Rejuvenation By Means Of The Ultra-violet Rays Of Natural And Artificial Sunlight
( Originally Published 1923 )
SEVERAL thousand years ago, in the sacred books of the Hindus, a rejuvenating effect was attributed to the sun's rays. The latter were stated therein to restore vigor to the muscles of the aged, and to enliven their minds. Indeed, such a belief in the healing and conserving properties of sunlight can be traced in many of the nations of remotest times, not only in Europe, Asia, and Africa, but likewise in America, where both in Mexico and Peru the sun was worshipped as one of the principal deities, as described in the wonderful works of the great American historian, Prescott.
As the renowned English astronomer, Sir William Herschell, puts it, the sun is the source of all energies on earth. There can be no doubt of this fact. In the last analysis, it is the rays of the sun that drive the wheels of all machines and all ships, for the coal, oil, or gasoline they burn is nothing else but stored up energy of sun's rays which shone many thousands or even millions of years ago upon prehistoric plants and trees. The oil substituted for coal is also a product of the energy of these rays stored up in the grains and seeds of the plants.
The sun is the greatest motor on earth, and even the source of electricity can likewise be ascribed to the effects of sun, which takes up the water from the surface of the sea and lets it fall again elsewhere as rain, thus not only procuring food for animals and man, but creating the rivers and augmenting their flow, which yields energy to be transformed into electricity.
Everywhere we come back to the sun's rays as the driving agency to all living creatures, and the source of all forces on earth.
The sun's rays actually constitute the driving force behind the human mechanism. Every beat of our heart can be traced back to the sun as the causal agent. The heart is a muscle, and as with other muscles, its work is done at the expense of a carbohydrate, known as glycogen, which is stored up in it. After work has been done by the muscles, less of this carbohydrate is to be found in them, depending upon the amount of work done. To create this carbohydrate, however, sunshine is indispensable. For only with the help of the sun's rays is starch created and deposited in the plants, which, when ingested by us, are transformed in our systems into sugar and deposited in the muscles in the form of the above mentioned substance, glycogen.
If, now, we remove the heart from an animal while it is still living, after the heart has stopped beating already for hours it can be made to beat again, even for days, if a solution of sugar is placed in its cavities.
I recommend the giving of plenty of sweets, especially honey or cane sugar, to persons suffering with weak hearts.
The sun's rays do not merely act favorably on bodily health, but also on the condition of the mind, improving it markedly. I have observed the deleterious effect amongst others of lack of sun-shine on the mentality, and here I would like to add an observation made on 157 Hungarian prisoners who, after the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, were kept for some years in the deep dungeons of the Spielberg at Brünn (Moravia), wherein no sunlight penetrated. As a result, about 10 per cent. of them became hopelessly insane, and the remainder sank into a melancholic condition or deep mental depression from which they continued to suffer for some time after being set free.
In "Old Age Deferred" I have already praised the effects of sunshine as a means of treatment for old age, and I would now add a series of new facts, especially of my own observation, upon the rejuvenating effects of the ultra-violet rays of sun-light.
As was already proved by Sir Isaac Newton, the spectrum of the sun, which shows an apparently white light, is composed of several rays of different colors. If one causes the sun's rays to pass through a glass prism, or if one holds a diamond ring against a piece of white paper and lets the sunshine pass through it, there is seen a kind of rainbow with its various colors. One sees the following colors : Red, yellow, green, blue and violet. But after the violet there come still other rays, which, however, have such short wave lengths that we cannot see them. These are the ultra-violet rays, which are invisible. There exist also rays with wave lengths much shorter still, of very great intensity and healing power, but sometimes of fatal, destructive action the Roentgen rays or x-rays.
These radiations differ in their wave lengths, rate of vibration, and likewise in their actions.
