Quince – Golden, Aromatic and Therapeutic


Quince (Cydonia Oblonga), one of the oldest fruit on Earth, has powerful historic symbolism, beautiful aroma and therapeutic properties.

It was suggested as the ‘apple’ that Eve gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Quinces were probably the three ‘golden apples’ that Hercules stole from the Garden of Hesperides for his 12th and most dangerous labour. Historians believe that it was a quince that Paris gave to Aphrodite in exchange for the love of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world. Aphrodite is often depicted holding a quince in her hand as a symbol of love. As recently as the 18th century, a father-in-law would present his son’s bride-to-be with a basket of quinces as an offering to bring happiness to their marriage.

Quince with its distinctive aromatic, tangy perfume is used to sweeten the breath or refresh a room, but that is not all.

Quince has been used for centuries in traditional medicine as a tonic and a diuretic. An infusion of the leaves and/or the fruit has been used for the treatment of diarrhoea and bowel bleeding, an infusion of the seeds for sore throats and the boiled fruit for cystitis.

Now, modern science has found a number of nutrients in quince, including high concentrations of polyphenols in quince pulp, peel, seeds and jam.

Quince polyphenols are natural anti-oxidants and when tested showed:

·      significant antimicrobial and anti-viral activity

·      protective effects against oxidative destruction of red blood cells

·      protection against stomach ulcers and

·      healing effect on skin lesions (the quince seeds).

Quince needs to be cooked, it cannot be eaten raw.

Cooked quince eaten alone or with other foods, can support the healing of various damaged tissues and organs and encourage the restoration of biological systems to normal function. Traditional/folk medicine has long known these properties, perhaps now is the time for us to use quince again as part of our gentle approach to natural nutritional therapy.

Recipe: Quince Rouge  à la Grecque



Cut two quinces (800g -1 kg) into quarters. Place them cut side down in 1 litre of boiling water in which you’ve added the juice of 1/2 lemon.

Use the whole fruit with the skin, pulp and seeds as these contain most of the therapeutic properties and the pectin, which helps form a delicious red jelly.

To the pan with the quince and water, add the following ingredients:

4-6 tbs of brown sugar or honey

a cinnamon stick

3-4 cardamom pods

3-4 cloves and a pinch of saffron.

Simmer until the fruit is soft (usually over an hour) and the syrup turns into reddish jelly.

Serve with yoghurt. 


Ὠφελέειν ή μη βλάπτειν – ‘To help, or at least, to do no harm’


Ὠφελέειν ή μη βλάπτειν - ‘To help, or at least, to do no harm’ Hippocrates proclaimed 25 centuries ago. 

 This expression was passed on, like a batton, from Hippocrates to Galen, to Thomas Sydenham, to Florence Nightingale and across the oceans to the United States, Japan and other countries, while along the way was transformed to contemporary and trendy languages, becoming the famous injunction in Latin: “primum non nocere”.

Hippocrates, the originator of this quote, was not only an inspiring physician and teacher of the medical school of Kos that he founded. Neither was he just the most famous doctor of his time and the one who is still now considered by most physicians, historians and philosophers to be the Father of Medicine. He did something no-one else had done before: he systematically wrote down and passed on to future generations his research observations, teachings, theories, philosophy, ethics and regimes for health and illness. 

His teaching continues to be of great significance to us today and deserves to be studied by the modern physicians and other healthcare professionals.

Pomegranate – a symbol of prosperity and fertility

Autumn is the time when pomegranates are in season. You can find them in Middle Eastern shops and in mainstream supermarkets. The fruit is full of goodness and sweetness.

Modern research has shown pomegranate to be a rich source of vitamins B and C, potassium, magnesium and powerful antioxidants. Recent trials indicate it has anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive (through the inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzyme; ACE), anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects. Furthermore, it has been shown to have a positive effect on heart disease risk factors and onosteoarthritis. It has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years, where amongst other purposes, pomegranate juice is thought to relieve constipation, while the fruit seeds are used to treat diarrhoea.

Eat pomegranate fruit and drink the juice as part of your diet in autumn.

Together with other foods, pomegranate will act synergistically to enhance the nourishment and healing molecules provided to the body. It will also bring sweetness to the palate, pleasure to the eye and an opportunity to share a story with your child.

