After all the indulgences of the year-end festivities, most of us are left feeling less-than-optimal in the health and wellness department. The start of the year is a good time to reflect on our personal health habits, and the Father of Medicine himself is a solid place to turn to.

The personification of the ideal physician, Hippocrates is credited with having authored over 60 works containing medical and practical advice. Here are some time-honoured tips to recover from illness – Hippocrates-style.

1. Water is overrated

Much has been expounded on the many benefits of drinking water, but according to Hippocrates, water can do a lot more harm than good: creating bile, increasing liver and spleen swelling, and causing the intestines and stomach to gurgle unpleasantly. Still, that is no excuse to avoid water completely, as Hippocrates does admit that drinking a little water can help one to cough up phlegm.

2. Fill up on curative foods

Hippocrates recommends making healing drinks from raisins, grapes, saffron, and pomegranates. Those suffering lung infections may find relief the consumption of roasted cumin, white sesame seeds, and almonds, mixed with honey. One can even press fig juice on a vein to staunch bleeding. Yet, despite the curative properties of food, Hippocrates warns that some may cause health problems – cheese, for example, does no favours for the digestive system, causing flatulence, nausea and constipation.

3. Let others bathe you – with lots of soap

A bath should be treated as a relaxing experience, particularly for the sick. It can be therapeutic for sufferers of a wide range of diseases, including pneumonia and back pain, particularly when combined with copious use of soap. More soap than usual should be used, with lots of water to wash the soap off. Ideally, the one being bathed should do nothing, letting other people rinse, scrub and sponge them off gently, for ‘it is better that no friction should be applied’. Those with loose bowels or severe nausea should avoid baths, however.

4. Avoid making big lifestyle changes

“…it is well ascertained that even a faulty diet of food and drink steadily persevered in, is safer in the main as regards health than if one suddenly change it to another,” says Hippocrates. Translation: do not drastically change one’s diet and exercise regimes. If one is already used to eating twice a day, one should not abruptly cut down to one, or risk becoming ‘feeble and powerless’, suffering heartburn, cold extremities and throbbing temples.

5. Have barley water with food

Hippocrates is a big fan of ptisan, a boiled drink made from barley and water. According to him, ptisan is ‘justly preferred before all’ other medicinal drinks made from other types of grains, as it nourishes the body and has a pleasant taste and consistency. “Those … who make use of ptisan, should never for a day allow their vessels to be empty of it,” says Hippocrates.

6. Heat treatment for pain

Hippocrates explains that application of heat can dissolve pain. Heating pads are easily available in drugstores today, but you can also make your own the way the ancients did: by putting hot water in a bottle, bladder or vessel, with a soft barrier between the skin and hot water to avoid burns. A soft large sponge, squeezed into hot water, may be used, too.

7. Drinking honey and vinegar for ease of breathing

In his writings, Hippocrates discusses the many uses of oxymel, a honey-vinegar mixture, as well as hydromel, a concoction of honey and water. Oxymel purportedly helps patients breathe better, cough up phlegm and clear the windpipe. At the same time, it can present some disagreeable side-effects such as flatulence and watery discharge from the bowels, amid milder ones such as loss of strength and cold extremities. Women are warned not to drink too much vinegar as it can cause pain in the uterus.

8. Rest well, but too much indolence is harmful

Hippocrates gives the example of a man who has suffered a leg wound that is neither serious nor trifling. If the man rests up at home rather than go out and about, the wound will be ‘much less predisposed to inflammation, and be much sooner well’. But if, say, after the fifth or sixth day of rest, he ‘suddenly make[s] many laborious exertions’, he will suffer for his prior lack of exercise. Bottom line: rest well when ill, and ease yourself gently back to work.

9. Monitor your symptoms well

Hippocrates brings up the importance of monitoring the symptoms of illness many times, both explicitly and implicitly. “The aspects of the sick are various,” he says, “wherefore the physician should pay attention, that he may not miss observing the exciting causes, as far as they can be ascertained by reasoning.”

10. See a real doctor

Hippocrates stresses the need to get a real doctor to get the best diagnosis and treatment plan, one rooted in experience, medical training and knowledge. He warns of quacks, ‘for it is an easy matter to learn the names of those things which are applicable to persons labouring under such complaints’. Nevertheless, even real doctors may differ in their treatment recommendations for acute diseases, which include fever, lethargy, pneumonia, and lung and brain inflammation. MIMS

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Top 8 dietary advice to follow as your new year’s resolution