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Dr. John H. Tilden – Biography




What hope is there for medical science to become an actual science when the entire structure of medical knowledge is built around the idea that disease is an entity that can be expelled when the right drug is found?

–John H. Tilden, MD (1851-1940)
John H. Tilden, M.D.
John H. Tilden, M.D.

John was born on January 21, 1851, to Joseph and Ann Tilden in Van Burensberg, Illinois, and was one of 9 children. From early on, he dreamed of being a doctor like his father.  As a child, he began to play “doctor” on his cats, dogs, calves, pigs, and birds as patients and was affectionately called the “boy doctor.” Even as a young man, he was a keen observationist of healing.  He noticed a sick kitten would cling to heat and would not eat food until healed. These two life lessons evolved as he adapted and grew within his practice.

He received his early education in the public schools of Litchfield. Next, he began the study of medicine under the supervision of his father. Starting in 1868, he apprenticed in the office of Dr. J. Fellows of Nokomis, Illinois, and did so for two years. 

His father was an allopathic physician (known as a “regular”) and did not recognize the “irregulars” of his time. John, however, did not support his father’s mode of practice, as he did not see his father’s patients regaining their health.  He wanted to learn alternative methods to the allopathic techniques of this day and entered and trained at the Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1870. He graduated on May 11, 1872. 

Dr. Tilden was married in 1873 to Miss Rebecca Maddux, a native of Hillsboro, Ill. The Doctor and his wife had two children, Edna, born in 1876, and Elsie, born in 1878. 

While he trained in alternative medicine, he also wanted to be educated in the latest allopathic research. In 1874, he was admitted to Bellevue Medical College. However, Austin Flint, Jr. M.D., the Dean of the College, refused to allow him to graduate, as he had already received a prior medical degree from an “irregular” medical college. He flatly told Tilden: “You may attend as many terms of lectures as you wish by paying the regular fee, but under no circumstances will we issue you a diploma.” The open hostility from the allopath sector prevented all eclectic-trained physicians from graduating allopathically as well. 

An interesting side note on the hostility that continually existed towards alternative medicine was when the first “Who’s Who” book in medicine was published, it contained Tilden’s pedigree. In the 2nd printing, he was not included anymore. However, in 1927, in the New York Times, Morris Fishbein of the American Medical Association (team: allopathic) included him in his Blue Book of Quacks and Quackeries.” Fishbein also influenced public libraries, so they refused to add Tilden’s books to their collections or share them on their lending lists. 

After receiving his diploma, he began to practice medicine in Nokomis, Ill and continued there for eight years. He moved to St. Louis and completed post-graduate work at the American Medical College. He was then given a position as one of the college faculty. He taught there for two years and lectured on anatomy and physiology. In 1881, he partnered with Dr. R. F. Bennett in Litchfield, Ill., and built an extensive practice over the next four years. In 1882, he returned to St.Louis and taught anatomy again at the American Medical College. 

In 1886, he moved to Wichita, where he built a thriving practice. Due to his thorough knowledge of medicine and his skill in surgery, he was an instant success.

During his life, he served on the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners. He was a prominent member of the National Eclectic Medical Society as well as the Illinois State Medical Society.

John married Mary Alexander in 1896 in Colorado. They had one son named Alexandar in 1897. Mary died in 1927.

During the early years of his practice in Illinois, Dr. Tilden began to question the use of medicine to cure illness. His extensive reading, especially European medical studies, along with his own insights, led him to conclude that one should be able to live disease-free. His thoughts on toxemia began to formulate and materially develop.  

His began with the realization that the medical world had been looking for a remedy to cure disease. The obvious fact is that nature needs no remedy—she only needs an opportunity to exercise her prerogative of self-healing, that there are no ‘cures’ for disease. Health and how to build and keep it is all the knowledge needed. Although he most often refers to his work as the “toxemia philosophy” and the “toxemia system,” he believes in and does refer to it as Hygienic. 

