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Used with permission of the Trustees of Wesley's Chapel, City Road

To Be United Methodist: Primitive Physic


January-February 2017

Is any of the advice that John Wesley included in Primitive Physic still applicable today?


While the specific remedies John Wesley proposed may raise eyebrows today, his general advice on diet and exercise bears similarity to what modern United Methodists may hear from their health care providers.

"Nothing conduces more to health than abstinence and food with due labor," Wesley wrote in his 1747 book Primitive Physick or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Disease. The book was a best-seller in Wesley's day. He first published it anonymously.


On diet

"The great rule of eating and drinking is, to suit the quality and quantity of the food to the strength of our digestion; to take always such a sort and such a measure of food as sits light and easy to the stomach.

"All pickled, or smoked, or salted food, and all high-seasoned, is unwholesome.

"For studious persons, about eight ounces of animal food, and 12 of vegetable, in 24 hours, is sufficient.

"Water is the wholesomest of all drinks.

"Strong, and more especially spirituous, liquors are a certain, though slow, poison.

"Malt liquors (except clear small beer, or small ale of due age) are exceeding hurtful to tender persons.

"Coffee and tea are extremely hurtful to persons who have weak nerves.

"Tender persons should eat very light suppers, and that two or three hours before going to bed."

On exercise

"A due degree of exercise is indispensably necessary to health and long life.

"Walking is the best exercise for those who are able to bear it; riding for those who are not. The open air, when the weather is fair, contributes much to the benefit of exercise.

"We may strengthen any weak part of the body by constant exercise. Thus, the lungs may be strengthened by loud speaking, or walking up an easy ascent; the digestion and the nerves, by riding; the arms and hams, by strongly rubbing them daily.

"Those who read or write much should learn to do it standing; otherwise it will impair their health.

"The fewer clothes any one uses, by day or night, the hardier he will be."

Adapted from, first published July 30, 2012.