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EXPERIENCE CULTURE, GASTRONOMY & MORE

H E A LT H

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ISSN: 2529-041X

ISSUE #35 | 2018-19 EDITION

04 - 37

IN S P I R AT I O N

A look at ancient figures, customs and places; a story of paradise; and the enduring appeal of Greece as the place to spend the best days of your life.

38 - 73

E XPE RIE NC E

Exploring magic mountain villages, soothing spas, adventurous agritourism farms and an island where octogenarians abound.

74 - 108

ENRICHMENT

From nature’s bounty: plantbased cosmetics, incredible olive oil, amazing superfoods and a cooking tradition drawing on simplicity and seasonality.

109 - 143

HEALT H CAR E

Leading specialists in their fields and a look at technologies and approaches that reinforce Greece’s excellent reputation as a medical destination.


© DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

WELCOME

THE CRADLE OF HEALTH Can a country be good for you? Evidence suggests that this one might be. BY NATA SH A BL AT SIOU / DE P U T Y E DI T OR , GR E E C E I S H E A LT H

A few years ago, I.B. and C.B., a couple from Ireland who had been trying to conceive for three years, with 13 unsuccessful attempts at two different assisted reproduction clinics – came across information on the innovative infertility clinic Locus Medicus AIE in Greece, where they would be able to identify the reasons why previous efforts had failed, instead of simply resorting once again to in vitro fertilization (IVF). “After they explained to us their approach in detail, we immediately underwent the examinations that they proposed. The collection of samples at home and their dispatch to Greece was a simple process.” When it was established that they would require targeted treatment, the couple chose to have it in Greece. “Although London was nearer and flights were cheaper, the cost of the treatment was extremely high, so we opted for Athens.” After a few months of treatment, I.B. became pregnant and, in the summer of 2017, gave birth to a healthy girl. This story is just one of hundreds and demonstrates only one of the many categories of medical services offered in Greece. A quick scan of the media, and of medical journals on pioneering procedures attributed to Greek doctors, yields a long list of accomplishments that range from a novel surgical approach to a complex case of penile urethra stenosis to the first transcatheter closure of a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) successfully completed on a low birth-weight preterm neonate. In addition to innovative, high-quality services and the facil-

ities necessary for a dynamic presence in the global health and wellness tourism market, Greece offers patients an additional advantage. It is widely recognized – not only by foreigners seeking medical treatment in this country, but also by patients overseas who prefer to choose from among the thousands of Greek doctors working in health institutes all over the world – that Greek medical practitioners provide a personal touch. In other words, would-be patients know that they’ll be treated well, both as a patient and as a person. Greece is an ideal destination not only for those seeking medical solutions or wishing to combine their holidays with the long-term treatments they may be receiving, but also for those who believe their health to be affected by their immediate environment and by human relations. The unbeatable combination of “sun and sea,” the clear air of higher altitudes for those who love mountain activities or wish to train for sporting competitions, the long list of spas for the treatment of various ailments or for simple relaxation, the wealth of fresh produce which forms the basis of the local cuisine, and above all, the more relaxed way of life all contribute to a more salubrious lifestyle. Even today, in villages and small provincial towns, a coffee break with friends, a game of tag with the children and, of course, the ubiquitous afternoon nap are all part of daily life. And this is precisely what Hippocrates, the father of medicine, meant when he said: “To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.”

Finding peace of mind at the Re-Green Ecoculture Center in Seliana, in Achaia, Peloponnese. H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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CONTENTS G R E E C E I S - I S S U E # 3 5 H E A LT H 2 0 1 8 - 2 0 19 E D I T I O N

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46 04. MYTH AND MEDICINE An introduction to the ancient world’s divine healers. 14. A NEW HOME A British physician on his choice to spend his golden years in Greece. 18. FUNDAMENTALS An overview of the elements that make Greece good for your health. 28. GODLY GROUND The Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidavros, one of the world’s first health centers. 34. FOUNDING FATHERS A closer look at Hippocrates and Galen, giants of early medicine.

PUBLISHED BY:

Exerevnitis-Explorer S.A. Ethnarchou Makariou & 2 Falireos, Athens, 18547, Greece Tel. (+30) 210.480.8000 Fax (+30) 210.480.8202

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38. BLESSED ISLE Ikaria’s residents are known for their longevity. What’s their secret? 46. PLACES TO GO Arcadia, Pilio and the villages of Zagoria all hold a healthy attraction for visitors. 54. HOLISTIC HAVENS Explore a selection of rejuvenating new age retreats. 60. HEALING WATERS The indoor and outdoor springs at Pozar in northern Greece are perfect for a soothing soak. 64. SPA SCENE Hydrotherapy centers across the country offer relief and relaxation.

66. DOWN ON THE FARM Agrotourism lets visitors experience a different kind of vacation. 74. REAL FOOD A celebrated food writer looks at Greek cuisine and shares three regional recipes. 82. LET IT POUR Everything you need to know about extra virgin olive oil and its health benefits. 88. ROOT POWER Early practitioners of folk medicine looked underground for help.

ISSN: 2529-041X

COMMERCIAL INQUIRIES:

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Giorgos Tsiros

(editor@greece-is.com)

COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR:

Natassa Bouterakou

96. SUPERFOODS Traditional products and ingredients that help boost health. 104. NATURALLY GOOD Plant-based cosmetic products for a return to the basics of beauty. 110. INTERVIEW Dr George Chrousos, world-renowned pedatrician, talks about health and happiness. 114. INNOVATORS Four medical practitioners active in exciting new areas. 120. SPECIALTIES Six leading fields for medical tourism. ON THE COVER: Artwork: Anna Tzortzi

Tel. (+30) 210.480.8227 Fax (+30) 210.480.8228 E-mails: sales@greece-is.com emporiko@kathimerini.gr

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GREECE IS – HEALTH

is a yearly publication, distributed free of charge. It is illegal to reproduce any part of this publication without the written permission of the publisher.


W E L C O M E I N S P I R AT I O N

MYTHICAL GUARDIANS

Numerous gods and goddesses in ancient times, almost like present-day specialists or department heads in a large hospital, were believed to oversee different aspects of health, healing, childbirth and wholesome living. B Y J O H N L E O N A R D / D R AW I N G S B Y A N N A T Z O R T Z I

ARTEMIS AND EILEITHYIA

Artemis was goddess of the hunt, wild animals and wilderness, but she was also the goddess of fertility and good health. Mothers sought her divine protection during and after childbirth, while young girls worshipped her with coming-of-age rituals. Athenian daughters (7-10 years old) were sent to her Brauron sanctuary for one year to serve as her attendants. Eileithyia was also a protectress of childbirth. In Delos, she reputedly aided Leto in her birthing of Apollo and Artemis. 04

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SANTORINI RENAL NEPHROLOGY AND DIALYSIS CENTRE Pyrgos Santorini84700 Greece Tel.:+3022860 27107-27108 Fax:+302286025618 info@santorinirenal.gr


W E L C O M E I N S P I R AT I O N

APOLLO

Although he was the handsome, prophetic god of music, poetry and radiant light, Apollo had a dark side – as a bringer of plague. However, since he could also alleviate the disease, he was conversely considered a great healer. Paean, another god of healing, was later commemorated as a surname for both Apollo and his son Asclepius, whose own close cultic connection is reflected in the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas at Epidaurus. 06

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W E L C O M E I N S P I R AT I O N

HYGIEIA

Hygieia, goddess of continued good health and hygiene, was one of the many children of Asclepius and Epione (“PainSoothing”) described as “a series of pale and shadowy figures without any myths” (Robin Hard, 2004). They included Iaso (“Recuperation”), Panakeia (“Universal Cure”), Telesphoros (“Completed Recuperation”), Akeso (“Healing Process”) and Aegle (“Healthy Glow”). It was, however, Hygieia who was closest to her father Asclepius, often appearing with him in art and sharing his sanctuaries at Epidaurus, Kos and elsewhere.

ASCLEPIUS

Bearded, fatherly Asclepius, offspring of Apollo and Koronis, born either at Trikka (Trikala, Thessaly) or near Epidaurus, became the face of a new, more reasoned approach to medicine and healing. Depicted as a mortal man, with staff, snake and dog, and credited by Homer with two physician-sons, Podaleirios and Machaon, Asclepius was most prominent from late Classical through Roman times. He showed concern for human welfare, while his sanctuaries served as actual hospitals. 08

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W E L C O M E I N S P I R AT I O N

CHIRON

A renowned figure of myth, Chiron was an unusual centaur, originally appearing with human front legs rather than equine. The son of Cronus, half-brother of Zeus, he was superior to other centaurs in his great intellect, his kind, civilized behavior and his skill and knowledge in healing. The supposed discoverer of medicinal herbs and other pharmaceutical remedies, he became a respected teacher, especially of Asclepius, whom he raised from infancy in his cave on Mt Pelion. 10

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W E L C O M E I N S P I R AT I O N

HERACLES

A demi-god of many aspects and achievements, Heracles can also be associated with ancient health. Several of his labors have been interpreted as reflecting crucial public health projects. His slaying of the Lernaean Hydra may have referred to the draining of Lerna’s unhealthy swamps; his killing of the Stymphalian Birds, an antimalarial measure against mosquitoes; his cleansing of King Augeas’ stables, a parable concerning sanitation and proper waste disposal. 12

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© VISUALHELLAS.GR

WELCOME TESTIMONY

ON FINDING EDEN 14

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W

hen the new millennium was two years old, I retired from my practice as a psychotherapist in England and decided to migrate to Greece. I was 69, in excellent health, and felt I had many years to look forward to, but I also knew that I’d reached that point in life where one has to grow old as cheerfully as possible and get ready to die. For a number of reasons, I chose to do this in Corfu. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. But as a psychologist, I still wonder what made me do it. Why are so many of us ready to give up the familiar surroundings of our homeland and go to live in a foreign country? For some, it may represent a need to escape hardship or persecution, but for many it comes from a creative desire to find “something better,” and then the choice of where to migrate is usually governed not so much by politics or economics as, I think, by mythology. All human communities have myths which unconsciously influence the ideals of the people who share them, and this is very true of migration myths. In terms of the Biblical myth at the root of our Western civilization, talking to my fellow migrants has taught me that what many of us seek when we migrate is to fulfill a private fan-

Why are so many of us ready to give up ... our homeland and go to live in a foreign country? For many, it comes from a desire to find “something better.” BY A N THON Y STEVENS

IN GREECE

“Corfu from Ascension,” c. 1856-1864 (Oil on canvas), Edward Lear (1812-1888). H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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WELCOME TESTIMONY

tasy of “The Promised Land,” a mythic paradise “flowing with milk and honey.” My first exposure to such a sunny paradise came in the summer of 1963 when, with a fellow student from Oxford, I spent three months on Samos. In those days, hardly anyone there spoke English and, with my mind still vigorously active from Oxford medical finals, I set myself to learning basic Greek. In the mornings, to the amusement of the local lads, I would walk up and down in the shallows of Gangou Beach conjugating Greek verbs. Seeing a good opportunity for entertainment, my new friends assured me I was wasting my time and that there was only one verb I needed to learn. Patiently, they recited it to me and I learnt it, but they refused to tell me what it meant until they had made me stand on a table in the beach taverna and repeat the present, the future and the past tenses. My performance occasioned uproarious delight. It was my first experience of the joyous abandonment of Greek laughter. As I was to discover, it was indeed a regular verb which stood me in good stead as a template for learning other verbs. But it was also one of the most indelicate examples in the Greek language! On my way back to England, I paused in Athens to spend a few days with friends who did me the immense good service

I CHOSE SAMOS, THEN THE HANIA REGION OF CRETE, LATER STILL PAXOS AND, EVENTUALLY, CORFU. EACH OF THESE PLACES CARRIED FOR ME, I NOW REALIZE, RICH MYTHIC UNDERTONES OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN.

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of introducing me to Dr Spyros Doxiadis, Professor of Pediatrics at the Aghia Sophia Children’s Hospital in Goudi. It was one of those fateful, life-changing encounters. A brilliant pediatrician, fine teacher, and a good and kind man, Spyros Doxiadis took me under his wing, offering me a job as intern in his clinic and a research post in infant behavior at the Mitera Children’s Center, where I was to do work which earned me a Doctorate in Medicine at Oxford. Those years working in Athens turned me into an ardent hellenophile and confirmed my love of Greece as a second home, one which I visited frequently during ensuing decades. Nearly every year, I would take two summer months off from my practice and rent somewhere on a Greek island. Initially, I chose Samos. Then, in later years, it was the Hania region of Crete, later still Paxos and, eventually, Corfu. Each of these places carried for me, I now realize, rich mythic undertones of the Garden of Eden. We all recognize the Book of Genesis as a cosmic creation myth. But my work at Mitera taught me that it’s much more than that. It’s also a human allegory of gestation and birth. Our first nine months of life are spent in a gynecological paradise bounded by the containing wall of the womb, a paradise of comfort and ease. Everything that’s needed is provided by the all-giving placenta and that physiological “Tree of Life,” the umbilical cord. Trouble starts when the birth contractions begin and the infant is expelled from this warm and tranquil womb of Eden into the appalling confusion of life outside. Medieval paintings representing these events show an angel standing guard outside the Garden. He’s there to prevent us from returning because that’s what we long to do. But, as the angel insists, we have to get on with the business of living in the harsh world outside. Nevertheless, the dream of the paradisiacal garden never entirely leaves us. And we dream of finding it, either in this life or the next. For me, the dream could only be realized in Greece, on a Greek island. When I came to Corfu in 2002 and moved into a lovely old converted olive press, set in an idyllic landscape, I knew I’d come home.

Hellenism – the love of all things Greek – has had a profound influence on English thought and literature for centuries. So, for an Englishman like myself, who has known and loved Greece for years, coming to live permanently in Corfu as I did 16 years ago, gave me a true sense of homecoming. It was as if I had returned to the cradle of our civilization to live out the final stages of my life. To be struck by the magic of Corfu is akin to falling in love. The crucial test of love is its staying power. Will it last? The initial infatuation has to be balanced by reality. When one moves in and lives with the beloved, her failings, as well as her beauties, become all too apparent with time. They have to be understood, appreciated, and forgiven, if one’s love is to endure. The enchantment with life on this island can only be sustained by developing a philosophical attitude to the recent unsympathetic building developments, the chaotic disposal of garbage, and the impossibility of urban parking. One mustn’t forget that there is always a snake in paradise! But these irritations are outweighed by the sublime beauty of the mountains, olive groves, meadows, and seascapes so lovingly painted by Edward Lear, by the warm friendliness of the people, the charming villages, and the incredible, operatic main town. In “Prospero’s Cell,” his evocative book celebrating Corfu, Lawrence Durrell introduces a psychological reason for why so many migrants end up in Corfu: “Other countries may offer you discoveries in manners or lore or landscape,” he writes. “Greece offers you something harder – the discovery of yourself.” Greece, especially when we come to her magical islands, gives us northerners the chance to be more real. To become the humans that we really are. It is a mystery that cannot be readily explained, only experienced. In my own case, where migration was entirely a matter of choice, I feel no nostalgia for my homeland. My heart has been successfully transplanted from England to Corfu. It is the magic of Corfu that made the transplant possible. For me, as for many others, Corfu – despite the snake – is both womb and paradise combined. It is a unique combination.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Š CHRISTOS PRENTOULIS

A graduate of Oxford University in Medicine and Psychology, Dr Stevens is an internationally recognized authority on the new discipline of Evolutionary Psychiatry and on the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung. He is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, London, and is the author of over a dozen books, many of which have been translated into a number of languages. He retired to Corfu in 2002 and has lived there very happily ever since.

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THE BASICS 18

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NATURE’S WONDER

What truly sets Greece apart is its natural diversity. Formed by the collision of the African and Eurasian continental plates and bathed by the warm waters of the Mediterranean in a temperate, subtropical zone, the country is a dazzling range of ecosystems with perhaps the world’s best climate. This is a land where you can go from snow-capped mountain peaks to balmy beaches in an hour, and experience all four seasons in a single day.

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© DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER There’s great wisdom in Greece’s rural communities – wisdom that we can all draw on to help us live healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives. This isn’t just a hopeful notion; it’s a scientifically proven fact. A diet rich in vegetables, pulses, grains and olive oil; an active lifestyle with daily moderate exercise; low overall

stress levels; close relationships with friends and family; being an active part of a tight-knit community - these aren’t just the secrets to happiness, they’re the key to longevity and good health as well. Happily, today many young people are rediscovering the benefits of this alternative approach and are helping to revitalize the countryside. Visitors, too, can experience this way of life at guesthouses, agritourism centers and wellness retreats across Greece.