Dr. Tilden’s philosophy of health was a synthesis of Isaac Jenning’s “deficiency of force” and Russell Thacker Troll’s “poisoning” as the root cause of disease. According to Tilden, the first disease state is “ennervation,” or the exhaustion of physiological energy reserves due to this lack of energy. He believed that the body could not perform the necessary work of repairing and eliminating the consequences, thus creating a buildup of toxic substances (which he coined the term toxemia).  Over time, this buildup of toxic substances manifests itself in various diseases. Adopting a proper lifestyle was the only way to resolve a toxic condition (or, even better, not create it) and maintain health in the long run.

The Philosophy of Health
Dr. Tilden’s philosophy of health was a synthesis of Isaac Jenning’s “deficiency of force” and Russell Thacker Troll’s “poisoning” as the root cause of disease.

Issac Jennings and Charles Page used placebos in their practice (bread pills and colored water in place of drugs), and initially, Dr. Tilden followed suit. However, he finally gave up the “placebo practice” and learned to rely solely upon Hygiene.  He concluded that all forms of “make-believe” medication received the credit for recoveries.  He wanted his patients and families to know the truth about the healing of disease and various “curing” systems.”

In 1900, he began publishing a monthly magazine called The Stuffed Club to promote healthcare. It eventually attained a wide circulation in this country, abroad, and even as far as Australia. It was renamed the Philosophy of Health in 1915 and was finally renamed the Health Review and Critique in 1926.

Dr. Tilden published in 1915 The Philosophy of Health. In this book, he shares his philosophy on health and wellness, including the importance of nutrition, exercise, rest, and mental and emotional well-being. He also discusses the dangers of modern medicine and the overuse of drugs and surgery and advocates for a more holistic approach to healthcare.

The Tilden School for Teaching Health was opened from 1916 to 1924 as a private residential teaching institution that offered patients an alternative to the standard medical practices of the day in Denver, Colorado. The Tilden School attracted patients from all over the country and world, including Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. It offered furnished apartments for patients to learn to care for themselves and practice the Tilden techniques for healthy living. As many of his patients stayed for extended periods, the school’s architecture and grounds were designed to invoke more of an ambiance of a residential apartment complex than a traditional medical facility. The school was established to teach and promote the medical theories of its founder, Dr. John Henry Tilden.

Tilden Health School

The Tilden School for Teaching Health was sold to Dr. Arthur Voss of Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Tilden intended to devote himself to writing and lecturing. Dr. Vos operated the Tilden Health School until 1931, when the effects of the Great Depression forced its closure.  Discontented without his school, he bought two residences and opened a new school in east Denver, CO, called the Tilden Health Institute. He operated this until he died in 1940. 

His life was pre-eminently one of self-sacrifice and devotion to service, searching after truth, with an indomitable will and an intense fortitude to adhere to the truth when discovered. He practiced medicine and surgery for twenty-five years. In his day, Dr. Tilden received no support from the established medical profession, only bringing out the most vigorous opposition and condemnation.

He was buried in the Crown Hill Cemetary in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. His magazine “Dr. Tilden’s Health Review and Critique”  was issued monthly until his death; Mrs. Tilden completed the 1940 volume with material he had left behind and then suspended its publication.

Fortunately, Dr. Shelton’s Hygienic Review debuted in 1939, one year before Dr. Tilden passed in 1940.  Magazines devoted to the hygienic ideal have existed and continued since the movement began in 1832.

Life in the 1800s

It was in an era of “hog, hominy, and homespun.” Grains, bread, pork, and lard pies predominated in the people’s diet—vegetables and fruits were neglected and considered contraband. When Dr. Tilden initiated the daily salad habit, the practice was vigorously condemned by the medical profession as it was believed that this caused cholera.

Nobody took baths; a strong body odor was considered a badge of merit. Fresh air was feared. Cold air, damp air, night air, and draughts were especially feared. Houses were unventilated and foul; no sunlight was permitted to enter them lest it fade the rugs, carpets, and upholstering.

Sanitation was neglected; tobacco was chewed, smoked, and snuffed almost universally; alcohol was the favorite beverage, and disease was common.

Tobacco was chewed, smoked, and snuffed almost universally
Tobacco was chewed, smoked, and snuffed almost universally in the 1800s.