The most active rays contained in sunlight are the blue, the violet and especially the ultra-violet rays. This fact has been proved experimentally by the researches of a number of prominent scientists, of whom I may mention as one of the earliest and greatest the Dane, Finsen. Indeed, we can easily study the effects of these rays, for we are able to produce by certain means a light consisting mainly of ultra-violet rays. For example, if we pass an electric current through mercurial vapors, thus rendering them incandescent, we obtain a blue-green light of the greatest intensity, which is enormously rich in ultra-violet rays. In fact, it contains scarcely any others except the blue and violet rays, and very little if any of the red or heat rays.
The ultra-violet rays do not develop any marked activity if they are passed through glass, for glass arrests about 90 per cent. of these rays. But quartz allows them to pass through easily without absorbing any of their strength. We can thus readily study their effects by exposing persons for a certain time to their action.
The first thing observed is that after this light has been directed from a short distance for at least ten to fifteen minutes or more on the uncovered body surface, there appears a reddening of the skin. After more prolonged exposure, an inflamed condition of the skin may result, which may persist for a few days.
No doubt this reddening of the skin is the proof of a more rapid passage of the blood through the smaller arteries and capillaries, which have become dilated and thus allowed the blood to pass through more quickly. These vasodilator effects of the ultra-violet rays were already demonstrated by Finsen.
It will readily be understood that in exposing a large surface of the skin to such light one has an excellent means of favorably influencing the general circulation.
When more blood gets to the periphery of the body, more of it is taken away from the internal organs, and this might prove most beneficial in congestive conditions, and especially in reducing high blood pressure.
Thus, it will not seem surprising that a reduction of high blood pressure has been reported by various observers, e.g., Bach, in his book on the actions of the quartz lamp (artificial sunlight). I have also myself recently observed a few such cases.
Even the natural sunlight, if rich in such rays, is capable of producing similar effects, as was first ascertained by the late Dr. Malgat, of Nice, and as is also stated in the report of D'Oelsnitz on "L'héliothérapie, complément du traitement climatique," at the Congress in Monaco (April, 1920).
It is a fact of great importance that, as the researches of the Danish physician, Hasselbach, demonstrate, exposure to these rays powerfully promotes the respiratory processes. Indeed, it has been found by several observers that the organic combustion and processes of oxidation in the tissues are very much increased through the action of the ultra violet rays, the blue rays also being active in this direction. Quincke, years ago, emphasized these facts, and likewise Bering, who reported an increase of the red blood corpuscles and of the hemoglobin content of the blood under the influence of the violet and ultra-violet rays.
The ultra violet rays also have a marked influence upon muscular agility, as I found by experiments on myself consisting of exposure at over 100 sittings to the ultra-violet rays from a large quartz lamp. I have often noticed in my patients a disappearance of lassitude and fatigue and a very notable increase of muscular strength. They were able to climb the mountains about Carlsbad more easily after having taken several times such a bath of ultra violet rays at the bathing establishment at the Spa. I noticed this even in anemic young girls and women, whose general condition was very markedly improved by this treatment.
In view of the fact that, as a general rule, there is a slow, sluggish blood circulation in old age, very frequently a high blood pressure, and in addition a diminution of the processes of oxidation and marked muscular weakness all these being typical of old age it was but natural that the thought should come to me to apply these remark-able rays, which improve the circulation, condition of the blood, organic combustion, and the agility of the muscles, to the treatment of old age. In-deed, the results obtained were excellent, and from observations made on several patients last summer, and likewise on myself, I can recommend exposure to the ultra-violet rays, whether those of the quartz lamp or of very pure sunshine, as an excellent measure for purposes of rejuvenation.
My first patient other than myself was a merchant of fifty two years, who had been operated two years before by Prof. Finsterer, of Vienna, for ulcer of the duodenum, and was directed to my treatment in Carlsbad by Prof. Salomon, also of Vienna. At his first visit I found an anemic, very weak man, not equal to any lengthy walks, and looking fully as old as his age suggested. I recommended, in addition to a very mild water cure, daily light baths with the quartz light. After three weeks of daily exposure to the ultra-violet rays this patient could hardly be recognized as the same man. He now appeared to be between thirty-five and forty years of age, and presented an aspect of blooming health, with rosy cheeks. He had gained more than ten pounds in weight.