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PRAISE THE SUN 22

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Abundant sunshine is central to every summer stay in Greece, and the great benefit of this bountiful sunlight to human health and happiness (of course, excessive exposure is to be avoided) has been well known here since antiquity. That’s why Apollo, the god of light, who was born on the island of Delos in the heart of the Aegean, was also celebrated as a healer. Today, the critical role of natural light in human health and wellbeing has been scientifically proven. Among other benefits, the sun helps synthesize vitamin

D, which is important for building bone strength and combating osteoporosis, while all the smiles you see on Greece’s endless beaches from May to October are proof enough of its mood-enhancing properties. What’s more, while similarly high levels of summer sunshine result in sweltering temperatures in other parts of the world, in Greece the heat is tempered by lower levels of humidity and the cooling “meltemi” winds, and respite is usually close by – either in the cooler mountains, or in the refreshing blue sea.

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GET ACTIVE

There was a time, not too long ago, when a group of intrepid hikers heading into the Greek hinterland would be met with bemused looks from the locals. Having walked these steep slopes all their lives, shepherds and farmers couldn’t understand why others would want to climb them for fun. Today, however, across Greece, local communities understand the appeal that vacation activities hold for foreign visitors. In mountainous regions in particular, guesthouses

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and adventure tourism companies offer exciting ways in which tourists can engage with nature. There are world-class destinations for hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking and even white-water rafting. Meanwhile, many islands have upgraded and expanded their hiking trails, while others host open sporting events such as mini-marathons and triathlons in the cooler months, making them great off-season destinations, too. And there’s always the welcoming sea, that infinite playground for sports like sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and kayaking.


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WHO NEEDS A ROOM?

Thousands of years ago, Greeks realized the curative benefits of hot and mineral springs, of salts and iodine-rich seawater, and of therapies involving the inhalation, imbibing or bodily application of herbal and flower essences. Today, with state-ofthe-art facilities, high-tech equipment, modern practices and radical new scientific products, spa and thalassotherapy centers around the country are taking wellness treatments to new levels, offering their guests highly sophisticated services. A prime example is the award-winning Anazoe

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Spa at Costa Navarino, where the health principles of classical Greece, inspired by the likes of the physician Hippocrates and by ancient inscriptions found at the nearby Palace of Nestor, remain the basis for even the most progressive treatments, holistically and harmoniously joining the old with the new. Centuries-old olive groves provide not only the extra virgin olive oil, the basis of the signature Oleotherapy treatments, but also the ideal setting to enjoy a rejuvenating massage. If you prefer a roof over your head to birdsong and sea breezes, the luxurious 4,000 sq.m. Anazoe facilities, including one of the biggest thalassotherapy complexes in Greece, will cater to your every desire.


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ORIGINS SANC TUARY

ON THE TRAIL OF ASCLEPIUS For a “healthy” excursion out of the city, follow in the steps of countless ancient visitors and head to the healing sanctuary at Epidaurus, a timeless jewel in the Greek countryside.

BY JOHN LEONA R D

Asclepius, bending forward and extending his arms as he offers therapy to a woman lying on a couch. Behind him is Hygieia, goddess of health. A votive relief of Classical date, from the Asclepieion in Piraeus (Piraeus Archaeological Museum).

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ORIGINS SANC TUARY

© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

The perfectly-designed Theater of Epidaurus, a work of Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th c. BC.

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n the 4th century BC, the injured and infirm had a choice of two different treatment paths to follow when seeking comfort, care and a return to good health. They could go to a temple or a healing sanctuary such as the Asclepieion at Epidaurus, and pursue a traditional, faith-based cure through worship, sacrifices and the dedication of votive objects to Apollo, Artemis, Asclepius, Hygieia and other health gods; or they could approach a Hippocratic physician, who offered practical, science-based treatments involving therapeutic herbs and other medicinal curatives (farmaka).

HEALING SANCTUARIES Asclepius, a god of healing, was a relatively new face among the divine patrons of health, although he had already appeared in Homer’s Iliad (late 8th/early 7th century BC). Asclepius’ cult emerged more clearly in the 6th, 5th and especially 4th century BC. He was perceived as a more approachable god, concerned with the welfare of ordinary people. His sanctuaries (asclepieia), at Epidaurus, Kos, Athens, Corinth, Pergamon and many other places, became refuges for the ill, places of hope and reassurance, where priests guided them through rituals of purification 30

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and “incubation” (enkoimesis) – during which they spent the night in one of the sanctuary’s sacred buildings (abaton) and waited for the god to enter their dreams with a therapy. Later, with the increasing emphasis on real-world, medicinal treatments, asclepieia began employing physicians who could supplement their priests’ spiritual/mystical curatives with applications of tangible farmaka.

MIRACLES AND MEDICINE Whether through the body’s own curative powers or the workings of prescribed medicines, many ill visitors to Epidaurus and other asclepieia appear to have been healed, as we learn from inscribed steles describing cases and “miraculous” cures that were publicly erected in the sanctuaries. The asclepieia became de facto hospitals, serving primarily the injured and infirm who had already been treated unsuccessfully by Hippocratic physicians, or who had been turned away by such doctors during a triage process in which they had been judged to be “helpless” cases. The official inscriptions heralding cures, combined with the testimony of patients themselves – for example, the personal memoirs (“Sacred Tales”) of Aelius Aristides (2nd century AD) that describe his dream-state en-

counters with Asclepius during a stay at the Asclepieion of Pergamon – indicate the ailments treated in the sanctuaries ranged from persistent skin rashes and baldness to major internal problems such as abdominal tumors, tapeworms and non-progressive pregnancies. In a medical approach similar to present-day integrative medicine, the Hippocratic physicians’ care for “treatable” patients and the priests’ attentions to the “helpless” meant that the full scope of the infirm could receive medical assistance through what was essentially a dual but allied public health care system. Modern Jungian scholars, including C. A. Meier and Edward Tick, have suggested that dream-healing like that at the asclepieia represents the ancient forerunner of modern psychotherapy.

A SALUBRIOUS ENVIRONMENT The urban environments of ancient Greece, despite early engineers’ efforts at water and sometimes waste management, were relatively unhealthy places, especially under crowded wartime conditions. When visiting Epidaurus, however, situated in the piney, rolling countryside of eastern Argolida (northeastern Peloponnese), one is immediately struck by the area’s open vistas, fresh air and natural forest scents. This was, and still is, an invigorating landscape, with clear, clean water, plenty of warm winter sunshine and a tranquility only to be found away from the city. It was just such wholesome natural environments that Asclepius’ followers sought when establishing their hospital-like sanctuaries. INTO THE SANCTUARY… In ancient times, visitors to Epidaurus would have approached the Asclepieion from its north end, not from the south as today. They entered the unwalled sanctuary through the Propylaea, a door-less monumental gateway decorated with


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The Doric-style entranceway to the Gymnasium (4th c. BC), through which many an athlete passed, once again rises skyward.

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The heart of the Epidaurus sanctuary: the Tholos and the Abaton (left) and the Temple of Asclepius (center right).

both Ionic (outside) and Corinthian (inside) columns. It represented a ceremonial checkpoint through which only those who’d first purified themselves at an adjacent sacred well (still visible) could pass. Inside the sanctuary, the ancient visitor would have passed through the heart of the Asclepieion, following narrow lanes filled with priests, officials, the infirm (and, perhaps, their concerned relatives), all going about their daily business, seeking treatment or making supplications to the gods. Here were found the site’s key buildings, including temples and altars of Asclepius, Artemis and Themis, as well as a shrine possibly dedicated to Asclepius’ daughter, Hygieia, and her siblings. Most of the buildings at Epidaurus date to the 4th century BC, when the sanctuary underwent major construction work. Asclepius’ temple would have been an impressive Doric edifice, inside which, according to the traveler Pausanias (2nd century AD), was the healing god’s cult statue: “half as big as the Olympian Zeus at Athens … made of ivory and gold … The god is sitting on a seat grasping a staff; the other hand he is holding above the head of a serpent; there is also … a dog lying by his side.” Nearby, Pausanias continues, was “the place where the suppliants of the god sleep” – the Abaton. This long, Ionic-style building was a colonnaded shelter where another sacred well allowed further purification before the incubation began.

SLITHERING SNAKES Beside the Abaton is a mysterious monument of uncertain function, a circular Tholos, with maze-like passages below floor level now hidden inside its restored base. The Tholos’ central location indicates a close association with the Asclepius cult, and Pausanias observed inscribed steles here commemorating cures. It also 32

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may have held Asclepius’ sacred snakes, symbols of rebirth and rejuvenation. In some asclepieia, non-venomous snakes slithered about freely in the visitors’ quarters, while the serpents at Epidaurus, including an odd yellowish variety, were reputedly tame. At Alexandria, according to Aelian (2nd/3rd century AD), the god’s snakes were gigantic, some reaching 6-14 cubits (3-6m) in length.

ATHLETICS, MUSIC AND DRAMA Epidaurus’ prototypical Asclepieion shows these sites were not only for religious worship and medical attention, but for athletics, music and theatrical performances as well – popular features at sanctuary festivals. The ancient visitor, walking southward from the Tholos, would have passed the Gymnasium (L), the sunken Stadium (R) and a Greek bathing complex. At the sanctuary’s southeastern corner rises its enormous theater (with a capacity of 13,000-14,000 people), where even the smallest sounds in the orchestra

can be heard from the uppermost rows. Inside the Gymnasium, Roman visitors would have glimpsed a brick-and-mortar odeon (music hall) of the 3rd century AD within the then-abandoned athletic facility. Such Roman additions reveal the lengthy lifespan of the sanctuary, which flourished from at least the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD. Ultimately, Goth invasions and increasing Christian pressure left the pagan shrine destroyed, disused and abandoned. Modern reconstructions of the Gymnasium’s Doric entranceway, the Tholos, the Abaton and the Stadium are all underway or completed. Although controversial (concerning their extent), these partial restorations give the site a sense of vitality and its visitors a clearer idea of the sanctuary’s original scale and architectural elegance.

PLEASANT ACCOMMODATION Strolling among shady pines between the Gymnasium and the Theater, visitors


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A SACRED HEALTH CARE NETWORK

INSCRIPTIONS AND COLUMNS From the Katagogeion, a path leads to the Epidaurus Museum. Here one finds a display of the evocative inscribed steles recording the Asclepieion’s amazing cures. One entry reads: “Arata, a Spartan, suffering from dropsy. On her behalf her mother slept in the sanctuary while she stayed in Sparta. It seemed to her that the god cut off her daughter’s head and hung her body with the neck downwards. After a considerable amount of water had flowed out, he released the body and put

the head back on her neck. After she saw this dream, she returned to Sparta and found that her daughter had recovered and had seen the same dream.” Another entry describes the war veteran Euippos, who’d had a spearhead lodged in his jaw for six years. After a dream at Epidaurus, however, he awoke with his injury healed and the spearhead in his hand! Other official inscriptions represent detailed building and financial records, or set out the sacred law that governed an invalid’s access to the sanctuary and called for successfully healed visitors to make a grateful sacrifice to Apollo and Asclepius. One admonitory entry states that a certain Hermon was re-blinded for not paying his due. Two further galleries illustrate the fine sculptures and architecture of Epidaurus, including elements of the Tholos’ ornate Doric/Corinthian colonnade and its intricate interior decoration. Also eatured are displays of bronze medical instruments.

© GIANNIS GIANNELOS, MINISTRY OF CULTURE & SPORTS/EPHORATE OF ANTIQUITIES OF DODECANESE

will encounter one of Epidaurus’ most intriguing ruins: the Katagogeion or Guesthouse: a square building subdivided into four quarters, each consisting of a courtyard ringed by 18 accommodation rooms. The well-worn thresholds of these rooms are still in place, and it is easy to imagine the ancient occupants residing within, or stepping outside to sit or lie in the sunlight that would have filled these enclosed, now grassy courtyards.

As Asclepius’ cult spread in the 5th-3rd centuries BC, his sanctuaries came to be found in almost every Greek and Roman city or large town. They operated as both public health care facilities and medical teaching centers. Epidaurus, the healing god’s supposed birthplace, represented the asclepieia network’s “capital,” from which a cult statue and sacred snakes were brought for initial consecration rites whenever a new sanctuary was established. Asclepieia often arose in response to health crises, such as the outbreaks of plague in Athens (430 BC) and Rome (293 BC), where sanctuaries occupied the South Slope of the Acropolis and Tiber Island respectively. Kos also held a major Asclepieion, staffed by Hippocratic physicians, while the Roman doctor Galen trained at Pergamon. Notable smaller sanctuaries existed at Corinth, Sicyon, Tegea, Megalopolis, Argos, Sparta and Messene; on the islands of Paros, Aegina and Crete (Leben); and at Alexandria (Egypt) and Cyrene (Libya).

The Asclepieion of Kos, with its monumental staircases and temples of Apollo and Asclepius (foreground). Behind them, the large Temple of Asclepius (170/160 BC), once visible to passing ships.

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ORIGINS HEALERS

A MEETING OF THE MINDS Offering essential insight to generations of doctors, Hippocrates and Galen were respected bearers of ancient medical wisdom, whose philosophical and practical impact can be traced from Rome to the Middle East. BY JOHN LEONA R D

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ong ago, many people believed that human health was governed by the divine will of the gods. During Archaic and Classical times (6th4th c. BC), as philosophy, knowledge of the natural world and scientific inquiry flourished, especially in the fertile environments of Athens and the eastern Aegean, human beings began looking more and more to the healing powers of their fellow mortals, specialists in medicine, foremost among whom (at least from our modern perspective) was Hippocrates (5th/4th c. BC). Later, as medical theory and practice continued to develop in the Roman era, Hippocrates’ legacy was carried on by Galen (2nd/3rd c. AD), whose own writings would also have a lasting impact on the development of modern medicine.

Hippocrates and Galen; fresco in the Crypt of St Mary Cathedral, Anagni, Italy, 13th century (De Agostini Picture Library/A. Dagli Orti).

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ORIGINS HEALERS

HIPPOCRATES

The founder of the science of medicine, this teacher and health practitioner is known as the “Father of Medicine.” The name “Hippocrates” is well known among contemporary Western medical practitioners; new doctors are taught to learn and follow the Hippocratic Oath – a code of fundamental principles intended to encourage the proper administration of health care. Hippocrates himself, however, remains a shadowy figure who apparently enjoyed a certain reputation in his day, but whose name at that time is only mentioned in passing by Plato and Aristotle. Detailed biographical information only appears some 1,400 years later, when Byzantine sources tell us Hippocrates was born ca. 460 BC, the son of an affluent doctor, Heracleides, and his wife Praxithea. Hippocrates (died ca.370 BC) is most closely associated with Kos, his supposed birthplace. As a young man, he received his medical education at the island’s widely-known sanctuary of Asclepius. Hippocrates is said to have traveled widely in his medical practice, visiting mainland Greece, Egypt and Libya, before settling down later in life back home on Kos. There, he founded his own school of medicine (late 5th c. BC) and taught a more science-based approach to healthcare, which separated the medical arts from votive religious worship and distinguished it not only as a spiritual or practical subject, but also as an intellectual one, worthy of philosophical consideration. Plato took early notice of Hippocrates and his theories, writing in the Timaeus of the ethical implications and responsibilities involved in practicing medicine. This text greatly influenced later medical 36

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thinkers, in part by linking medicine with philosophy and health with politics, as well as by further underscoring the key interconnection between a healthy body and a healthy mind (Timaeus 88b). The Hippocratic Oath is thought to have been composed by Hippocrates himself or by one of his students, sometime between the 5th and 3rd c. BC. Originally written in Ionic Greek, it called for physicians to swear by Asclepius and other gods that they would respect their teachers and, in turn, teach others; do no harm to their patients; maintain doctor-patient confidentiality; and defer to experts in surgical matters. The Oath represents a timeless standard of medical ethics, even dealing with such still-relevant medico-social issues as the appropriateness of abortion and euthanasia. The teachings of Hippocrates, now considered the “Father of Medicine,” are preserved in the Hippocratic Corpus, a collection of more than sixty treatises written by his followers. These formative texts, in examining the nature of health, illness and disease, describe good health as an equilibrium between internal “bodily fluids” and external, environmental and personal-behavior factors. Infirmity, then, arises from natural causes, not from divine punishment or supernatural sources.

A GOOD DIET Hippocrates, like Galen after him, thought that health and disease were based on a state of equilibrium (or lack thereof) between four “humors” – bodily fluids consisting of blood, phlegm and yellow or black bile. Moreover (and more intelligible to our present-day medical sensibilities), this internal equilibrium depends on an external equilibrium between a person and their environment. Hippocrates provides very modern-sounding advice for maintaining good health and avoiding disease, including: regular exercise; bathing with plenty of water and hot soap for good personal hygiene; eating a fresh, plantbased diet; reducing weight, as “those who are fat are more apt to die quickly than those who are thin;” drinking water and a properly chosen wine, but both in

moderation; and keeping to a consistent diet and regular meal schedule. Raisins, grapes, saffron, and pomegranates are healthful staples, but garlic and cheese can cause flatulence, nausea, and constipation. Too much water may encourage stomach gurgling; a poor or inappropriate wine can induce artery throbbing, spleen swelling, thirst and a heavy head; while skipping meals may lead to feebleness,heartburn, diarrhea, hot green urine and a host of other unsavory ailments!


