The Deep Roots of Raw Food

In recent years, the number of Americans who’ve chosen a plant-based lifestyle has dramatically increased. According to a 2019 study by the market research company Ipsos, nearly 10 million Americans follow plant-based diets, compared with just 290,000 in 2004—an astounding 300 percent increase in 15 years.

We at Optimum Health Institute are delighted to see this trend … because it is, and has always been, at the very core of who we are. Since OHI’s founding more than 44 years ago, one of our key healing lifestyle program elements has been a live, raw, organic plant-based diet.

Yet the choice to eat live, raw, organic vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts rather than animal proteins is by no means a recent trend; the practice has deep roots. Biblical scripture and the ancient Essene gospels both advise the divine wisdom of maintaining a strict raw plant-based diet for optimum health of body, mind, and spirit.

Throughout history, brilliant people have touted the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle: Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Buddha, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, and Steve Jobs, are just a few of them.

Even traditional western medicine is warming to the idea. The Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School are among the groups advising that a well-planned vegetarian diet can help you stay healthy, and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

The history of OHI is closely tied to the growth in popularity of raw plant-based foods. During the early 1950s, when a Boston-area woman was diagnosed with colon cancer, she chose to follow her Lithuanian grandmother’s approach to healing, using weeds and wheatgrass, and she went into complete remission. The woman, Ann Wigmore, devoted the next 35 years of her life to studying and teaching others about the healing benefits of live, raw, organic plant-based foods. In 1956 she founded the “Red Schoolhouse” at her farm in Stoneham, Massachusetts, which later evolved into Hippocrates Health Institute.

In 1976 two of OHI’s founders, Raychel Solomon and Pam Nees, attended a lecture by Eydie Mae Hunsberger, who wrote the book, How I Conquered Cancer Naturally. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Eadie Mae had switched to Wigmore’s raw plant-based food plan, and went into complete remission from cancer. After her presentation, she was eager to answer Raychel and Pam’s questions.

Raychel went on to study with Ann Wigmore at Hippocrates, and experienced for herself the healing power of a strict live, raw organic plant-based lifestyle. Later that same year, Raychel, Pam, and Pam’s husband Bob Nees, Sr., opened Hippocrates West in San Diego County, California.

The groundbreaking concept at the heart of Hippocrates and Hippocrates West was deceptively simple: recreate your lifestyle, starting with switching to a primarily raw foods diet, and let the healing begin. Fueled by the healthiest, freshest plant-based nutrients, people could more easily defog and quiet their minds, and feel a renewed, heart-centered connection to God.

Hippocrates West soon evolved into The Optimum Health Institute, and became a healing ministry of the Free Sacred Trinity Church.

The parallel growth of both the raw foods movement and OHI became deeply personal in 1997. Bob Senor’s sister-in-law, Mary Helon Nees, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She and Bob’s brother, the Rev. Russell Nees, refused to accept her doctor’s grim prognosis and instead strictly followed OHI’s raw plant-based food plan, with lots of wheatgrass juice. Mary Helon went into remission and became a strong advocate of adopting a plant-based diet.

As the raw foods movement continues to gain new adherents nationwide, OHI is more than keeping up with the growing interest. We have enhanced our dining experience by creating a 21-day menu, offering nutritious, live, raw, organic plant-based dishes at every lunch and dinner for the entire three weeks of the holistic healing program.

Come experience how delicious “healthy” can be and spend one, two, or three weeks at our healing missions in San Diego and Austin, Texas. Our caring staff is eager to give you all the unconditional support, inspiration, and transformational tools you need to bring your body, mind, and spirit into healthy balance in a serene, peaceful setting. Visit our website at, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.