Dr John Raymond Christopher

"The distance between simple herbal healing and modem medical practice is vast and ironic."

--John Raymond Christopher

Late in the fall of 1909, a child was born to a Swiss/French emigré couple travelling through Salt Lake City, Utah. For unexplained reasons, the young parents left the infant and his older sister at the local orphanage and moved on -- out of their lives. Happily, both children were adopted by a family named Christopher. The boy, John Raymond, grew up to be an eminent pioneer of 20th century herbal medicine, but in the meantime, he had some rocky rows to hoe.

As a toddler, Ray nearly died from croup. Born with rheumatoid arthritis, he used crutches and a wheelchair as a child, and was not expected to live past 30. As a consequence, he professed an early desire to become a doctor -- but one that healed "without cutting people up."

Ray attended business college, worked part time in his adopted father's lumber mill, and after graduation enrolled in law school. But before classes began a terrible car accident left him comatose at first -- then paralyzed. Pronounced a 'hopeless case' by doctors, he was taken by his parents (against his will) to a chiropractor. A few days later he was back working in his office.

However, Ray's injuries lingered, and recurrent episodes of amnesia prevented any law studies. After his mother's painful death from diabetic complications, he vowed to overcome his own health problems. He adopted vegetarianism, and his condition rapidly improved.

Christopher published a booklet about his new health philosophy, but found his ideas ridiculed by friends and strangers alike. His first marriage foundered after seven years and two children, due to friction over his dietary convictions. His remarriage in 1944 was a happy union which eventually produced five more children.

Drafted into the army at age 35, Christopher requested conscientious objector status and was assigned the permanent rank of private. However, he was posted in charge of a medical dispensary at Fort Lewis, Washington, with authority over sergeants and corporals. At first the chief medical officer prohibited him from using his natural healing methods. But after an 'incurable' case of impetigo was cured with a black walnut tincture, the officer relented, and placed a laboratory at Ray's disposal. Thus, Ray Christopher became the US Army's only practising herbalist!

Lab access allowed him to research and test his herbal theories, and helped him in developing his first proprietary herbal formula -- called BF & C. Ray also began treating his own atherosclerosis with a cayenne pepper based mixture he named B/P/. Many other formulas followed.

Declining the army's offer of a (conventional) medical education, Ray returned to his family after the war, and studied herbology at Dominion Herbal College in Vancouver, BC. After graduation, he began a herbal practice in Olympia, Washington. But with both patients and herbs in short supply initially, he took garden-weeding jobs, using certain medicinal 'weeds' he pulled in his practice. Dr. Christopher's professional trademarks were cheerfulness, willingness to make house calls, and calm confidence in tackling cases deemed incurable by orthodox medicine. He also practised reflexology.

Tiring of Olympia's damp, foggy weather, the Christopher family returned to Salt Lake in 1948. Ray completed a degree in naturopathy that year, and a herbal pharmacist degree in 1950. In 1953 he founded the School of Natural Healing in Springville, Utah. Subsequently, Christopher moved to Evanston, Wyoming, in hope that the precedent of being a licensed herbal naturopath in that state would eventually allow him to practise in Utah. It was not to be. After a Utah cancer patient he treated died, free of pain, several months later than her orthodox physicians had predicted, Ray was arrested and tried for murder, no less.

The case was dismissed, but it was just the beginning of many years' persecution and harassment by Utah's legal and medical establishment. Christopher was charged and tried five times, and won each case. But ultimately, Utah passed a law specifically prohibiting him from practising.

So he went on the lecture circuit, visiting 100 or more cities per year. This magazine's editor, Rhody Lake, met him in Vancouver in the '70s, and remembers him as "an old-time medicine man", with "flowing white hair and a gold watch chain across his vest." His message reached far more people in lectures than it would have in private practice.

Christopher was never reluctant to freely share his herbal knowledge, and he published several books in which he did just that.

