United Methodists are indebted to John Wesley for his habits of study and discipline that enabled him to create the writings and teachings that became our denominational traditions. What may be less well known is that Wesley was also fascinated by the human body; he conducted many an experiment on himself, eventually leading to his development of over 800 remedies for 300 unique ailments, which he recorded in his volume, Primitive Physick.
I’m not as willing to commit to Wesley’s medical recommendations as I am to the denomination he founded. After all, he did suggest rubbing the head with onions and honey to cure baldness and snorting vinegar to reverse a bout of lethargy. Nevertheless, Wesley offered some sound advice about specific areas of health, and in fact, was ahead of his time on certain points. Below are a few of his more helpful tips:
- “Water is the wholesomest of all drinks; quickens the appetite, and strengthens the digestion most.”
- “A due degree of exercise is indispensably necessary to health and long life.”
- “Those who read or write much should learn to do it standing; otherwise it will impair their health.”
- For coughs, “make a hole through a lemon and fill it with honey. Roast it, and catch the juice. Take a tea-spoonful of this frequently.”
- Go to bed at 9pm and get up between 4am and 5am
Whether or not you follow John Wesley’s advice on how to cure your next headache, I think it’s important to remember the essence of his teachings on health: that “wholeness is the well-working of the body” and that balancing all areas of health is a spiritual process.
Below is a list of sources used for this post; they also offer additional information on Wesley’s views on health:
- UMC.org: Wesley’s diet, exercise tips promote health and What we believe: Health and Wholeness
- Faith & Leadership: Primitive Physick: John Wesley on diet and exercise and Randy Maddox: John Wesley says, ‘Take care of yourself’
- Beliefnet: The shocking truth about John Wesley
Image from NeuroWhoa! blog via CC