The Origins of Medical Thought


The medical ideas and practices of the Ancient Greeks are typically attributed to the father of Greek medicine, Hippocrates.


Hippocrates represents the collective cultural elite of Ancient Greece and not one man.

The theories that evolved were attributed to him as a solitary man, but instead should be seen as representing a number of Medical Philosophers.  


The roots of modern medicine lie in the Western Mediterranean.



The great Roman, Galen was a great teacher and skilled surgeon.

He founded the Greco-Romano system of medicine and was physician to the gladiators.


Galen employed the power and logic of human observation.

Galen believed in the healing power of plants.


European medicine would subsequently diverge from this primitive healing philosophy with the rise in importance of the scientific method.

Its use in discovering new cures and improving health is the core of Western medicine.


Cause and effect science replaced the more intuitive approach of the early healers.

The entrenchment of the scientific method as the only path to understanding human health has diminished healing.

Treatment has replaced healing.

Medicine and health are not empirical sciences.  

Reason and testing do not always provide answers.


 Since doctors no longer rely on intuition to restore health, athletes will need to develop their own.


The Asian World.



The Asian cultures of India and China embraced and expanded herbal healing. They incorporated, as The Athlete’s Diet mirrors, a physical component to their diet. As part of their healing methodology, they added movement to its program. Their core belief is that the earth’s bountiful harvest provided all that is needed to prevent and cure illness. Their therapy incorporated these plants in their patient’s everyday diet. Traditional medical systems consider plants the essential ingredient to health.

In China, medical philosophers developed another variation of Traditional healing. Chinese healers added the use of needles to reverse the imbalances caused by disease. Acupuncture is believed to restore balance and harmony by opening the pathways of energy or qi. Combined with plants, acupuncture represents the Chinese approach to health. These methods help reverse disease.

Traditional Chinese healing system is better felt than understood. It is a powerful healing method that is wholly dependent on the unique experiences and expertise of the practitioner

The original Greco-Romano philosophy of balance has evolved into the rational modern medical system of today. A system focused on treatment and intervention. A medical system that views patients as consumers and physicians as providers. A system made up of pharmaceutical companies that manufacture cures, and an insurance industry that funds them.  They are supported by a hospital infrastructure that cleans up the mess.  Hovering over the system are lawyers.

The system depends and benefits from an unhealthy population. Traditional healing has been replaced by treatment. Today’s physician does not heal patients, they treat the results of tests.  Ancient societies evolved their medical system around balance while overtreatment charcaterizes the modern system. Where the early healers emphasized prevention and activity, our medical system concentrates on passive treatment and inactivity.

Traditional Medicine



Chinese Medicine

The Ancient Chinese healers reflected on the unity ofopposites (yin-yang) and combined it with Tao to develop a medical system that attempts to achieve harmony within.

The Yijing (I Ching, or Book of Changes) reduces the complex manifestations of change to the simple observation that any change is created by the interplay between two forces, yin and yang.  The written Chinese characters of yin and yang reveal the fundamental meaning of their system as they represent two sides of the same mountain. One face of the mountain is bright and sunny while the other is cloudy and dark.


In an insightful and logical way, the Chinese reveal their belief in the cycle of change. Yin and yang represent two faces of the same mountain. And since the amount of light shining on the mountain continues to change so too does yin and yang. The sunny side darkens as the dark side brightens. Yin and yang are two sides of the coin but each one can be converted to the other.

According to Chinese medicine all things have a yin and yang component. Within each yin or yang component there is another division of yin and yang.  Yin and yang create each other, control each other and can be transformed into each other.

Foods, herbs, and body types have been classified in a yin-yang binary system. Chinese physicians developed their medical system to counter the imbalance of yin-yang.


The purpose of Chinese therapy is to improve the flow of qi. Qi is fundamental to Chinese philosophy. Qi is frequently referred to as life’s vital energy or inner power cell. Lacking an accurate translation, qi can be thought of as matter on the verge of becoming energy, or energy at the moment of materialization. The written Chinese character representing qi shows water transforming into vapor. Qi is complex and highly changeable.

Yin-yang theory is used to explain change and when combined with Qi becomes a complete philosophy. Chinese healers believe that this theory replicates the symmetry in the universe. Yin and yang are matter and energy and qi is the converting power than transforms one into the other.

The Athlete’s Diet incorporated many of the botanicals found in Chinese herbal medicine into its diet. Unlike the Chinese healers, who utilize teas made with herbs, the botanical recommended in this book are extracts and are thus consumed in powdered form. It should be pointed out that quality extracts still maintain the balance of the original plant.



Ayurveda sprung from the fertile minds of the Ancient Hindus. Ayurvedic knowledge originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and represents the ‘science of life’.

Its emphasis on prevention gave it the claim of ‘mother of all healing’.

Ayurvedic healers believe in the mutual interaction of mind and body and also incorporated movement in their healing. The Hindus incorporate yoga, a form of psychic exercise, into Ayurveda. Ayurvedic healers believe that their system produces a harmony between the body, its soul and the cosmos. Ayurveda places an emphasis on preserving and promoting fitness and instills a positive outlook on life. Ayurveda blends dietary ingredients with physical exercise.


Ayurveda views health as a particular pattern of energy. Its purpose is to balance the individual combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristic, into a healthy constitution.

Ayurveda balances the 5 elements and uses herbs and foods to promote the body’s natural mechanisms to heal itself. Ayurvedic pharmacopeias contains medicinal uses for over 500 plants and details over 10,000 recipes of drug combinations.

In modern India, sales of herbal extracts and herbal remedies are doubled to that of pharmaceutical drugs.

Ayurvedic healers consider fresh air and sunlight essential ingredients to health and wellness. Ayurveda differs from the Greco-Romano system by including physical movement (yoga) and spiritual exercise (meditation) in its program.





The goal of yoga is to achieve a sense of liberation through the complete integration of body, breath, heart and spirit. This is accomplished through a series of postures and breathing exercises.

Yoga in America is limited to a series of stretches and

muscle-building exercises. Even with this limited scope, Yoga produces improved strength and flexibility.  The Athlete’s Diet recommends the practices of yoga and its modern day cousin, Pilates, for relieving stress and improving fitness. Athletes are encouraged to follow these programs only under the guidance of expert instructors.

Early athletes on the Indian subcontinent worked hard. They practiced yoga and meditated. Afterwards, they rewarded their bodies with food. They replenished what had been depleted and empowered their bodies to relax. Their healers recommended herbs, botanical oils, powders, decoctions and teas to help them relax. They repressed inflammation and strengthened ligaments. Ayurvedic healers steamed, bathed and massaged their remedies into patients. The spicy food they ate contained important protective antioxidants that prolonged their life. The healer’s goal in Ayurveda, as it is in all Traditional Systems, is to restore and maintain balance.

Ayurveda and its theoretical structure form the backbone of all the medical systems on the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The Athlete’s Diet credits Ayurveda for its emphasis on movement and the need to rejuvenate the body between activities. The Athlete’s Diet borrows from these teachings and beliefs and is indebted to Ancient Healers.


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