cure for the Millions (1860) Trall says: "The importance of light as a remedial agent, is not sufficiently appreciated. Many persons who live in elegant and expensively furnished houses so darken many of the rooms, in order to save the furniture, as to render the air in them very unwholesome. The scrofulous humors which prevail among those inhabitants of our cities in rear buildings and underground apartments, sufficiently attest the relation between sunshine and vitality. Invalids should seek the sunlight as do the flowers--care being taken to protect the head when the heat is excessive, exposing the whole skin in a state of nudity, frequently, to the air, and even to the rays of the sun, is a very invigorating practice. For scrofulous persons this is particularly serviceable."
Although others had suggested the use of sunlight in rickets before him, credit for the discovery of its value in this condition is given to Huldschinsky, who in 1919, "definitely proved that sunlight could prevent and cure rickets." A reading of Trall's works would show any unbiased student that he was nearly seventy years ahead of Huldschinsky in making this discovery.
Dr. Geo. H. Taylor, Trall's co-worker, in a book published in 1860, under the title, The Swedish Movement Cure and reproduced in 1883 under the title, Health by Exercise, lays great stress upon the value of sunlight, both in health and in disease. He particularly emphasizes its value in scrofula (tubercular adenitis) and its great service to nursing mothers. "It is wonderful," he says, "and delightful to see how soon a pale, attenuated, miserable child, after being freely exposed to the sunlight for several hours every day, will begin to improve, and the symptoms here described (scrofula) to disappear. Even scrofulous swelling of the glands of the neck, or other parts of the body, will quickly succumb under the magical influence of sunlight and pure air."
In his Weak Lungs and How to Make Them Strong (1863), Dr. Dio Lewis devotes a brief chapter to sunshine in which he says: "I have assisted many dyspeptic, neuralgic, rheumatic, and hypochondriacal people into health, by the Sun-Cure. I have so many facts illustrating the wonderful power of the sun's direct rays in curing certain classes of invalids, that I have seriously thought of publishing a work, to be denominated, the 'Sun-Cure'."
Dr. Lewis presents a few cases illustrating the results of exposure to the sun, including the case of a lawyer suffering with partial paralysis, constant pain in the loins, and other symptoms. He directed the man to lie in the direct rays of the sun coming through a window, daily, beginning with ten minutes a day and increasing the exposure to a full hour. "His habits were not essentially altered in any other particular." The man made a complete recovery in six months.
Lewis says: "Seclusion from sunshine is one of the misfortunes of our civilized life. The same cause which makes potato vines white and sickly, when grown in dark cellars, operates to produce the pale sickly girls that are reared in our parlors. Expose either to the direct rays of the sun, and they begin to show color, health, and strength."
Dr. James C. Jackson devotes twelve pages to sunlight in his How to Treat the Sick Without Drugs (1868), in which he says: "I do not know of any man in this country who has made as constant use of it (the sun) as I have." He describes seventy-five to one hundred and twenty-five persons taking sun baths at one time for periods ranging from twenty-five minutes to three hours, even to four or five hours, for sixty to ninety days in the summer season. His patients were not nude, but were "clad in as light colored clothing as the patient may be able to wear."
He says: "The effect on the persons is quite as astonishing as the sight to the new observer is strange. Many of these persons who have failed under the application of the best tonics and anodynes soon become so strengthened and innervated as to be able to sleep, not only when they go to bed at night, but also while taking their sun-baths." Again: "Therapeutically considered it (sunlight) is to be regarded as one of our most powerful remedial agents, and has, in my estimate, come to fill so important a place in Nature's materia medica as to give me great confidence in being able to use it in the treatment of certain diseases with a success which challenges my highest satisfaction."
Dr. Benedict Lust says that "the first sun-baths given in America were at Butler, New Jersey, at the Youngborn, in 1897." While, as seen above, Dr. Lust is in error, the fact is that the sun-bath has been employed continuously in this country for a hundred years or more.
It is only since World War 1, that any considerable attention has been given to sun-bathing by the medical profession and there yet remains much opposition to it in medical circles. Most medical writers on the subject attempt to show that sun-bathing was an old medical practice. However, it is false to say that the instinctive sun-bathing of savages and the sun-bathing of the sun-worshippers of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, Peru, etc., was a therapeutic practice or that it belonged to or was a discovery of the medicine men of the past.
Now that the medical profession has partially recognized the value of sunlight, they forget the work of those they formerly denounced and derided, and tell us that Dr. Loncet, of Lyons, France, made the first series of observations as to the effects of sunlight in disease in the decade of 1890-1900. Dr. Neils Finsen, of Denmark, who experimented with sun rays and also with artificial light is given much credit. In 1890 a Dr. Palm, of England, contributed an article to The Practitioner in which he discussed the value of sunlight in the prevention and correction of rickets. In 1911 Dr. Rollier, a French physician, began following Loncet's methods, and continues his work to the present. Many physicians, among them Sir Henry Gauvin, of England, and Dr. Hess, of this country, have plunged into this field with earnestness and zeal. Today sun-bathing has attained respectability despite the fact that it is not yet understood by its medical supporters.