Healthy is a term whose meaning has changed throughout time. It has historically been used to indicate when something is in a sound state or to describe something that is conducive to being in good health. Healthy’s meaning has changed throughout time in the sense that what was once considered healthy in different time periods has often been found to be unhealthy, and sometimes even downright dangerous in subsequent time periods. Many things that have been prescribed by healthcare providers from ancient times up until most recently, have been discovered to have potentially caused more harm than good. This, along with many advances in science, technology, and medicine have caused more and more Americans to take a more proactive role in their own health by trying alternatives to conventional Western medicine. 

Many “alternative” healthcare remedies and practices are no longer truly alternative in that they are used by the mainstream. Many practices that were once considered alternative, such as acupuncture and massage, are sometimes suggested to patients by conventional Western healthcare providers, and in some cases, are even covered by health insurance. 

History of Healthy

Each generation seems to learn about a medicine or medical treatment that was common in the past but is now known to cause serious, sometimes even deadly side effects. Throughout time, physicians and healthcare practitioners have prescribed dangerous medicine and treatments to patients with the best of intentions, based on their understanding of science and technology of their time. 


For thousands of years, the most modern medical practitioners of different eras clung to the belief that illness is the result of “bad blood.” Bloodletting probably started during ancient times but it did not become common until influential Greek physicians such as Hippocrates and Galen popularised this practice. They posited that the body is filled with four basic substances or humors- yellow bile, black bile, phlegm and blood- and people become unhealthy when there is an improper balance in these things. Patients with fevers and other common ailments were often diagnosed with an overabundance of blood. Doctors would “remedy” this problem by cutting open a patient’s vein and letting some of their bodily fluids drain into a receptacle, or sometimes they got rid of “excess” blood by putting leeches on the patient. 

Western civilisation evolved from the ideas and customs of the Greeks and Romans. These great nations were at the forefront of science, medicine and the technology of their times even though many of their ideas and practices such as bloodletting are now outdated.

There are many, many examples of medical practices throughout more recent history that the time were considered to be cutting edge but are now are viewed as anywhere from innocuous and unnecessary to downright dangerous and deadly. 


It was not until midway through the latter half of the 19th century that doctors started to wash their hands before and in between patient examinations. They washed their instruments but only before putting them away at the end of the day, and would use the same instruments on multiple patients in a day. It was not until 1867 when Joseph Lister published a groundbreaking paper on using antiseptics in surgery (when germs were still just a theory that were not proven until later) that surgeons began sterilizing their instruments and washing their hands prior to surgeries.


Just one hundred years ago, it was common for doctors to treat syphilis with mercury. While mercury has some effectiveness in killing syphilis, it often killed the patient too. Records indicate that mercury was used by different cultures for various ailments, for thousands of years before its harmful side effects were discovered.