Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ann Wigmore and the Hippocrates Health Program

This is a chapter from my soon to be published book. Ann Wigmore was one of the founders of the raw food movement.

“Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food.”

Hippocrates of Cos

At midlife in the 1950’s Ann Wigmore was a mess. Suffering from gangrene in her legs after a car accident and colon cancer as well, she needed help. Doctors wanted to amputate her legs. She wanted an alternative. Born in Lithuania, and raised partly by her grandmother, she remembered how her grandmother treated wounded soldiers returning from World War I with herbs and weeds.
Ann experimented with various grasses and live foods and eventually healed herself of both the gangrene and the cancer. Not satisfied with overcoming her illnesses, she began research into improving her health. This led her to creating the Hippocrates Health Institute with the help of Viktoras Kulvinskas in Boston in 1958.
Guided by the saying of Hippocrates, “Let food be your medicine,” Ann went to work using living foods such as sprouts, juices made from weeds and grass, and fermentation. Wheatgrass became the major element because it was the easiest and cheapest to grow.
Wigmore died in a fire at her institute at the age of 83. Her work continues through institutes such as the Ann Wigmore National Health Institute in Puerto Rico, the Ann Wigmore Foundation in New Mexico, and the Hippocrates Health Institute, which she founded and is currently under the direction of Brian Clement in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The Hippocrates Health Program

The Hippocrates approach has developed over the years but has primarily remained faithful to Wigmore’s original research. Enzymes found in living foods are the cornerstone of a healthful diet. Since enzymes are destroyed when food is heated to over 117 degrees, raw uncooked foods are essential.
Vegetables play a key role also, more so than fruits in this program. Young vegetables such as baby greens and sprouts are highly recommended. Sprouts are grown from beans, grains, and seeds. The sprouts are used in salads and juices. To get the most out of fruits and vegetables without stressing the digestive system, juicing is often utilized, especially when fasting.
The juice most associated with Ann Wigmore is wheatgrass juice. Chlorophyll, which is considered the blood of the plant and has characteristics of human blood, can be acquired in concentrated quantities through juicing various grasses; grass grown from wheatberries being the best.
Fermented foods were part of the Hippocrates program under Wigmore’s direction, although they have fallen out of favor recently. Rejuvelac, a fermented drink made of wheatberry, is still widely consumed.
Besides this selection of foods, the Hippocrates program includes ideas regarding the proper combining of foods in a meal and cleansing. Eating certain foods together can cause digestion problems and nutrients not to be absorbed properly. Cleansing is needed to rid the body of toxins acquired through years of eating the standard American diet.


Probably the best reason for wanting to eat raw foods is the enzymes. Cooking food above approximately 117 degrees kills the enzymes in the food. According to the Hippocrates theory, people are given only a certain amount of enzymes at birth. We lose enzymes when our bodies fight illness, disease, and stress. A deficiency in enzymes brings about many kinds of health issues such as heart disease and certain cancers.
By eating raw foods we are able to replenish enzymes and rebuild our bodies. Wigmore called enzymes the body’s labor force. Enzymes are the life energy that is metabolism at work. The faster one uses up one’s enzyme supply, the faster one dies.
Wigmore wrote that enzymes were the key to the Hippocrates Diet. By predigesting and breaking down foods in the stomach, nutrients are more readily absorbed and utilized by the body. Then the digestive system does not have to work so hard, making more energy available for living and protection from illness.
When a person eats a primarily raw diet, he or she is making it easier on themselves to cleanse, repair, and rebuild their bodies. And enzymes are the reason. By not cooking food above 117 degrees you preserve the enzymes, which are needed for good health.