ORIGINS HEALERS

GALEN

Personal physician to Roman emperors, this scholar left behind a large number of significant medical texts.

The Greco-Roman world’s greatest physician, surgeon and philosopher was Galen (AD 129-ca. 216), born and educated in Pergamon (NW Asia Minor), a center of learning and home to antiquity’s second most important library. Like Hippocrates, he traveled widely, visiting Corinth, Crete, Cilicia, Cyprus and Alexandria. After returning to Pergamon (AD 157) and serving as a physician to gladiators, he departed westward to Rome (AD 162). There he became personal physician to emperors Marcus Aurelius, Commodus and Septimius Severus. A specialist in human anatomy, Galen made great advances in the understanding of the nervous, the respiratory and especially the circulatory systems, including the distinct flows of blood into and out of the heart. He followed Greek medical tradition in identifying a close interrelationship between mind and body, also introducing to Rome such Hippocratian practices as the drawing (phlebotomy) and letting of blood. His writings (in Greek), highly influential in the field of health, became a fundamental reference source in medieval medical education, later translated (1530s) into Latin. A fascinating recent discovery highlights the extraordinary significance and cross-cultural spread of Galen’s medical texts. In 2009, high-tech analysis of a parchment manuscript revealed a 9th-century Syriac text beneath an 11th c. text of Christian hymns. The undertext is a partial copy of a 6th c. AD Greek-to-Syriac translation of Galen by Sergius of Reshaina, a Syriac physician and priest. The Syriac Galen Palimpsest (SGP), as it’s now known, represents the oldest-known fragment (covering Books 6-11) of Galen’s treatise “On Simple Drugs.” In early Byzantine times, as Syriac-speaking Christians moved eastward from Anatolia into the Middle East, they needed translations of Greek medical texts to bolster their efforts in providing health care and establishing hospitals. The Syriac language formed a linguistic bridge between Greek and Arabic, and thus facilitated ancient literature’s transmission into the medieval and modern worlds. In the 11th century, the SGP manu-

Hippocrates (right) and Galen (left); between them is a bush that, for Hippocrates, is in bloom but for Galen has only thorns.

script was “recycled” by monks, probably at the Monastery of Saint Elias Shwayya on Lebanon’s Black Mountain, who overwrote it with hymns. It was later transferred to Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai, where it was kept until being borrowed or stolen, and later offered for sale in Leipzig in 1922. Now in Baltimore, Maryland, the manuscript has been digitally scanned, subjected to X-rays and other laboratory analyses, and is undergoing meticulous study by an international, multi-disciplinary team. The researchers believe this ancient “treasure” will further illuminate contributions made to the Western medical tradition not only by Galen, but also by the Syriac-speaking Christians of the Middle East.

IN SEARCH OF CURES Even more the medical scientist and researcher than Hippocrates, Galen was known for dissecting animals (mostly pigs and primates) and prescribing a wide variety of medicaments produced from vegetal or geological materials gathered from all over the Roman empire. His travels in search of knowledge and pharmacological supplies took him both westward and eastward from his native Pergamon. For certain useful minerals, he sailed to Cyprus, where he “had a friend with a great deal of power on the island, who was also closely connected with the director of mines, and was the representative of Caesar” (“On Antidotes”). From there, Galen says, “I brought a lot of kadmeia, diphryges, spodion, pompholyx, copper ore” and other medicinal substances. The “plakitis” (plank-shaped) type of kadmeia, he reports (“On Simple Drugs”), has cleansing and cauterizing power, to be used in the eyes and for moist, infection-prone sores or wounds – if the patient’s skin is soft, “like that of eunuchs, children or women; whereas harder, tighter bodies need more drastic cauterizing medicines.” H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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IKARIA EXPERIENCE BLUE ZONE

A Good, Long Life

Studies have revealed that, for centuries, the inhabitants of this small Aegean island have held the secret to longevity. BY E L I SA SI NA DI NOU / PHOTOS CH R I ST I NA K A R AGI A N N I S

According to myth, this is the spot where young Icarus fell, after flying too close to the sun.

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Ikariots like to meet up nightly at their local kafeneio. Such socializing is key to enjoying a long life.

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EXPERIENCE BLUE ZONE

Ikaria’s younger generations learn farming and animal husbandry from their grandparents.

We laughed the first time we read media reports saying that Ikariots live longer than average. It seemed like a joke, until we took a minute to think about it: my grandfather lived to 110 years old, one of my uncles made it to 115 and his brother died at 108. Could the reports be right, we wondered.” I’m sitting in the home of 83-year-old writer Sosa Plakida in Stavlos, a tiny village on Ikaria (also spelled Icaria), which is a small island in the eastern Aegean with around 8,000 permanent residents. Sosa could easily pass for 70 and is sharp as a tack. In fact, most of the Ikariots I meet actually look much younger than they are. This was one of the first things I discovered when I arrived on this enchanting island – after its beau40

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tiful beaches that attract thousands of tourists every summer, and the quaint mountain villages that look like they’re posing for postcard photos. Ikaria is named after the mythological figure of Icarus, the impetuous young man who washed up dead on its shores after ignoring his father’s instructions not to fly too close to the sun, which melted the wax in his wings. Ancient lore may associate Ikaria with youth and recklessness, but, in modern times, it has been linked to their opposites: old age and wisdom. Ikaria and another four locations (Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Nicoya in Costa Rica and Loma Linda in California) have been designated as Blue Zones, meaning they are parts of the world which may appear to have little in common but which share certain

characteristics that result in their residents living significantly longer than average. According to studies, one in three Ikariots lives past the age of 90. And perhaps surprisingly, the longevity claims are not new. In a book published in 1678, Iosif Georgirinis, the archbishop of Samos, attributes the long life of Ikariots to the island’s air and water, to its sense of community, to their sparse diet and to their hereditary biological traits. “The way of life plays an important part,” says Christodoulos Xenakis, a neurologist-psychiatrist and a native of the island. “Ikariots have a tiring but calm routine. A laid-back attitude lets people live stress-free, and this is beneficial to their health.” Aged 83 himself and none the worse for it, he has been in charge of organizing the Ikaria Senior Regatta, a


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EXPERIENCE BLUE ZONE

A traditional religious festival on Ikaria. Plenty of dancing, music, local food and wine keeps the crowd going till dawn.

sailing competition for over-70s, for the past two years. It attracts considerable interest, particularly from locals, with 16 boats participating in the first year. The first Ikariot to sign up was 86 years old. For the tourists who flock to the island each year, Ikaria is better known for its religious festivals that go on into the wee hours, with hearty local fare, live music and lots of dancing. Visitors and locals join together in an embrace of hospitality and generosity of spirit. Ikariots are very sociable, preferring to get together in groups to share their joys and sorrows after a day’s work rather than spending the evening at home. This is why the coffee shops in many villages open up later in the evening, so as to cater to the farmers returning from the fields. “This is our saving grace,” says

Sosa. “Whenever something bad happens, we’ll talk about it at home a little and then head off to the café or to see friends. Sadness is more manageable when you share it. It’s no life when you close yourself off and the echo of your own voice is the only sound you hear.” Anna Fountouli was born in 1924, yet meets her friends every afternoon and walks along the waterfront of Aghios Kyrikos as far as her legs will carry her. She welcomes us into her home and shows us some of the lovely knitting and embroidery she works on every day after lunch and before her afternoon nap (most Ikariots take a siesta). Every so often, she springs out of her chair to show us a photograph or a piece of knitting, or to let in a friend at the door. What’s her secret? “Don’t eat too much, and love where you

live,” she says. Indeed, numerous studies have found that the well-balanced Mediterranean diet can be key to living a long and healthy life. For elderly Ikariots, though, it’s not a lifestyle choice. The simple fact is that most still grow their own vegetables, eat whatever nature has to offer, rely more on pulses than on meat, and consume oil made from their own olives. Take Yiannoula, for example. She’s a delightful 90-year-old who invites us into her home in the village of Faros, where she treats us to coffee, olives from her garden, rusks from her oven and kopanisti cheese she makes herself. This is all in a day’s work for Yiannoula, who has aching feet and a sore back. “I really believe we should die at 80, my dear. You can’t imagine what a hassle life is after that.” Despite H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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EXPERIENCE BLUE ZONE

This Ikariot couple were out on their customary late afternoon stroll through local neighborhoods when we met them.

this rather pessimistic outlook, she was the soul of politeness when we called the previous evening to arrange our visit, and remarkably hospitable when we arrived. Ikariots are renowned for their hospitality. Stop anywhere to ask for directions, and you’ll be invited in for a coffee or a cup of herbal tea before they even ask your name. They make their tea with local herbs (such as pennyroyal, sage, lemon beebrush and St John’s wort, which grows in abundance here) and sweeten it with honey; they call this “vrastiko” and drink it at breakfast and sometimes before bedtime. The locals are well versed in the special properties of each herb. If you’re looking to relax, they’ll recommend a blend of aloe, basil, honey and wine, whereas for a cough, it will be pennyroy42

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al; there’s even talk of something called “trivoli,” a herb similar to bindii said to have the “uplifting” qualities of Viagra. In the village of Chrysostomos, we meet a man called Petros Kratsas, a 98-year-old retired schoolteacher who, just days earlier and with the help of only his nephew, had graveled the road to his house again after part of it was damaged. Ikariots are known for this intense physical activity. The hamlets and villages were often built high in the hills so they couldn’t be spotted by the pirates who sought shelter in the natural harbors of the small neighboring island cluster of Fournoi. This means that, until recently, Ikariots had to walk long distances daily to reach their fields or animals, a habit that the older folk still maintain. Thanasis Vasilaros, 90, is another

example. Even though he has officially retired as a journalist, he still writes and publishes a local paper. He walks from his village, Therma, to Faros every day to see his children and grandchildren and walks back, too, even though it’s an hour each way. When we visit him at his home, he gives us a basket of fresh goodies from his garden: peppers, eggplants, lemons and fragrant guava, an exotic fruit that came to the island from Egypt and is today found in many gardens. With properties similar to the kiwi, it contains four times more vitamin C than oranges. So, is it this lifestyle – the exercise, diet, slow pace and midday naps – that is slowing down the clock? Athens University cardiology professor Christodoulos Stefanadis and his team have been studying the longevity of Ikariots for


All of the fruits and vegetables in the basket that 90-year-old Thanasis Vasilaros generously offered us come from the garden he tends all by himself.

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years; they’ve published more than 20 papers in international medical journals and spoken on the subject at more than 100 conferences. “The longevity phenomenon is multifaceted,” he says. “Apart from the environment and personal habits, heredity − the genetic substrate − plays a pivotal role. It‘s possible that, as a result of its isolation and tough survival conditions, Darwin’s process of natural selection has been in play on Ikaria, ensuring that the strongest genes survived. That is what we’re studying right now.” Few younger Ikariots follow in their forebears’ footsteps. The tourism sector is run by the descendants of those who lived off the land, and the stress of modern-day life is becoming evident across the island. The young use cars and motorcycles to get around and modern tools to do their farm work. And while their diet is certainly healthier than most city dwellers, they also consume the usual products found in supermarkets. What effect these new habits will have on their health and lifespan is unknown. “That is an interesting study prospect,” says Stefanadis. In the meantime, we’ll try to follow the advice of a lovely old man we met at a coffee shop: eat half as much, walk twice as much, laugh three times as much and love without boundaries.

NATURAL SPRINGS: IKARIA’S OTHER SECRET The ancient Greeks knew all about the healing properties of Ikaria’s natural springs, and the ruins of the ancient bath town of Therma are there to prove it. Ikaria’s subsurface is rich in radon, an element that, according to epidemiologist Giorgos Kallivrousis, can be beneficial in controlled doses. Among other properties, it helps relieve pain caused by ailments of the muscles and skeletal system, orthopedic injuries and osteoporosis, and also helps manage skin diseases. In recent years, Ikaria has been developing into a health tourism destination, with its seven municipal and open-air springs receiving many visitors each year. 44

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Faros Beach. According to studies, the subsoil and waters of Ikaria are beneficial to one’s health.


WE’LL TRY TO FOLLOW THE ADVICE OF A LOVELY OLD MAN WE MET AT A COFFEE SHOP: EAT HALF AS MUCH, WALK TWICE AS MUCH, LAUGH THREE TIMES AS MUCH AND LOVE WITHOUT BOUNDARIES.

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HARMONY IN Pristine nature, fresh air, great food, authentic experiences and plenty of history: BY OL GA CH A R A M I & L I NA K A PETA N IOU

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THE HILLS

here are three destinations for getaways that reinvigorate body and soul. Left to right: The dense forests of Tsagarada are interspersed with churches and stately homes. | The Bridge of Kleidonia in Zagori is the end point of the rafting route on the Voidomatis River. | The village of Dimitsana is surrounded by bucolic countryside. H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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EPIRUS:

ZAGORI

400KM FROM ATHENS In Ioannina’s Zagorochoria region, one of Greece’s most special destinations, manmade structures like villages, bridges and cobbled streets blend harmoniously into their breathtaking natural surroundings.

Historical background: The period from the 17th to the 19th century was of vital importance to this area. During that time, although Greece was under Ottoman rule, Zagori enjoyed a degree of autonomy and a special tax status. As a result, trade boomed, bringing the wealth that helped the area acquire its unique architectural character. Those were also the days when Vikogiatri – folk healers – used creams (still used today) made from the therapeutic herbs of the Vikos Gorge to treat ailments. The landscape: The area features two rivers – the Voidomatis, one of the cleanest and coldest in Europe, and the fast-flowing Aoos; the imposing Mt Tymfi, many of whose peaks are over 2,000m tall; Drakolimni, one of the three alpine lakes of the Pindus mountain range, nestled at an elevation of 2,050m; and the Vikos Gorge, one of the deepest in the world (1,200m). This stunning landscape is also home to dozens of stone-built traditional settlements. The area is at the heart of the Vikos-Aoos National Forest – a UNESCO Global Geopark – which, in turn, makes up a section of the Northern Pindus National Park. Climate: Heavy rains fill the streams and rivers, water the earth and increase humidity. The winters are harsh, with a lot of snow; summers are relatively cool with intermittent rain. Until the 19th century, many of the area’s inhabitants – mainly stockbreeders – would adjust their lifestyles according to the weather, moving to the lowlands every autumn. Activities: You can try rafting on the Voidomatis River year-round; the more demanding Aoos River is for winter rafting 48

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only. There’s also snowshoeing, mountain biking, canyoning in the gorges and river trekking along the Voidomatis (Trekking Hellas, Tel. (+30) 694.475.0009, (+30) 26510.717.03, trekking.gr). Some of the most beautiful trails in Greece (many accessible only in the summer) are here as well, including one that runs along the Vikos Gorge and another that ascends to Lake Drakolimni, on Mt Tymfi. Food: Local fare often includes wild mushrooms and herbs; trachanas (a porridge-like dish) and soups; almost any kind of savory pie; organic vegetables from privately owned gardens; and dairy and meat products from local stockbreeders. Zagorian cuisine makes the most of nature’s ingredients and one’s own produce. Opt for Astra (Tel. (+30) 26530.421.08) in Megalo Papigo; Thoukydidis (Tel. (+30) 697.998.3798) in Kapesovo; or the Salvia restaurant (Tel. (+30) 26530.413.30) at the Aristi Mountain Resort. For local sweets and for drinks prepared from wild herbs, try Sterna in Megalo Papigo (Tel. (+30) 697.720.2817). Inspiration: A tour of some of the 46 Zagorian villages is a lesson in architecture. Secular buildings, mansions and churches all feature interlocking stone construction and slate roofs. Other evidence of the renowned artistry of the craftsmen of the 18th and 19th centuries are the skales (little cobbled roads), and the exquisite stone bridges (around 100 of them) that span rivers and streams in the area. Megalo Papigo, Aristi, Kato Pedina among the villages where tourism is more developed, while Dilofo, Koukouli and Kapesovo retain a more authentic charm.

01. Rafting on the gentle currents of the Voidomatis River. 02. The path that leads to Oxia, another site with a stunning view of the Vikos Gorge. 03. Aristi is one of the most beautiful villages of Zagori. 04. Hiking in the area of Spitalia, in Monodendri, with a view of the Vikos Gorge.

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THE PELOPONNESE:

ARCADIA

200KM FROM ATHENS From visits to significant monuments and strolls through stone-built villages to hikes on Mt Mainalo or in the Lousios Gorge, there’s so much to do in this history-packed region of Greece.

