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Nov. 19 2009 - 6:59 am | 709 views | 1 recommendation | 26 comments

Hippocrates Health Institute: Five reasons not to spend $4,000

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Last week, a friend of mine came back from a two-week holiday looking a little too thin, a touch too pale and more exhausted than rejuvenated. After our six-mile run turned into a one-mile speed-walk before she stopped at a park bench, I remarked on her fatigue.

“Jet-lagged?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “Hippocrates.”

Turns out that the girl – a fellow runner and vegan, with, I’m sorry to admit, an irksome blind faith in myths like lemon tea cleanses and the power of positive thinking – had just spent two weeks at the Hippocrates Health Institute. There, she underwent a myriad of cleansing processes, followed a strict all-raw all-alkali diet and spent most of her evenings curled up in a very hungry fetal position. She booked the trip – which ran $4,000 not including her flight – because she’d been feeling burnt out. And now?

“I feel like shit.”

I’m all for alternative health practices, when there’s evidence to suggest that they can help (yoga, meditation, and – maybe – acupuncture), but any “retreat” that leaves one feeling worse than they did upon entering is subject to some serious Extreme Self investigation. The Hippocrates Health Institute is a compound in West Palm Beach, FL, that was founded five decades ago and based on the Hippocratic adage “Let food be thy medicine.” Pretty sure he wasn’t talking about coconut milk and wheatgrass, but that’s what the HHI advocates. Especially wheatgrass. They love wheatgrass. So much that they often shove it where they ought not to. Allow me to explain, by offering you five reasons to avoid making the mistake of my good friend. Who, if you were wondering, is going to Vegas this weekend – another kind of detox.

1. That wheatgrass thing

I don’t doubt that wheatgrass is probably alright for you. Most green, from-the-soil, plant-based foods are. But there’s been no proof – absolutely none – that wheatgrass can cure cancer, prevent diabetes or grow back human hair. And, of course, it also tastes like grass. No need for proof in West Palm Beach, apparently, because the HHI is big on wheatgrass: “In our programs, the juice is consumed orally, and used in enemas and rectal implants.” Relax. If you’re more of a straight-up enema devotee, they also offer them in “Original” and “Coffee” varieties.

2. Would you trust Geraldo with your personal health?

HHI employs over a dozen full-time staff members. There’s Michael, the greenhouse manager, who grows tray after tray of “the lifeblood” of rectal implants. Jolene Jackson, the spa director, who apparently has 17 years experience in spa therapy, despite not looking a day over 21 (must be the wheatgrass). And then there’s Scott, the general program director for the entire holistic trainwreck. Among Scott’s resume padding is “hands-on work” with Geraldo Rivera. I don’t want to get melodramatic or theatrical here, but I think health and Geraldo in the same sentence is pretty much a deal-breaker for me.

3. Devastating illness + wheatgrass = Fail

If you were under the impression that the HHI was little more than a very eccentric spa, allow me to correct you. The Institute also purports to treat “devastating illnesses” – you know, like cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS. It all comes down to “live blood cell analysis,” which is basically the process of checking out a drop of blood underneath a dark-field microscope. That’s followed by drinking an ounce of wheatgrass (but seriously, that’s what they do) and seeing one’s blood miraculously revitalize.

Live blood cell analysis has long been associated with quack medicine, and isn’t even legal in many states. From a professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter: “the bulk of this money is made not through charging for the test itself but by selling expensive nutritional supplements…with the promise that these will correct whatever abnormality has been diagnosed.” Expensive supplements, like, say, a $180 bottle of something called Yings-Tea Y Caps?

