Run in the sun
“Let there be light”
The use of Heliotherapy or ‘sun-bathing’ for health reasons precedes recorded history, but the first documents recording the theory and practice of ‘solar therapy’ were written by the ancient Greeks. Heliopolis, the ancient Greek city of the sun was famous for it’s healing temples. Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) had a large solarium within his sanatorium on the island of Cos. The famous physician/historian Herodotus who believed that ‘the sun feeds the muscles’ recounts a visit to a site of a historical battle between the ancient Egyptians and Persians in his book ‘the histories’:
“The heads of the Persians are so weak that, if you were to toss a single pebble at one, you would make a hole in it. But the heads of the Egyptians are so strong that, using a stone, you could break one open only with a good deal of effort. They said that the reason for this (which I found easy to believe) was that the Egyptians, beginning straightaway in childhood, shave their heads and expose them to the sun, which hardens the bone. This is also the reason why Egyptians do not go bald: among the Egyptians one may observe the fewest balding men of any race in the world. This, then, is the reason that the Egyptians have such strong heads. The Persians have such weak heads for this reason: they are always wearing felt caps from the beginning of their lives.”
From the late 1800s, heliotherapy became a key part of certain treatment regimes for tuberculosis, rickets and war wounds, reaching a peak in the 1920s-30s with the ‘Rollier method’ of heliotherapy becoming a standard procedure in certain hospitals in Europe and the US (fig 1).
Although heliotherapy has been usurped by the modern sciences of ‘photobiology’ and ‘photomedicine’, and our understanding of solar radiation and it’s effects on the human body has evolved (fig 2 and fig 3), evidence suggests that intelligent use of sunlight is (still) a powerful tool in preventing many acute and chronic medical conditions.
Hobday RA (1997) Sunlight Therapy and Solar Architecture Medical History
Herodotus The Histories Penguin Books
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