Bernarr Macfadden, hair care and other old-fashioned remedies I found helpful.

Published May 28, 2015 by AntiqueMystique1


“Pure Castile soap (kirk’s Castile soap) makes an excellent base for shampoo. Sometimes the addition of an egg to castile jelly, made by boiling soap shavings in water, is excellent.” – late Bernarr Macfadden, Physical Culture and Natural Path.

And this is essentially where I got my start fourteen years ago thanks in part to my [then] boyfriend, who highly recommended this late natural path and body builder, Bernarr Macfadden. He was a head of his time, and oddly enough, some of his remedies for hair care, physical well being, exercise are still practiced to this very day.

I must caution this isn’t intended to replace or treat any existing medical condition(s) of anybody, and like always, individual results will vary. So if you decide to give any of Bernarr’s remedies a try, do so at your own risk.

I’ve also concocted my own Castile jelly shampoo by steeping in some fresh Rosemary because I love the scent. Now I must strongly caution: LET this mixture cool down completely! Failure to do so will result in scalding your scalp and hair. Also, never, ever leave this unattended when making Castile jelly shampoo on the stove. I don’t recommend microwaving it. This is one of those old-fashioned hair shampoos that needs special attention to see it doesn’t boil over and make a huge mess.

Now, within lecturing the reader about that, I will proceed on about this fascinating early 19th century natural path. Bernarr Macfadden was also dubbed, “body love” and he wrote several books in his day, founded Physical Culture sanatoriums (modern day gym), promoted exercise, enjoying nature in all its splendor, eating right, and sharing his knowledge with others. He also founded a magazine, Physical Culture and antique issues can still be found on eBay and in antique stores. Bernarr Macfadden was also a huge promoter of walking everywhere and sometimes barefoot for many miles! Ouch!

He felt that shoes constricted blood flow to the feet and didn’t allow the skin to breathe naturally from what I was told. And here’s the interesting part, when Bernarr Macfadden did become rich off of his natural path empire, he never flashed his wealth or looked like he had a dime to his name from what my ex-boyfriend told me about Bernarr Macfadden.

Was I ready to give it a try? Well, not walking barefoot, that’s for certain. Not only does one have to worry about potential hook worms hidden in the grass, but other nasties like Brown Recluse spiders, wood roaches, broken glass, rocks, pebbles, thorns, stickers, and gross stuff people toss in the streets and sidewalks.

In Bernarr’s day he walked down country lanes and through wooded areas quite often. Litter and waste as we see more than our fair share of it today wasn’t so problematic with it washing up on beaches, rivers and getting swept away into storm drains or winding up in the middle of the forest.

Was I ready to try was Bernarr Macfadden’s suggestions to cure ‘melancholy’ or simply, ‘depression’? I had certainly had my fair share of letting therapy handle my ‘depression’ for me and it came with some nasty side effects from the [then] unlabeled first generation anti-depressants. It led me down a dark path in my teens that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy if I had one. When I finally did quit all that stuff in my early twenties (I was 22 at the time), I vowed to take good care of myself and do so with natural methods (not man made in a pharmaceutical lab) and have made remarkable improvement by leaps and bounds. I also advised to find a good brand of vitamins (I used Roex for a long time and ordered from the web, but they’re pricey). I do avoid getting cheap vitamins and won’t take any synthetic vitamin E as it’s fake and doesn’t give the body any health benefits.

When I first began on my living better journey I was willing to try anything so long as it would allow my body to continue to heal on its own and it was nothing that would give me horrible side effects. Let me make clear its not wise to quit any medication cold turkey.

Bernarr Macfadden was totally against doctors and actually died from something totally curable: a bladder infection in his golden years. He refused medical treatment because as a boy he was deathly ill and the doctors didn’t do much to help get him well, at least, this is the story that I was told about this natural path and why he was hotly opposed going to see the doctor for anything pretty much.

Bernarr Macfadden was no doctor, I must point out. The medical community of his day considered him to be a quack which I found rather intriguing. Usually it was the doctors back in those days trying to peddle their ‘quack’ snake oils and didn’t have to list what the ingredients were in most of those bottles. You could have been taking a spoonful of castor oil or Turpentine to cure a cough… yikes!

What I found to be of huge help to me during my ‘recovery’ years as I refer to them in retrospect when I was coming out of that depression which I don’t believe I suffered with. I was just a teenager that listened to the wrong advice and didn’t question it (and this is also where I wised up and began questioning everything around me was after this situation in my young life).

Bernarr Macfadden did hit upon that the body could be deficient in vitamin D and thus could lead to feeling melancholy, this was another term for ‘being depressed’.

His remedy: get outdoors and into the sunlight. His recommendation of heliotherapy from natural sunlight exposure (not the artificial UV type) has natural levels of vitamin D and getting ample time to be outside would help those suffering from depression.

Also, friction baths using a dry towel and massaging it over the body was another example of his many health benefits to increase blood circulation and help rejuvenate the skin. I don’t think this did anything to alleviate depression, but hey, if it works, great. 🙂

And he also gave helpful advice for women and published a book, Power and Beauty of Superb Womanhood, 1901. I still have a copy of this hardback in my storage container of antique books. I really must dig it out and actually read it all the way through. That book contains everything from exercises, hair care, I believe possibly even nail care, but could be wrong about that, diet, etc.

