MODERN MIRACLE MEN
DR. CHARLES NORTHEN, WHO BUILDS HEALTH FROM THE
This quiet, unballyhooed
pioneer and genius in the field of nutrition demonstrates that countless human
ills stem from the fact that impoverished soil of America no longer provides
plant foods with the mineral elements essential to human nourishment and health!
To overcome this alarming condition, he doctors sick soils and, by
seeming miracles, raises truly healthy and health-giving fruits and vegetables.
(By Rex Beach)
Do you know that most of us
today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be
remedied until the depleted soils from which our foods come are brought into
proper mineral balance?
The alarming fact is that
foods—fruits and vegetables and grains—now being raised on millions of acres of
land that no longer contains enough of certain needed minerals, are starving
us—no matter how much of them we eat!
This talk about minerals is
novel and quite startling. In fact, a realization of
the importance of minerals in food is so new that the textbooks on nutritional
dietetics contain very little about it. Never the
less, it is something that concerns all of us, and the further we delve into it
the more startling it becomes.
You’d think, wouldn’t you, that
a carrot is a carrot—-that one is about as good as another as far as nourishment
is concerned? But it isn’t; one carrot may look and
taste like another and yet be lacking in the particular mineral element which
our system requires and which carrots are supposed to contain.
Laboratory tests prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the
eggs and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few
generations ago. (Which doubtless explains why our
forefathers thrived on a selection of foods that would starve us!)
No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system
with the mineral salts he requires for perfect health, because his stomach isn’t
big enough to hold them! And we are running to big
No longer does a balanced and
fully nourishing diet consist merely of so many calories or certain vitamins or
a fixed proportion of starches, proteins, and carbohydrates.
We now know that it must contain, in addition, something like a score
of mineral salts.
It is bad news to learn from our
leading authorities that 99 percent of the American people are deficient in
these minerals, and that a marked deficiency in any one of the more important
minerals actually results in disease. Any
upset of the balance, any considerable lack of one or another element, however
microscopic the body requirement may be, and we sicken, suffer, shorten our
This discovery is one of the
latest and most important contributions of science to the problem of human
So far as the records go, the
first man in this field of research, the first to demonstrate that most human
foods of our day are poor in minerals and that their proportions are not
balanced, was Dr. Charles Northen, an Alabama physician now living at Orlando,
Fla. His discoveries and achievements are of enormous
importance to mankind.
Following a wide experience in
general practice, Dr. Northen specialized in stomach diseases and nutritional
disorders. Later, he moved to New York and made
extensive studies along this line, in conjunction with a famous French scientist
from the Sorbonne. In the course of that work he
convinced himself that there was little authentic, definite information on the
chemistry of foods, and that no dependence could be placed on existing data.
He asked himself how foods could
be used intelligently in the treatment of disease, when they differed so widely
in content. The answer seemed to be that they could
not be used intelligently. In establishing the fact
that serious deficiencies existed and in searching out the reasons therefore, he
made an extensive study of the soil. It was he who
first voiced the surprising assertion that we must make soil building the basis
of food building in order to accomplish human building.
“Bear in mind,” says Dr.
Northen, “that minerals are vital to human metabolism and health-—and that no
plant or animal can appropriate to itself any mineral which is not present in
the soil upon which it feeds.
“When I first made this
statement I was ridiculed, for up to that time people had paid little attention
to food deficiencies and even less to soil deficiencies.
Men eminent in medicine denied there was any such thing as vegetables and
fruits that did not contain sufficient minerals for human needs.
Eminent agricultural authorities insisted that all soil contained all
necessary minerals. They reasoned that plants take
what they need, and that it is the function of the human body to appropriate
what it requires. Failure to do so, they said, was a
symptom of disorder.
“Some of our respected
authorities even claimed that the so-called secondary minerals played no part
whatever in human health. It is only recently that
such men as Dr. McCollum of Johns Hopkins, Dr. Mendel of Yale, Dr. Sherman of
Columbia, Dr. Lipman of Rutgers, and Drs. H. G. Knight and Oswald Schreiner of
the United States Department of Agriculture have agreed that these minerals are
essential to plant, animal, and human feeding.
“We know that vitamins are
complex chemical substances which are indispensable to nutrition, and that each
of them is of importance for the normal function of some special structure in
the body. Disorder and disease result from any
“It is not commonly realized,
however, that vitamins control the body’s appropriation of minerals, and in the
absence of minerals they have no function to perform.
