An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Myth or Truth?

A phenomenally positive response to a pandemic – a cure, a vaccine, a drug – can now be developed quickly, but it has become hard to imagine civil discussions about social issues.

Scientific developments seem to be happening faster than societal developments and this may be a reason for the suspicions and doubts of some people against the vaccine for COVID-19. But hey, we are a biodiverse species and each one of us is different. Embracing different ideas with calm and open discussion is the main reason we thrived all around the globe as a species.

COVID-19 discussions reminded me about the Golden Apple of Discord (μῆλον τῆς Ἔριδος – milon tis Eridos in Greek) and all the stories around apples. It was a mythological object/story that came to symbolize a relatively small matter – that should not have been an issue at all – that leads to a bigger dispute.

In Greek mythology, Erida or Eris was the goddess of dispute. When the gods were holding a feast to which she was not invited, she tossed an apple over the wall with an inscription “kallisti”, meaning “for the fairest”. Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena each fought for the apple, and as the story goes, the apple was the reason the Trojan war started.

But apples appear elsewhere, in other stories, folklore, mythology, religion. The Apple has a symbolic meaning and mystical power. Adam and Eve, the first humans, ate the apple, which led to the Fall and the expulsion of man from the Garden of Eden.

The Greek Hercules is associated with the golden apples of Hesperides.

In the realm of the science of botany, can we ask if it is really true that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Or is it a myth? Why are there so many stories about apples? Was the apple tree so precious? This phrase emerged in the 18th century but it is true today. According to the USDA, apples are loaded with important nutrients. In an apple you can provide your body with vitamins (K, C), minerals (potassium, copper) and fiber at the ‘cost’ of only 95 calories, plus it makes you feel full. Also, there is a great variety of antioxidant substances. This is why “it keeps away the doctor.” In traditional Greek medicine, apples are ideal for kidney and respiratory ailments, and they are antioxidants. Also, due to fiber and other ingredients, they are good for hemorrhoids and other digestion problems, from constipation to diarrhea. If you have a digestion problem, you can try to eat an apple half hour before dinner or any other main course. Peels of apples should be consumed but they also can be dried and preserved as a tea for fever and flu. But if you want to consume the peels (of any fruit), try to find organic ones and without waxing on the surface. In Greece, apple trees are found only in the mountains (they need cold as a species) and a well-known delicious Greek variety are the ‘firikia’ in the mountains around the city of Volos city – small apples with spectacular taste. Apple slices with cinnamon on top is an ideal ‘healthy sweet’.

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.


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