And somewhere in his encyclopedia set he covers that time of the month, again, I’m not sure if the severe mood swings that we women must be cursed– ahem, I mean, deal with are even mentioned, but the word “hormones” entered my vocabulary in 2001 thanks to reading through a set of Bernarr Macfadden books.

Have I been living under a rock all my life? Not exactly. It all depends on how one was raised and brought up. Doesn’t mean they’re a simpleton either. Life itself is full of learning and that doesn’t stop once you’re finished with school. I believe some of the best years of learning is far removed from public school and colleges and its like cheese and fine wine, it gets better with age.

I would highly advise to avoid Bernarr’s all “milk” diet since milk of today is full of growth hormones and some of it now contains Sorbitol, a sweet-tasting sugar alcohol and it’s also used as a laxative from what I’ve read up on.

Why are they adding sweeteners to milk nowadays?

The standard (rather lame, if you ask me) excuse I heard: “So kids will drink more milk.”

Really? I thought that’s what Nestle Quick and Hershey’s syrup was for.  :/  I was never much of a milk fan myself, not even growing up.

Sorbitol isn’t the least remote ‘healthy’ to be adding in milk if you ask me. Then again it comes as no surprise to me and its just another thing to add to my three mile long list of food additives to avoid. I do, however, buy cheese from time to time so I’m not completely lacking calcium of some form or another and thankfully haven’t detected any unnaturally ‘sweet’ flavor in it yet.

Getting back to Macfadden and his remedies. I have tried chewing on tooth picks to ease tooth pain and strangely this does work, but it’s not a ‘cure all’. I do pride myself by taking exceptionally good care of my teeth. I avoid sweets like candy. I don’t consume sugar unless its in the food to begin with, and I don’t chew gum or breath mints. And I quit drinking soda going on two years now and feel awesome. I do realize that consuming acidic foods like tomatoes, pickles, lemons, oranges and apples can destroy tooth enamel as well. But I also advise brushing and flossing regularly after every meal and snack whenever possible. There’s no excuse why somebody ‘can’t’ take good care of their oral health. But whether they want to is up to them.

What else have I tried that Mafadden suggested and what has helped me are his exercises. He outlines several for men and a separate set tailored for women. No, these won’t give you six pack abs or ripped muscles (if you’re a woman). In Mafadden’s day women were still viewed as dainty, lithe wisps that would faint from too much excitement. However, some of his exercises are easy to do and should only be done until fatigue hits or the muscles get sore, then you stop and let your body rest.

Fasting is something I strongly discourage, although Macfadden was big on it. I do admit I tried his fasting regime when I was in my mid-twenties. I would eat regular meals, then fast for one day, eat snacks and drink plenty of fluids so I wouldn’t become dehydrated. But to feel the optimal results get PLENTY of adequate sleep. It helps wonders.

I don’t recommend consuming too much meat, either although I, myself, am not a full-fledged vegan. I still consume chicken once or twice a month, maybe have a hard boiled egg or make a breakfast burrito in-between. To get healthy fats Bernarr Macfadden recommends consuming nuts. No surprise there. Sounds simple enough and he strongly encouraged eating a lot of veggies.

With GMO’s in our food supply it would be difficult to completely break free of this, except to grow your own garden and spices and even the seeds you buy at the hardware stores and elsewhere are hybrids. I’ve been an avid gardener since I was seventeen, although it took me many years to reap the healthy benefits just last year with a big garden.

I also like to can my own food. Macfadden was all for this since canning was a way of life for our ancestors. When I use my water bath canner I don’t fill my jars with tap water. There’s fluoride in my local city water and its nasty tasting! I know a lot of locals would laugh at my claim, but I feel the tap water leeches out heavy metals and other nasties including medications that people flush down the toilet. Most of my tap water is recycled, chemically treated city waste water and that’s gross. :p

I would strongly encourage canning with distilled water and/ or triple purified water if possible. The only time I would need large amounts of tap water is during the water bath canning process that wouldn’t come in contact with the foods. Otherwise I don’t advise drinking tap water except again, when there’s no bottled water or distilled water on hand and/ or if you’re brushing your teeth.

Another thing that Bernarr Macfadden was against: tobacco use in all its forms. He knew the dangers of it along with alcohol consumption. Since I do neither, this really didn’t apply to me. I just thought I’d add it in. But he was against consuming mass quantities of soda pop as well.

There’s a lot of interesting health theories he had even when it came down to sex education which was, for its day, quite an eye opener for me to read about. I liked that it wasn’t sugar-coated nor vague. It was straight forward. I must mention though that most of the STD’s we have nowadays such as HIV/AIDS, for example were non-existent in Macfadden’s day.

If you’re interested in knowing more about this late natural path, you can find more information here:

I also have his cook book Physical Culture cook book, I believe that was published some time in 1914. Since then I’ve bought several antique cook books that were hand-written by servants that date back to the 1860’s and some of their recipes are actually quite refreshing for a change, not too much different than the foods we consume today, but it does shed light on what starting fires to cook meals must have been like and I believe the adage: “If it’s too hot in the kitchen, then stay out!” originated from.

Thanks as always for reading, liking, sharing. I truly appreciate them. 🙂


4 comments on “Bernarr Macfadden, hair care and other old-fashioned remedies I found helpful.

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