4. As if $4,000 wasn’t bad enough

When you spend $200 for an afternoon at the spa, or a really nice haircut, do you ever find that you leave having spent a few extra bucks on gel, lotion or callus removal cream? Exactly. Spend $4,000 for a week at HHI, and you’ll probably be so jazzed about wheatgrass and your shit-free colon that you’ll head over to their conveniently located shop for a few goodies. Were you looking for a BioPro Cell Chip to treat your electro-pollution? Yes, they have that. A $450 juicer for at-home wheatgrass? Yup. Enema syringes specially designed for infants? Oh my god. A crockpot? Uh, somehow yes. A Hippocrates baseball cap? Seriously, they also have that.

5. And then there’s the “food”

In the description of their program curriculum, the HHI describes their classes on food preparation, a process they refer to as “cooking” (quotation marks included). There’s a big difference between cooking and “cooking” – and therein lies the problem. And then there’s the overarching HHI definition of food itself:

Food, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is any substance that enables one to live and grow — anything that nourishes. Based on this definition, hardly anything in the standard Western diet can be considered food!

Hardly anything? Confusing, because I’ve been living and growing pretty well on a lot of things – many of them cooked – for over two decades now. My alkaline-acid balance might of out-of-whack, and my enzymes might be releasing negative bio-energy into my kidneys, but hell – at least I’m not living off spelt tortillas and sea-sar salad.


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  1. collapse expand

    I agree with HHI on many of their beliefs, but it seems as though the “lifeblood” of their treatment is a tad all encompassing with their bogus claims of curative properties for some of them. Additionally, wheatgrass is their ingredient of choice for all of their treatments due to it’s ease of growing and relative low cost. I can totally visualize the “farmer” dude preparing tray upon tray of wheatgrass seed, awaiting their germination day after day.

  2. collapse expand

    Sure, I think nutrition can be a very valuable “medicinal” tool. You can’t deny how many illnesses it has been linked to, either as a causative factor or preventative one. I think the raw foodist perspective takes it a little far, though, especially given the absence of scientific evidence to support raw food over plain old nutritious cooked food.

    Good point about the cost of wheatgrass – I didn’t think of that. Hmm…suspicious.

  3. collapse expand

    This is funny. As rational and skeptical as I like to think I am, I am very susceptible to these alternative health miracle ideas. I know so much is placebo effect, but that’s still an effect, right? But really, thanks for the wake-up call.

    -Matt

  4. collapse expand

    Matt – I know the feeling. It can be hard, when I so often write about this stuff, not to buy into it. Actually, on a somewhat related note, I swear by OxySox for any run longer than 3 miles. Do they do anything? No idea. But what if I don’t wear them and injure myself?

    …But I’d rather buy some $20 socks than some $4,000 enemas.

    • collapse expand

      joecham
      Firstly I can’t tell you how much your article offends me on so many levels. It was obviously written by someone who knows nothing about healing. It is common knowledge you will not feel good for a week or so you are DETOXING. This place is not a place for people to come for vacation. It’s a place where people come to save their lives. I had a stage 4 Cancer and what I learned here helped save my life when modern medicine could not. So when you post such a senseless article which pops up on a search for Hippocrates and people dying of cancers and other illnesses read this get turned of I hope you know what you have done. Hippocrates has helped tens of thousands of people heal themselves of devastating illnesses when modern medicine could not. I am just one of those people and to read your article was a real slap in my face and I’m sure for everyone else that has gone there and healed themselves.
      My Cancer treatment for 1 1/2 years totaled to $980,000 dollars and they still told me that I was going to die in a couple of months. I spent $6,000 at Hippocrates and it saved my life! Wow your article pissed me off. Next time check in at club med for spring break and get hammered at the beach, that’s not what this place is. The truth is some of the things you will hear and learn at Hippocrates will shock you but if you are willing to do them it can save your life.

      Reply to this »

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  5. collapse expand

    Since I have a reputation for living a “healthy lifestyle”, I’ve had a few family members and friends ask me about detox teas, cleanses, and even those special strips you wear on the bottom of your feet to remove toxins. To be honest, I think most of that stuff is a hoax. The human body is amazingly complex and I think the kidneys and liver do a pretty good job keeping things clean.