An increase in the bulk of the muscles and of the weight in thin persons has often been reported in consequence of the use of these rays. On the other hand, in the case of fat persons, frequently a very notable reduction of weight takes place, which agrees with the fact that, as mentioned above, the processes of oxidation are greatly increased by these rays and the fat in the system therefore better burnt.
The best rejuvenating results obtained by me were secured through combination of the treatment by gland extracts with the light bath with the ultra-violet rays.
All the effects above described as resulting from the gland treatment appeared more rapidly and in greater measure. The persons thus treated presented a flourishing appearance, and looked considerably younger than their age. They showed marked muscular endurance and were able to make long excursions on foot without feeling very tired. One of them, a weak neurasthenic of fifty-five years, was able to dance night after night most indefatigably, and also gave evidences of virility becoming a man of much younger years.
I wish to call particular attention to the great influence of these rays as regards improvement of muscular agility and increased endurance.
In cases of diminished sexual desire and potency, and in general in neurasthenic conditions, the treatment proved excellent.
It is interesting to note that, just as in the rats and human subjects operated on by Steinach's method, the condition of the hair notably improved in addition to the other symptoms of old age. Indeed, such treatment has been employed for several years with the best results in cases of falling out of the hair, an abundant growth of hair sometimes resulting even on bald heads. Here again the results were far more notable in women than in men, but in the latter also they were some-times of a very satisfactory nature, especially in seborrheic conditions.
In obtaining rejuvenation with the ultra-violet rays it is not indispensable to apply solely the ultra-violet rays of artificial origin, such as those of the quartz light.
Similar results can be secured more or less perfectly with natural sunlight. It is then necessary, however, to employ only a very pure, clear sun-shine. In many regions, especially in cities, this is very difficult to obtain. One cannot expect to get ultra-violet rays from sunlight that has had to pass through layers absorbing these rays, which are easily intercepted by dust, smoke, vapors, etc.
The purest sunshine, and the richest in ultra-violet rays, is to be had at the seaside, where the air is purest, as also on the tops of very high mountains.
In lying down on the beach at a seaside resort in California the great content of ultra-violet rays in the sunshine is further enhanced by reflection from the glittering sand and the mirror like surface of the sea. Similar conditions in Europe are to be found on the Riviera in France and Italy, where, for instance, as in Nice, Monte Carlo, Menton, and San Remo, there is on one side the gleaming mirror of the Mediterranean, and from its surface the rays are reflected upon the high, bald mountains in the background. The deep blue sky greatly augments the effects. It is a proof of the great content of blue rays in the air (the blue color of the sky is an effect of polarisation).
Increased temperature of the air enhances its content of ultra-violet rays, according to the observations of Vallot.
Sunlight is also very rich in ultra-violet rays in the high mountains, as in Colorado and Arizona, especially at places situated at a high altitude or where there are high, bald, white, glistening mountains in the background. In Europe such conditions are found in the high mountains of Switzerland, e.g., at Leysin, where Dr. Rollier is obtaining such splendid results in children with tuberculosis of the osseous system, and at St. Moritz and Davos. In such places there is the effect of reflection of the sun's rays from the gleaming snow to the high mountains in the background. Similar conditions prevail in the High Tatra in Czecho-Slovakia.
For those whose means do not permit of their going so far away from home, the best expedient will be to lie down at the seaside or on a river bank without clothing and let the sun shine on him. If there is no sea or river nearby, a terrace in a garden with plenty of sunshine, or a room with southern exposure on the top floor of a house, will do.
To obtain the full effect of the ultra-violet rays the body must be kept motionless. The least movement may diminish the results. The same holds good in treatment with the quartz light.
It is very important not to expose the body for a long time at first, but only gradually ten minutes the first day, and then gradually increasing up to thirty, fifty, and sixty minutes exposing different sides of the body alternately. It has been found by Bach, however, that good results can be obtained likewise if only a part of the body is uncovered and exposed, e.g., the chest and back. To this I can subscribe from my own observations.