Myths and history: According to myth, this was where Arcas, the first of the Arcadians, once reigned as king. It was in the waters of the Lousios River that the newborn Zeus bathed. The god Pan, a symbol of bucolic life who charmed intellectuals and influenced the art of the Renaissance, was worshiped in the area’s mountains as well. In antiquity, it was home to one of the most renowned asclepieia (healing site) – that of Ancient Gortys, near the village of Karytaina. In more recent times, highland Arcadia was one of the epicenters of the 1821 War of Independence. The area produced military leaders and religious patriarchs and supplied the revolutionaries with gunpowder from the 14 gunpowder mills in Dimitsana. The landscape: Mt Mainalo (1,981m), with its forest of Greek fir (Abies cephalonica) and its alpine meadows with plentiful herbs, dominates an area that includes monasteries, watermills and bridges, as well as the Lousios and Alfeios rivers, with their plane trees, olive trees and wild fruit trees. Climate: Summers are cool and winters come with snow; humidity is generally low (except in the gorges). It’s no coincidence that this area had two functioning tuberculosis sanatoriums until the 1940s. Activities: Follow the trail leading to the Lousios Gorge; it begins in Dimitsana and ends in Ancient Gortyna (Gortys), a four-hour hike. For a shorter walk, try the section that links the three historic monasteries of the gorge – the Nea Moni Filosofou (17th century), the ruined Palea Moni Filosofou, and the Prodromou Monastery (16th century). More experienced

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hikers might want to take on the 75km Menalon Trail, certified by the European Ramblers’ Association, which runs from Stemnitsa to Lagadia. Other activities in the area include horseback riding in Elati (Christos Simopoulos, Tel. (+30) 697.702.2173), rafting on the Lousios and Alfeios rivers (Trekking Hellas, Tel. (+30) 27910.259.78, trekking.gr), mountain biking, ATVs and 4X4s in Vytina (Explore Mainalo, Tel. (+30) 693.816.9580, explore-mainalo.gr) and skiing at the Mainalo Ski Center.  Food: Local pasta, mushrooms, herbs and wild greens, local dairy products and meat are the basis of Arcadian cuisine. Try recipes featuring products from their own farm and garden, as well as homemade bread, at the taverna Zerzova (Tel. (+30) 27950.317.53), located in the village of Panaghia. When in Vytina, shop for dairy products at Tsatsoulis, for pasta and other products at Palea Agora and go for the honey at Liaropoulos.  Inspiration: The Open-Air Water Power Museum (Tel. (+30) 27950.316.30, piop.gr), on the outskirts of Dimitsana features a fulling mill, a flour mill, a raki still and a tannery, all powered by water. In Stemnitsa, visit the local Folklore Museum (Tel. (+30) 27950.812.52), with displays on traditional homes and occupations or check out the Silver and Goldsmithery School (Tel. (+30) 27950.815.14), which organizes workshops, too. For cooking seminars, contact the Mpelleiko Guesthouse (Tel. (+30) 27950.812.86, mpelleiko.gr). In Elati, if you’re interested in workshops on painting and wood carving, call Christos Simopoulos (Tel. (+30) 697.702.2173).

01. The Prodromou Monastery, built into the rock face of the Lousios Gorge. 02. You’ll find choice dairy products at Tsatsouli in Vytina. 03. A fulling mill, an installation once used for washing textiles, at the Open-Air Water Power Museum in Dimitsana. 04. Aristocratic Stemnitsa, surrounded by rich vegetation. 05. The forests around Mainalon are ideal for hiking and mountain biking. © DIONYSIS KOURIS H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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PILIO

350KM FROM ATHENS No less than 70 picturesque villages and stunning settlements are yours to explore on Pilio, a mountainous peninsula with lush vegetation that runs all the way down the sea.

Myths and history: Mt Pilio appears in a lot of myths – and how could it not, being the summer residence of the Olympian gods and the legendary homeland of the half-man, half-horse Centaurs? The wisest – and most famous – of all of the Centaurs was Chiron, who possessed a great deal of knowledge, including much of a scientific nature. He was believed to have been a healer himself, using many 52

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of the herbs that grow on Mt Pilio to treat ailments. His list of students included Achilles, Theseus and even Asclepius, the god of medicine. To this day, Chiron remains a symbol of inner peace and tranquility, and of the art of healing. The landscape: Rising between two bodies of water – the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea – Mt Pilio occupies almost the entire northern half of the regional unit of Magnesia. Dense forests of beech, walnut, oak, chestnut and other trees compose heavenly landscapes, while views of the sea – especially from the eastern side of the mountain – are astounding. Climate: Coastal, lowland and highland villages are all to be found on Pilio. Its most famous villages are those built highest up. Even though the mountain rises abruptly from the sea and its highest peak stands at only 1,624m, winter brings heavy snowfalls, and a ski center operates in the village of Hania.

Activities: You can enjoy Pilio ‘s natural bounty while staying at the Amanita guesthouse (Tsagarada, Tel. (+30) 24260. 497.07, amanita.gr). Its owners have created a small organic garden in which they cultivate seasonal vegetables, fruit trees and herbs (many of them medicinal) that are representative of what grows locally. In hands-on seminars, you can get to know the herbs of Pilio and learn how they’re used in cooking. The same folk also organize forays in search of mushrooms, and teach visitors how to identify them – later, the harvest is cooked and enjoyed collectively! The whole of Pilio is hiker heaven. Be sure to walk from Damouchari Beach to Tsagarada, from Kissos to Mouresi and from there on to Aghios Ioannis. Hikes and cycling rides are organized by companies like Hike Away in Pelion (Tsagarada, Tel. (+30) 24260.497.24) and Bike or Hike (Portaria, Tel. (+30) 698.209.9620).


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01. One of the stone bridges in Tsagarada. 02. A longtime mushroom expert, Filaretos Psimenos is the owner of the guesthouse Amanita. 03. The village square in Vyzitsa.

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04. You can try stews and other dishes made with local meat at the taverna Meintani in Zagora. 05. The small village of Pinakates is one of the prettiest in Pilio.

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Food: Mt Pilio is abundantly fertile and fruitful – wild mushrooms and greens, apples, walnuts and chestnuts are just some of what grows here. Head to Zagora to sample the protected designation of origin (PDO) apples grown by the agricultural cooperative Zagorin; The Taverna Paradeisos (Tel. (+30) 24260.492.09) in Tsagarada serves up traditional dishes prepared using local ingredients, while at the taverna Meintani (Tel. (+30 ) 24260.226.26) in Zagora, you can try local greens and meats, along with pies made with handmade filo pastry. Inspiration: The Church of the Archangels (Pammegiston Taxiarchon) in Milies, built in 1741, is well worth a visit, both for its murals (among these is one depicting the Zodiac Circle, titled “The Vain Life of the Illusory World”) and for its amazing acoustics, boosted by the 48 urns placed upside-down in its domes.

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E XPERIENCE NEW AGE

“OM”-AZING RETREATS Find inner peace and build core strength in a pristine setting at one of Greece’s many health retreats. B Y PAU L I N A K A P S A L I S

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Š DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

Apostolia Papadamaki, founder of The Happiness Retreat, leads outdoor group meditation and yoga classes in beautiful places around the country..

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he day starts with meditation or yoga, before you sit down for a healthy Mediterranean breakfast complete with local fruits, nuts and vegetables. Later, you’ll hike through a forest, swim in the sea, or step into an icy waterfall plunge pool. Visiting a health retreat in Greece is a treat for mind, body, and spirit. The approach is decidedly holistic, drawing on the wisdom of ancient Greeks who understood the importance of achieving harmony between body and spirit (yoga is based on the same concept). But its status as the birthplace of the holistic approach isn’t the only reason to choose a health retreat in Greece. Its natural wealth is just as important, and there are very few places in the world which offer such varied landscapes in such a small area. Fully aware of this comparative advantage, and wishing to help participants reconnect with nature, retreat organizers choose locations where it is at its most beneficent. Most leaders like to give lessons outdoors. Mountain yoga helps oxygenate the body and is said to stimulate energy flows; sunset meditation brings inner peace; and sea activities are thought to have therapeutic benefits. Even the food is chosen with care from what nature provides, which means everything is seasonal (many retreats are vegetarian or even vegan). There’s a wide choice of retreats. Some offer high-intensity fitness training or water sports, while others make time for sightseeing. You can join a retreat at a luxurious villa an hour’s drive from Athens, in a remote mountain village or or on a cruise ship that stops at all the must-visit Cycladic islands.

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01. At the eco-cultural center Re-Green, visitors are surrounded by nature. | 02. Breathing exercises help set the mind at ease at The Happiness Retreat. | 03. Delicious vegetarian meals are cooked with seasonal ingredients at Re-Green. | 04. Hiking on Mount Penteli with the Nefeli Nine team. | 05. Waking up right, with the Morning Mobility class at Nefeli Nine. © DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

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SILVER ISLAND

THE HAPPINESS RETREAT Having studied movement in fields ranging from dance and yoga to scuba diving, Apostolia Papadamaki founded The Happiness Retreat, through which she teaches holistic health techniques at various beautiful locations. The Spring Celebration Ritual Retreat at the eco-culture center Re-Green, surrounded by mountains and waterfalls in the village of Seliana in the Peloponnese, is a popular choice. Aiming to help you better understand your body and control your breathing, the program combines yoga with detoxing, movement and breathing exercises, impulse dance, and outdoor excursions. Retreats on the islands feature a “water spirit contact dance” in the sea, and sunrise meditation on the beach, while the Dreaming Wide Awake Retreat includes exercises at archeological sites. INFO Tel. (+30) 693.692.0860, thehappinessretreat.gr 58

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SILVER ISLAND On their private island between the mainland and Evia, sisters Lisa and Claire Christie have been organizing yoga retreats since 2012. Between April and October, there’s a new retreat every week, and they’re all different. The maximum number of participants at each retreat is 10. The island was once a luxury hotel resort popular with jet-setters. Today, the sisters have transformed it into a sustainable haven for those seeking privacy and pristine beaches. The former helipad is now a yoga shala, the food served is vegetarian, the water is supplied by a rainwater collector and the power by solar panels. INFO silverislandyoga.com

PURE FITNESS While most health retreats cater to small groups, yoga teacher Fotini Bitrou arranges retreats for as many as 45 attendees, making them particularly suited to large groups and families. Her annual six-day retreat on Ikaria is a popular choice. Here, sessions take place at The Egg, a large outdoor workshop space by the sea. Ikaria is celebrated for the longevity of its inhabitants, something many attribute to their traditional diet, so it’s no surprise that local food plays an important part in the retreat experience. Fotini also organizes retreats on her native island of Aegina; at the eco-resort Montanema in the mountains near Lake Plastira; and on cruise ships sailing the Aegean Sea. INFO Tel. (+30) 693.243.1281, purefitness.gr


E XPERIENCE NEW AGE

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ZANTE FITNESS RETREATS

PURE FITNESS

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SKYROS HOLISTIC HOLIDAYS

NEFELI NINE You don’t have to travel to a remote village or an island; at Nefeli Nine, roughly a one-hour drive from central Athens, Stephanie Contomichalos and Emilio Devoti organize week-long retreats that combine yoga, workouts and hiking. Here, in the beautiful area of Dikastika, you’ll stay in a luxurious stone-built villa complete with a pool and wonderful sea views. The days begin with a light mobility session before breakfast, followed by hikes through the wooded seaside landscape. Although adjusted to personal ability, the workouts can be fairly intense, but you’ll be royally rewarded with massages and spa therapies, and with great home-cooked food as well. INFO Tel. (+30) 697.418.4632, nefelinine.com

SKYROS HOLISTIC HOLIDAYS At this health center on Skyros island, you can customize your retreat by picking from a wide variety of activities such as windsurfing, reflexology, abseiling, yoga, massage, music, dance, performing comedy and tai chi. Founder Yannis Andricopoulos says he was inspired by the ancient Greeks and their holistic beliefs. Wellness seekers can choose between two locations on the island: the villa and huts at Atsitsa Bay or the facility on the outskirts of the main town. INFO Tel. (+44) 1983.865.566, skyros.com

ZANTE FITNESS RETREATS At professional yoga instructor Panagiota Ntozi’s health retreats on the island of Zakynthos, most classes are held outdoors, and there’s something for everyone. The Aerial Yoga Retreat, where participants engage in “anti-gravity yoga,” and the SUP Yoga Retreat, featuring paddleboard exercises, are firm favorites. Another interesting option is the Detoxifying Yoga Retreat, which combines stretching and breathing exercises with yoga and late-night cardio walks, while the Reiki Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Retreat focuses on self-healing. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training camp offers personal training. INFO Tel. (+30) 698.697.1508, zantefitnessretreats.com

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A SUPERB SOAK

Warm therapeutic waters and a majestic natural setting make Pozar Thermal Baths near Edessa a uniquely enjoyable wellness destination. BY A MBER CHA R MEI

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nce, after a memorable night out in Thessaloniki with a group of friends, instead of going home to sleep we did something that turned out to be much more sensible. We drove just under two hours to a gorge in the foothills of Mt Kaimaktsalan. There, in the dawn light, we slipped into a thermal pool at Pozar. Dense steam rose into the winter air, as therapeutic water pounded our shoulders from above. A luminous white river flowed below. The air was intoxicating, enlivened by the cold waterfall beside us. The stresses – and excesses – of urban living were washed clean away. My skin felt as soft and smooth as an infant’s. The spring was more restorative than the best night’s sleep. For couples and for groups of friends like us, the baths are a popular and wholesome alternative to a nightcap; the indoor private baths operate 24 hours a day, and can remain full almost throughout the night, especially on weekends. Everyone, from splashing infants to more sedate seniors, enjoys Pozar. A yearround destination, it attracts a mainly younger crowd on daytrips and over the weekends in the cooler months. In the summer, older patrons often come for stays of a week or two.

Braving the cold waterfall is a thrilling way to recharge after enjoying the thermal springs.

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Pozar, which means “beneath the fire” in Slavic, is nature at its most luxurious, combining rugged beauty with pure sensual pleasure. The next time I visited, I explored its rugged side first, hiking through the forested gorge. There are trails to suit every ability level, starting with a flat paved path following the Thermopotamos River. Here and there, I climbed up the stone stairs that line the gorge’s wall, finding thrillingly high viewing platforms. Another, wilder trail follows the river further upstream (maps are available at the hydrotherapy center). After the hike, a massage sounded ideal. Massage centers are located right by the baths, and their services enhance the bathing experience. Enjoyed beforehand, a therapeutic massage optimizes the effectiveness of the waters, as balneotherapist Anestis Samaras, of Saman Relax Center, explained: “The beneficial elements you find in therapeutic waters also exist in our blood. For an element from the water – like magnesium, for example – to become effective, it has to unite with the magnesium already in our bloodstream. A massage dilates the blood vessels, facilitating the absorption of the minerals. It also enhances circulation, directing blood flow to where it’s most needed – to a sprain, for instance – and concentrating the minerals’ healing properties there.” My full body treatment started with my face; I could feel the tension slip away. The massage was vigorous, almost achingly blissful. Then, at last, it was time for the waters. Measuring 25m by 12.5m and 1 to 3m deep, the outdoor swimming pool offered room to stretch out after the mas-

In harmony with nature: bathing under a canopy of trees, to the sound of rushing water.

sage. At 37°C, the water was ideal on a cold day – cozy, but not so warm as to leave me limp. From here, I walked over to the bathing area under the waterfall to let the cascade work its magic. At just a few euros each, enjoying both pools is an affordable indulgence. But perhaps the best thing to do at Pozar is free. At the river’s edge are shallow manmade thermal pools. Upstream, there’s a spot that offers the thrill of showering in the adjacent cold waterfall first, a local custom. It tightened my skin, toughened my character and made the thermal pool more pleasurable still. Listening to the rushing water and gazing at the trees, I surrendered to the complete solitude, leaving only when I realized I was famished. Pozar has a good restaurant, serving traditional dishes with quality local ingredients. A glass of wine went quickly to my head; I imagined my lowered tolerance to be evidence of the water’s purifying effects. Neighboring Loutraki has many guesthouses and small hotels, but there are also a few simple rooms on site. The sound of the river lulled me into a deep sleep. I woke refreshed at daybreak and went straight to the pool in a bathrobe. It was tranquil, almost empty. Soon afterwards, I would set out for a much longer hike along the river, then enjoyed another swim and a good lunch. Just 24 hours in Pozar left me profoundly recharged, body and soul.

AFTER THE HIKE, A MASSAGE SOUNDED IDEAL. MASSAGE CENTERS ARE LOCATED RIGHT BY THE BATHS, AND THEIR SERVICES ENHANCE THE BATHING EXPERIENCE.