    I’m always skeptical of people who say they have “so much energy” when they go on cleanses. I’m pretty sure I’d be hibernating in bed if all I could subsist on was raw veggies and lemon juice. some nights I get less sleep than I should and I do have a cup of coffee every morning, but so far I think my energy levels are workin’ out pretty well for me, no $4000 spa weekend needed. Interesting topic though, that’s for sure!

    -Megan

  6. collapse expand

    All you need is leafy greens for good health, you should know that Katie. :P

    -Utz

  7. collapse expand

    Megan: I’ve never met someone who felt good after/during a cleanse. But I don’t get out much. My sister always tries cleanses and then gives up and eats fries.

    And can you imagine how far $4,000 could get you at an actual, relaxation-oriented spa? Now that would be cleansing…

  8. collapse expand

    I just spent 15 months living in Spain where my diet consisted of pork, cheese, beer and olives; not once was something shot up my ass. Next time I have $4,000 again, I think I’ll go back to the Spanish detox.

  9. collapse expand

    Katie strikes again, and that’s a compliment. You are so pure, at least by my standards, me–who eats almost every food that’s healthy and almost every food that’s not. But your healthy ways are never overbearing, and you speak out clearly against faux healthiness. Even on my worst compulsive overeating days, I feel cleansed (in the good sense) reading your prose.

  10. collapse expand

    Oh – Steve – thank you! I do eat mostly healthy food, I guess, but it is also food I enjoy. And, that being said, I just finished a bag of microwave popcorn…I think a little of this and a little of that is the way to go. And that goes for wheatgrass, too!

  11. collapse expand

    I love you and your cynicism! you are quite brilliant, and funny as hell.

  12. collapse expand

    Firstly I can’t tell you how much your article offends me on so many levels. It was obviously written by someone who knows nothing about healing. It is common knowledge you will not feel good for a week or so you are DETOXING. This place is not a place for people to come for vacation. It’s a place where people come to save their lives. I had a stage 4 Cancer and what I learned here helped save my life when modern medicine could not. So when you post such a senseless article which pops up on a search for Hippocrates and people dying of cancers and other illnesses read this get turned of I hope you know what you have done. Hippocrates has helped tens of thousands of people heal themselves of devastating illnesses when modern medicine could not. I am just one of those people and to read your article was a real slap in my face and I’m sure for everyone else that has gone there and healed themselves.
    My Cancer treatment for 1 1/2 years totaled to $980,000 dollars and they still told me that I was going to die in a couple of months. I spent $6,000 at Hippocrates and it saved my life! Wow your article pissed me off. Next time check in at club med for spring break and get hammered at the beach, that’s not what this place is. The truth is some of the things you will hear and learn at Hippocrates will shock you but if you are willing to do them it can save your life.

  13. collapse expand

    Oh for heavens sakes,
    I just received the information from the Hippocrates Institute thinking it would be a good cleanse for my medical situation.
    They have testimonies in the written material about how people have cleansed cancer out of their lives by eating living food. Of course the wheat grass was a star product.
    I was going to visit and now I think I need to go back to the drawing board for alternative treatments.
    I looked at the prices and it is not just 4000. but up to 10, 000 for a special room and location.
    It might be OK for a weekend of pampering as they have ALL of those amenities, but for a cure…hmmmmmm
    Thanks to my dear friend who researched this for me I received this information…I think I will take him to a spa ! :)

  14. collapse expand

    You should be ashamed of yourself and your ignorance. You have no idea what you are talking about. This program changed my life after being ill for 3 long debilitating years. The people that have been helped at this institute is beyond your very little imagination.
    The life change program at this institute is 21 days, and you NEED every one of these days to immerse yourself into this lifestyle of proper healing, let alone the education that you receive. Your friend obviously did not participate fully, or she would have shared the amazing stories of the people that were there at the same time as her. And one other thing, there is NO WAY you could go hungry there! The food there is amazing! Unless you are a complete junk food eater or carnivore, your belly WILL be full and you will never go hungry.
    In conclusion to my comment, I hope that you will find it in yourself to retract your article, and realizing that by doing so you may save a life. After years of illness which modern medicine could not help, despite throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars down the drain, Hippocrates health institute has truly helped me regain a active, healthy and happy life. OH, and BTW my good friend, whom her Mother and sister have died of breast cancer, has been cancer free for 10+ years, they chose chemo and radiation and mastectomies, she chose life!