In strong sunshine the head should be covered.
After the sunbath, whether in artificial or natural ultra-violet rays, the quantity of urine passed is augmented, and enhanced elimination of uric acid takes place. This can be judged roughly from the fact that a urine previously of a light color now looks dark red, thus affording evidence that the processes of oxidation have actually increased through the effects of the light bath.
We can convince ourselves of the remarkable effects such light baths are capable of producing in the external appearance by considering the photographs of young girls treated for a time in this manner in the clinics of Rollier, as published in the last volume of Eulenburg's Encyclopedia. Looking at these illustrations one observes how from homely, thin, and wretched looking creatures, literally skeletons, these girls were transformed into beauties with well-rounded limbs and prominent mammary glands, the pictures of splendid health.
One of the assistants of Rollier, Bardenheuer, observed the additional good effects of such treatment upon the condition of the blood, the result being an increase of the red blood corpuscles and hemoglobin similar to that noted after treatment with the artificially produced ultra-violet rays.
Indeed, all of the effects of the ultra-violet rays of the quartz lamp can be produced by natural sunlight, provided it is very rich in ultra-violet rays. In fact, personally I give preference, as always and everywhere, to the natural means, the natural sunlight, if only it can be secured in all its purity.
As previously mentioned, the ultra-violet rays possess the shortest wave lengths of any rays in the spectrum of the sun. At the same time the number of their vibrations mounts up into the billions. If these reach our skin, no doubt marked effects must be produced, and the immense energies contained in them be transmitted to the tissues.
They also reach the terminals of the numerous nerves at the periphery of our body, causing there a certain stimulating impression, and according to the great French investigator, Bouchard, the energies thus taken up by the nerve ends are transferred to the central nervous system and from there to all the internal organs, imparting energy to them.
If, when tired, we rest for a time under the quartz light or exposed to the rays of a pure sun-shine rich in ultra-violet rays, we feel markedly invigorated (except if the sun is too hot, containing too much of the red rays, which impart heat), and at the same time very often we may find our-selves much heightened in spirit. The energies of these rays transmitted to the central nervous system make their effects felt in the mind itself.
Thus, against a mental depression, a melancholic condition, a morose disposition, a stay for a certain period in such sunny regions as California, Arizona, Colorado, Mexico, the Bahama Islands, Florida, Cuba, and in Europe on the French and Italian Riviera, Andalusia (Malaga), the Portuguese Riviera, Greece, etc., is frequently capable of yielding the best results, as also travelling in Egypt.
In my book, "Building Human Intelligence," and in my latest book on the "Improvement of Poor Memory by Hygienic and Therapeutic Means," I have clearly shown the favorable effects of such a climate, and I would now like to add that, as the report of Armand Delille on "Hélio-thérapie préventive," at the last Congress on Light Treatment in Monaco pointed out, similar results have been observed among the children kept in the asylums and sanatoriums on the Riviera. He lays stress upon the improvement of the dispositions and mental condition of these children, and says, for example, "l'harmonie et la gaieté règnent d'une manière constante parmi les élèves de l'école au soleil," thus proving what I stated in my book on "Building Human Intelligence," in which I advocated the institution of open-air schools.
An English physician, Dr. Truby King, visiting the establishment of Dr. Delille at Sylvabelle, confirmed these observations, finding the children, as Delille says, "exubérants de vie et de gaieté." Dr. Rollier, of Leysin, had already published similar observations concerning the great improvement in the mental capacities of the children, and Revillet noticed the same thing among the Swiss children who were kept at the Asylum for Children of the Swiss Republic at Cannes, on the French Riviera.
Thus we see that the ultra violet rays in which the sunlight in these regions is exceedingly rich act also upon the mental condition, producing results similar to those following the operations of Steinach on rats and human subjects.
I was able to observe improvement of the mental condition likewise in aged persons after treatment by the ultra-violet rays from the quartz lamp. They showed more interest in reading scientific books, and found it easier to retain in their memory things they had just read. Past events were also better recollected. Mental arithmetic became easier for them.
