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Food as medicine in history

Watch Janeane provide an overview of how food was used as medicine in the past, and the role food science played in health.
JANEANE DART: Across centuries and civilisations, food has been used as medicine. And in the ancient world, a great deal has been written about the role of food and health. In fact, medical texts dating back to the second century talk about the role of food and it’s link to health. Hippocrates– some of you may have heard of Hippocrates– one of the founding fathers of medicine, and many others have written about the link between food and health. Dietetics– which we think is a fairly modern phenomenon– was actually one of the key main branches of ancient medicine, along with pharmacology and surgery. And many people might not be aware of this.
And so manipulating diet has been a key part of ancient medical history. Not only in the Western world, which there’s literature written about, but also in cultures such as the Chinese culture. Where manipulating food to strive for balance in both lifestyle and eating patterns is a key part of their philosophy to life, as well. It’s recorded that classical physicians have reported that the attributes of a healthy diet– even back as early as the second and third century– with things such as flexibility, variety, moderation, personalization– so tailoring a diet for an individual– and also the importance of cooked foods. This was, however, a branch of medicine reserved for the rich. For the poorer classes, generalized dietary advice was recommended.
And this depended very much on their work, and the foods that they’re able to access, rather than modifying their diet more specifically for illnesses. In the ancient world, food science was significant and an all encompassing area of science. It was believed that the right food, chosen specifically, could influence someone’s health, and could cure or treat specific illnesses. So we can see from that that actually nothing particularly revolutionary as happened over the past is 2000 years. But what we do know is, that that link between food being used as medicine is something that’s been around for centuries.

Watch Janeane provide an overview of how food was used as medicine in the past, and the role food science played in health and treatment and prevention.

Foods have been traditionally used as medicine across many cultures from across the world, with many people continuing this tradition today.

Talking point

Within the Comments, consider sharing with other learners your thoughts on the following questions:

  • What foods have you used/eaten before as ‘medicine’/to treat or cure something?
  • What was it?
  • Why did you choose it?
  • Do you think it worked?

Don’t forget to contribute to the discussion by reviewing the comments made by other learners, making sure you provide constructive feedback and commentary.

Remember you can also ‘Like’ comments or follow other learners throughout the course.

Although it can be useful for other learners to hear of your personal experience it’s good to be mindful of sharing too much.

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Food as Medicine

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