  15. collapse expand

    I was happpy to find and stay at HHI–although I do agree it is terribly expensive. I met many people there who told me their stories of how they became healthier and/or achieved victory over pretty serious health challenges by following the program (as best they can). It is not just about eating raw vegan (“green” or “grass”) and (expensive) supplements. Eating right is only one part of the program. The program is an immersion in a total mind, body and spiritual connection. It includes such things as stress and pain management techniques and treatments, and, of course eating, sleeping and exercising properly for each individual — and putting all the pieces together, i.e., teaching you how to take it all home and integrate all the pieces into your life (not so easy for me and others…we do the best we can). No doctors have yet been able to diagnose or really help what is happening to me/my body–including several at the Mayo Clinic in FL. I think that when “the doctors” can’t figure it out, it is natural to seek alternative possibilities. In any event, I believe that this will work for me, and at the very least, I am losing weight, lowering cholesterol (dropped 30 points while I was there), improving my energy level and concentration, sleeping better, managing stress much better, feel better overall(even if my symptoms have not all gone away)…and have made some great friends with similar and different health challenges. I have kept up a connection with the people at/who run HHI, including two registered nurses. It is radical, unconventional for sure. Having said all this, I do not feel cheated or ripped off.

  16. collapse expand

    I tried posting a comment here; do not see it. Has thread ended?

  17. collapse expand

    I read this review before going to Hippocrates so I was interested to see what I thought after seeing this bad report. I have been back for about 3 months now after attending the Life Change Programme for 3 weeks. My reasons for going were to address a few health issues which my doctor has been unable to improve with conventional medicine. My positive experience could not be more contrasted to this review.

    From the moment I walked into Hippocrates I was treated with care and patience. The education and healthcare provided was second to none and the doctors and nurses were thorough, helpful and happy to answer my many questions.

    The campus is beautiful and so tranquil with green, tropical plants and trees everywhere you look – a perfect setting for healing to take place. Wheatgrass has become a integral part of my routine and I now grow it myself at home. Since taking this amazing juice every morning I have noticed so many improvements including more energy, beautiful skin and hair and better digestion. Better still, it is cheap to grow so everyone can do it.

    I met so many amazing people, many of which had already healed themselves from serious health conditions using what Hippocrates Health Institute had taught them. The moving stories were endless and very inspiring.

    I do think it is important to attend the full 3 week programme to fully understand what is involved in living this lifestyle. I thought the Life Change Programme was expensive on first inspection, but after experiencing it, I realized just how much I was getting for my money and now consider it very reasonable.

    The main health issue I went for has completely disappeared and I am seeing constant improvements as I continue to do what I have learnt in my daily life. It does take commitment and dedication but I am willing to do that for a happy, healthful life. I can’t wait to go back there to complete their 6 week Health Educator Programme.

    All in all I would definitely recommend Hippocrates Health Institute to anyone, whether you have health issues or not. It has been an invaluable, life changing experience for me that I will treasure forever.

  18. collapse expand

    It is rather obvious to me that none who have written and posted comments here are battling a life threatening disease. When this happens to you, you might think and write a bit more seriously about what happens at the Institute, and what you might do if you were fighting to live. Oh wait, you can’t really know that until it happens, can you? My friend, battling stage 4 breast cancer, was helped tremendously by what she learned at the Institute… it helped her to beat her cancer when it came back a second time, WITHOUT drugs and radiation. (Which she had done the first time around, as well as having a double mastectomy) Me, I am facing death or transplant form a different disease, so you bet I would try to get my body in the best possible shape to face what I need to. If I had 4000.00 to spend I would be on that plane as soon as I could. I find this article to be caustic and condesending in nature. Wait until you get your diagnosis, then tell me what you might do.

