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USA: 19th Century
Russell Trall 1812-1877

Wikipedia: Russell Thacher Trall was an American health reformer and physician, born in Vernon, Tolland County, Connecticut, 5 August, 1812; died in Florence, New Jersey, 23 September, 1877.

TrallRussell Trall: A visionary doctor

By Karen Iacobbo
(this article first appeared in the VivaVine, from, November/december, 2000)

The word quack evokes an image of the snake oil salesman pitching potions from the back of a covered wagon. Yet the patent-medicine salesmen of yesteryear were not the only representation of the term quack. During the 19th century in America, regular doctors--that is, the allopaths--were accused of quackery by people who demanded that medicine evolve past the use of blood-letting, leeches, and poisons like mercury.

Among the foremost activists opposing the drug therapists and offering another option was New York City's own Russell Trall, M.D., who was also a leading advocate of vegetarianism. Most who denounced medical mayhem and instead employed holistic, drugless, natural medicine were convinced that flesh foods had no place on the menu. (Anyone for bringing back the term "flesh foods"?)

In 1852, Trall founded the New York Hygieo-Therapeutic College, the first medical school to admit women on equal terms with men. Trall was influenced by Sylvester Graham and Isaac Jennings, M.D., who taught that the body is governed by natural laws originating from God and verified by observation.

Trall contended that when these laws were broken, sickness and death could result. A frugivorous diet--as mandated in Genesis and verified as natural for human beings by 19th-century studies of human anatomy--was one of the laws. When illness developed, rather than suppressing symptoms the drugless doctors sought to remove the causes. Once the causes were removed, the body tended to heal itself. Trall maintained that drugs harmed the body; they did not act upon the body but the body acted upon the drugs. For example, a laxative drug seemed to work only because the body rejected it. The drug itself did not cause the bowels to work.

See also:
The Vegetarian


Trained as an allopath, Trall had observed patients who had become well without drug intervention and those who had been made sicker by drugs. He noticed how the body was helped when patients were prescribed rest, "vegetable diets," treatments such as massage and hydrotherapy (the "water cure"), and direction to fill the mind with higher thoughts.

Trall was a sought-after doctor who even lectured at the Smithsonian Institution during the Civil War on behalf of soldiers. The doctor published more than a dozen books, which found an audience hungry to help themselves and to avoid the horrors and the sometimes fatal results of the regular doctors' medicine.

Hygieo-therapeutic Dr. Trall told his students that his practice was not lucrative, and the only reason they should become physicians was that they wanted to help the sick and teach them how to avoid sickness in the future.

Trall's views about medicine led to his vegetarianism and a vice presidency of the American Vegetarian Society. Like other vegetarians of his time, he abhorred cruelty to animals. In the 20th century, Herbert Shelton studied and then expanded Trall's work, which is today known as natural hygiene. Yet more than 100 years after Trall's death, and after billions of tax-payer dollars have been spent on health care, the nation has yet to examine the drugless doctor's ideas seriously.

Might Trall's work finally evoke the noninvasive, natural healing millions are seeking? Might it finally be the key to true prevention of sickness? Allopathy does not ponder these ideas, and when not ignored, the doctor and his ideas are ridiculed. Perhaps we have something to learn.