Naturopathic Theory: Theory of Toxaemia

The American naturopath Dr. John Henry Tilden (1851-1940) proposed that the main cause of ill-health resulted from a state of self-intoxication or toxaemia.

He theorised that disease was nature’s way of eliminating toxaemia in the body.

He was also amongst the first physicians to recognize the role of stress in the cause of health
problems long before this was an accepted idea.

He observed that health is altered when “nerve energy” is dissipated and the body is no longer able to properly remove toxic by-products of metabolism.

Nervous energy could become toxic by overeating or consuming the wrong foods, taking stimulants such as coffee and alcohol, and also by other sources of stress like emotional and mental tensions.

Tilden developed his model of The Seven Stages of Health Loss [2], from a physiological point of view. This model was later used as a foundation for later models of naturopathic intervention.

Tilden defined the stages, as follows:

  1. Enervation: deficiency of nerve energy = vital force
  2. Toxaemia (self-intoxication): reduced elimination of toxins produced by our own metabolism, ingested food, intestinal bacteria, chemicals in food, air, water and drugs
  3. Irritation: caused by pressure due to water retention, lack of oxygen and nutrition, cells start to send signs of pain; tissue is ‘irritated’
  4. Inflammation: caused by the stagnation of systems and toxins
  5. Ulceration: degeneration of cells and tissue often opened through skin
  6. Induration: tissue gets hard and encapsulated as protection
  7. Fungus: parasites, cancerous proliferations

Its amazing how these physicians of old came up with these theories eh? In those days, science had not advanced enough to explain the various biochemical pathways etc and so they had to rely on ‘rudimentary science’ aka their own powers of observation.

And come up with theories to support their observations. And test and retest those theories.

Stay well,


  1. World Naturopathic Federation. (2017). WNF White Paper: Naturopathic Philosophies, Principles and Theories. Retrieved from
  2. Tilden J. Toxemia Explained. Denver, CO: J.H.Tilden; 1935.

Posts in this series:

  1. Naturopathic Theories overview
  2. Naturopathic Cures
  3. “Value of a Fever”
  4. The Therapeutic Order
  5. Hering’s Law of Cure

4 thoughts on “Naturopathic Theory: Theory of Toxaemia

  1. Tilden was a Natural Hygienist, not a Naturopath. The former does not treat or provide alternative treatments for medical pathologies, it identifies obstructions to health. The Latter attempts to provide alternative treatments for ‘diseases’ which is a very different thing. Lindlahr was also wrongly described as a Naturopath when he, like Tilden did not treat diseases with herbs or creams but identified the obstructions. The whole idea of Naturopathic cures is certainly not what Tilden would have supported. Read Herbert shelton, he got it and found the whole ‘alternative treatments’ movements had completely missed the point.

    The immune system is a waste recognition and excretion system, when it works unhindered the body heals.


    1. Thank you Howard. Great insight. We certainly look for obstructions to health in our Naturopathic Principles of “Treat the cause”, “treat the Whole Person” and “Disease Prevention & Health Promotion” too. I like what you said about the immune system being a waste recognition and excretion system.


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