  19. collapse expand

    I was speaking about the negative article and smart ass comments. (Spain) So happy to read the thoughtful ones, especially from those who have gone and have had positive experiences. And by the way Katie, I did do a three week cleanse at home on the advice of my naturopath, and though I felt a little “off” for a couple of days, by the third week I had more energy than I had had in years. So yes, cleanses can and do work.

  20. collapse expand

    I just spent 3 weeks at Hippocrates. It was a magical stress less experience. I learned so much. I am completely off all breads and pastries. This experience freed me from the torment of an addiction to sugar and all flours. I saw everyone there with me getting younger looking quickly. If you want to talk call me at 857-891-9767. Don’t cheat yourself. You will be grateful of the experience.

  21. collapse expand

    I attended Hippocrates Health Institute end of 2011 through the beginning of 2012 and was VERY DISSAPPOINTED! I also looked into the Health Educator Program. If this is something you are looking into PLEASE SAVE YOUR TIME AND MONEY!

    The program is not accredited, nor does it seem like it is headed in that direction any time soon. The woman I spoke to, apparently the director, had NO clue about the program. Seems she had been hired a week prior to our meeting. She had claimed the program had been re-vamped, but couldn’t explain further. (Red Flag!) She had little to NO knowledge about the courses, speakers or how the program was run. I WAS VERY DISSAPPOINTED!

    I had also noticed during my stay Dr. Brain Clement, owner and head spokes person for Hippocrates looked different mid-week. Seems Dr. Brian Clement had gotten major cosmetic dentistry done, with a full set of ridiculously large new teeth veneers. His wife Dr. Anna Maria also looked swollen, as though she had cosmetic work done to her face to look younger. Staff confirmed my suspicions later that week that both of them had secretly gotten cosmetic work done. I found this very disappointing considering the entire concept of the program is focused on NATURAL.

    My first week in the program was a huge let down, considering the amount of money I had paid to attend, plus the time I had arranged to take off of work. Excited for the first “lecture” I arrived early to find staff setting up a film. I sat with other guests in a large lunch hall watching film after dated film. This was our orientation.

    Accommodations at Hippocrates followed suit. The rooms smelled strongly of mold and when I asked housekeeping about it, they couldn’t help because they did not speak English. Eventually I was transferred to another room on the grounds, my new room was no better than the last. I ended up checking into a hotel down the street.

    I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND WASTING YOUE MONEY AT HIPPOCRATES HEALTH INSTITUTE!

    If you are interested in a raw vegan lifestyle, I found Optimum Health Institute in Austin Texas to be just what I was looking for. And after further research I discovered HHI and Optimum were previously sister companies until Dr. Brian Clement decided to cut ties, due to a discrepancy with adding “lasers” and his line of supplements (which gross 3 million a year) to the program. Optimum offers hands on classes as opposed to HHI’s approach of sitting guests in front of a projector and popping in a movie.

    PLEASE DO YOUR RESERCH BEFORE WASTING YOUR MONEY AT HIPPOCRATES HEALTH INSTITUTE!

  22. collapse expand

    Katherine Butcher who recovered from Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck1r7lChb2s

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    About Me

    I'm a full-time heath & science writer at Sphere and a contributing editor at True/Slant. I also contribute military health news to Danger Room at Wired.com, and have recently written for Marie Claire, World Politics Review and Next American City.

    My first foray into journalism came in middle school - at a French-speaking plaid-kilt-wearing educational institute somewhere in the Canadian tundra. It was there that I decided to start my own newspaper, to disseminate my sarcasm and attitude problem among my peers. We lasted three issues.

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