The people suffered from typhus and typhoid fevers, malaria, cholera, yellow fever, diarrhea, dysentery, diphtheria, scrofula, meningitis, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. The general death rate was high, but the death rate among infants and children was appalling; mothers died in childbirth of child-bed fever.

It was a day of frequent and heroic dosage and equally frequent and heroic bleeding. In the South, during the summer, there was a cry of fever, fever, fever, and calomel was used (a mercury chloride mineral with formula Hg2Cl2, mercury(I) chloride. By the 19th century, calomel was viewed as a miracle drug. It was used against almost every disease, including syphilis, bronchitis, cholera, ingrown toenails, teething, gout, tuberculosis, influenza, and cancer) along with quinine (medication used to treat malaria and babesiosis). These were administered lavishly, thus adding to the horror.

Impact of Diet or Lifestyle

During the early years of his practice in Illinois, Dr. Tilden began to question the use of medicine to cure illness. His extensive reading, especially medical studies from European medical schools, along with his own thoughts, led him to conclude that there should be some way to live so as not to build disease. It was during this period his thoughts on toxemia began to formulate and materialize.

From the beginning of his practice in Denver, Tilden used no medicine but practiced his theory of clearing the body of toxic poison and allowing nature to cure. He taught his patients how to live healthfully and not create harmful conditions. An uncompromising realist and a strict disciplinarian, Tilden wasted no time on those who would not relinquish their degenerating habits.  However, to his patients and supporters, he was both a friend and mentor.

Medical superstition stands in the way of educating people on the proper lifestyle habits. So long as the allopathic healers are self-indulgent users of tobacco, alcohol, coffee, and tea and abuse their health until they are as sick as their patients, people will not listen to rational advice. Why? Because the entire profession is opposed to the belief that food could have anything to do with building disease.

The True Interpretation of the Cause of Disease provides a comprehensive explanation of the concept of toxemia, which is the accumulation of toxic substances in the body that can lead to various diseases. Dr. Tilden argues that toxemia is the root cause of all diseases and that the medical profession has been misguided in its approach to treating illnesses.

Tilden practiced medicine for years before losing faith in drugs and searching for a new understanding of disease. He observed that health is impaired when a person’s nervous energy dissipates, and the body can no longer properly eliminate the toxic by-products of metabolism. The resulting state of self-intoxication, or toxemia, was regarded by Tilden as the single underlying cause of impaired health. He considered individual diseases to be nature’s cleansing efforts or crises of toxemia. According to Tilden, nervous energy could become toxic by eating the wrong foods, overeating, taking too many stimulants such as coffee and alcohol, or by other sources of stress such as emotional, physical, or mental stress.

He tells us that when his patients recovered under his hygienic practices, they and their families and friends would say that he cured them. However, he was aware that he had done nothing of the kind. He did not even know how or why they recovered. He says: “For I knew that I did not cure those who got well, and I did not like to acknowledge it, even to myself. To be consistent, I soothed my troubled mind by acknowledging that those who got well did so despite my best endeavors.”

Natural Hygiene has always advocated that everyone have a sound understanding of his body and its functions. The early Hygienists such as Sylvester Graham, Russell Thacker Trall, Isaac Jennings, James Jackson, and later, Herbert Shelton and John H. Tilden produced many fine works and publications for the education of the layman so that they could care for themselves in health and disease. Habits that served the body required discipline, and restraint helped to make the body healthy.

The Natural Hygiene teaching program showed that we need to study living nature—life. We must understand the conditions of its existence, the laws of its operations, the requirements of different modes of activity, the effects of various environments upon the living organism, and the relationship to health.

Still the same, whether during Tilden’s life or today.  We need to study living nature—life.


A physician’s real business is not caring for a patient; it is a question of not killing them.

–Dr. John H. Tilden

From the beginning of his practice in Denver, Tilden used no medicine. He practiced his theory of clearing the body of toxic poison, thus allowing nature to cure. He taught his patients how to live in health, not create toxic conditions, and how to maintain a healthy body free of disease. An uncompromising realist and a strict disciplinarian, Tilden wasted no time on those who would not relinquish degenerating habits.