The pomegranate has symbolic meaning in many cultures and traditions and has been considered a sacred fruit in most major religions. In ancient times, it symbolised life and fertility and was used -together with apples and eggs- in weddings and funerals. Based on the myth of Persephone who was the wife of the God of Underworld (Hades), ancient Greeks put eggs and pomegranates in a basket next to the bed where the dead laid to rest. These offerings would help to bring life and fertility to what came after death, to ‘life after death’.

In England, pomegranate features in the coat of arms of the Royal College of Physicians, granted in the middle of the 16th century by King Henry the VIIIth. Perhaps, now that we have such advanced scientific knowledge, we can give a different meaning to this symbol:an acknowledgement of the significant role foods can play for health and for the treatment of sick for healing purposes.


(Photo by Dr Henry Oakeley)


‘Food and Exercise as Medicine’ – From Hippocrates to Modern Times

This was the title of my poster presented earlier this year at the biannual conference of the International Hippocratic Foundation of Kos, in Kos, Greece

In researching the Hippocratic writings, my aim was to add an objective argument to the authority of Hippocrates and collect and systematise evidence from the written body of Hippocratic tradition which was used by later doctors and scientists, including Galen and upon which much of modern medicine has been built.

The Hippocratic doctors weren’t aware of the human genome, but they understood that each person is different and should be treated as such. They therefore advocated the use of a meticulous medical history, which included the individual’s previous state of being, health and illness, their environment and their previous known reaction to foods.

Could it then be argued that they were practicing the equivalent of modern nutrigenomics?

More research may bring to light the scientific background behind the lifestyle modification  treatments used by the ancient doctors. 



A Good Physician Is Half a Cook (and vice versa)

A Good Physician Is Half A Cook. This is a paraphrase from Andrew Boorde’s 1547 medical book ‘Breviary of Health’ in which he writes: “a good cook is halfe a physycyon”.

 2000 years earlier, Hippocrates wrote in The Art (of Medicine) that highly skilled physicians treat their patients, using not only drugs, but also the right diet and lifestyle, to assist the human body in the healing process: ‘The physicians of greatest repute obviously cure by regimen and other substances…’  


In my thesis for an MSc in Nutritional Medicine I wrote about ‘Food asMedicine: Exploring Nutritional Knowledge in the Hippocratic Corpus’. I examined a number of books in the Corpus, in which Hippocrates emphasises the importance of physicians’  knowledge of nutrition and dietetics.

In Ancient Medicine, he talks about the required fields of study for physicians. A good physician, he says, should have knowledge of the properties of each food, of their differences according to variety, conditions of growth and processing and of their uses for restoration of health and healing of the sick. He, however, should learn much more than a list of foods and their effect on the body. He must also have an understanding of the particular characteristics of individuals and, of the mechanisms by which each food affects different people:


Required Fields of Study for a Physician,  according to Hippocrates

·      Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Body

·      Properties of foods and drinks, in their natural form and after processing and cooking

·      Natural and artificial exercises

·      Laws of the Universe – Astronomy


As more and more evidence emerges on the importance of food and lifestyle for our health, many modern doctors choose to get more knowledge and education on Nutrition. At the same time, the best medical journals around the world, increasingly publish studies that research dietary influences on health and disease.

A shift in the focus of healthcare is apparent. Food is becoming again an essential therapeutic tool, a medicine!










I was at the Macmillan Primary Care Conference 2011 in London today, to facilitate a workshop on Cancer Anorexia Cachexia Syndrome.

One of the big themes that came out of this meeting was the importance of listening to our patients.

Patients are experts in their illness and doctors can learn a lot from them.

A video interview of a patient/doctor who talks candidly about his experience of food after being diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer is available online on the Food and Nutrition Group’s (FNG) at Help the Hospices webpage. 

Many of the problems that patients face when they have a diagnosis of cancer come up during this interview, as well as some suggestions to solve them. 

Going back to basics, eating a well-cooked nutritious food, appropriate for each person’s individual needs and circumstances, can make a difference.

Eating it together with a loved one, in a normal, pleasant environment is even better.

Not much more is needed sometimes!