Lacking vitamins, the system can make some use of minerals, but lacking
minerals, vitamins are useless.
“Neither does the layman realize
that there may be a pronounced difference in both foods and soils—to him one
vegetable, one glass of milk, or one egg is about the same as another.
Dirt is dirt, too, and he assumes that by adding a little fertilizer to
it, a satisfactory vegetable or fruit can be grown.
“The truth is that our foods
vary enormously in value, and some of them aren’t worth eating, as food.
For example, vegetation grown in one part of the country may assay 1,100
parts, per billion, of iodine, as against 20 in that grown elsewhere.
Processed milk has run anywhere from 362 parts, per million, of iodine
and 127 of iron, down to nothing.
“Some of our lands, even in a
virgin state, never were well balanced in mineral content, and unhappily for us,
we have been systematically robbing the poor soils and the good soils alike of
the very substances most necessary to health, growth, long life, and resistance
to disease. Up to the time I began experimenting,
almost nothing had been done to make good the theft.
“The more I studied nutritional
problems and the effects of mineral deficiencies upon disease, the more plainly
I saw that here lay the most direct approach to better health, and the more
important it became in my mind to find a method of restoring those missing
minerals to our foods.
“The subject interested me so
profoundly that I retired from active medical practice and for a good many years
now I have devoted myself to it. It’s a fascinating
subject, for it goes to the heart of human betterment.”
The results obtained by Dr.
Northen are outstanding. By putting back into foods
the stuff that foods are made of, he has proved himself
to be a real miracle man of medicine, for he has opened up the shortest and most
rational route to better health.
He showed first that it
should be done, and then that it could be done.
He doubled and redoubled the
natural mineral content of fruits and vegetables.
He improved the quality of
milk by increasing the iron and the iodine in it.
He caused hens to lay eggs
richer in the vital elements.
By scientific soil feeding,
he raised better seed potatoes in Maine better grapes in California, better
oranges in Florida and better field crops in other States.
(By “better” is meant not only an improvement in food value but also an
increase in quality and quantity.)
Before going further into the
results he has obtained, let’s see just what is involved in this matter of
“mineral deficiencies”, what it may mean to our
health, and how it may affect the growth and development, both mental and
physical, of our children.
We know that rats, guinea pigs,
and other animals can be fed into a diseased condition and out again by
controlling only the minerals in their food.
A 10-year test with rats proved
that by withholding calcium they can be bred down to a third the size of those
fed with an adequate amount of that mineral. Their
intelligence, too, can be controlled by mineral feeding as readily as can their
size, their bony structure, and their general health.
Place a number of these little
animals inside a maze after starving some of them in a certain mineral element.
The starved ones will be unable to find their way out, whereas the others
will have little or no difficulty in getting out.
Their dispositions can be altered by mineral feeding.
They can be made quarrelsome and belligerent; they can even be turned into
cannibals and be made to devour each other.
A cage full of normal rats will
live in amity. Restrict their calcium, and they will
become irritable and draw apart from one another.
Then they will begin to fight. Restore their calcium
balance and they will grow more friendly; in time
they will begin to sleep in a pile as before.
Many backward children are
“stupid” merely because they are deficient in magnesia.
We punish them for our failure to feed them
Certainly our physical
well-being is more directly dependent upon the minerals we take into our systems
than upon calories or vitamins or upon the precise proportions of starch,
protein, or carbohydrates we consume.
It is now agreed that at
least 16 mineral elements are indispensable for normal nutrition, and
several more are always found in small amounts in the body, although their
precise physiological role has not been determined.
Of the 11 indispensable salts, calcium, phosphorus, and iron are perhaps the
Calcium is the dominant nerve
controller; it powerfully affects the cell formation of all living things and
regulates nerve action. It governs contractility of
the muscles and the rhythmic beat of the heart. It
also coordinates the other mineral elements and corrects disturbances made by
them. It works only in sunlight.
Vitamin D is its buddy.
Dr. Sherman of Columbia asserts
that 50 percent of the American people are starving for calcium.
A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association
stated that out of 4,000 cases in New York Hospital, only 2 were not suffering
from a lack of calcium.
What does such a deficiency mean?