“In all sick stomachs,” says Tilden, “especially in typhoid or cholera infantum, there is an irritation due to the bad effect of decomposition. Nausea and vomiting are conservative measures to rid the body of toxins.  It indicates a suspension of absorption within the stomach. Parents should never feed sick children. He shares, “Be not afraid to let them fast. Every day they fast, it lessens their illness and their danger from illness. Feeding adds another layer to their suffering and significantly prolongs their illness.”

Tilden wrote extensively about children.  He believed that nature intended that an infant should have nothing but liquid food until it has teeth to chew. That is the way with all other animals that can be compared with man. Their diet is liquid until they can bite. Dr. Charles Page, Dr. Herbert Shelton, and Dr. John H. Tilden, amongst others, have outlined a natural plan for feeding children. Shelton marvels at the stamina of the human system, which can withstand the appalling diet of the first two years of life that are being fed to children.”“Dr. Tilden shared: “If mothers could be made to see the fearful price they pay for keeping their babies fat and chubby, they would hasten to learn a better feeding plan. Children who are overweight are more susceptible to disease influences than smaller and lighter children. The fat, chubby baby, everything else being equal, is always the one to take the croup, tonsilitis, diphtheria, scarlet fever and, when a few years older, pneumonia, rheumatism and other forms of common diseases.” Dr. Tilden thought that babies were fed too often and too much, thus laying the foundation for chronic toxemia. In this, he agreed with Dr. Charles Page.

Tilden wrote extensively about children. 
Care of Children and Mothers

Dr. Tilden shared, “Lack of a healthy lifestyle causes the great sensitivity of the gums in teething children. When these little folks are properly cared for, they will not be sick, and if they are not, they will surprise their mothers by showing them a tooth every little while, without the slightest pain or problem of any kind.” Again, he says: “When a child is fed too much, too often, and fed varieties of food that should not be given to it until past two years of age, indigestion, and irritation of the stomach result. The baby becomes irritable, nervous, and half-sick all the time, and constipation becomes habitual. Children in this state suffer from teething; indeed, everything causes them to be unhappy, for they feel miserable.”

“What is the great secret of success in feeding babies? Dr. Tilden noted: “Fit children to the food and never attempt to fit the food to the children.” How? Tilden shares these few simple rules:

1. Feed the child natural, uncooked, unprocessed, unsterilized, unadulterated, and undrugged foods.
2. Do not stuff the child. Feed it three moderate meals a day.
3. Feed simple meals. Do not feed foods that are mixed in such a way as to cause fermentation.
4. Do not feed between meals or at night.
5. If the child is upset, feels terrible, is excited or tired, overheated, chilled, in pain or distress, or is sick, don’t feed it. If there is fever, give no food.”

Dr. Tilden also commented on the widespread superstition that if a mother allows the baby to “taste” some of each food she eats, her milk will not give the baby colic. We have seen many mothers begin feeding their babies this way by the time they are a few weeks old, long before they can digest such foods as corn, oatmeal, beans, meat, eggs, etc. A stock raiser would not tolerate such behavior towards his young animals. He knows too well that the consequences to the animals would be disastrous. Tilden, who was not vegetarian and recommended flesh foods, declared that these should never be fed to a child under six years of age at a minimum.

In his books, Dr. Tilden discussed the issue of too much handling of infants and that it is not good for them and is most detrimental to the sick child. The young of no other species can withstand so much handling and survive. Kittens, puppies, goslings, calves, birds, indeed all young animals, soon languish and die if handled very much. Man, including the infant stage, can live through more abuse than any other animal on earth. Nevertheless, millions of infants are injured in health by being subjected to too much handling. The following words of Dr. Russel Thacker Trall are to the point: “Never mistake infants for toys or playthings. Never employ them to amuse yourself or entertain company. Never exhibit them to reflect inherited charm and qualities the parents are proud of—perhaps justly so.”

Tilden taught his new mothers that diapers should be changed as soon as they were wet. The child should be sponged off and dried before another diaper is put on. The diaper should then be washed before using again. Skin irritations are often caused by using diapers after they have been wet and dried without being washed. Keeping the skin clean will result in no chafing, excoriations, scaling, or skin irritations. A lack of cleanliness causes these—they are prevented and remedied by cleanliness.”

