Six essential truths of living well

It's never been easier to access information about anything and everything. While instant information has allowed for incredible societal enhancements, individuals often suffer from information overload. If you are ready to thrive and enjoy life naturally, I recommend simplicity. Below is a take on ‘the six hygiene factors' of ancient Greek Medicine - areas of healthy living which, if tended to properly, can allow you to thrive.

1. Breathing ​

You can live three weeks without food, and three days without fluids, but only three minutes without breath. Breathing is the fundamental human connection to the plant world, which forms the ‘planetary lungs' that provide us with the precious oxygen our life depends on. This is yet another reason why it is critical to look after our environment! ​

Enhance oxygenation of your cells by enjoying a walk in nature, learn a special breathing technique as taught in Pilates, yoga and in the Buteyko method, or do some targeted cardiovascular exercise.

Medicinal plants such as thyme, plantain and aniseed can improve respiratory function. When taken regularly during childhood they may support the maturing of the growing immune system and build resilience in the lungs and bronchi.

2. Food and drink ​

The saying goes: you are what you eat. Your daily food and drink choices have a tremendous impact on your physical and mental health. Say yes to nourishing organic foods, clean water and traditional plant medicine, essential nutrients that are not readily available in food alone. ​

3. Exercise and rest ​

Contemporary science confirms that human physiology requires both exercise and adequate rest to function healthily. This is a point often lost in our fast-paced society that is more comfortable with emphasising just exercise. However, emerging evidence suggests that without adequate daily rest and proper convalescence after an illness, your body becomes weakened and susceptible to chronic illnesses. Exercise is important, but needs to be balanced with rest so your body can repair and heal. ​

4. Sleeping and waking ​

The human biological circadian rhythm is guided by the seasons and nature. Your body is primed to be awake during the hours of natural light and asleep when it is dark. The invention of electric light had a profound influence on our wake - sleep rhythm and has contributed to a major disruption of ancient biology. Many people today suffer from a significant sleep deficit and sleep disturbances. This hinders the body's ability to repair and recover. Eight hours sleep is the ideal time for allowing the body to reset itself and gather stamina for the day to come. ​

A good daily sleep routine coupled with medicinal plants such as hops, passionflower, valerian, lemon balm and lavender help to reinstate a naturally sound sleep. These medicinal plants can help the body switch from active mode to resting mode and are best taken daily as a medicinal tea half an hour before going to bed. ​

5. Detoxing and emptying ​

Just as important as our daily sustenance is the need to excrete and detox what we eat and drink. Detox is not something that can only be done once in a blue moon, although targeted seasonal detoxes may have their merits. Your gut and your body's main detoxification organs, the liver and kidneys, excrete metabolic wastes, fat- and water-soluble toxins, and environmental wastes. These substances otherwise get deposited into fat tissues .

An easy way to support your body's daily detoxification is to take a medicinal tea with bitter liver herbs before breakfast. This can stimulate digestive enzymes in your body, activate the gut and cleanse the liver from toxins metabolised overnight. You can follow this with a medicinal tea mid-morning to remove the released water-soluble toxins. I call this combination an ‘internal shower'. ​

6. Mental wellbeing ​

Our thoughts, emotions and physiological processes are all interconnected. This old medical insight has gained currency again in recent years. Support your physical and mental health by fostering positive attitudes and working through issues such as anger, grief or depression that are holding you back from enjoying your life. ​

This article is not intended to substitute for medical advice. For any concerns, consult your health professional.

Sandra Clair is the medical herbalist/anthropologist who founded plant health products company Artemis. She holds degrees in health science and medical anthropology and is completing a PhD exploring the relevance of traditional plant medicine today.