Influenced by the 'back to nature' theories of Maximilian Bircher-Benner, she maintained that plants concentrated more solar energy ('Vital Force') than animals, and that wheatgrass could detoxify the body. She also deplored food additives. Although the Ann Wigmore Foundation received accreditation as a non-profit, many of her claims were denounced as quackery, and her qualifications were never confirmed to be genuine.
Wigmore was inspired in part by the ideas of Maximilian Bircher-Benner (1867–1939), who was influenced as a young man by the German Lebensreform movement, which saw civilization as corrupt and which sought to go "back to nature"; it embraced holistic medicine, nudism, various forms of spirituality, free love, exercise and other outdoors activity, and foods that it judged were more "natural".:31–33 Bircher-Benner eventually adopted a vegetarian diet, but took that further and decided that raw food was what humans were really meant to eat. He was influenced by Charles Darwin's ideas that humans were just another kind of animal, noting that other animals do not cook their food.:31–33
In 1904 Bircher-Benner opened a sanatorium in the mountains outside of Zurich called "Lebendinge Kraft" or "Vital Force," a technical term in the Lebensreform movement that referred especially to sunlight; he and others believed that this energy was more "concentrated" in plants than in meat, and was diminished by cooking.:31–33 Patients in the clinic were fed raw foods, including muesli which was created there.:31–33 While these ideas were dismissed by scientists and the medical profession of his day as quackery, they gained a following in some quarters.:31–33
She also was inspired in part by the biblical story of King Nebuchadnezzar, recounted in Daniel 4:33, in which "he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws", and by the examples of dogs eating grass when they were unwell. She also said that she learned about herbs and natural remedies as a child in Lithuania, watching her grandmother.
In the 1940s Wigmore started promoting the benefits of wheatgrass and other raw foods in order to "detox", removing what she considered to be poisons of "unnatural" cooked foods and food additives added by industrial society; she believed this diet allowed and helped the body to heal itself. She believed that fresh wheatgrass juice and fresh vegetables - and especially chlorophyll - retained more of their original energy and potency (a form of vitalism) if they were uncooked and eaten as soon as possible after harvesting them.:31–33
According to the National Council against Healthcare Fraud: "Wigmore claimed to have a Doctor of Divinity (DD) from the College of Divine Metaphysics in Indianapolis. She also listed a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree at different times. None of her credentials appear to have been from accredited schools."
During the mid-1960s, Wigmore, as "Reverend Ann Wigmore", and Rising Sun Christianity, Inc., which she controlled, bought property at 25 Exeter Street in Boston's Back Bay, where she lived and where Rising Sun had offices, as carved into its glass and door. She also founded The Ann Wigmore Foundation Inc., which received accreditation as a nonprofit from the IRS in 1970. In 1974, Rising Sun Christianity applied to the city to convert the building into a church, a holistic school, and apartments, which was granted for five years, and was extended in 1980.
In 1982 the Rising Sun Church acquired the building next door, and changed its name to the Hippocrates Health Institute, Inc. She was sued in 1982 by the attorney general of Massachusetts for promoting a cure for diabetes and for claiming that she could make it unnecessary for children to be vaccinated; she stopped making those claims after losing in court.
Wigmore founded the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute Inc in Puerto Rico, where people could go for alternative medicine or to be trained in her methods.
Brian Clement, who later earned a nonmedical PhD, and the Hippocrates Health Institute which he then controlled, eventually obtained 60 acres of land in West Palm Beach and have become known offering residents "wheatgrass, IV injections of vitamins, dietary supplements, foot baths to remove "toxins," raw foods diets and assorted other treatments, some of which may have been considered alternative cancer treatments.
Wigmore was an advocate of astrology, spiritual healing and other pseudoscientific beliefs. She held the erroneous view that the chlorophyll in wheatgrass detoxifies the body and has healing power. Her claims with regard to wheatgrass have been described as quackery.
In 1980, the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging began what became a four-year investigation into health care scams that preyed on older people. Their findings were published in 1984 in a report titled "Quackery, a $10 Billion Scandal", commonly referred to as "The Pepper Report" after committee chairman Claude Pepper.:148–150
The committee received testimony from a woman desperate to treat her husband's cancer who accepted treatment from Steven and Ellen Haasz, disciples of Wigmore, and eventually from Wigmore's facility in Boston, instead of standard care which the Haaszes strongly discouraged from her pursuing. She said: "I know now that I was foolish to listen to Haasz and to spend about $2,000, including the trip to Boston, on the raw food things. But my husband and I were married for 37 years and when he got sick, I was looking for magic. Their false promise of hope may have actually shortened my husband's few numbered days on this Earth."
Wigmore was sued by the Massachusetts Attorney-General's department in 1988 for publishing pamphlets falsely claiming to offer an AIDS cure. She claimed that AIDS arises from "the body's inability to assimilate the food consumed" and for around $400 (about $700 in 2016) sold lessons to make an "energy enzyme soup" that she said allowed an infected person's body to completely clear the virus. She was acquitted under the First Amendment as the claims were deemed not to be commercial claims made in trade, but was ordered not to misrepresent herself as a doctor qualified to treat illness or disease.
