Battle Creek Sanitarium

by Purple Herbal


There’s an interesting piece of medical history right here in my home state of Michigan. A forgotten memorial that once housed patients getting health treatments which would be considered old fashioned by today’s standards, yet truly revitalized and enabled many sick people to reach a superior state of health.  It’s the Sanitarium in Battle Creek.  Now known as Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center, the Sanitarium opened in 1866 as the Western Health Reform Institute. In 1902 it burned down, but was later rebuilt.

Original Sanitarium building - before it burned down in 1902

Rebuilt Battle Creek Sanitarium

The curative regimes instituted there, interestingly enough, were based upon the health principles of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Up until the Great Depression, ‘the San’ was a thriving wellness resort for well to do aristocrats, celebrities, as well as middle and upper middle class people who wanted to be in a  much better state of health. Many famous celebrities and heads of state visited the San, including Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and William Howard Taft. Unfortunately, after the stock market crash in 1929, business slowed down to the point that by WWII it closed. The building was purchased by the U.S. Army and turned into an army hospital.

During the San’s hey day, hydrotherapy, exercise, fresh air (even sleeping in the open air), breathing exercises, diet (low fat and protein), and getting lots of sunlight were the main treatments that John Harvey Kellogg, who was superintendent, utilized at the San.

John Harvey Kellogg

Hydrotherapy is the use of water to relieve pain and treat illness. Originally, hydrotherapy was considered solely a cold water treatment. Kellogg, however, used both hot and cold water. The contrast between the two was found to increase circulation and respiration, both of which are necessary for maintaining good health. From jumping into fresh water pools after exercising to getting enemas, douches, and sitz baths, hydrotherapy helped cure many different kinds of ailments.

Kellogg believed that a clean bowel was the key to health. Eating yogurt helped replenish the good bacteria

and even having a yogurt enema was commonplace at the San.

Exercises such as gymnastics, swimming, wood chopping, basketball, and other physical activities were performed in order to increase muscle tone and circulation, as well as improve the posture.

Kellogg also made sure that very carefully prepared vegetarian food was given to patients. It was thought that eating healthy food ensured a person’s well being. After all, Hippocrates once said, “let food be thy medicine.”

Despite the relatively short lived success of the Sanitarium’s health and wellness practices, Kellogg will forever be remembered as the man who, along with his brother Will, invented corn flakes breakfast cereal.

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