When you think of Ann Wigmore, you have to think wheatgrass. Most of us do not know the major role that grass has and still does play in the development of life on this planet. The grain that we make bread from comes from the seeds of grass. And, of course, so many animals survive on grass. Grasses have been used for centuries as medicine in Eastern and Western cultures. Chlorophyll is the key ingredient in grass that makes it so valuable.
Chlorophyll helps to oxygenate blood. Diets high in fat and protein cause blood to be depleted of oxygen. This in turn causes people to have less energy, poor digestion, and weaker immune systems. It may also cause cancer.
Exercise certainly is important to get oxygen into the blood. But foods too can help. Raw fruits, vegetables, juices, and sprouts contain chlorophyll, which is nearly identical to human blood in the sense that it carries oxygen.
Wigmore discovered that one of the best sources of chlorophyll was wheatgrass juice. (Wheatgrass itself is too fibrous to eat.) Agricultural chemist Charles Schnabel did the original research back in the 1930’s. He dried the grass and sold it in cans. According to Wigmore’s writings, the chlorophyll in wheatgrass is good for cleansing the blood, internal organs, and the digestive system. It also lowers blood pressure by dilating arteries. The red blood cell count is increased, and metabolism is stimulated.
Wheatgrass chlorophyll is concentrated with vitamins, minerals, and living enzymes. Wigmore used it to treat ulcers and colitis, cleanse the colon, and strengthen the immune system. She also used other grasses and seeds to extract chlorophyll from plants.
Brian Clement, the current director of the Hippocrates Institute, writes that wheatgrass chlorophyll cleanses the body of toxins and suppresses bacterial growth. Wheatgrass juice is not very stable and should be consumed shortly after preparation. Also, because it is so strong it may cause nausea or indigestion.


Another key contribution that Ann Wigmore made to a better understanding towards the components of a healthier diet is that sprouts are a source of super nutrition. According to her theory, enzymes reach their peak activity between the second and seventh day after sprouting.
Historically, sprouts have been used in various cultures to heal many illnesses. The Chinese discovered them thousands of years ago. Sprouts contain significant levels of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), high levels of vitamins and minerals, and when included with other foods make them more nutritious.

“Being eaten whilst extremely young, “alive” and rapidly developing, sprouts have been acclaimed as the “most enzyme-rich food on the planet”. Estimates suggest there can be up to 100 times more enzymes in sprouts than in fruit and vegetables, depending on the particular type of enzyme and the variety of seed being sprouted. The period of greatest enzyme activity in sprouts is generally between germination and 7 days of age.”
Isabell Shipard, Naturopath

The germination of seeds, grains, nuts, and legumes, is a simple first step in the sprouting process that anyone could easily incorporate into their eating habits. Seeds contain metabolic inhibitors that protect it while in its dormant state. These inhibitors make the seeds less useable by the human body. Soaking, which begins the germination process, removes the inhibitors and the seed begins to grow. At this point starches become sugars, proteins become amino acids, and fats become soluble fatty acids.
I soak various nuts and seeds, and I can tell you that they taste much better after soaking. The only thing is that they turn moldy quicker when traveling if you don’t keep them refrigerated.
The best thing about sprouts is that they can be grown at home cheaply and easily. There are even automatic sprouters available making this facet of building a healthy diet quite painless.


While other people are more famous for promoting the value of drinking fruit and vegetable juices, Wigmore was one of the first to actually include juicing in her diet. Wheatgrass was not the only thing that she extracted juice from.
Besides juicing fruits, vegetables and sprouts make an important contribution to the Hippocrates diet. Sprouts are considered the ultimate living food to juice because they are the most alive of all living foods. Vegetables are added for flavor.
The benefit in juicing is that vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and sugars can be consumed without putting a lot of stress on the digestive system. Juicing also adds electrolytes and oxygen to the blood. Juices make the perfect drink to have when fasting. Juicing is one way to supplement your diet without using supplements made in a chemistry lab.

Fruits and Vegetables

The Hippocrates Health Program places a much greater emphasis on vegetables than on fruits. In fact, vegetables make up the largest part of the diet. It is recommended that large salads be eaten. What I mean by large salads is that, according to Wigmore, it should take a half hour to eat!
Besides the obvious benefit of vitamins, minerals, and protein, vegetables provide the natural fiber needed to exercise the colon and remove waste from our systems. Baby greens are probably the best of all vegetables to eat.
Sea vegetables play an important role in the Hippocrates diet. Because they are grown in the ocean, they are able to make minerals and trace elements available to humans which are not available from land-grown plants. Dulse, kelp, nori, wakame, and others should be eaten daily. A couple of tablespoons would be enough. Dulse and kelp can be used to replace salt in your diet.
If you follow the Hippocrates plan you will not be eating a lot of fruit; only two to five pieces a day are recommended. However, Wigmore does recommend fruit, especially bananas, to lose weight. My understanding is that while the emphasis is placed on eating vegetables, significant consumption of fruit isn’t discouraged.