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HEALING WATERS

Apart from being so relaxing, Pozar’s water contains elements proven to be beneficial for specific health issues: • Potassium – essential for cellular function and the muscular and digestive systems. • Sodium – maintains the balance of fluids and the transmission of nerve impulses. • Manganese – has antioxidant properties, aids digestion and supports bone health. • Magnesium – a lack of magnesium is associated with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. • Silicon – facilitates the enrichment of bones with calcium and other metals, essential for preventing osteoporosis. • Fluoride – beneficial to the teeth and helpful to those suffering from osteoporosis. • Iron – iron deficiency can cause anemia, fatigue, tachycardia and breathlessness • Lithium – used in the treatment of manic episodes and bipolar disorder. Where: Pozar, Loutraki, Pella, is 110km (two hours) from Thessaloniki, 32 km from Edessa and 38km (an hour) from the Voras-Kaimaktsalan Ski Center. • Bring a bathing suit, towels, a bathrobe, flip flops and a hairdryer. There are also towels and robes available for rent for the indoor baths.

Prices and hours • Private baths: Open 24 hours a day. 30-minute sessions, €10 to €20 for parties of 1-3, plus €2 to €3 for each additional person, depending on the bath and the day (weekdays are less expensive than weekends and holidays). One bath is equipped with a lift for people with mobility issues. • The old hydrotherapy center has two large indoor pools, both private on weekends (accommodating up to 12 people), and two hamamm-style pools, priced as above 07:00-20:30. One large pool is open for general admission on weekdays, 07:00-14:00, €4. • Outdoor swimming pool: 07:0020:30, €3. There is a lift for people with mobility issues. • Riverside pools: 07:00-22:00 and 07:00-02:00, €2. • Rooms: singles €40, doubles €45, triples €50. • To reserve rooms and private baths, Tel. (+30) 23840.913.00, 07:00-21:30 daily. • loutrapozar.com.gr/en

Massage: Saman Relax Center (across from the private baths): Tel. (+30) 23840.912.09 or (+30) 699.921.4092, relaxcenter.gr. 40-minute therapeutic massage, €30 • Spa to Spa (below the restaurant), Tel. (+30) 694.633.4947 • spatospa.gr © CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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BEST SPOTS FOR A BATH With about 750 locations with natural curative resources, Greece could be described as a paradise of healing spas. Most therapeutic springs have remained undeveloped (only 54 have been officially recognized to date) and only few of these have onsite lodgings. In recent years, however, there has been renewed interest in developing these sources of wellness by creating high-end hydrotherapy facilities and hotels focusing on balneotherapy, not only to treat specific ailments, illnesses or injuries, but to promote general wellbeing as well. Here are seven natural springs with excellent healing properties and facilities to match.

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KRINIDES MUD BATHS Originally the site of a Byzantine-era spa, the village of Krinides was abandoned after the 1923 Greek-Turkish population exchange and gradually became a mudflat. It is said that a sick buffalo was left here by its owner for the wolves to devour, only to be spotted ten days later fully recovered and grazing in the fields; this was how the thermal properties of the mud were rediscovered. Nowadays, Krinides Mud Baths, located 3km west of the village, ranks as Greece’s most popular mud therapy spa. Guests here first visit the center’s doctor, take a five-minute thermal shower to clean the skin, and then immerse themselves in the therapeutic “clay” for 20 minutes. The cycle concludes with a second thermal shower, the only thing capable of washing off the Krinides mud. A steam room and massage therapies are also available. WATER TYPE: Cool, metallic, alkaline, calcareous, magnesiumbearing, acidic, carbonated. HELPS WITH: Musculoskeletal

BY M A R I A C OV E OU

and nervous system disorders, gynecological conditions, skin conditions.

INFO: Krinides, Kavala

(149km northeast of Thessaloniki) Tel. (+30) 2510.516.162 • Open June-October • pilotherapia.gr •

LOUTRAKI THERMAL SPA The ancient Greek historian Xenophon wrote that Spartan soldiers would use the thermal springs of the ancient city of Thermes, believed to be today’s Loutraki in the Regional Unit of Corinthia, for relaxation and reinvigoration following their battles. The first modern spa here was opened in 1855, and in the early 20th century, Loutraki became Greece’s first popular spa destination. This seaside town, which is also home to a casino, is still regarded as the country’s main spa therapy destination, and many prominent figures have visited the facilities known today as Loutraki Thermal Spa. In 2009, a new, larger structure housing modern facilities for spa therapy and thalassotherapy was opened. WATER TYPE: Cool, metallic, alkaline, chlorinated, hydrosulfuric. HELPS WITH: Musculoskeletal and nervous system disorders, skin conditions and gynecological conditions. INFO: 24 Georgiou Lekka,

Loutraki (82km west of Athens) Tel. (+30) 2744.062.186 • loutrakispa.gr •

THERMAE SYLLA SPA & WELLNESS HOTEL Edipsos is one of the most renowned spa resort towns of Greece. Its thermal springs gush up from depths of as much as 3,000 meters at temperatures reaching 7585°C. The best-known of these springs, the Thermae Sylla, was named after the Roman general Sulla, who, according to the historian Plutarch, suffered from a case of gout while in Athens in 84 BC and traveled here for relief. Nowadays, this spring’s bathing waters (35-50°C) are channeled to the five-star Thermae Sylla Spa & Wellness Hotel. Established in 1897 and revamped in 1999, the hotel is equipped with a spa that was further upgraded in 2012 to feature facilities for thermal therapy and thalassotherapy. The spa’s facilities have even attracted two teams of cosmonauts, who used them upon their return to Earth in combination with special treatments as part of their rehabilitation program. WATER TYPE: Medium-warm, metallic, alkaline, chlorinated.

HELPS WITH: Musculoskeletal and nervous system disorders, skin conditions, gynecological conditions. INFO: 2 Posidonos,

Edipsos, northern Evia (183km north-west of Athens)

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VOULIAGMENI LAKE Vouliagmeni Lake, located in the heart of the Athens Riviera, is a spot of particular natural beauty. It features water stemming from sources between 50 and 100 meters deep at temperatures ranging between 22-29°C. From a distance, the lake’s water looks black; this is the result of dark-colored seaweed and a layer of mud that has formed on the lake bottom. As the lake is connected to the sea, its water has a brackish taste. Small garra rufa (or doctor fish), native to the lake’s waters, promise visitors a unique exfoliation experience by ridding the skin’s outermost surface of dead skin cells. Apart from swimming, other activities that can be enjoyed in the lake are aqua aerobics and snorkeling.

GALINI WELLNESS SPA & RESORT Back in the early 20th century, Kamena Vourla, in the Regional Unit of Fthiotida, was nothing more than a swamp. However, the area possessed many thermal springs, which prompted its development as a spa town. Today, the spa at the five-star Galini Wellness Spa & Resort, a facility covering 3,000 sq.m., offers visitors both indoor and outdoor swimming pools filled with thermal waters from the region, a separate indoor seawater swimming pool for thalassotherapy, and specialized therapies based on the thermal waters. These are thought to be among the few in Greece that, thanks to the presence of radon, exhibit mild radioactive properties. WATER TYPE: Medium-warm,

MIRAGGIO THERMAL SPA RESORT The thermal waters from the spring at Kanistro, on the Kassandra peninsula of Halkidiki, supply Myrthia Thermal Spa at Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort, an ultraluxury facility. Located amid a rich green landscape in front of a 500m-long beach, this thoroughly modern, two-level 3,000 sq.m. wellness center offers both thermal waters and seawater for reinvigoration and cosmetic purposes in a large thalasso pool with warm seawater, a second thalasso infinity pool, and three pools with geothermal water at different temperatures. WATER TYPE: Cool, metallic, chlorinated, brominated and highly carbonated. HELPS WITH: Musculoskeletal

WATER TYPE: Cool, metallic,

metallic, acidic, chlorinated, mildly carbonated, mildly hydrosulfuric, medium radon presence.

and nervous system disorders, peripheral vascular conditions and skin conditions.

HELPS WITH: Musculoskeletal system disorders and skin conditions.

HELPS WITH: Musculoskeletal, nervous system disorders, skin conditions and gynecological conditions.

INFO: Kanistro, Paliouri (123km

alkaline, chlorinated.

INFO: Vouliagmeni (25km south of central Athens) Tel. (+30) 210.896.2237 • limnivouliagmenis.gr/en •

INFO: 5 Gerasimou

Vasiliadi, Kamena Vourla (175km northwest of Athens) • Tel. (+30) 2235.080.501 • Open April-October • mitsishotels.com/hotels/galiniresort/

south of Thessaloniki) Tel. (+30) 2374.440.000 • Open April-October • miraggio.gr/en •

THERMA SPA LESVOS In a remote area full of olive groves overlooking the Gulf of Geras stands the Therma Spa Lesvos, open year round. According to tradition, the women of ancient Lesvos would bathe themselves in the spring that today supplies the baths in preparation for their beauty contests. The waters that reach the surface at a temperature of 39.5°C from a depth of 2,500m are now channeled to the spa’s facilities, which include one outdoor infinity swimming pool, an outdoor jacuzzi, two indoor private baths and the original indoor mixed baths, built during the Ottoman era. Additional services include a variety of massages and other face and body treatments. WATER TYPE: Medium-warm, metallic, acidic, chlorinated. HELPS WITH: Musculoskeletal and nervous system disorders, gynecological conditions and skin conditions. INFO: Gulf of Geras, Lesvos

(7.7km west of Mytilene) Tel. (+30) 22510.415.03 & (+30) 694.405.1212 • thermaspalesvos.com •

INFO Hydrotherapy is used in thermal medicine as an adjunct to conventional medical treatment and is distinguished as either external (balneotherapy, mud treatments), internal (steam inhalation and water-drinking therapies) or thalassotherapy (involving seawater). You should never begin hydrotherapy without first consulting a physician; he or she will evaluate your medical history and determine whether such treatment is advisable. If it is, the doctor will then establish the time duration per session and prescribe the overall length of treatment to achieve the maximum therapeutic results.

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E XPERIENCE AGRITOURISM

A GROWING TREND

Farm-to-table dining is nice, but a meal at an actual farm is better. At some of Greece’s resorts and rural guesthouses, you can get hands-on, choosing your eggs from the coop and pulling your carrots from the soil. B Y PAU L I N A B J Ö R K K A P S A L I S

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At the Red Tractor Farm, acorns are made into flour, used to bake bread and cookies.

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EUMELIA Situated in an ancient olive grove near the village of Gouves, in the Peloponnese, Frangiskos Karelas’ organic farm produces mainly olive oil and wine. In the autumn, guests are welcome to help with the harvest. You can also take part in an olive oil tasting or learn how to make olive oil soap. But there is more to be discovered here as well. Knowing the risks of monocultures, Karelas planted grape vines and almond, pine and cypress trees in the olive grove. During your stay, you‘ll learn all about why this is the best way to approach organic farming. You can also help feed the

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© KIMBERLEY POWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

© KIMBERLEY POWELL PHOTOGRAPHY

reece has a lot more to offer than sandy beaches. Take a look in the produce aisle of a supermarket and you’ll see the proof; plump stone fruit, oranges, sweet watermelon, grapes and tomatoes are just some of the many products grown in the country’s farms. Most of them are small and family-run; some feature guesthouses or restaurants and happen to be the perfect places to visit for alternative, agritourism vacations. By stepping into the role of a farmer for a day or a week, you get to know the locals and their traditions, while also reconnecting with nature. You’ll find agritourism enterprises surrounded by olive groves and vineyards on the islands and in the Peloponnese, or in the mushroom-filled forests in the mountains of the mainland. You’ll even find a few just outside Athens. Staying in their guesthouses, you’re invited to join in the daily work, which, depending on the season, could be anything from planting vegetables to pruning trees, herding sheep or harvesting olives. Sharing meals and learning from the people who have worked the land their whole lives, you’ll soon feel like a local. Foodies will find it especially rewarding. It’s the ultimate farm-to-table experience; before each meal, you’ll visit the vegetable patch, the orchard and the chicken coop, and gather the freshest ingredients you’ll ever taste. You’ll learn that Greek cuisine is different in every part of the country, shaped by the local terroir, and by recognizing what grows nearby, you’ll gain an understanding of the local cuisine (a farmhouse in the forest-clad mountains of Pindus will use ingredients such as fruit and mushrooms, whereas one on the island of Crete will be stocked with bread rusks, olives and raki). You’ll sample organic niche products such as natural wine, truffles in central Greece and acorn flour cookies on Kea. Traditional cooking classes and tastings are available on demand, and every meal, cooked with only seasonal local products, is authentic, rustic and delicious.

animals (Greek black pigs, goats, sheep and poultry), plant vegetables, and do much more. When you need a break from farm work, you can take a cooking class or request a tasting of natural Greek wines led by sommelier Marilena Karadima. The five guesthouses (each with room for 4-5 people, €160/night for couples and families and €30 for each additional adult guest) feature modern interior design, yet they blend in perfectly to their surroundings. Decorated with wood and natural stucco, they’re named for the trees and plants that grow in the area. INFO Gouves, Laconia, Tel. (+30) 694.715.1400, eumelia.com


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E XPERIENCE AGRITOURISM

MARGI FARM You don’t need to spend days on a farm to get a glimpse of what they’re all about. In Kalyvia, just about 40 km from Athens, the beautiful Margi Farm presents a unique dining experience, inviting guests to pick their own vegetables and cook their own meals. Their “Farm to Fork” package (€500/ couple, €175 per additional person), which needs to be booked in advance, starts with a guided tour through the chicken coop and organic garden, where guests collect fresh eggs and vegetables. Then, you’ll be presented with more local delicacies such as cold-pressed olive oil, rosé wine from the region, traditional tsipouro (a distilled spirit), fresh cheese made from goat’s milk, wild asparagus from the surrounding hills, and herbs and seasonal fruit from around their twohectare farm. After that, you’ll prepare your meal in the outdoor kitchen. You can choose to do it completely on your own or with the help of a chef.

DALABELOS ESTATE For those who want to experience farm life up close and also enjoy a relaxing and luxurious setting on vacation, the Dalabelos Estate, near the village of Angeliana on Crete, offers the best of both worlds. The 12 beautiful stone villas and studios (from €110/night) and two shared swimming pools are surrounded by the estate’s olive trees, a vineyard, vegetable gardens and a fruit orchard, which is home to various free-range poultry. In the natural shade in the restaurant courtyard, you’ll enjoy food inspired by the famously healthy Cretan diet, made

with ingredients from the estate. If you love the food, you can join the cooking classes held every Saturday, where you’ll learn to bake country-style bread and cook two seasonal dishes, with ingredients you’ve gathered from the estate (€30/person). Groups of 4-15 people who don’t want to stay the night can take a tour of the estate (€15/person), which includes tastings of the farm’s products. The tour ends with an open discussion about organic farming. INFO Angeliana, Rethymno, Crete, Tel. (+30) 28340.221.55, dalabelos.gr

INFO Kalyvia, Attica, Tel. (+30) 210.967.0924, margifarm.gr

ROKKA GUESTHOUSE Rokka is more than a guesthouse; it’s a family home. Lena, Lakis, Kostas and Katina are sheep farmers and the hosts, welcoming guests to experience life on their farm (situated 4km from the guesthouse), surrounded by nature in the Pindus mountains. Each of the five guestrooms (from €50/night) in the stone-built house from 1875 is decorated in traditional village style and features large fireplaces to keep you warm. The day begins with a hearty breakfast, made by Lena, but you’re welcome to lend a hand. Everything, from the bread to the butter, cheese and jam, is homemade. All dairy products are based on the milk from the family’s 400 sheep. The rest of the day’s program is up to you. Join Kostas in feeding and herding the sheep, help Lakis sow or harvest grain, learn how to make yarn using wool and natural dye with Lena, or how to cook local dishes with Katina. Truffle and mushroom hunting can also be organized on request. INFO Elafatopos, Central Zagori, Ioannina, Tel. (+30) 26530.715.80, rokkazagori.gr 70

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© COSTA NAVARINO © COSTA NAVARINO

© COSTA NAVARINO

© COSTA NAVARINO

COSTA NAVARINO Recognized time and again for its environmental practices, and a recipient of, among other accolades, Europe’s Responsible Tourism Award 2017 at the 24th annual World Travel Awards, Costa Navarino places Messinia’s natural attractions and agrifood traditions at the center of its guests’ experiences. During the olive harvest (September to December), you can experience firsthand all the steps in the process, from picking the fruit to the production of extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil tastings under the guidance of local experts take place throughout the year. During the wine harvest (August to October), you can join in the stomping of grapes and discover one of Greece’s best terroirs,

with a guided tour of Costa Navarino’s vineyards in Mouzaki (guided tours and wine tasting evenings take place throughout the year). Tours, led by a plant expert, of the herbal and vegetable gardens are available, and if you’re looking for an illuminating farm-to-table experience, you can visit the vegetable garden, collect seasonal produce and enjoy a delicious outdoor meal surrounded by nature. Kids between the ages of four and eleven can join in the Young Gardeners activities, where they’ll learn to plant seeds and pick the fruit that’s in season. INFO Messinia, Tel. (+30) 27230.970.00, costanavarino.com H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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E XPERIENCE AGRITOURISM