How would it affect your health or mine? So
many morbid conditions and actual diseases may result that it is almost hopeless
to catalog them. Included in the list are rickets,
bony deformities, bad teeth, nervous disorders, reduced resistance to other
diseases, fatigability, and behavior disturbances such as incorrigibility,
Here’s one specific example: The
soil around a certain Midwest city is poor in calcium.
Three hundred children of this community were examined and nearly 90
percent had bad teeth, 69 percent showed affections of the nose and throat,
swollen glands, enlarged or diseased tonsils, more than one-third had defective
vision, round shoulders, bow legs, and anemia.
Calcium and phosphorus appear to
pull in double harness. A child requires as much per
day as two grown men, but studies indicate a common deficiency of both in our
food. Researches on farm animals point to a
deficiency of one or the other as the cause of serious losses to the farmers,
and when the soil is poor in phosphorus these animals become bone-chewers.
Dr. McCollum says that when there are enough phosphates in the blood
there can be no dental decay.
Iron is an essential constituent
of the oxygen-carrying pigment of the blood: iron starvation results in anemia,
and yet iron cannot be assimilated unless some copper is contained in the diet.
In Florida many cattle die from an obscure disease called “salt sickness.”
It has been found to arise from a lack of iron and copper in the soil and
hence in the grass. A man may starve for want of
these elements just as a beef “critter” starves.
If iodine is not present in our
foods the function of the thyroid gland is disturbed and goiter afflicts us.
The human body requires only fourteen-thousandths of a milligram daily,
yet we have a distinct “goiter belt” in the Great Lakes section, and in parts of
the North West the soil is so poor in iodine that the disease is common.
So it goes, down through the
list, each mineral element playing a definite role in nutrition.
A characteristic set of symptoms, just as specific as any
vitamin-deficiency disease, follows a deficiency in any one of them.
It is alarming, therefore, to face the fact that we are starving for
these precious, health-giving substances.
Very well, you say,
if our foods are poor in the mineral salts they are supposed to contain, why not
resort to dosing?
That is precisely what is being
done, or being attempted. However, those who should
know assert that the human system cannot appropriate those elements to the best
advantage in any but the food form. At best, only a
part of them in the form of drugs can be utilized by the body, and certain
dietitians go so far as to say it is a waste of effort to fool with them.
Calcium, for instance, cannot be supplied in any form of medication with
But there is a more potent
reason why the curing of diet deficiencies by drugging hasn’t worked out so well.
Consider those 16 indispensable elements and those others which
presumably perform some obscure function as yet undetermined.
Aside from calcium and phosphorus they are needed only in infinitesimal
quantities, and the activity of one may be dependent upon the presence of
another. To determine the precise requirements of
each individual case and to attempt to weigh it out on a druggist’s scales would
It is a problem and a serious
one. But here is the hopeful side of the picture:
Nature can and will solve it if she is encouraged to do so.
The minerals in fruit and vegetables are colloidal;
i. e., they are in a state of such extremely fine suspension that they
can be assimilated by the human system. It is merely a question of giving back
to nature the materials with which she works.
We must rebuild our soils:
Put back the minerals we have taken out.
That sounds difficult but it isn’t. Neither is it
expensive. Therein lies
the short cut to better health and longer life.
When Dr. Northen first asserted
that many foods were lacking in mineral content and that this deficiency was due
solely to an absence of those elements in the soil, his findings were challenged
and he was called a crank. But differences of opinion
in the medical profession are not uncommon—it was only 60 years ago that the
Medical Society of Boston passed a resolution condemning the use of bathtubs—and
he persisted in his assertion that inasmuch as foods did not contain what they
were supposed to contain, no physician could, with certainty, prescribe a diet
to overcome physical ills.
He showed that the textbooks are
not dependable because many of the analyses in them were made many years ago,
perhaps from products raised in virgin soils, whereas our soils have been
constantly depleted. Soil analyses, he pointed out,
reflect only the content of samples. One analysis may
be entirely different from another made 10 miles away.
“And so what?” came the query.
Dr. Northen undertook to
demonstrate that something could be done about it.
By reestablishing a proper soil balance he actually grew crops that contained
an ample amount of the desired minerals.
This was incredible.
It was contrary to the books and it upset everything connected with diet
practice. The scoffers began to pay attention to him.