Grind up half a cup of sprouted wheatberries, put them in a couple of jars full of water, cover with cheesecloth, and let it sit for three or four days and you have Rejuvelac. Ann Wigmore recommended that eight to sixteen ounces of this fermented beverage be consumed every day. Wigmore felt that fermented foods were good for the colon. This, however, has fallen out of favor at the Institute today, although Rejuvelac is still popular among many raw fooders.

Cleansing and Fasting

It often happens that when people begin eating a mostly raw food diet, in the beginning, they go through a cleansing period and feel sick instead of better. This is the cleaning stage. As the body rids itself of toxins many symptoms of illness arise. This is just the discomfort of a lot of accumulated waste leaving your system.
Wigmore recommended watermelon and watermelon juice for breakfast, Rejuvelac or juices between meals, fruit, and two large salads a day, in addition to supplementing the diet with wheatgrass juice, sea vegetables, and green drinks made of sprouts and vegetables. Rest, walking, and stretching, were also included.
Cleansing the colon is a big part of the Hippocrates program. The colon is the primary organ of solid waste disposal for the body. Years of eating foods that shouldn’t have been eaten leave it clogged up and in poor shape to extract vital nutrients. In addition, most people have little healthy bacteria and lots of the bad kind due to taking antibiotics by prescription or consumed in the meat that we eat.
Besides eating raw foods, Wigmore was a big fan of enemas, wheatgrass implants, and colonics. In some parts of the raw food movement this has been taken to the extreme and it appears that some people even get addicted to them. I don’t know how, but to hear them talk about it, well, let’s not go there.
Fasting, while not originally recommended by Wigmore, is part of the Hippocrates program today. A fast of one day a week on juices and purified water is part of the detoxification process. Rather than fast on just water, which will release massive amounts of toxins from their stored places in the body, a fruit and vegetable juice fast slows the process down, making the faster more comfortable and in a less weakened state.

Food Combining

A healthy diet is not only about what you eat, it also involves when you eat it. Most of us eat more than one food at a time. Eating certain foods together, known as food combining, can cause the digestive process to become derailed, and then we will not absorb all the nutrients that we could from what we are eating.
One objective of the Hippocrates diet is to allow foods to be quickly and easily utilized by the body and then eliminated. An understanding of proper food combining will help this to happen. It is not enough to eat living foods; they have to be eaten in a health-promoting combination.
Foods entering the body have to be digested to release their nutrients. Two aspects of digestion are affected by how those foods are combined. One is that protein foods entering the stomach require acidic juices to be digested, while starchy foods need alkaline juices. When both kinds of foods enter the stomach together, they tend to cancel out each other’s digestive juices.
The other aspect of digestion is that different foods digest at different rates. If a food that digests at a faster rate comes in after one that digests at a slower rate, the faster food will not digest properly, causing digestion to slow down and poor absorption of nutrients.
Proper food combining includes the following guidelines:
1. Mono meals are the best. This means eating only one food at a sitting. Watermelon for breakfast makes a great cleansing mono meal.
2. All melons, because they are digested so much faster than any other food, should always be eaten alone.
3. Fruits come in three categories: acid, subacid, and sweet. They have different amounts of sugar and water and are digested at different rates. Subacid fruits can be eaten with acidic or sweet, but acidic and sweet should not be eaten together.
4. Don’t mix fruits and vegetables.
5. Don’t mix starches with proteins.
6. Don’t drink with a meal.
7. Eat raw foods before cooked.

Some of this may sound familiar to you if you have ever read Fit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. The Diamonds popularized the idea of proper food combining back in 1985. Food combining is also a part of the Natural Hygiene approach to raw foods.