Health educator William T. Jarvis has noted that:
In 1988, the Massachusetts Attorney General sued Wigmore for claiming that her "energy enzyme soup" could cure AIDS. Suffolk County Judge Robert A. Mulligan ruled that Wigmore's views on how to combat AIDS were protected by the First Amendment, but ordered her to stop representing herself as a physician or as a person licensed in any way to treat disease. This was not the first time Wigmore had run afoul of the law. In 1982, the Attorney General of Massachusetts sued Wigmore for claiming that her program could reduce or eliminate the need for insulin in diabetics, and could obviate the need for routine immunization in children. She abandoned those claims after losing in court.
On December 25, 1930, Anna Marie (again under the name "Warap" per wedding coverage Stoughton News-Sentinel, 1 Jan 1931) married Everett Arnold Wigmore (1907–1969), of Stoughton, Massachusetts, where they lived during their marriage. Her husband was in the family stone masonry business. A daughter, Wilma Edith Wigmore, was born on July 9, 1941. On January 12, 1942, Wigmore became a United States citizen. The Wigmores divorced sometime in the 1950s–1960s.
Wigmore died in Boston on February 16, 1994, of smoke inhalation from a fire at the Ann Wigmore Foundation building at 196 Commonwealth Avenue. She had written about twenty five books and had lectured on her ideas in the US, Canada, and Europe.
- The Sprouting Book: How to Grow and Use Sprouts to Maximize Your Health and Vitality (1986)
- The Wheatgrass Book: How to Grow and Use Wheatgrass to Maximize Your Health and Vitality (1985)
- The Hippocrates Diet and Health Program: A Natural Diet and Health Program for Weight Control, Disease Prevention (1983)
- Recipes for Longer Life: Ann Wigmore's Famous Recipes for Rejuvenation and Freedom from Degenerative Diseases (1982)
- Fitzgerald M (2014). Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of US. Pegasus Books. ISBN 978-1-60598-560-2.
- Shermer, M (August 2008). "Wheatgrass juice and folk medicine". Scientific American. 299 (2): 42. PMID 18666678.
- Joe Schwarcz, "Wanted: enzymes--dead or alive?" Chemfusion, Canadian Chemical News; Monday, March 1, 2004
- "NCAHF News, September/October 1994". National Council Against Healthcare Fraud Newsletter. 17 (5).
- Patricia Skinner (2005). "Wigmore diet". In Longe, Jacqueline L.; et al. (eds.). The Gale encyclopedia of alternative medicine, Volume 4: S - Z, organizations, glossary, general index (2nd ed.). Detroit: Thomson/Gale. pp. 2150–2152. ISBN 0-7876-7428-1.
- "25 Exeter (196 Commonwealth)". Back Bay Houses. 19 July 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
- "Profile: Ann Wigmore Foundation Inc". GuideStar. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
- Thomas, Patricia (June 13, 1988). "Woman sued over soup 'cure.'". Medical World News.
- Alamenciak, Tim (February 21, 2015). "Founder of Hippocrates Health Institute sued successfully twice". Toronto Star.
- Henning, Laura. The Guru of Grass Los Angeles Times. Mar 26, 1992
- "Exempt Organizations Select Check: Revocations: Ann Wigmore Foundation Inc". IRS. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
- Bellamy, Jann (14 December 2014). "Canadian reporters cover Florida health scam ignored in US". Society for Science-Based Medicine.
- Bellamy, Jann (28 March 2015). "Florida retracts cease and desist order and fine against Brian Clement". Society for Science-Based Medicine.
- Wheatgrass Therapy. National Council Against Health Fraud.
- Shermer, Michael. (2008). How Anecdotal Evidence Can Undermine Scientific Results. Scientific American. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
- "Quackery, a $10 Billion Scandal: A Report of the Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care, Select Committee on Aging, US House of Representatives" (PDF). US Government Printing Office. 1984.
- Bellamy, Jann (October 30, 2014). ""Quackery: A $10 Billion Scandal" « Science-Based Medicine". Science-Based Medicine.
- "State sues to stop woman offering AIDS cure". Boston Globe. January 20, 1988. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
- "Judge says woman can claim AIDS cure". Boston Globe. February 23, 1988. Archived from the original on August 10, 2015. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
- Wigmore's sworn Petition for Naturalization No. 230018, executed by her on 12/10/1941, on file with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Waltham, Massachusetts.
- Wigmore's Oath of Allegiance/Citizenship Granted dated l/12/1942, on file with NARA, Waltham, Massachusetts.
- "Holistic health pioneer dies at 84 in fire at her Back Bay mansion" Boston Globe, February 17, 1994.
- Obituary: Ann Wigmore. The Washington Post, Feb 19, 1994