Despite the many healing successes his treatment achieved -- some borderline miraculous -- he humbly declined to take credit -- attributing success to the herbs and the Lord who created them. He believed that God intended everyone to gain the personal knowledge to take responsibility for his or her own health.

His significance in American herbalism, filling the gap between Jethro Kloss' death in 1946 and the '60s and '70s "herbal revival", cannot be minimized. A cheerful and happy man despite the many difficulties he was obliged to overcome, he once said: "I kinda enjoy life, it's been great. Rather vicious, but great."

John Raymond Christopher died February 6, 1983, from injuries suffered when he slipped on some ice. He was 73. His monumental legacy includes the inspiration for the great herbal renaissance in North America, which would never have occurred if this visionary had not travelled the circuit around both Canada and the United States, teaching herbalism to the general public.

He was a consultant to the herbal industry when it was in its infancy, and his herbal formulas are now marketed under the labels Nature's Way and Nature's Herbs. These companies are widely recongnized in the health food movement. His School of Natural Healing and his books are distributed by his family who have followed him into the healing profession.

School of Natural Healing, John Christopher (hc) 653pp $39.95

Available from your local health food store or from alive Books PO Box 80055 Burnaby BC V5H 3X1. Please enclose $1.50 postage and handling and 7% GST when ordering from alive.

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By Charles W. Moore


John Raymond Christopher, M.H., N.D.

DR. JOHN RAYMOND CHRISTOPHER, founder of Dr. Christopher's Original Formulas and the School of Natural Healing, has been hailed as America's foremost herbalist.

In his youth, Christopher began his own study on natural healing when he saw its positive results in curing his mother of dropsy. He soon realized that he wanted to become a doctor who could heal people without surgery, "the natural way." What started as a childhood dream became his life's work and passion.

His enthusiasm increased as he found his growing knowledge of natural health could help him overcome a number of serious health conditions that plagued him as a young man. Through crippling arthritis, chronic pain, severe allergies and cancer, he fought his way to health by eating raw fruits, grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds and using herbal remedies. Christopher learned he could help others by first helping himself.

After years of study and personal experience in the natural approach to achieving and maintaining good health, Christopher began a career of lecturing and training others about his path to wellness.

In 1944, at 35 years of age, Christopher was drafted to serve in the army during World War II. Stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, he became the only practicing herbalist in the service during the war. One of the proudest moments in his military career was with a young recruit on whom all the doctors had given up. The soldier's head was literally covered with severe impetigo infection. They decided to let Private Christopher try his herbal formulas on the case. After a few days of soaking the area in a preparation of black walnut hulls, the impetigo cleared up without a sign of infection. Upon seeing this "miracle," senior officers allowed him to carry on a regular practice of herbal healing.

Besides using black walnut tincture to cure everything from impetigo to jungle rot, he created many herbal formulas that did wonders for the soldiers who were stationed at Fort Lewis. These same formulas are still widely used today. As stories spread among the soldiers, the lines in front of Private Christopher's office became longer and longer. Something was different about the way he treated patients--many of his prescriptions directed his patients to the mess sergeant instead of the pharmacy. The same kind of diet that helped him through his crippling arthritis was used by soldiers with great success. His unconventional treatment of disease made sense. It was simple and it worked.

After the war Christopher's talent became legendary. He studied herbology in Canada with the hope of opening a clinic of his own in the United States. In 1946 he graduated with a Master of Herbology degree under Dr. H. Knowles at the Dominion Herbal College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Two years later he received his Naturopathic Doctor degree from the Institute of Drugless Therapy in Tama, Iowa. He started his first practice in Wyoming and then shortly thereafter moved to Utah and opened another practice. His clinic was the only one of its kind in the country. People came from virtually every state to be treated by him and his staff. He specialized in treating so called "incurable diseases" that the regular medical doctors had given up on. After many years of healing and practicing herbal medicine, legislation was passed barring herbalists and naturopathic doctors from prescribing or seeing patients.