“It is not necessary to entertain babies. If they are let alone, they will learn to entertain themselves. Furnishing entertainment to babies and children causes them to grow up as very dependent adults. “Eternal attention builds an egotism that is ruinous,” says Tilden. Putting babies on exhibition is one of our greatest mistakes. Handling, bright lights in its face, loud talking, laughing, noise, disturbed sleep, etc., enervate the baby. These things should be avoided.”

Today, our daughters are trained and equipped for everything else except the supreme accomplishment of giving birth. Dr. Tilden observes: “It is pathetic to see a tuberculous mother struggling in a hopeless endeavor to make her baby strong after it has once got a bad start.” He adds: “Such mothers will so frequently say: Why cannot my baby be strong, like Mrs. so-and-so’s? She feeds her baby anything and neglects it, yet it thrives.” There is a vast gulf, physically or vitally, between the two children. The poor care that the strong and healthy one receives will thrive regardless, but this would speedily kill the weak one. Sick mothers should refrain from having children. In his practice, he has known such sick mothers to not only bear children but to disregard every rule of hygiene during pregnancy. Then, she and the baby suffer until it generally dies.

Another area Dr. Tildren shared was one of the fallacies of the allopathic doctors: the fear of hydrating sick people. He noted that “water was forbidden to all fever patients because their systems were filled with mercury (calomel), and when Mercury is in, water must stay out; if not, salivation through mercurial poisoning takes place.” All of this is based on the principle that ”our most potent poisons are our best remedies.” The destructive effects of mercury are not confined to the mouth. After treating with mercury, physicians then use antiseptic mouthwashes and iodides (compounds with iodine in its oxidative state). Beware of both of these. Better still, beware of all drugs, including mercury in all its forms.”

Heredity gets the blame for anything that is not understood. If the individual is sick and the physician cannot ascribe a cause to the sickness, he can always blame it on heredity. In the April 1930 issue of the Review and Critique, Tilden shares the story of a little three-year-old girl brought to him from a great distance.  Her diet produced indigestion, which generated great acidity in the stomach and bowels. The mucous membrane of the child’s vagina was broken down from the acid leucorrhea (natural secretions that are released from the vagina), causing behavior that was distressing to both the parents and the physicians. “The severe itching was driving the child mad.” He shared that she “was continually trying to relieve herself by rubbing and scratching.” Her physicians decided that she was a “natural-born sex pervert” and that she was “a very vicious abnormal child.” Even the parents were accused of sex perversion; otherwise, they could not have produced a child as “cursed” as this one.”

The doctors advised them to punish the child severely, but the punishment did not do any good. How could it have relieved the intolerable itching and burning? Dr. Tilden was disgusted when he heard the story of the “child’s viciousness” and its “inheritance from the parents.” He had seen other cases of this type, but he had never seen one that had been so abused as this child.

Within days of proper fasting, feeding, and cleanliness, the little patient had lost all of its diabolism–its proclivities for masturbation. Besides the fasting and simple feeding, he instructed the nurse to give vaginal douches of warm water to cleanse the excoriated mucous surfaces. Dr. Tilden shared, “The child soon became the idol of all who had the pleasure of knowing her. She was made happy by having her health restored as the vaginal inflammation ended and the acid state of the digestive system was corrected. The child ceased to be a “sex pervert.” It was strange, said Tilden, “How satisfyingly unscientific the treatment was. Remove the cause, and nature does the rest. Let the psychoanalysts take note.”

The early 1900s saw the worst pneumonia epidemic America had ever seen. Despite it being the number one killer, Dr. John H. Tilden had the highest success rate in healing pneumonia than any other medical doctor. During that epidemic, most doctors lost hundreds of patients to that deadly plague. Although Dr. Tilden had more pneumonia cases than any other doctor in the country, he never lost a patient. What made him different? He used no drug, and he cleansed the colon of each patient. He used water therapy and administered natural live foods. His success was considered miraculous because other doctors who relied on drugs consistently failed to heal their patients.

The Practical Cookbook is a comprehensive guide to cooking and food preparation. This book is an excellent resource for novice and experienced cooks, providing detailed instructions for various dishes and cooking techniques.

