Ancient Myths Surrounding Our Health That May Not Be True

Some of the myths in the health world are based on superstition and old wives tales, from swallowing pumpkin seeds creating a pumpkin in your stomach to cats stealing the breath of babies from them both drinking milk. But some may be based on slightly more fact than fiction. We all love to believe the health myths our families have ingrained into us, but how useful are they in actually curing the problem? With their roots plausibly based in medical truth, here are some of the most common health myths that we’ve believed for centuries.

The hot and cold balance

In Eastern culture, it’s thought to be good for the body to maintain a balance of hot and cold. For example, ‘hot’ foods are considered to be ingredients such as chilies, peppers and beef, whereas ‘cold’ foods are soy beans, oranges and lettuce. The imbalance of hot and cold foods could lead to sickness according to these cultures, and based on Chinese medicine theory a healthy person is good at balancing cold and heat. In a way, this is actually true – eating too many spicy foods can make you feel ill and can lead to ulcers or acid reflux. Likewise, overeating fried or crispy foods can increase the risk of heart disease. There’s no scientific basis to say that eating spicy food will always make you ill – it’s a matter of individual preference and how the body reacts to these foods.

Hot toddies for a cold or the flu

Hot toddies, a mixture of boiling water, lemon and whiskey, are known in certain parts of the UK as being useful as soothing or killing a cold. But scientific evidence doesn’t support this. While alcohol kills some bacteria in the stomach, when we’re sick the disease-causing bacteria are already rife in the body. By this stage, alcohol can do little to kill them. Hot toddies are useful in opening the nasal passages though, thanks to the steam. The alcohol can also help you sleep if you’re struggling because of your symptoms. While it may not cure you, some people find them soothing and they can benefit you in that regard.


Shiatsu is a form of accupressure from Japan that’s believed to help fight disease and pain by pressing certain parts of the body. These pressure points relate to different energies in the body, which can help with ailments. However, there is no scientific proof that it works. It is thought to be therapeutic and can help the individual relax by relieving tender muscles. It certainly isn’t damaging to our health, a positive point given the risks to some modern therapies. Previous studies have shown that it can help with brain function and stress relief, which in turn can help avoid illness.

Chicken soup and matzo balls

Branded the Jewish penicillin, chicken noodle soup has a global reputation for being the best cure for colds and flu. While it may taste good, however, there’s no proof that it can cure your body of anything. The steam can release the phlegm that collects in the body, helping to alleviate some of your symptoms though. Studies have shown that it works best as a placebo, showing that the soup lowered the action of white blood cells that spur on the inflammation, increasing the symptoms of the common cold. It certainly serves as a healthy comfort food, which in itself makes it a great food to eat when you’re ill!

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