RED TRACTOR FARM Greece isn’t all about olive oil and yogurt; at the pretty, stone-built Red Tractor Farm and guesthouse on the island of Kea, Kostis Maroulis has four stone houses, featuring seven studio units, some with fireplaces and all with bright-white interiors and private outdoor spaces (from €80/night, open year-round). Also at RTF, Marcie Mayer, specializes in the production of acorn flour. Every autumn, she harvests the acorns in the ancient oak forest of Kea, inviting volunteers to join her. The flour, which is gluten-free and rich in fiber, protein, potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6, is used to bake bread and cookies. The farm also produces wine, jams and spatholado (literally “sword oil”) ointment from St John’s Wort, a product used to heal sword injuries in ancient times and other wounds today. You can purchase all these products in the Red Tractor shop. INFO RTF, Kea, Tel. (+30) 22880.213.46, www.redtractorfarm.com OAKMEAL Tel. (+30) 6977077791, www.oakmeal.com

THE ORCHARD IN VARI Another option close to Athens, this permaculture farm is situated only 20km from the center of the city, but arriving here feels as though you’re suddenly in a different world. You’ll find fun activities such as gardening classes for both kids and adults, available in English on request (€10/person). If you visit from October to January, you can also observe the production of olive oil in the Orchard’s mill. The main reason to come here, however, is for the food. Cooked using the farm’s own herbs, eggs and vegetables, grass-fed meat and local products, it contains almost no additives. The menu is different every day, depending on what the earth has to offer. Olive oil, honey and wine tastings are also available on request. INFO 15 Kyrineias (formerly Kyrgion), Vari, Tel. (+30) 210.896.3000, perivolivari.gr, open Wed-Sun, 10:00-21:00 72

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© THALIA GALANOPOULOU

© THALIA GALANOPOULOU

AGRECO FARMS A beautiful, four-hectare estate near Rethymno on Crete, Agreco Farms is a labor of love of Grecotel, a Cretan hospitality chain – and Greece’s largest hospitality enterprise – that has sought, since its founding, to promote the virtues of the land and deliver its guests authentic Cretan experiences. Celebrating the abundance of the Cretan soil, this traditional farm invites you to take part in an authentic farming experience which combines centuries-old local traditions, heartwarming hospitality and insights into the organic production of the island’s simple, healthy food. Guided tours of the farm are offered every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and are followed by a Cretan feast featuring local dances. On Sundays, depending on the season, you can watch or take part in different tasks. In June, for example, you can experience the full cycle of bread-making, and in July, you can take part in the grape harvest and sample fresh grape must before it’s turned into raki. On Wednesdays, children get to be farmers for a day by joining in supervised, fun-filled farm activities such as making farmhouse bread and baking it in a wood-fired oven; picking vegetables from the organic gardens; milking the goats to make cheese; and helping shear the sheep. The farm’s organic products can be purchased online or at Hellenic Duty Free Shops at airports in Greece, but are best enjoyed at the estate’s Agreco Taverna which, in 2009, was declared the best organic restaurant in the world by the prestigious Vanity Fair magazine. INFO Adelianos Kampos, Adele, Rethymno, Tel. (+30) 28310.721.29, agreco.gr, open daily 11:00-23:00 (Wed, Sun 11:00-16:00), online shop: agrecofarms.gr H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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NUTRITION RECIPES

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THE RIGHT STUFF

Simplicity, seasonality, frugality and flavorful results are the hallmarks of a way of cooking that’s as healthy as it is delicious.

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B Y D I A N A FA R R L OU I S

© GEORGE TSAFOS

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wenty years ago, the Mediterranean diet, and the Cretan version of it, were making headlines. People who followed a regime based on vegetables, olive oil, grains, greens and pulses were found to live longer and better than dedicated carnivores, fast-food addicts and those who subsisted on processed food. Greeks regularly appeared at the top of longevity lists while magazines featured articles about the country and its blessed green gold: its unadulterated extra virgin olive oil. In 1997, the Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust of Boston held a weeklong conference in Crete to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the discovery, in a Rockefeller Foundation study, that Cretans, despite the privation of the war years, lived far longer on average than pampered Americans with their fixation on steak, fries and butter. With the help of © GEORGE DRAKOPOULOS

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© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

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noted Greek doctors and nutritionists like Dimitrios and Antonia Trichopoulos, the trust had proposed the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid as an alternative to that of the US Department of Agriculture. Their placement of meat at the pinnacle rather than near the base and their suggestion that a glass of wine was a better accompaniment to a meal than a tumbler of milk caused a furor among spokespersons for the meat and dairy industries. When I was first smitten with Greece and its food in the 1960s (a condition that still endures), I had no notion of the benefits of what I was eating. I only knew that I’d never been happier sitting around a table. Having been raised on Long Island on an unvarying routine of meat and two vegetables for supper, and sandwiches for lunch, the meals at my sister-in-law’s summer home on Spetses stimulated and soothed my whole being. Whether the pièce de résistance was lentil soup, pot roast with mashed potatoes, tomato and onion salad with fresh plucked basil, zucchini fritters or scrambled eggs with tomatoes, I was in heaven. The conversation flowed along in English, French and Greek as we sipped barrel-aged retsina; every dish had been prepared with agapi (love) because, as Eleni the cook had told me, “You can’t just toss things into a pan and then leave and go make the beds. You must keep watch. Be attentive. Look after your food till it’s ready.” During the winters back in New York, my Greek husband and I would yearn for what we called “soul food,” not collard greens, chitterlings and grits, but classic Greek dishes: tiny crisp-fried squid, keft-

01. Country bread, made from unbleached flour. | 02. A mix of green and ripe olives makes the best oil. | 03. Cretan snails, or“boubouristous,” named for the bubbling sound they make while cooking. | 04. Pita baked in a wood-burning oven. | 05. Eggs with smoke-cured pork. | 06. Picking grapes the old-fashioned way produces the best results. | 07. All the fixings for a fine pie made with greens. © PERIKLES MERAKOS H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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edes (mint-flavored meatballs), creamy taramosalata (fish roe dip), oil-rich bean soup, green beans in tomato sauce, stuffed eggplant called “little shoes”.. and we would search in vain at the fishmongers for whole shrimp, or for fish that hadn’t been decapitated, because the head helps make the soup taste like soup. It was only well after I returned to Greece to live in 1972 that I discovered that the country’s food possessed much more variety than the average taverna offered. Travels to Epirus revealed a whole range of pies, some as big as a bicycle wheel, and stews baked in sealed clay pots, while pies in Crete might resemble ancient oil lamps or be as small as ravioli. The Peloponnese boasted fields of artichokes, citrus orchards as far as the eye could see and olive groves that were even larger, as well as pork delicacies, whereas the mountains of Central Greece claimed the best lamb and yogurt and its plains were the country’s breadbasket. Corfu had dishes that sounded Italian but were seasoned with hot pepper flakes, and Thessaloniki’s markets and restaurants served “unGreek” northern dishes like sauerkraut and myriad types of pickle along with deep-fried mussels like those

YET ANOTHER FEATURE OF GREEK COOKING THAT IS AS TRUE TODAY AS IT WAS IN ANTIQUITY IS ITS FOCUS ON STRAIGHTFORWARD TASTES AND ON QUALITY INGREDIENTS EATEN IN SEASON.

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sold on the streets of Istanbul, as well as a galaxy of spicy foods introduced by refugees from Asia Minor and Pontus. Before the 1990s, if you didn’t travel, you had to have a grandmother from these places in order to even know regional specialties existed. Now tavernas serving them are scattered around Athens, while groceries dedicated to the foods and beverages of different areas bring an astonishing wealth of tastes to the capital, from fresh produce, much of it organic, to pastas, sauces, relishes, cured meats and fish, cheeses and sweets. This abundance takes one back to Archestratos, a poet, gourmand and culinary expert who lived in the Greek colony of Sicily in the 4th century BC. Many of the fragments that remain of his “Life of Luxury” extol local delicacies – the eels of Lake Kopais (now drained), the whitebait of Faliro Bay, the bread and cakes of Athens. Likewise, I dream about the bottarga of Messolongi, the tomatoes of Santorini, the sardines of Lesvos, the red peppers of Florina, the sausages of Didymoteicho, the capers of the Cyclades, the beans of Prespes, the pastourmas (air-cured beef) of Drama, the extra special potatoes of Naxos … and the cheeses of just about anywhere. Yet another feature of Greek cooking that is as true today as it was in antiquity is its focus on straight-forward tastes and on quality ingredients eaten in season Whereas the Romans loved to dazzle guests by mixing pearls with lentils or gilding a roast with gold leaf, Greek chefs (in as great demand then as French chefs in the modern era) relied on the excellence of their produce and judicious seasoning with herbs – oregano, mint, parsley, rosemary, savory – but rarely spices. As they still do. Symposiasts felt it was better to get up from a banquet still a bit peckish; they would have been aghast at the idea of a vomitorium. The motto of the day was moderation in all things (pan metron ariston). Today, moderation may an ideal “more honored in the breach than in the observance,” but there’s one feature of the Greek way of eating that sets

it apart from almost every other country: the rules set down by the Orthodox fast. Of course, observing dietary rules during the church calendar’s four fasting periods, numerous saints’ days and Wednesdays and Fridays isn’t as widely practiced as it used to be. But the prohibition of dairy, meat, eggs and even fish – any food from an animal that has a backbone – meant that hundreds of recipes were devised over the centuries to make vegetables, grains, pulses and greens more tempting to hungry families. And they’re so much a part of Greek culture that all but the most dedicated carnivores appreciate them. According to Antonia Trichopoulou, president of the Hellenic Health Foundation, this focus on vegetables makes the Greek version of the Mediterranean diet a bit healthier than its counterparts around the Mare Nostrum. And it’s also in accord with Michael Pollan’s dictum in “In Defense of Food”: “Eat food [not processed stuff with ingredients you can’t pronounce]. Not too much. Mostly plants.” But to me, apart from its nutritional aspects and regional delights, the healthiest aspect of the Greek way of eating remains the leisurely savoring of food (preferably cooked with love) with friends and family. Lingering over a meal – undistracted by televisions or smartphones – and enjoying good conversation and each others’ company are just as beneficial to the mind and soul as they are to the body. And in Greece, most of the time, this is still the preferred way of getting together, whether you’re in town or country, on a mountain or by the sea. In 2009, Oldways revised their original “pyramid,” making this social interaction part of the foundation for healthy mealtime behavior. Unless you have a specific condition, like celiac disease or lactose intolerance, there’s no need to follow each new, restrictive fad diet. Just remember that the word “diet” comes from the Greek diaita, which originally meant a way of life, a balance between eating, working, movement and relaxing.


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* Three recipes, taken from Diana Farr Louis’ books “Feasting and Fasting in Crete” and “Prospero’s Kitchen” (co-author June Marinos).

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NUTRITION RECIPES

BARBOUNIA BEANS WITH LEEKS FROM WESTERN CRETE

Pulses are a central feature of the country’s meals, regardless of location, and this baked bean dish is replicated in various versions from Crete to Macedonia. Pink and white barbounia (or borlotti) beans are sold fresh in their wrinkled pods in summer in both Greek and Italian farmers’ markets. The Italians like to put them in minestrones, whereas the Greeks put them in salads or bake them, as in this recipe. They get their Greek name “barbounia” from the term for red mullet fish because their color is so similar. Disappointingly, their delightful candy-cane patterns fade in cooking, but their nutty taste still rates as superior. INGREDIENTS (serves 8)

500g fresh borlotti beans or dried Greek giant beans (gigantes) • 120ml olive oil • 3 medium leeks, white part only, finely chopped • 2 green peppers, finely chopped • 1/2 bunch celery, finely chopped • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped • 3 medium tomatoes, grated, skins discarded • salt and freshly ground black pepper • 1 tbsp dried oregano •

METHOD

If you’re using giant beans, soak them overnight before boiling. Borlotti beans need no soaking; just boil in plenty of salted water for about 20 minutes or until almost tender. Drain in a colander and place them in a large shallow baking dish. For giant beans, bring them to a boil in a large pot of water, discard that water, and with new, salted water, bring them to the boil again and cook for about 1.5 hours. Drain and place in baking dish. Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Sauté the leeks in the oil for about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, celery and parsley and sauté for another 2-3 minutes before adding the tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and oregano, pour the mixture over the beans, toss and bake for about 30 minutes until a light crust forms on top and the beans are tender and juicy. H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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FOOD STYLING: TINA WEBB - PHOTOS: GEORGE DRAKOPOULOS


NUTRITION RECIPES

FOOD STYLING: TINA WEBB - PHOTOS: GEORGE DRAKOPOULOS

CRETAN RAISIN CAKE

This cake, which I make every Christmas (at least), was invented to perk up fasting periods, and thus contains no eggs or milk but uses extra virgin olive oil for shortening. Again, the ingredients represent what was on hand in a typical larder in eastern Crete. This recipe was given to me by a woman lucky enough to use her own raisins when she bakes this. The cake has a toffee-like crunchiness on the outside, while the inside reminds me of old-fashioned wedding cake though moister and even more succulent. It makes a scrumptious snack for winter afternoons and evenings. Leftovers can be turned into delicious rusks for dunking into coffee or tea. Leave the cake a day or two, cut it into neat pieces and bake them in a low oven for an hour or so until they’re hard. They will keep indefinitely. INGREDIENTS (serves 10 approx.)

300g golden raisins 60ml raki or brandy • 420g all-purpose flour • 1/2 tsp ground cloves • 1 tsp ground cinnamon • 240ml olive oil • 200g sugar • 120ml fresh orange juice • 1 tbsp baking soda, dissolved in the orange juice • grated peel of one orange • 120ml soda water • 150g chopped walnuts (optional) • •

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Soak the raisins in the brandy for about 10 minutes and then chop them in the food processor. Sift the flour and spices together into a bowl. In a separate, larger bowl, using an electric mixer if you have one, beat together the olive oil and sugar until creamy and slowly add the orange juice along with the grated peel, soda water, brandy-soaked raisins and chopped walnuts. Stir in the flour, a little at a time, until you have a thick batter. Slide it into a lightly oiled springform cake pan (24 cm in diameter) and bake for about 1 hour.

EGGPLANT SMOTHERED IN GARLIC ZAKYNTHOS-STYLE

This baked dish contains nothing more than eggplant, tomatoes, a splash of vinegar and plenty of garlic, and yet it is one of the very best I’ve ever tasted. Furthermore, like so many dishes cooked with olive oil, it’s even better the next day.

INGREDIENTS (serves 6-8)

2kg large round eggplant, unpeeled and cut in 2.5cm slices • olive oil for frying • 2kg ripe tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded, and grated or 1kg canned tomatoes • salt and freshly ground black pepper • 1/2 tsp sugar • 2-3 tbsps vinegar (or a sweet red wine like Mavrodafni) • 1 head garlic, peeled and chopped •

METHOD

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and leave them in a colander for at least 40 minutes to shed some of their liquid. Rinse and dry the slices well. Heat about an inch (2.5cm) of olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the eggplant slices on both sides in batches. Drain on paper towels. In another saucepan, simmer the tomatoes with salt, pepper and sugar until a thickish sauce forms. Stir in the vinegar or wine. Arrange the eggplant slices in layers in an ovenproof dish, sprinkling chopped garlic and some of the tomato sauce between each layer. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant and bake in an oven preheated to 190°C for 30 minutes. Leave in the oven to cool and serve several hours later or the next day. This goes well with fresh sourdough bread, feta and plenty of wine. H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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© AKIS ORFANIDIS

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NUTRITION OLIVE OIL

REVOLUTION Greek extra virgin olive oil offers a host of health benefits, plus a variety of wonderful flavors, ranging from mild and fruity to spicy and pungent.

INNOVATION Families that have been cultivating olives for generations can claim much of the credit.

CREATION BY L I SA R A DI NOVSK Y

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reek olive oil isn’t just one product; it’s a bounty of choices. Most of the olive oil produced in Greece comes from small family farms. As Ioanna Damianaki of Nature Blessed points out, “during olive tree cultivation, farmers use traditional methods combined with modern technology, generally producing a limited quantity. This way, they keep the quality of their olive oil very high and ensure sustainability.” Moreover, Greece has several microclimates in which olive trees are cultivated, resulting in a diversity of unique aromas and flavors. Other factors, such as the olive variety, harvesting time and procedure, as well as milling and storage methods, also affect the final product. While Koroneiki olives are used to make most of the country’s olive oil, producers also extract oil from many other types, including the large green Halkidiki olives of northeastern Greece, Olympia olives of the Peloponnese and Tsounati olives on Crete. In Greece, around 80% of the olive oil produced is classified as extra virgin (the best and healthiest grade), the highest percentage in the world. In recent years, new extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) categories − early harvest and extra healthy high phenolic EVOOs − have been attracting increasing attention.