Dr. Tilden understood that the body does not digest or absorb food when ill. Digestion is suspended, and the membranes of the stomach and intestines are exuding matter instead of absorbing it. It exudes fluid to aid in expelling the mass of putrescence in the food tube and to protect the walls and any irritated surface. Sometimes, nature rejects even water, expelling it by vomiting, as often as it is forced down. How foolish, in such cases, to continue to force the patient with food, drugs, or water into his stomach. The body is trying to protect itself by vomiting and even guards against water by creating a bad taste in the mouth that causes the patient to refuse water.

Tilden also shared: “Have fresh air coming into the room day and night. Positively no food is allowed—not even juice—just water. Seven or eight days should restore health if the patient is not killed by food or drugs. Dr. George E. Weger’s experience with fasting parallels that of mine. He says that when dealing with disease, it has invariably responded in the same even and consistent manner as what I have seen.”

Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey referred to fasting as the “rest cure” and said that rest “is not to do any of the curing (healing) any more than it heals the broken bone or the wound; it is only going to furnish the condition for cure.” Here, he was speaking of physiological rest or fasting. Mr. Hereward Carrington also insisted upon the necessity of physiological rest in disease. He stressed resting the digestive system in particular. Dr. George E. Weger and John H. Tilden also emphasized the fact that fasting is a period of physiological rest. Perhaps Dr. Robert Walter stressed this fact more than anyone else.”

While Dr. Tilden never wrote a specific book on fasting, this practice is woven throughout his work as a means of healing.  He witnessed the profound healing power of a fast but also shared that  “A fast must not be continued when the patient is suffering greatly; it matters not why.” He noted that some patients started without food, and within a week, they were very sick—sick because of what he called great enervation. They had been over-stimulated for so long that when the stimulating food was removed, they would soon go into a withdrawal similar to an alcoholic experiencing delirium tremens.  He has seen many become sick in the stomach and vomit almost non-stop.  As soon as he recognized the symptoms, he would break the fast by giving a small amount of fruit. When the irritation subsided, the fast was resumed. “The fast is in vain,” said Tilden though, “if the patient returns to his old habits. Fasting will not make one “disease” proof.”

Tilden said “All acute diseases could be prevented if anticipated by a fast of sufficient duration to lower the accumulated toxins below the tolerance point. An anticipatory fast establishes a dependable immunization to any so-called disease.” He believed that if this were generally known and acted upon by towns and cities during a plague (fast with water for a few days, followed by light eating), epidemics would be less virulent and, in time, prevented entirely. Only the vulnerable, people he thought who were profoundly toxemic, would feel the effects of an epidemic.

Dr. Tilden’s Health Review and Critique Volume 2: 1927 is a book written by J.H. Tilden. The book is a collection of articles and essays on various health topics, including nutrition, exercise, and disease prevention. 

Dr. Tilden, M.D., said: “After fifty-five years of practice, I am forced to declare, without fear of contradiction, that fasting is the only reliable, specific, therapeutic eliminant known to man.” Felix L. Oswald. M.D. agreed with him: “Fasting is the great system renovator. Three fast days a year will purify the blood and eradicate the poison diathesis (hereditary or predisposition to a disease or disorder) more effectively than a hundred bottles of expurgative bitters.” Dr. Tilden explained, “What the body can do for itself in the way of restoring normal function and full vigor when the toxic load is lifted has to be seen to be fully appreciated.”

Conservation of the energy and resources of the patient was the secret of the successes of Dr. Issac Jennings, Sylvester Graham, Dr. Robert Walter, Dr. Henry S. Tanner, Dr. George S. Weger, and Dr. John H. Tilden. They have been outstandingly successful in caring for the sick using alternative medicine. None of these men sought to cure disease; instead, each of them came to recognize that over-feeding, over-bathing, over-sunning, over-exercising, or aggravating patients in any way overtaxed them and slowed down or stopped recovery. These are but a few of the pioneers upon whose shoulders the National Health Association was founded.


“What advantage has the toxemia theory (of disease) over the plan recognized and accepted by the (medical) profession—namely, the germ theory? The advantage of certainty. It has the advantage that the physician preaching the toxin theory need not live in constant uncertainty about what will become of his patient.”

