(LFA) Helio, meaning the Sun in Greek, is the energy source of all abundant life on earth. The sun provides light and warmth and induces chemical reactions in plants, animals, and human beings. Near the equatorial latitudes around the world, the earth receives some of the highest amounts on regular sunshine on earth, roughly 12 hours per day – year round. In geographically sun-bathed areas such as the rainforests of the Amazon and Indonesia, and the jungles on the African Congo, we find the most diverse array of plant life, insects, and animals than anywhere else in the world.
If you have ever cared for house plants, a home garden, or worked on a farm, you know that fruit trees, vegetable crops, and blooming flowers that receive a full day of sunshine will grow faster, bigger, taller, stronger, more colorful, and provide a larger harvest than those plants grown in shade or with less available sunshine. Since human beings eat a plant diet and are part of the natural cycles of life on earth, sunbathing health benefits could also be greatly harvested.
A Brief History of Sun Bathing
Man was originally a nude animal before clothing was invented. Primitive humans spent all of their time in the sunshine and could only take refuge from direct sunlight in the shade of clouds and trees, or in caves and underground dwellings. Sun bathing has been practiced by all people of the ancient past including the Babylonians and Egyptians who had their sun-gardens.
The Egyptians were sun-worshipers, and about 5000 years ago they erected one of the first sun-god temples in the ancient city called “On”. The name On represented the heavenly force that moved the sun across the sky from sunrise to sunset. Later in history, the city was renamed Heliopolis — City of The Sun, by the Greeks who had their helioses, and the Romans with their solaria. Herodotus emphasized the sun’s effect of strengthening the muscles and nerves, and Philostratus tells us that the Olympian athletes were required to take sun-baths as part of their training.
These observations would be scientifically proven hundreds of years later by the physicist Arthur Eddington, who had shown that the ultraviolet rays of the sun can ionize calcium. Ionized calcium flows freely in your bloodstream and is not attached to proteins. The animal body cannot use calcium in the absence of sunlight; all cells need calcium in order to function and it helps build strong bones and teeth, large and firm muscles, it’s important for heart function, nerve signaling, and blood clotting.
During the Middle and Dark Ages, Christianity was the dominant religion in Europe, and dogma promoted strong reactions against anything “Pagan” in society. Thus the ancient practice of sun bathing by the healthy and the sick, was practically eliminated from daily use and replaced by long head-to-toe clothing that prevented natural bodily ventilation and access to the sun’s healing effect. During these anti-natural times, only the Jews and Arabs continued to pursue regular sun-baths. The modern practice of sun bathing had was popularized by Arnold Rikli, who is regarded as the originator of this practise in the late 1800′s. His health institution in Austria attracted patients from around the world where he prescribed sun-baths to heal various diseases, and he himself died in 1907 at a ripe old age of 97.
The Composition of Light and How It’s Used in sunbathing
Sunlight is made up of a collection of energy wavelengths that vibrate at various frequencies. Imagine looking at a rainbow and seeing the spectrum of colors starting with red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. The length of the wave decreases as you move through the colors starting from red, and at the same time the frequency of vibration is increasing as you move towards violet. The visible color spectrum gives us the sensations of light, color, and heat, but there are also ‘invisible’ frequencies of light on either end of the electromagnetic spectrum (see diagram here).
“Superior qualities are uniformly found existing in animals of the same species as these live in unshaded sunlight. This is just as true of humans as it is of animals; whoever lives habitually in the sunlight grows strong. This is not only true of the body itself in its various parts, but is true of the intelligent and responsible faculties which reside within the body.” – Dr. James C. Jackson
Light enables plants to use carbon dioxide gas through the chemical process of photosynthesis (the word photo comes from “photon” or “light wave/particle”), to create carbohydrates which are sugars and starches. Plants kept in darkness grow stunted and colorless, and in time will die. Many experiments have been performed on animals such as tadpoles, rats, and chickens to document the (horrible) effects of abstinence from sunlight, causing abnormal development, weak bones and muscles, and blindness to name a few. Humans are not separate from the Laws of Nature and thus must obey the requirements of ample sunshine to grow mature and healthy. To illustrate this point consider what George Wharton James says in his book What the White Man May Learn From The Indian about uncivilized and unclothed Indians of the N. American Southwest, with whom he had 30 years of intimate association:
“For many years I scarcely saw a skin disease amongst them, and when the skin would be torn or injured in any way, as I have often seen it, by their falling from a horse, by riding through the forest after deer and catching the projecting limbs of trees, etc., the rapidity with which the wound healed was both surprising and enlightening. When my skin was torn there was a good deal of pain and it took a long time to heal, and yet I was far healthier than many white men. Yet what to me was a severe wound they regarded as a trivial affair, paying little or no attention to it,… I have never seen an Indian with a poor head of hair or with dandruff or any other disease of the scalp.”
Indeed, sunshine stimulates growth of hair and nails as can be easily witnessed in the summer months. It provides increased resistance to infection and skin diseases, sores, and ulcers, and these heal more rapidly under the sun. Through chemical reactions in the skin, the important vitamin D is naturally synthesized in humans, which aids to keep the immune system strong against wound infections, harmful bacteria in water and food, and against viruses. In 1876, Downes and Blunt formally discovered that UV light can kill bacteria, and to the present day UV light technology can be used to sterilize against fungus, molds, and other micro-organisms.
More sunbathing health benefits
Sunshine improves mental efficiency and lowers symptoms of stress and depression. On dark, cloudy and rainy days, people tend to feel lower levels of energy, are more worrisome, and may feel the “blues”, especially through the cold winter months. Upon the return of sunshine, the mood is uplifted, happiness and increased level of energy returns and people become more active outdoors.
For pregnant mothers, exposing themselves to daily sunbaths will improve the babies skeletal development and aid the mother in the production of adequate milk. Sunbaths before and after child birth increases the mother’s ability to deal with tiredness, backache, nausea, loss of appetite, heightened emotions and hysteria. Birth pains will be lowered and so will the loss of blood. Dr. Herbert Shelton summarizes that sunshine is an essential requirement of life:
“Due to the fact that sunshine is an essential of healthy nutrition, being necessary to growth, development and repair of tissue, it is of value in all states or conditions of the body. It is not a specific “cure” for one or two so-called “specific diseases,” as the medical profession teaches. It is a hygienic, not a therapeutic agent, and is needed as well in health as in conditions of impaired health. It is needed by the healthy, growing, developing child, the pregnant or nursing mother, the chronic invalid, the convalescing patient, the athlete, and by all who desire to maintain or regain health. It is an important aid in building and maintainng health and we should not wait until we become sick to make use of it.”
With the about quote in mind, this concludes the introductory to Helio-hygiene. In the next article we will go into details of how sunshine can be used in sickness, how to improve your eyesight, how to properly suntan, information about lotions, suntan preparations, and more.
Sources for this article include:
Shelton M., Herbert – “Fasting and Sun Bathing”, 1950.
Medline Plus, “Calcium – ionized”
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