When it comes to staying healthy, people rely on many modern advances – whether it’s tech or bio related. Ancient civilizations didn’t have access to these things, which include everything from smartphone apps to expensive gym equipment, but they found ways to stay healthy. Here are seven health tips we can take from ancient civilizations and apply to our everyday lives.
Per Sun Simiao, who was a physician during the Tang Dynasty, the body can be afflicted with diseases when blood doesn’t circulate properly. He was certainly onto something with this observation; modern medicine suggests that stretching causes the ribs to move upward, which allows for deeper breathing. Thus, muscles contract and send blood moving back to the heart, resulting in better circulation. This is one of the best health tips known to man, and it’s been in practice for thousands of years.
There is also some evidence to suggest that stretching can help the blood vessels throughout your body move nutrient-rich blood to your brain. This can assist in relieving fatigue, which keeps you in better spirits. As you stretch, you increase your body’s ability to take in oxygen and rid itself of carbon dioxide, and this can improve your body’s ability to metabolize the food you eat. Over time, regular stretching can help facilitate weight loss when it is combined with a healthy diet.
This health tip comes from ancient India and Ayurvedic tradition. It’s thought that drinking during a meal – whether you choose to drink wine, soda, tea, coffee, or even water – fills your stomach to excess, making it more difficult for your body to digest the food you consume. What’s more, water and other beverages dilute your stomach acids and digestive enzymes, which can lead to slower digestion and stomach upset.
Those who practice Ayurveda, which is an ancient Hindu system of medicine, drink warm water 20 minutes before a meal and wait an hour after eating to consume a beverage. If you’re wondering how they do it, keep in mind that Ayurvedic practice also suggests taking small bites of food and chewing thoroughly. This increases your saliva production, which is beneficial in two distinct ways. First, saliva starts the digestion process by breaking down your food. Second, saliva acts as a lubricant as you move food from your mouth to your stomach.
Archaeologists have found evidence that suggests ancient North American cultures may have used Echinacea during the 18th and 19th centuries to treat a variety of illnesses, including diphtheria and even scarlet fever. Although there’s no real evidence to prove that Echinacea cures these ailments, there are some studies to suggest that it may shorten the duration of things like the common cold and the flu.
In 2010, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that Echinacea reduced the duration of the common cold by 18 to 24 hours. Although the researchers who published the study claimed that this result was “statistically insignificant”, those who suffer from colds are sure to feel otherwise. What’s more, another study conducted at the Cardiff University Common Cold Centre in the United Kingdom found that Echinacea could reduce patients’ odds of getting a cold in the first place, even when they were deliberately exposed to the virus.
Hippocrates, one of the most famous ancient physicians and arguably the father of modern medicine, was known to prescribe his patients wild ginger when they had any kind of digestive trouble, whether that meant bloating, vomiting, or even diarrhea. Even today, herbal remedies for nausea still contain ginger, and women rely on this natural root to ease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menstrual cramps.
Although scientists aren’t exactly sure how ginger works to relieve digestive troubles, they have found that it contains compounds known as carminatives, which can eliminate gas and bloating. Ginger also appears to slow the overall action of the digestive tract, starting with your salivary glands. Some researchers believe that it’s the slowed digestion and reduced saliva production that eases nausea.
Hippocrates once said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Even in Hippocrates’ time, it was obvious that the foods his patients consumed had a tremendous impact on their overall health. Physicians of the time believed that food was anything that could be ingested and assimilated into the body; after all, food becomes fat, muscle, tendons, and more.
Hippocrates hit the nail on the head with this one, and it’s one of several health tips you can follow throughout your life. A diet that contains mostly natural foods and very few processed foods or refined sugars is sure to keep you healthy. Your body can extract more nutrients from foods that are still in their natural state; processed foods introduce foreign, unnatural chemicals into your body that can make you sick over time.
Another important part of Ayurvedic tradition involves getting plenty of rest, even when it seems impossible. In fact, Ayurvedic physicians often prescribe rest to their patients, claiming that sleep rejuvenates and detoxifies the body. They were certainly right, and this is another of the most important health tips you should live by today. When you’re sick, resting allows more calories to go directly to your immune system, which boosts its ability to fight off infections.
Although it may seem silly to spend time meditating, a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Yoga showed that those who practice transcendental meditation had significantly more immune cells than those who did not meditate at all. With that in mind, regular meditation can boost your immunity enough to keep you from catching a cold and, theoretically, stop cancer before it starts.
Seneca was an ancient Roman writer and philosopher who wrote an essay entitled “De Ira”, Latin for On Anger back in 41 AD. Even in this time, philosophers were very aware that exercise could alleviate feelings of stress that often lead to anger. While his essay claimed that only redheads needed to exercise to calm their hot-tempered nature, which was brought about by their active and restless blood, it seems Seneca was certainly onto something. In fact, exercise is one of the most studied health tips of all time.
A 2015 study conducted at the University of Georgia and published in Neuropharmacology gave the absolute best reasoning behind exercise’s ability to reduce stress. Researchers found that a neuropeptide called galanin was integral to rats’ mental health. A previous paper published in 2012 showed that exercise increases galanin levels in the areas of the brain that are responsible for handling stress; researchers at UGA simply put that theory to the test. They blocked the rats’ galanin receptors and had them exercise only to discover that with galanin blocked, the rats experienced no reduction in stress whatsoever. The rats who exercised without the galanin block showed a significant stress reduction.
Although there are many ancient practices that have long since been abandoned in favor of modern medicines and techniques, the seven health tips listed here have all been proven accurate through research and study. Eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of rest are truly at the heart of good physical and mental health.