–Dr. John H. Tilden

Notable Achievements


I can point to 100,000 educated physicians in the United States who will declare, both in public and private life, that they believe, as I do, that the cause must be removed before healing can occur. Yet before the sound of their voices dies from making the statement, they are prescribing with no more thought of the root cause than if there were no such thing.

–Dr. John H. Tilden

In 1916, Dr. Tilden opened The Tilden School for Teaching Health, which operated from 1916 to 1924 as a private residential teaching institution and facility that offered patients an alternative to the standard medical practices of the day in Denver, Colorado. It attracted patients from all over the world. Treatment began with a fast. Tilden gave his patients diets tailored to their individual needs. He was a strict disciplinarian who wasted no time on those who would not relinquish poor or addictive habits. The school was established to teach and promote the medical theories of its founder. Eventually, he sold his school to Dr. Arthur Vos, as Tilden wanted to devote himself to writing and lecturing. 

The Tilden School for Teaching Health,
In 1916, Dr. Tilden opened The Tilden School for Teaching Health, which operated from 1916 to 1924 as a private residential teaching institution and facility that offered patients an alternative to the standard medical practices of the day

Dr. Vos began operating The Tilden School for Teaching Health in 1924, backed by the manufacturers of Jergens Lotion. It remained open until 1931, when the effects of the Great Depression forced its closure. However, during Dr. Vos’s time, the “Tilden” tradition was so strong that the followers of Tilden demanded only his services. His patients were extremely loyal, which evidenced his deep connection to his patients. Hygienists had to be men of outstanding personalities to survive in the world of allopathic medicine.

With many of his patients continuing to seek him out, he soon became discontented without his former school and facility, and he bought two residences in 1926. He renovated and opened a new facility and school called the Tilden Health Institute in east Denver, CO. He operated this facility until he died in 1940. 

John H. Tilden, M.D. is credited with being the man who established the relationship between deficiency of force and the accumulation of body waste, and also the precise relationship between the many habits of living that are violations of the laws of life and the deficiency of force that constitutes the first deviation from the norm. All elements of Tilden’s enervation-toxemia theory were present in the early Hygienic theories about etiology, but they needed to be systematized and organized. Tilden’s work in this field was of paramount importance.

“Tilden’s books and magazines had a worldwide circulation and helped to keep the message of Natural Hygiene alive (currently named The National Health Association).  Many of Dr. Tilden’s books and writings were devoted to specific ailments. He often showed the interrelationship of these conditions and how seemingly different and distinct the afflictions were.  In reality, they were all the same, with only different organs and symptoms involved. The exact cause was always there, and the same methods of care sufficed for all of them.

“Dr. Tilden led an intensely active life and spread his ideas through various channels, beginning with his magazine, The Stuffed Club. This magazine later evolved into the Philosophy of Health and was finally renamed the Health Review and Critique. His magazines were issued monthly until his death; Mrs. Tilden completed the 1940 volume with the material he had left behind and then suspended its publication. 

Tilden was an extremely prolific author and wrote daily between three and seven o’clock every morning.

Some of the best-known of Dr. Tilden’s many books:
(complete descriptions of each can be found under publications):

Dr. Tilden once said, “All positive knowledge must take root in nature.” There is no question that the Hygienic Movement depended on the educational work, lecturers, writers, and practitioners who thoroughly understood the principles of natural hygiene and were capable of caring for the sick and educating the healthy. Dr. John H. Tilden was one of those men.


There are no ‘cures’ for disease. Health and building and maintaining it… is all the knowledge needed.

-Dr. John H. Tilden

Learn more from: (Link direct to excerpts)

The NHA wishes to remind the readers that nothing in this or other publications is intended to constitute medical treatment or advice. Readers should further be aware that in several areas, previous publications do not reflect the NHA’s current teachings or health approaches.

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The mission of the National Health Association is to educate and empower individuals to understand that health results from healthy living. We recognize the integration of all aspects of health: personal, environmental, and social.

We communicate the benefits of a plant-based diet, exercise and rest, a healthy environment, psychological well-being, and fasting when indicated.

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