Recently the Southern Medical Association, realizing the hopelessness of
trying to remedy nutritional deficiencies without positive factors to work with,
recommended a careful study to determine the real mineral content of foodstuffs
and the variations due to soil depletion in different localities.
These progressive medical men are awake to the importance of prevention.
Dr. Northern went even
further and proved that crops grown in a properly mineralized soil were bigger
and better; that seeds germinated quicker, grew more rapidly and made larger
plants; that trees were healthier and put on more fruit of better quality.
By increasing the mineral
content of citrus fruit he likewise improved its texture, its
appearance and its flavor.
He experimented with a variety
of growing things, and in every case the story was the same.
By mineralizing the feed at poultry farms, he got more and better eggs;
by balancing pasture soils, he produced richer milk.
Persistently he hammered home to farmers, to doctors, and to the general public
the thought that life depends upon the minerals.
His work led him into a careful
study of the effects of climate, sunlight, ultraviolet and thermal rays upon
plant, animal, and human hygiene. In consequence he
moved to Florida. People familiar with his work
consider him the most valuable man in the State. I
met him by reason of the fact that I was harassed by certain soil problems on my
Florida farm which had baffled the best chemists and fertilizer experts
He is an elderly, retiring man,
with a warm smile and an engaging personality. He is
a trifle shy until he opens up on his pet topic; then his diffidence disappears
and he speaks with authority. His mind is a
storehouse crammed with precise, scientific data about soil and food chemistry,
the complicated life processes of plants, animals, and human beings—and the
effect of malnutrition upon all three. He is perhaps
as close to the secret of life as any man anywhere.
“Do you call yourself a soil or
a food chemist?” I inquired.
I’m an M. D. My work lies in the field of
biochemistry and nutrition. I gave up medicine
because this is a wider and a more important work.
Sick soils mean sick plants, sick animals, and sick people.
Physical, mental, and moral fitness depends largely upon an ample supply
and a proper proportion of the minerals in our foods.
Nerve function, nerve stability, nerve cell-building likewise depend thereon.
I’m really a doctor of sick soils.”
“Do you mean to imply that the
vegetables I’m raising on my farm are sick?” I asked.
They’re as weak and undernourished as anemic children.
They’re not much good as food. Look at the
pests and the diseases that plague them. Insecticides
cost farmers nearly as much as fertilizer these days.
“A healthy plant, however, grown
in soil properly balanced, can and will resist most insect pests.
That very characteristic makes it a better food product.
You have tuberculosis and pneumonia germs in your system but you’re
strong enough to throw them off. Similarly, a really
healthy plant will pretty nearly take care of itself in the battle against
insects and blights—and will also give the human system what it requires.”
Do you realize what that means to agriculture?”
Enormous savings. Better crops.
Lowered living costs to the rest of us. But
I’m not so much interested in agriculture as in health.”
“It sounds beautifully
theoretical and utterly impractical to me,” I told the doctor, whereupon he gave
me some of his case records.
For instance, in an orange grove
infested with scale, when he restored the mineral balance to part of the soil,
the trees growing in that part became clean while the rest remained diseased.
By the same means he had grown healthy rosebushes between rows that were
riddled by insects.
He had grown tomato and cucumber
plants, both healthy and diseased, where the vines intertwined.
The bugs ate up the diseased and refused to touch the healthy plants! He
showed me interesting analyses of citrus fruit, the chemistry and the food value
of which accurately reflected the soil treatment the trees had received.
There is no space here to go
fully into Dr. Northern’s work but it is of such importance as to rank with that
of Burbank, the plant wizard, and with that of our famous physiologists and
“Healthy plants mean healthy
people”, said he. “We can’t raise a strong race on a
weak soil. Why don’t you try mending the deficiencies
on your farm and growing more minerals into your crops?”
I did try and I succeeded.
I was planting a large acreage of celery and under Dr. Northern’s
direction I fed minerals into certain blocks of the land in varying amounts.
When the plants from this soil were mature I had them analyzed, along
with celery from other parts of the State. It was the
most careful and comprehensive study of the kind ever made, and it included over
250 separate chemical determinations. I was amazed to
learn that my celery had more than twice the mineral content of the best grown
elsewhere. Furthermore, it kept much better, with and
without refrigeration) proving that the cell structure was sounder.