The Three Phases

Part of the Hippocrates Health Program today includes the concept that becoming a living-foods vegan is a twenty-one-year journey. It is holistic in the sense that the program involves the body, mind, and spirit.
Phase one answers the question: what am I made of? During the first seven years you rebuild and energize your body. Physical changes include more strength and flexibility, a better digestive system, proper weight, and excellent health.
Phase two concerns the mind and answers the question: who am I? After achieving a more comfortable physical presence, the practitioner works for the next seven years toward better emotional health. Once physical problems have been overcome, a person can then work on the mental aspect. Some, including myself, would argue that the mental should come before or at least at the same time.
The third phase asks the question: Why am I here? This is the spiritual phase, and now that mind and body are healthy, one can begin a spiritual journey. Again, it could be questioned whether it is necessary to wait fourteen years before considering spirituality and health. I believe that Brian Clement developed the concept of the three phases and I am not sure that Ann Wigmore supported the idea.

The Best of Ann Wigmore and the Hippocrates Health Program

Ann Wigmore has to be appreciated for being a pioneer herald of raw foods and living enzymes. I know intuitively that raw is better than cooked, but why? It’s the enzymes. Knowing this makes it a little easier to…digest.
Germinate seeds and get greater nutrition from them. It’s simple and quick. Grow your own sprouts. Ann Wigmore’s focus on the benefits of sprouts is something that most people overlook. It makes sense to germinate and sprout seeds right in our own homes. Sprouts are a living food at its peak.
While I can’t say that wheatgrass juice is something everyone should be drinking, I do applaud Wigmore for calling attention to the benefits of chlorophyll. The consumption of green leafy plants cannot be emphasized enough.
Lastly, and possibly most important, is the benefit of drinking vegetable juice. I had been a big juicing fan back in the 1980’s thanks to The Juiceman, Jay Kordich, but I stopped juicing a number of years ago. I got tired of drinking five-pound bags of carrots every day. But Wigmore explains why we should juice all kinds of vegetables as a healthy supplement to eating them. I also very much like the idea of fasting one day a week on juices to give the digestive system a rest.

Further Reading:
The Hippocrates Diet and Health Program. Ann Wigmore. 1984. Avery. (This book is an excellent introduction to Ann Wigmore’s philosophy of health. It also contains instructions for growing sprouts, gardening indoors, and many of her own recipes.)

Living Foods for Optimum Health: Your Complete Guide to the Healing Power of Raw Foods. Brian R. Clement with Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. 1998. Three Rivers Press. (Brian Clement has been the director of the Hippocrates Institute for more than twenty-five years. This book contains the most current thoughts and teachings of the Hippocrates approach to raw foods.)


Rosemary said...

Hi I really enjoyed reading most of your blog. Looks like you have come a long way and are moving forward. I had many “incurable” diseases and was bedridden before I took the leap. After 7 months I am now 100% raw and never plan on going back. I now am almost well and I take no medication for disease.
There are so many experts out there with conflicting information that it was hard at first but now I have settled into a very green smoothie in the mornings made out of wild greens and leaves, store greens and some fruit. Then for lunch some crackers with seed cheese and for dinner a big salad with tahini dressing or another salad style main dish. Thai Peanut Diakon Noodles is one of my favorites. This seems to work the best for me right now. I hope that you find what works best for you too. The book Green for Life was very inspiring to me too and I was glad you mentioned it. I plan on coming back and reading some more.

Lynne said...


My name is Stephen McCloskey I was hired by Stephen Blauer and Ann Wigmore to write a curriculum for the Boston Institute in 1979. It took me 1 year to write and I trained all the instructors and wrote job descriptions (by working with each dept head side by side). I then went on to be the Executive Director of the Hippocrates Midwest in Michigan.

I now live in FL and my wife and I would love to visit the Puerto Rico center if it is still in operation.

Please email me at


Anonymous said...

Hi - I hope you'll see this comment a few years after your post. :-) Could you tell me why Rejuvelac has fallen out of favor with the Hippocrates Health Institute? Thanks!