Similar observations on aged persons may be made also after a sojourn in regions enjoying pure sunshine rich in ultra-violet rays. If we send over-worked and neurasthenic business men into such regions for a vacation, we can often see marked improvement not only in their bodily but also in their mental condition. After a prolonged stay in such districts we not infrequently see them presenting a more youthful aspect when they return.,
We can also often note that in such sunny climates aged persons who are doing work in the open air, out in the sun, appear considerably younger than their actual age.
I would like now to take up the question as to how the rejuvenation is brought about through the ultra-violet rays. Here, as always, when rejuvenation occurs, it is effected, as my observations and the operative results of Steinach demonstrate, in one, and only one, way, viz., through stimulation of the endocrin glands, especially the thyroid and sexual glands, by the ultra-violet rays.
I can prove by direct evidence that this is more than a mere supposition. The ultra-violet rays, like the Roentgen rays, to which they are closely related, exercise a direct influence upon these glands; only, the intensity of their action is different, that of the x-rays being much more powerful actually deleterious than that of the ultra-violet rays, which are more of a stimulating nature, upon both the externally and the internally secreting portions of the testicles and ovaries. The x-rays, however, as previously mentioned, destroy the externally secreting portion, and in consequence are powerfully stimulating to the internal secretion.
Last summer I treated several young girls and women for goiter by exposure to the sun, at the same time administering thyroid and iodine treatment. I found that upon combining the drug treatment with the treatment by the sun's rays the results were far better. These persons took the sunbath on the shores of a river flowing on the outskirts of Carlsbad, or lying in a canoe on the river. This is an especially efficacious procedure, and upon lying in a rowboat on the river, in the sunshine, for a certain time an intense pigmentation of the skin can be obtained as proof of the direct action of the ultra violet rays., It would not be wise, however, to take such a sunbath on very hot summer days and certainly not at noon.
The method requires a clear, pure sunshine, rich in ultra-violet rays, but not the excessively warm rays of the sun on hot summer days with a close atmosphere. On such days the morning hours up to about 10:30 or 11, or the afternoon after 4 o'clock, are most suitable, in order to avoid sun-stroke.
There can be no doubt that this measure, especially in regions where the sun is rich in ultra-violet rays, is capable of powerfully assisting in the treatment of the diseases of the thyroid by thyroid gland.
Sometimes there are good results even without the thyroid. Thus Revillet, of Cannes, obtained very good effects in children with congenital myxedema who were sent from Switzerland to the Asylum for Children of the Swiss Republic. Through simple exposure to the sun's rays of the Riviera, rich in ultra-violet rays, these children were cured without the use of thyroid preparations.
In recording these results Revillet also draws attention to a very interesting fact, mentioned in a report by Prof. Dupasquier, of the University of Lyons. He found at a small place called Allévard, in the Alpes Dauphinoises, that on the shady side of a street there were cases of cretinous goiter to be found in nearly every house the sun never shone on this side of the street whereas no such case could be found on the other side of the same street, which was the sunny side. It is a fact that idiocy and cretinous goiters are to be found with the greatest frequency in the deep, sunless valleys of Switzerland and Italy.
That the salutary results above referred to are brought about by the ultra-violet rays of the sun-shine is best proved by the fact that the artificial sunlight, the quartz light (from the large quartz lamp), which consists mainly of ultra-violet rays, exercises a very wholesome influence upon the thyaroid gland. Thus, Haselberg reported in a Swiss medical periodical that such treatment yielded excellent results in a number of girls and women suffering from goiter.
The ultra violet sun's rays exert a similar favorable influence upon the other endocrin glands, including the sex glands. This is shown by the fact that in southern countries, with sunshine rich in ultra-violet rays, menstruation appears in young girls much earlier than in the north. The interesting fact has been recorded by Arctic travellers that with the appearance of the polar night, or several weeks thereafter, the Eskimo women some-times cease menstruating, the function reappearing only after the sun has returned.