REVOLUTION During a visit to Greece, Italian olive oil expert Saverio Pandolfi suggested that technological developments in the olive oil world had ushered in “a new era” that has enabled a “revolution in quality” in the last decade. University of Athens Professor Prokopios Magiatis

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points to another facet of this revolution, namely recent discoveries that highlight the impressive health benefits of EVOO. Embracing improvements and innovations on both of these fronts, increasing numbers of Greek olive oil producers are aiming for the best possible flavor coupled with the highest nutritional value. As a result, many Greek olive oils that receive quality awards at international tasting competitions are also winning acclaim for their health benefits. George Mathiopoulos says producers need to take good care of their fruit, “get it to the mill quickly, and control all the parameters of the milling process” to make the best, healthiest EVOOs. He and his family have devoted years to perfecting the process in their tiny village of Kato Rizospilia in Arcadia, in the Peloponnese, with impressive results. In 2016, their Drop of Life EVOO contained more healthy phenolic compounds than any other sample tested at the University of Athens. Last year, it also won gold and silver awards at international tasting competitions. A number of Greek olive oil producers have been providing samples of their high phenolic olive oils for scientific studies. Eleni Zotou, for example, offers her Golden Tree EVOO to Harvard University’s Feeding America’s Bravest study, which is introducing American firefighters to the Mediterranean diet with the aim of lowering their risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.

INNOVATION The olive oil revolution has inspired continuing innovation among Greek scientists, oil producers and entrepreneurs.

IN GREECE, AROUND 80% OF THE OLIVE OIL PRODUCED IS CLASSIFIED AS EXTRA VIRGIN (THE BEST AND HEALTHIEST GRADE), THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE IN THE WORLD. © CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

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© GEORGE TSAFOS

01. Greek olive trees grow in a variety of microclimates. 02. The Aristoleo® Test Kit allows olive oil producers to measure the healthy phenolic content of their oil quickly and easily. 03. Greek table olives and olive oil are produced in modern, certified factories with high standards for quality and food safety.

© ANGELOS GIOTOPOULOS

04. Greece is one of the world’s top three producers of this liquid gold.

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Central protagonists in the Greek high phenolic olive oil story are Professor Magiatis, named Inventor of the Year for 2016 by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), Eleni Melliou (president of the World Olive Center for Health), and their award-winning research team at the University of Athens. Together, they invented the Aristoleo® device, which allows producers to estimate the phenolic content (and health benefits) of their olive oil in the mill. They also introduced the Olive Predictor, a small, portable olive mill and tester, which enables olive farmers to estimate both the healthfulness and the amount of oil their fruit will produce before deciding when to start the harvest. This team’s work inspired some olive oil producers to create EVOO capsules, and others to package EVOO in 200 ml bottles as nutritional supplements. The benefits associated with high phenolic olive oils are, according to Mathiopoulos, “at least as valuable as those of many supplements available to consumers, offering cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and cancer protection, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.”

HOW TO USE IT Olive oil is, of course, most often simply eaten as part of a healthy diet, especially by Greeks, who consume more olive oil per person than any other nation in the world. They consume it raw, best preserving its flavor and nutrients, by dipping bread in it or pouring it over salads, eggs, fish, boiled or grilled vegetables, and many other dishes. (Diamantis Pierrakos of the olive oil company Laconiko suggests it be “drizzled on everything.”) A superior EVOO adds so much flavor that nothing else is required, but it can also be used in dressings, marinades and sauces. Extra virgin olive oil can even add a striking twist to chocolate mousse, ice cream, and cocktails! Greeks also sauté, fry, stew and bake with olive oil. They cook meat, fish, and vegetables in it and add it to savory pies and casseroles as well as to cakes, cookies, soups and a category of stews called ladera (“oily”), with pulses, vegetables or

meat swimming in olive oil. While some of the nutrients in extra virgin olive oil are most potent when it’s raw, scientific studies have demonstrated that it’s not only safe but beneficial to cook with olive oil. If you’re going to cook with a fat, many contend that olive oil is both the tastiest and healthiest choice.

HOW TO TASTE IT To taste olive oil, pour about 15ml into a glass. Cover the top with your hand, and enclose the bottom in your other hand to warm the oil slightly. Gently swirl the oil around in the glass, then inhale through the nose. What are the scents that come to mind? Are they fresh-cut grass, tomato leaf, or something else? Next, take a sip. Swirl it around inside your mouth. Consider the flavors: apple, banana, almond or herbs? Is it more fruity than bitter, or is it a balance of both? An extra virgin olive oil will have some fruitiness, and a balance of fruitiness and bitterness is best. Finally, swallow the oil, noticing the sensation: does its pungency make you cough? If so, that indicates the presence of the healthy phenolic compound oleocanthal. As George Mathiopoulos notes, “high phenolic olive oils have a bitter and spicy flavor, inspiring the phrase ‘Bitter is Better’ in the olive oil world!” However, if you prefer a fruitier olive oil for certain uses, Greece offers those too, and all EVOOs are nutritious. Which one is best? It’s a matter of taste, so try several, and select your favorite.

01. Eleni Zotou picks unripe Halkidiki olives by hand for her early-harvest Golden Tree extra virgin olive oil. Photo courtesy of Eleni Zotou. 02. Greek olive oil is perfect for dressing salads, finishing dishes and cooking. 03. Greek olives come in a number of sizes, shapes, colors and varieties. 04. Dr Eleni Melliou and Professor Prokopios Magiatis lead a research team at the University of Athens whose focus of study is high phenolic olive oil. © GEORGE DRAKOPOULOS

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WHY EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL IS BOTH FOOD AND MEDICINE • It contains polyphenols, which are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytochemicals. • Antioxidants can help prevent illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, atherosclerosis, and cancer. • Anti-inflammatory agents help fight off diseases associated with chronic inflammation, including cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis. • Oleocanthal, a polyphenol found in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), has anti-inflammatory effects similar to those of ibuprofen. • Oleocanthal has killed cancer cells in test tubes, without harming healthy cells. • EVOO can make insulin work better, leading to lower blood levels of insulin and glucose and a lower risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. • EVOO helps lower the risk of high triglyceride levels, depression, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. • EVOO can help in weight loss, since the fat in it leaves us satisfied enough to stop eating and keeps us feeling full longer. • Olive oil polyphenols are associated with “protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress,” meaning protection from heart attack and stroke, according to the European Food Safety Authority. • Using “olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil,” states a qualified health claim by the United States FDA. • Many health professionals and scientists recommend replacing other fats with 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily, for its health benefits.

FOR MORE DETAILS on olive oil’s health benefits, see “Superfood: Why Greek Olive Oil is a Food and Medicine in One.” © KATERINA KAMPITI H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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THE ALLPOWERFUL ROOT Thanks to the expertise of ancient authors and plant collectors, we know how a number of roots were used millennia ago to relieve all kinds of illnesses. B Y O R E S T E S D AV I A S / I L L U S T R A T I O N S G E O R G E S F I K A S

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n the few surviving lines of his lost tragedy “Rhizotomoi” (Root cutters), the playwright Sophocles (496-406 BC) describes the notorious sorceress and healer Medea, naked, chanting and averting her eyes as she collects in a bronze vessel the silvery secretion oozing from the root of a plant sliced open with a bronze sickle. As other surviving literary sources also make clear, this disturbing theatrical scene depicts practices not unlike the methods of actual root cutters of that era. We know that the years during and just prior to the Peloponnesian War were a time of terrible adversity, and we know, too, that in times of crisis, people sought solace more in magic than rationality – two disparate approaches to healing that coexisted and were in perpetual conflict throughout the long history of the Greek therapeutic arts. Who were the root cutters? They were experienced collectors of usually wild herbs and roots, who sold their products directly to physicians, or who served as suppliers to medicine sellers. This quite profitable enterprise was, as we would now say, a “closed profession,” as the collectors jealously guarded their 88

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empirical knowledge about where, how and when to gather therapeutic plants from those who did not belong to their “guild.” One of the earliest Greek root cutters was the semi-mythical philosopher, seer and poet Epimenides of Crete (7th/6th century BC), said to have successfully cleansed an Athens guilty of sacrilege after the Cylonian Affair (632 BC), when a failed coup led to a massacre outside a temple. The poet is also known for his herbal blend called “alimon,” a small draught of which he drank every day in order to never feel hungry. A number of other interesting figures belonged to the magical-mythical circle of root cutters, as well, including the centaur Chiron, Achilles’ tutor; the healing god Asclepius; the witch Circe; the soothsayer-healer Melampous; and Machaon and Podaleirios, the physician-sons of Asclepius, who served in the Trojan War. Among the most distinguished historical practitioners of this age-old tradition was the physician Diocles of Karystos (375-295 BC), who reported on medicinal plants, their uses and how to collect them in the now-lost treatise “The Art of

Root-Cutting.” Fortunately, lengthy extracts from this work are thought to be preserved in the contemporary writings of Theophrastus (371-287 BC); they’re definitely in Dioscorides’ early pharmacopeia (“De Materia Medica,” 1st century AD), where he describes in detail the healing powers of many roots. Another well-known root-cutter was Crateuas (1st century BC), personal physician to Mithridates VI, King of Pontus and a great opponent of Rome. Following a request from Mithridates, who understood his enemies sought to poison him, Crateuas, using dozens of herbal ingredients, concocted the famous Mithridatium. This honey-based mixture, taken in small daily doses dissolved in wine, was believed to be an antidote for all poisons. Crateuas also authored his own “Art of Root Cutting,” which had a powerful, far-reaching influence. In this pioneering work, the author not only described the properties of the medicinal plants he used, but also included color illustrations, thus providing an invaluable reference guide to ensuing practitioners. The importance of roots in ancient Greek medicine related not only to their active ingredients but to their symbolic significance as well. Produced within the embrace of the all-nurturing, all-providing Earth Goddess, they also constituted (in the hands of the chthonic goddess Hecate) effective weapons for the healing of body and soul. Moreover, the sacred serpent, thanks to his underground explorations, knew all the secrets of the roots and had the power to use them for the benefit of the many patients who frequented Asclepius’ healing sanctuaries (asclepieia) seeking to be cleansed and cured. Among the numerous roots used by ancient Greek physicians, seven of the most prized are presented below. With all the stresses of modern living, and with all the health problems often associated with them, some of these curatives may again prove useful. It might, therefore, be to our advantage to welcome, once more, nature’s roots as Mother Earth’s generous gifts to humankind.


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MARSH MALLOW The marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) is cultivated in many countries, since even those uninterested in its healing powers are readily impressed by the abundant flowers it presents every spring. The plant’s greatest asset, however, is its notable medicinal properties, something accurately emphasized by that ancient authority, Dioscorides, in “De Materia Medica,” who reports: “it is called althaea due to its many curative powers and its multiplicity of uses” – the name having been derived from the ancient Greek verb althaino, meaning “to heal.” Ancient Greek physicians used to add the root to grape must and, after a period of fermentation, administered the resulting wine for the healing of wounds and abscesses. They also believed that, when it was prepared as a decoction, it was beneficial against medical conditions ranging from dysuria and kidney stones to dysentery and sciatica. Today, its sweet, mucilaginous root relieves non-productive coughs and offers great service in cases of gastritis and enteritis, while poultices made from it aid in recovery from burns and wounds; the efficacy of these uses are supported by our present understanding of the plant.

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MANDRAKE The root of the mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis), a plant which thrives in rocky places in the Cyclades and Crete, often exceeds half a meter in length and branches out at the end. Thanks to its appearance (often resembling a human figure) and its hallucinogenic effects, popular imagination has linked the mandrake to magic and associated it with a multitude of myths. The earliest mention of its pharmacological effects is found in the Odyssey, according to many Homeric scholars; mandrake root is identified as the main ingredient of the magic potion Circe uses 90

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to transform Odysseus’ companions into pigs, by covertly adding it to the dishes of food she offered them. Theophrastus, in his “Enquiry into Plants” describes what precautions the root cutters of his era took to protect themselves from its catastrophic power: they would draw three circles around the plant in the dirt with a sword, then dance around it cursing before finally digging out the valuable root while looking westward. In ancient Greece, one who wore a mandrake-root amulet believed it would ensure him sexual prowess and success, and protect him from wild animal attacks,

sudden illnesses and bad luck. The root was used by practitioners of the healing arts, too, for its analgesic and narcotic properties. With the “mandrake wine” they brewed – the root’s bark having been left to ferment for three months in grape must – doctors treated snake bites, alleviated pain and combated chronic insomnia. With larger dosages, they could induce a deep lethargy, greatly welcomed by those about to undergo surgical procedures. However, great care was required in its dispensing; otherwise, when the patient awoke, he would likely find himself in the Underworld.


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EARLY PURPLE ORCHID The production of a traditional beverage called salep, for easing coughs and soothing stomach aches, is an art of the East, which became known in Greek lands under the Ottomans. It is prepared from the tubers of a beautiful orchid, the early purple orchid (Orchis mascula), which few today realize was held in high esteem in ancient Greece. It was then called orchis, after the name of a certain young man, the son of a nymph and a satyr. One fateful night, during an orgiastic ritual in honor of Dionysus, the reckless youth misbehaved and stole the virtue of one of the god’s maidens. Immediately, the maenads, the god’s female followers, tore him to shreds. In the throes of sorrow, his father beseeched Dionysus to forgive him and to restore him to life. And the god did, at least to a certain degree, as from the remains of the testes of the inconsiderate youth there sprang an orchid. In ancient times, amazing qualities were associated with the underground part of this plant, most likely because of its similarity to the male genitalia. An ageold belief about sernikovotano, as the orchid is now popularly known in Greek, was first expressed by Dioscorides and has been preserved nearly unchanged in many regions: namely, that while the big root, eaten by men, leads to the birth of male children, smaller roots consumed by women will produce girls. Theophrastus writes about the tuber of an orchid sent as a gift to King Antiochus of Syria. Such was this tuber’s power that one slave managed to satisfy 70 women in a single night, just by holding it in his hand. Such legendary effects are nothing more, however, than the product of a vivid imagination, as in no part of the orchid have there ever been detected any substances with aphrodisiac properties. H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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LICORICE The therapeutic use of licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) can be traced back almost 4,000 years, with an entry inscribed in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (18th century BC) revealing its use as a treatment for asthma. This is one of the few plants that all traditional Old World therapeutic approaches agree has important medicinal properties. It seems that ancient Greek physicians were taught its use by the root cutters and plant collectors of Cappadocia and Pontus – regions in which it continues to flourish even today. Theophrastus, the philosopher and “Father of Botany,” in his treatise “Enquiry into Plants,” mentions that “Scythian Root” is useful in cases of asthma, non-productive coughs and chest pain. Some four centuries later, Dioscorides, calling it “Pontic Root” and “Skythion,” recommends it as a curative for harshness of the throat, heartburn, and chest and liver diseases. The modern scientific view of licorice largely confirms ancient beliefs, attributing its properties to the glycyrrhizin it contains – a substance that also acts as a powerful antiviral. In addition, due to its antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory action, licorice has been discovered to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. 92

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ELECAMPANE Another curative employed by ancient doctors was the root from the plant (Inula helenium) that Theophrastus describes as “Chiron’s panacea,” including it in the therapeutic arsenal of the centaur Chiron. Four centuries later, we again encounter it in the writings of Dioscorides, where he calls it “elenion.” According to myth, elenion sprang from the tears of Helen as she mourned the loss of her helmsman,

during her voyage to Egypt with Menelaus following the fall of Troy. In ancient medicine, elecampane root found many applications. Physicians boiled it in honey or prepared it as a therapeutic wine to treat spasms, coughing and flatulence, as well as to neutralize the harmful effects of wild animal bites. More generally, it was thought a valuable medicine with benefits for the digestive and respiratory systems. Most of these age-

old uses have been replicated in modern plant therapy, validating the knowledge of ancient Greek physicians. What they certainly did not know, however, as it was only discovered in the early 19th century, is that the root contains a polysaccharide that was named inulin, after the plant’s genus. The beneficial effect of this soluble fiber on the intestines gives great credence to the ancient belief that elecampane root improves digestion. H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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BALKAN PEONY The healer Paean was the physician who treated the gods Ares and Hades, placing therapeutic balms over the wounds they suffered during the Trojan War. As Paean died, according to myth, he was transformed into his namesake plant with large flowers – the peony; this common name refers to the plants that belong to the genus Paeonia, of which five distinct species exist in Greece. Many ancient physicians considered peonies a 94

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panacea – particularly the species Paeonia mascula and P. officinalis, which Dioscorides respectively calls “male” and “female”, and P. peregrina, pictured above. Using their roots and seeds, doctors treated a host of diseases, from women’s ailments and convulsions to persistent nightmares and epilepsy. The demand for every kind of peony was so great in antiquity that false stories concerning their dangers were widely circulated so

that professional root cutters wouldn’t have to face serious competition when collecting them. Theophrastus reports (although he characterizes the story as fanciful) that widespread measures were taken to ensure peonies were only uprooted at night, since, if this operation were undertaken in daylight and a woodpecker happened to see you, you risked having your eyes pecked out or irreparable damage done to your rear end.


