What Did Ancient Greece Use for Medicine?

Ancient Greece has left a lasting impact on various fields, including medicine. The Greeks’ approach to medicine was based on natural remedies, and their understanding of the human body was quite advanced for their time. In this article, we will explore what the ancient Greeks used for medicine and how it has influenced modern-day medical practices.

The Beginnings of Greek Medicine

Greek medicine can trace its roots back to the 5th century BCE. At that time, Greek physicians believed that the body was made up of four humors – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile – which needed to be in balance for good health. Any imbalance could lead to illness.

Herbs and Plants

Herbs and plants were a significant part of Greek medicine. They were used to treat various ailments such as headaches, stomach problems, and respiratory issues. Some of the commonly used herbs included aloe vera, chamomile, garlic, ginger, and mint.

Greek physicians also used opium poppy to relieve pain. Opium poppy was considered a powerful painkiller but had side effects such as addiction and respiratory problems.

Dietary Changes

The Greeks believed that diet played a vital role in maintaining good health. They recommended eating a balanced diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins such as fish and chicken, whole grains like barley and wheat bread.

They also suggested avoiding foods that could cause an imbalance in the humors or aggravate existing conditions such as dairy products if you had a respiratory issue or red meat if you had digestion problems.


Physical exercise was another essential aspect of Greek medicine. The Greeks believed that exercise helped maintain good health by improving blood circulation and strengthening muscles.

They recommended various exercises such as running, walking long distances, wrestling, jumping over obstacles in an open field or even dancing.

Surgery and Medical Tools

The Greeks also performed surgery in certain cases. However, the surgical techniques were not as advanced as they are today, and the mortality rate was quite high.

Medical tools used by the ancient Greeks included scalpels, forceps, and speculums. These tools were made of bronze, iron or silver.


In conclusion, the ancient Greeks used natural remedies such as herbs and plants, dietary changes, exercise, and surgical procedures to treat various ailments. Their understanding of medicine has influenced modern-day medical practices in many ways.

Today we have advanced surgical techniques, powerful painkillers with fewer side effects and a better understanding of how diet influences our health. However, we can still learn from the ancient Greeks’ approach to medicine – focusing on natural remedies and preventive measures to maintain good health.