Hippocrates, who lived 2,500 years ago, helped people maintain or restore their health by changing their DIET (ΔΙΑΙΤΑ). The word diet in Ancient Greek means ‘way of life’ and encompasses food, physical activity, massage, baths, sleep and other aspects of everyday activities.

We’ve known since ancient times that food, exercise and lifestyle, as well as the external environment, influence our healthFor this and many other reasons, food has always been a subject of interest for lay people, writers and philosophers alike. In the famous ancient cookery book ‘Deipnosophists’ (which means the ‘Banquet of Philosophers’) written by Athenaus in the 3rd century AD, we read the interesting story of the death of Democritus of Abdera, the ‘Laughing Philosopher’.

Feeling quite old at the age of 104, he had decided that his time had come to die. He had gradually reduced his food intake and was expecting to leave this life soon. It was however the time of a very important womens only festival, the Thesmophoria, dedicated to the goddesses Demeter and Persephone. His sister, who looked after him at his home and, who was herself more than 100 years old, asked him not to die during the festivities because she wanted to take part in them. Democritus, wanting to grant her wish, asked for a pot of honey to be brought to him. He kept himself alive for three days just by inhaling the fumes from the honey. When the festival had finished, the pot of honey was taken away and he passed away without any suffering.

This story from Ancient Greece graphically depicts many elements of nutritional care which we encounter in our modern medical practice and which we categorise as physical, cultural, social, ethical and emotional.





‘A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit in his illnesses’ Hippocrates

The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of 60 books attributed to the great ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, although not all of them are written directly by him.


Hippocrates’ plane tree, under which he taught his pupils

In the Corpus, a number of texts refer to the need for each person to take initiative for their own health. In the book ‘Regimen in Health’ the author says the following: 

‘A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit in his illnesses’

The Hippocratic doctor practised medicine close to the patient, listening carefully to their story and observing in great detail all aspects of signs and symptoms, as they developed over a period of time. Only then did he reach a conclusion as to the best treatment to restore health.

During treatment, the doctor continued to observe the patient and adapted his advice according to changes in the person’s clinical situation and environment.

Each person was given a personalised healthcare plan which involved adapting diet, physical activity and other aspects of daily life such as baths, sleep, natural exercises (singing, meditation) and habits.

In conjunction with this, the physician asked each person to take initiative for their own health. Engaging them in their own care was important for the success of the prescribed treatment, especially since it quite often lasted a long time.

The patient was asked to pay close attention to the reactions in their body.

This personalised approach and patient education and empowerment could help many people in our days, as diseases that are linked to our lifestyle (such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer) are increasing.

These diseases require a combined approach, which pays attention not only to drugs, but also to each person’s diet, physical activity and lifestyle in general.

This approach can only be successful if the patient is fully engaged with it and adopts it for a long time, if not for lifetime. 



Health and Being

In this quote, Dalai Lama talks about Health and Being.
These two words combined together make the name of this website.
My aim is to bring to the forefront information that can help others and myself reach health and wellbeing.
As a physician, scientist and historian I will combine these domains of knowledge, seeking an understanding of the significance of modern research findings.

The Dalai Lama was asked: 
“what surprises you the most?”.
He replied: 
“Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die,
and then he dies having never lived”.
Statue of Hygeia with snake in one hand and egg in the other (150-200 AD). Museum of Kos

Can a wholefood plant-based diet help prevent and reverse heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and other chronic illnesses?

‘Forks Over Knives’ is a film-documentary which presents the evidence on the claim that chronic degenerative illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer, can not only be prevented, but also reversed through following a wholefood plant-based diet.

It follows the work of highly acclaimed nutritional scientist Dr T Colin Campbell and surgeon Dr Caldwell Esselstyn.

These two scientists, through their observations and clinical and laboratory findings, changed their views on what interventions could help patients get better. They showed how a wholefood plant-based diet can be of tremendous benefit to the health and wellbeing of individuals with advanced chronic illnesses.

The film was screened in Cambridge UK during the 2011 Cambridge Film Festival. 

At the end of the film, charity Wallace Cancer Care hosted a panel discussion with Professor Rob Thomas, Dr Eleni Tsiompanou and Mrs Sam Corti.

‘Forks Over Knives’ poster

Sam Colti, Eleni Tsiompanou, Rob Thomas and Pamela Raspe describing their reaction to the film and taking questions from the audience after the end of the screening