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The Oldest Tree in Europe
"Let medicine be thy food, and food be thy medicine."
— Hippocrates of Cos, Greece, 460-377 B.C.
It was here at this actual tree that the legendary Father of Medicine often taught his students. The school of medicine represented by Hippocrates had an approach to the art far in advance to anything preceding it and similar in spirit to much of modern Natural Health Theory. There are few traces of superstition in the Hippocratic writings. His method was to hold that disease is a natural phenomenon governed by natural laws. Primarily, he believed in the healing power of nature. He considered health as a normal state, disease as an abnormal condition. Therefore, if the disease is not too serious, he held, nature will assert itself and health will be properly regained. The main duty of the physician is to stand by and to help nature, to relieve pain whenever possible, and to strengthen the spirit and body.
He advised moderation in all things: working, eating, drinking, exercising, sleeping as preventive of disease. He used purges and enemas, fasting diets to evacuate the body, warm baths, applications of cold frictions and massage. Substances used, some of which have a known value today, included myrrhs, alum, dried ox-gall, honey with water, honey with vinegar and barley water.
But more valuable than these substances, Hippocrates taught, are diet and exercise.
Hippocrates was a Greek physician born in 460 BC on the island of Cos, Greece. He became known as the founder of medicine and was regarded as the greatest physician of his time. He based his medical practice on observations and on the study of the human body. He held the belief that illness had a physical and a rational explanation. He rejected the views of his time that considered illness to be caused by superstitions and by possession of evil spirits and disfavor of the gods.
Hippocrates held the belief that the body must be treated as a whole and not just a series of parts. He accurately described disease symptoms and was the first physician to accurately describe the symptoms of pneumonia, as well as epilepsy in children. He believed in the natural healing process of rest, a good diet, fresh air and cleanliness. He noted that there were individual differences in the severity of disease symptoms and that some individuals were better able to cope with their disease and illness than others. He was also the first physician that held the belief that thoughts, ideas, and feelings come from the brain and not the heart as others of him time believed.
Hippocrates traveled throughout Greece practicing his medicine. He founded a medical school on the island of Cos, Greece and began teaching his ideas. He soon developed an Oath of Medical Ethics for physicians to follow. This Oath is taken by physicians today as they begin their medical practice. He died in 377 BC. Today Hippocrates is known as the "Father of Medicine".
Asimov, I., (1982). Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (2nd Revised Edition). Garden City, New York: Doubleday.