In 1927, Mr. W. W. Kincaid, a
“gentleman farmer” of Niagara Falls, heard an address by Dr. Northen and was so
impressed that he began extensive experiments in the mineral feeding of plants
and animals. The results he has accomplished are
conspicuous. He set himself the task of increasing
the iodine in the milk from his dairy herd. He has
succeeded in adding both iodine and iron so liberally that one glass of his milk
contains all of these minerals that an adult man requires for a day.
Is this significant?
Listen to these incredible figures taken from a bulletin of the South
Carolina Food Research Commission: “In many sections three out of five
persons have goiter and a recent estimate states that 30 million people in the
United Stases suffer from it.”
Foods rich in iodine are of the
greatest importance to these sufferers.
Mr. Kincaid took a brown Swiss
heifer calf which was dropped in the stockyards, and by raising her on
mineralized pasturage and a properly balanced diet made her the third all-time
champion of her breed! In one season she gave 21,924
pounds of milk. He raised her butterfat production
from 410 pounds in 1 year to 1,037 pounds. Results
like those are of incalculable importance.
Others besides Mr. Kincaid are
following the trail Dr. Northen blazed. Similar
experiments with milk have been made in Illinois and nearly every fertilizer
company is beginning to urge use of the rare mineral elements.
As an example I quote from statements of a subsidiary of one of the
leading copper companies:
Many States show a marked
reduction in the productive capacity of the soil in many districts amounting
to a 25 to 50 percent reduction in the last 50 years .
Some areas show a tenfold variation in calcium.
Some show a sixty fold variation in phosphorus.
Authorities see soil depletion, barren livestock, increased human death
rate due to heart disease, deformities, arthritis, increased dental caries,
all due to lack of essential minerals In plant foods.
“It is neither a complicated nor
an expensive undertaking to restore our soils to balance and thereby work a real
miracle in the control of disease,” says Dr. Northen.
“As a matter of fact, it’s a money making move for the farmer, and any competent
soil chemist can tell him how to proceed.
“First determine by analysis the
precise chemistry of any given soil, then correct the deficiencies by putting
down enough of the missing elements to restore its balance.
The same care should be used as in prescribing for a sick patient, for
proportions are of vital importance.
“in my early experiments I found
it extremely difficult to get the variety of minerals needed in the form in
which I wanted to use them but advancement in chemistry, and especially our
ever-increasing knowledge of colloidal chemistry, has solved that difficulty.
It is now possible, by the use of minerals in colloidal form, to
prescribe a cheap and effective system of soil correction which meets this vital
need and one which fits in admirably with nature’s plans.
“Soils seriously deficient in
minerals cannot produce plant life competent to maintain our needs, and with the
continuous cropping and shipping away of those concentrates, the condition
“A famous nutrition authority
recently said, ‘One sure way to end the American people’s susceptibility to
infection is to supply through food a balanced ration or iron, copper, and other
metals. An organism supplied with a diet adequate to,
or preferably in excess of, all mineral requirements may so utilize these
elements as to produce immunity from infection quite beyond anything we are able
to produce artificially by our present method of immunization.
You can’t make up the deficiency by using patent medicine.’
“He’s absolutely right.
Prevention of disease is easier, more practical, and more economical than
cure, but not until foods are standardized on a basis of what they contain
instead of what they look like can the dietitian prescribe them with
intelligence and with effect.
“There was a time when medical
therapy had no standards because the therapeutic elements in drugs had not been
definitely determined on a chemical basis.
Pharmaceutical houses have changed all that. Food
chemistry, on the other hand, has depended almost entirely upon governmental
agencies for its research, and in our real knowledge of values we are about
where medicine was a century ago.
“Disease preys most surely and
most viciously on the undernourished and unfit plants, animals, and human beings
alike, and when the importance of these obscure mineral elements is fully
realized the chemistry of life will have to be rewritten.
No man knows his mental or bodily capacity, how well he can feel or how
long he can live, for we are all cripples and weaklings.
It is a disgrace to science. Happily, that
chemistry is being rewritten and we’re on our way to better health by returning
to the soil the things we have stolen from it.
“The public can help; it can
hasten the change. How?
By demanding quality in its food; by insisting that our doctors and our
health departments establish scientific standards of nutritional value.
“The growers will quickly
respond. They can put back those minerals almost
overnight, and by doing so they can actually make money through bigger and
“It is simpler to cure sick
soils than sick people—which shall we choose?”