Over his long career as a natural healer, Dr. Christopher found one thing in common with almost every sick person who came into his office; in most cases the person's own body was capable of healing itself. He would recommend nutritious herbs and food be taken and soon the patient would be on the road to recovery. Dr. Christopher said, "There are no incurable diseases, only incurable patients." In other words, he believed that everyone had the ability to bounce back to health after a sickness or injury. With this philosophy in mind he developed a full line of herbal products that are still manufactured in Springville, Utah and he founded The School of Natural Healing also in Springville. The school has carried on Dr. Christopher's tradition by teaching the same healing methods he used so successfully in his practice with students around the world.

Dr. Christopher used herbs to heal in thousands of cases. In one case a young girl had cut her foot on the jagged edge of a shell while clam hunting at the beach. Oblivious to the pain or the wound, she had continued to run with friends in the sand and water for the rest of the afternoon. By morning the foot and leg were swollen and feverish and an angry red streak crept up her leg. When her anxious mother phoned Dr. Christopher he told her about the healing powers of a common weed called plantain. He explained how to prepare a poultice of the herb to draw out infection. The next day the child skipped into his office as if nothing had ever happened.

Dr. Christopher's specialty was using the common weeds and plants that everyone had in their yards to effect incredible healings. He used parsley tea to help a young boy who had not urinated for days to finally gain relief. He gathered black walnut hulls to treat skin infections and dandelion to use for liver problems. Dr. Christopher developed herbal formulas for his patients for a variety of different ailments including heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.

He used whole herbs for his remedies and looked for the cause of disease rather than treat the symptoms in each case that came to him.

This is a sharp contrast to today's medicine where chemical drugs are given to hide pain and strong antibiotics are given before the body has a chance to heal itself. Dr. Christopher, through years of clinical experience, came to realize that standard medical techniques were often dangerous and unnecessary and that herbs and natural therapies could treat the same health problems without side effects.

After the legislation was passed barring Dr. Christopher from prescribing or seeing patients, he found a new way of imparting his unique philosophy of natural healing. He used his years of experience and knowledge to instruct students all over the world. In one of his busiest years he taught in more than 120 cities. That was in 1953 when he founded The School of Natural Healing to teach the healing power of nature.

When Dr. Christopher founded The School of Natural Healing it was his ambitious goal to put an herbalist in every home. He continued lecturing and running the school until his death. In 1983 he slipped on a patch of ice in front of his home injuring his head in what became a fatal accident. He was 73 years old when he died and healthier that he had been in his 20s. In his life he had authored nine books and hundreds of papers and newsletters. He developed numerous herbal formulas that are still popular today. In his life's work he helped thousands of people find their way to wellness through natural medicine.

Dr. Christopher's son David has continued in his father's footsteps. David directs The School of Natural Healing today with the same enthusiasm and commitment as his father. Students learn by correspondence from a number of recognized experts in the herbal field.

"We are very exited about the next few years." said David in a recent interview. "The school has become more visible with our message being heard by the people that need to hear it. We want to continue with Dr. Christopher's goal by teaching an herbalist in every home and a master herbalist in every community. With diseases on the rise, people are becoming disenchanted with modern medicine and turning toward a more traditional form of healthcare. I think that is where our school comes in. We teach about herbs and nutrition. None of the therapies we talk about have any of the terrible side effects that drugs do. That is the kind of medicine that people want; that's the kind of medicine people want to learn about."

After having the Christopher line of formulas marketed for 20 years by Nature's Way, the contract ended in 1998 and all the original formulas are now available from the family once again.

Dr. Christopher's daughter, Ruth, and her husband, Norman Bacalla, continue to manufacture the complete line of Dr. Christopher's Original Formulas in Springville, Utah, plus many newer combination formulas developed by David Christopher, M.H., and a complete line of single herbs.

Dr. Christopher left a true legacy. His philosophy of simple foods, common herbs and healthy living are still as valuable today as they ever have been, maybe even more so. His life's work has touched thousands of people and continues to touch people today.

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By Nathan Jaynes, M.H.

Adapted by M.H.

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