A similar direct influence of sunlight rich in ultra-violet rays has been reported by Revillet. In eighteen young, anemic girls in whom menstruation had been absent for several months he observed reappearance of the same after exposure for a certain time to the ultra-violet rays of the Mediterranean sun.
Solar treatment is also capable of giving the best results in the treatment of affections of the uterus and ovaries. But this applies even more to the treatment with the ultra-violet rays of the quartz light. Indeed, in modern gynecology such treatment is availed of with great profit. As the results of Bach and others have shown, such treatment is also very efficacious where menstruation has been absent for a long time on account of certain diseased conditions.
On the basis of the above facts I have come to the conclusion that the ultra-violet rays serve as activators of the functions of the thyroid and sex glands.
According to my observations, there exist also a series of symptoms which prove that the effects obtained with the ultra violet rays are to be attributed to stimulation of the endocrin glands, especially the sex and thyroid glands. Not only may, as already mentioned, exposure to the ultra-violet rays induce some of the symptoms which Steinach obtained through stimulation of the sex glands by operation, but we find appearing after sunlight treatment, whether with the artificial or natural sunlight, such symptoms as are known to be characteristic of stimulation of thyroid activity, viz., increase of the pulse rate, temperature, activity of the sweat glands, and output of urine ; better elimination of the urinary solids, such as urea, uric acid, sodium chloride, etc., and also an increase in the number of red blood corpuscles and in the hemoglobin.
As in the case of thyroid gland, these rays also act very favorably upon the osseous system. They assist in the retention of lime in the system if it is present in sufficient quantities in the food. The best proof of their influence upon the osseous system is afforded by the fact that upon exposure to these rays for a certain period of time, ulcerations and all other lesions of the bones are so successfully influenced that there is no other treatment comparable to it.
Likewise healing of wounds of the soft tissues, including the formation of granulations, can be promoted by these wonderful rays as though by thyroid treatment.
Their action upon the nervous system and mentality can also be classed as nearly up to that exerted by thyroid gland, and when both are used together, they are capable of producing these results in a still higher degree.
Not only the ultra-violet rays, but also the other forms of radiation, such as the Roentgen rays and the rays emitted by radio-active substances, are capable of exercising direct effects upon the sex glands and the thyroid.
The action of the Roentgen rays upon the sex glands has already been mentioned. Radium also exerts a direct effect, for it has been found that the sex glands of animals exposed to such radiation show destructive effects and that subsequently sterility results. Even tumors of these glands can be destroyed by these rays.
Such deleterious effects of the Roentgen rays and of the rays emitted by radio-active substances may also be applied to the thyroid gland. This fact is availed of with success in the treatment of exaggerated activity of this gland.
Indeed, these rays seem to have a kind of affinity for the parenchymatous cells of the thyroid and other glands, for while leaving the skin unharmed, they act directly upon the secreting cells of these glands, causing their destruction. In Graves's disease, therefore generally in its first stages, when the secreting cells are still hypertrophied prophylactic treatment along these lines may give the best results.
These effects are obtained with the greatest degree of certainty in young girls and women in whom the disease is not yet advanced. Of course, the treatment must be carried out with great prudence, the object being to cause the overdeveloped tissues that are the cause of the exaggerated activity of the gland to disappear, but to avoid undue injury by destroying the whole gland, thus ex-posing the patient to the opposite condition, myxedema. Therefore, just as with the prophylactic thyroid treatment, merely the symptoms of hyperthyroidia should be controlled in these cases, and the treatment continued only as long as such symptoms are present.
At all events, in cases in which the disease has not yet led to the formation of much connective tissue, such treatment is capable of giving the best results and is always to be preferred to operation.
An American, Francis Williams, of Boston, was the first to treat this disease with the Roentgen rays.
The x-ray treatment also often gives excellent results in enlargements of another small gland, not larger than a hazelnut, which lies at the base of the skull, the pituitary gland. The resulting disease, acromegaly, is characterized by enlargement of the hands, feet and nose and by severe head-ache and progressive loss of sight.