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BURDOCK The root of greater burdock (Arctium lappa), known in ancient times as “arkeion” and “prosopis,” was exploited for many centuries to treat a multitude of medical problems. Ancient Greeks prepared it as a decoction in cases of hemoptysis (coughing up blood) and abscesses, or used it in juice form, blended with honey, to treat burns, snake bites and internal pains. First and foremost, however, having been prepared by boiling in wine or through a simple, thorough crushing, it was applied locally, to relieve the pain and swelling of sprains and to treat chilblains and infections. Crumbled and mixed with salt, it was spread over deep wounds caused by the bite of a rabid dog. In this way, such wounds were healed more quickly, yet certainly without reducing at all the possibility of the potentially fatal disease being transmitted to the victim of the bite. Over the centuries, burdock root has largely retained its reputation as a multi-purpose medicine. Some of its present-day applications in plant therapy, such as its prescription for the healing of wounds and ulcers, are proving the legitimacy of its ancient uses. New powers, however, are also being discovered, including its slow but effective result when taken orally in cases of psoriasis and eczema. H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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They can be found everywhere, from delis to pharmacies, conveniently packaged and easy to carry back home. And they’re the most beneficial gifts from Greece that you can give yourself and those you love.

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NATIVE SUPERFOODS BY TA S SOU L A E P TA K I L I FOOD ST Y L ING: TINA WEBB P HOTOS: GE ORGE DR A KOP OU L OS

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regano adds the familiar fragrance to a Greek salad, but it also provides relief for a sore throat. Olive oil is an essential component of Greek cuisine, but it’s medicinal, too. Honey is a sweetener that also contains more than 180 nutrients. Ancient Greek gastronomy, the forerunner of the food culture of Rome, is the source from which many features of the diet and cuisine of Europe are derived. But that’s not all. Ever since antiquity, the Greeks haven’t just sought to satisfy their hunger or to find enjoyment in foods. Many foods were used to prevent or treat a number of health conditions. 96

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HONEY The history of apiculture, or beekeeping, in Greece goes back thousands of years. Excavations at Phaistos uncovered ceramic beehives from the Minoan era (3400 BC). Hippocrates recommended honey to all his patients; eaten with bread, it was the main food for Pythagoras and his followers. Frequently, the libations to the gods included honey with wine and milk, while ambrosia, the food of the immortals, was said to contain royal jelly. In classical times, desserts with honey were very popular, including honey pies called melitoutta, and plakountes, which also had sesame seeds and spices. With more than 180 nutrients, honey is a food of high nutritional value. It is an excellent source of carbohydrates, antioxidants, B-complex vitamins, trace elements and minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper) necessary for keeping the body in balance and contributing to everything from bone strength to a healthy metabolism. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar; in small quantities, it is even suitable for people with diabetes. The great biodiversity of Greece – 1,300 endemic plants and an exceptional variety of flowers, herbs and trees – also affects the quality of the honey produced in the country: it is far superior in flavor, aroma and density than honey from other countries.

BARLEY RUSKS The ancient name for rusks was dipyritis artos, or “twice-baked bread.” Rusks have been a staple of the Greek diet for millennia before refrigeration or preservatives, as a way of keeping bread for as long as possible was needed. Rusks, particularly those made with barley (which does better in the Greek climate than wheat), are a good source of vitamin B complex, selenium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, silicon (to help rebuild and protect bones), chromium (for better control of glucose levels in diabetics) and dietary fiber (especially beta-glucan, linked to lower cholesterol). They also aid in better intestinal and liver function and help reduce cellulitis. What’s more, barley contains less gluten than wheat. So, try barley rusks instead of your breakfast toast (or even forego commercial breakfast cereals, with their hidden sugars, for boiled barley, honey and cold milk). And remember that, because their low moisture content eliminates the risk of microbial spoilage, rusks don’t contain any preservatives, either.

3 TRAHANA According to gastronomic history, modern-day trahana has evolved from a porridge-like mixture of milk and wheat eaten by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The noted gourmet and recipe collector Apicius (1st c. AD) refers to this food substance as tractae. In Byzantium, it was popular as tragos or traganos. In the past, it was a practical method for using up leftover milk and was critical to a family’s survival – trahana could be stored for more than a year in a cool place. Trahana is made with milk that has soured, to which wheat is added. The wheat can range from coarse to fine – Cretan xinohontros, for example, uses coarse wheat. Trahana is rich in carbohy-

drates and is also a source of fiber, which aids intestinal health. The lactobacilli in the sour milk have a beneficial effect on the digestive tract, too. Trahana contains protein, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and calcium in a form which the body can easily absorb. It also has carotenoids, such as lutein, a powerful antioxidant that works to prevent the harmful effects of free radicals, thus helping to maintain eye, skin and heart health. Trahana can be made into a thin or thick soup which is low in calories (100 calories/100g). It can be added to savory pie fillings or used in stuffed vegetables or grape-leaf dolmades instead of rice.

and, strangely enough, the lack of water combine to create a unique product with a velvety texture and sweet flavor. Rich in protein (20 percent) and carbohydrates (65 percent), the local fava is an excellent source of vitamin B1, iron, copper, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Its high fiber content helps maintain normal levels of glucose and cholesterol in the blood, promotes the proper function

of the digestive system and helps prevent cancer of the large intestine. And it has just 85 calories/100g. The fava is served in pureed form with lemon juice, oregano and olive oil, and sometimes with chopped onion and capers or with tomatoes and olives. You might also see it in salads, made into patties or even served with seafood such as octopus or anchovies.

4 SANTORINI FAVA Traces of stored crops and seeds found at Akrotiri indicate that a local species of vetchling, Lathyrus clymenum, was being cultivated on Santorini more than 3,500 years ago. Dioscorides, a famed 1st c. AD physician and botanist, distinguished the plant that provides the specific local fava (yellow split pea) from its relatives in other regions. The particularities of Santorini’s soil, the climatic conditions 98

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MOUSTALEVRIA In bygone times, homemakers made full use of everything the Greek soil yielded up. This is how moustalevria, a dessert that dates back to antiquity, was born; during the Byzantine period, it was called moustopita and was made with flour and boiled grape must. That is more or less the recipe that survives today, though it is now embellished with nuts and cinnamon. Moustalevria is a highly nutritious food, thanks to the main ingredient – grape must – which provides a large quantity of antioxidants. With the addition of walnuts, almonds, cinnamon and sesame seeds, it is enriched even further, not only in flavor but also in nutrients. Sesame seeds are rich in amino acids, minerals, trace elements and calcium. Cinnamon balances glucose levels in the blood, while walnuts and almonds provide valuable omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols. What’s more, this dessert is relatively low in fat.

ANTHOTYRO According to Greek mythology, knowledge of cheesemaking was gifted to humans by the Olympian gods through Aristeas, son of Apollo. There are references to cheese products in the writings of Aristotle and in the comedies of Aristophanes, while Homer famously referred to them in the Odyssey as well, citing the cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk by the giant Cyclops Polyphemus, eventually blinded by Odysseus. Could this cheese have been anthotyro? It is quite possible. Soft, white and rind-less, anthotyro is made in most regions of Greece from whey (left over from making other types

of cheese) and sheep’s or goat’s milk, or a combination of the two. Lightly salted, it combines a pleasant flavor with high nutritional value, providing all of the substances that dairy products offer (protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus), but with less fat, and at just 200 calories/100g. Compare that to 470 calories/100g for graviera, 420 calories/100g for kefalotyri, and 350 calories/100g for feta. Anthotyro is served as a side dish with meals and used in savory pies and salads or as a spread on bread. It pairs deliciously with fresh fruit and nuts, and makes an excellent dessert when topped with honey.

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RAISINS Raisins are among the most ancient of agricultural products of Greece, having been cultivated since Homeric times. Corinthian raisins are small and with relatively little flesh, but offer an impressive wealth of nutritional constituents, antioxidant elements and other trace elements, which can fortify and safeguard our bodies against a host of illnesses. In antiquity, doctors recommended them as a cure for almost anything – from food poisoning to old age! In the late 19th century, Greek raisins accounted for 80 percent of the country’s total exports. Raisins have numerous health benefits: They provide energy; they help fight iron deficiency anemia; they work as an antioxidant; they contribute to the lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure; and their dietary fibers (which outnumber those found in most fruits) facilitate bowel function. Furthermore, raisins retain their beneficial properties even if exposed to high temperatures – that is, when used in cooking or pastry making. They can be eaten on their own as a snack (two tablespoons a day cover a third of the average person’s fruit and vegetable needs), or they can lend their distinctive taste to a variety of main dishes and desserts.

PASTELI According to Linear B tablets, the Mycenaeans showed great interest in precious “sa-sa-ma,” judging by its frequent appearance on lists. This word refers to sesame, that aromatic seed that was already well in use during that period, not only in cooking, but also in medicine – it was used to help heal burns, rashes and various skin conditions, as well as to deal with toothaches and coughs. Sesame – which, like today, was used to garnish 100

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SAGE Its official botanical name is Salvia officinalis, which is partly derived from the Latin verb salvare, meaning “to save,” and alludes to its therapeutic properties. The ancient Greeks used its fresh leaves to treat wounds and snake bites, and in a drink to enhance female fertility. As a beverage, sage-infused “Greek tea,” as the French call it, remains popular to this day, either on its own or combined with other aromatic herbs. Sage is also associated with some less scientific benefits. In Syros, for example, they say it protects against malicious gossip. You will often find little bunches of it hanging outside homes. A beneficial herb, sage has anti-catarrhal properties (for asthma, bronchitis and coughs), as well as anti-fungal and anti-infective action (for flu, gingivitis and insect bites). It is an effective antispasmodic, helping to relieve menstrual cramps, and healing agent. Its broader effects include stimulating the nervous system, improving memory and boosting blood circulation, while its antioxidants act against free radicals.

MASTIC FROM CHIOS The mastic tree was particularly popular with the ancient Greeks: its shoots were pickled and eaten as appetizers, while its “tears,” the well-known mastic resin, were chewed to clean the teeth and freshen the breath. These tears were also used to flavor wine. The tree, Pistacia lentiscus, is only systematically cultivated in Greece on the island of Chios, and only on the southern part do the conditions allow for the production of mastic. Prescriptions based on mastic can be found in medical texts dating from late antiquity, when it was already considered beneficial. Present studies have confirmed this. Its antioxidant extracts prevent atherosclerotic plaque from forming on artery walls. Its polyphenols reduce high glucose and cholesterol levels in the blood. Regular use of mastic limits the formation of dental plaque. It helps prevent and treat diseases of the digestive system. It ‘s an all-purpose substance: a powerful anti-inflammatory, an analgesic, a cough suppressant, an appetite stimulant, an astringent and a diuretic. Today, mastic has many uses: as a flavoring for meat and fish, chewing gum, ice cream, sweets and cookies. It is used to make the aperitifs mastic liqueur and, sometimes, ouzo. It’s even used in cosmetics. The resin can be found in a variety of other forms: powders, crystals, mastic water or as an essential oil.

bread – as well as poppy and flax seeds, were all widely used around 600 BC, as revealed by the Spartan poet Alcman, who made reference to them. Herodotus (5th century BC) was the first to mention the word “sesamis” – a sweet made from honey and sesame, which was usually offered at weddings. This could be thought of as an “ancestor” of today’s pasteli (a sesame seed and honey confection), which is made in many parts of Greece.

Kalamata pasteli is famous, as is that from Rhodes, which is called melekouni. Pasteli is an exceptional source of energy and has great nutritional value, making it an ideal snack. Sesame seeds contain five times the amount of calcium found in fullfat sheep’s milk, and twice the iron found in spinach. They also have antioxidant properties and contribute significantly to lowering blood pressure.


MESSOLONGI AVGOTARACHO (BOTTARGA) Avgotaracho (bottarga) – also known as “Greek caviar” – is made from the eggs of the gray mullet fish (kefalos, or bafas, in Greek), and ranks among the best Greek delicacies. Avgotaracho is a protected designation of origin (PDO) product, and is produced in the area of the lagoons of Messolongi-Etoliko (the “beauteous lake,” as Homer referred to it), Kleisova

and Bouka. The most common way of preserving it is by dipping and encasing it in a coat of natural beeswax, which prevents contact with the air and lets it keep for several months. Both the ancient Greeks and the Byzantines – who called it oiotarikhon – regarded it as a fine delicacy. Avgotaracho is of great nutritional value, as it is a potent source of protein, vitamins, iron, calcium, selenium and zinc,

as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital to our bodies and linked to good cardiovascular health. It is served cut into very thin slices (after first having been kept at room temperature for at least an hour, in order for it to soften) or grated on top of bread or even in salads, risotto or pasta dishes, to which it offers its delicate flavor. It can be accompanied by a glass of ouzo or tsipouro (a pomace brandy). H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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KOZANI CROCUS ...or saffron, is probably the result of efforts to tame the wild Crocus cartwrightianus in ancient Greece, as the plant appears frequently in Crete’s Minoan-era frescoes and pottery, as well as in a fresco from the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri in Santorini depicting a woman collecting the flowers. Saffron was widely used in medicine – the ancient Greeks drank it in a tisane to cure sleeplessness and hangovers. Today, Kozani’s saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world (it takes more than 150,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of the stuff) and is very sought-after for its subtle aroma and flavor, its properties as a coloring agent and its health benefits. Saffron contains vitamins A, C and B complex, as well as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and lycopene, which is known to help prevent cancer. It has powerful antioxidant and anti-aging properties, as its carotenoids protect cells from free radicals. It is good for the digestive tract, boosts the metabolism and improves memory and overall brain function. In addition, it helps fight anxiety and acts as a mood elevator. A mere pinch is enough to give food a rich yellow color, a subtle tang and plenty of aroma. It goes particularly well with rice, pasta, white meat and fish; it is used in salads and soups; and it is also used in sweets. It can be found in powder or thread form and as a tea.

STAMNAGATHI These greens are a variety of wild chicory (Cichorium spinosum), and have a bitter flavor. They are a key element of Cretan cuisine. The Greek name originates from an old habit the Cretans had of placing these greens over the mouths of water jars to keep bugs out. The stamnagathi plant is a source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, iron, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, C and E, and beta-carotene. It is an excellent tonic and diuretic; it helps to detoxify the liver and has slightly cathartic properties. The ancient Greeks considered it medicinal. The greens can be eaten raw with a lemon or vinegar and olive oil dressing, boiled on their own, or cooked together with lamb or goat. They can also be pickled after parboiling.

10 OREGANO The ancient Greeks held it to be a symbol of joy and made wedding crowns out of it. But they also knew of its therapeutic value and used it as a drink to treat poisoning, diarrhea and colic, or externally to relieve skin inflammation. Arcadia and Tenedos are famous for their oregano. Cretan folk medicine called for oregano leaves fried in olive oil to make a poultice for back pain, and oregano oil offered relief for toothache. Oregano grows practically everywhere in Greece. Fresh or dried, it adds beneficial properties along with its characteristic fragrance to many dishes. Rich in vitamin C, it also contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, copper, boron,

manganese and vitamin A. The essential oil of Greek oregano is considered the best in the world, as recent studies have shown it to have the highest content in carvacrol and thymol, both of which have powerful antioxidant and cancer-fighting properties. It has antibiotic and antiseptic properties as well. Oregano can relieve intestinal upsets and abdominal pain; it exhibits stimulatory, sudorific and anti-asthmatic effects; it is used to treat flu, colds, gingivitis and sore throat (in a gargling solution). Amazingly, oregano demonstrates 42 times greater antioxidant action than apples, 30 times greater than potatoes and 12 times greater than oranges.

spilling.” There’s been a lot of milk under the bridge since then. Today, as the food industry strives to offer products with long shelf lives, most yogurt is processed at temperatures high enough to prevent the growth of unwanted microorganisms. However, this means that beneficial live bacteria are also eliminated and yogurt loses a large part of its nutritional value. Traditional Greek yogurt, the one with the skin on the surface, is made from cow’s or

sheep’s milk and contains bacteria which have a positive effect on the entire digestive tract. These bacteria include Lactobaccilus, which has been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. Yogurt also helps digestion, provides the same nutrients as milk (protein, carbohydrates, fats, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B complex and more), and can often be consumed by those who are lactose-intolerant. It is, indeed, an all-round superfood!

11 TRADITIONAL YOGURT Yogurt has always held a special place on the Greek table, although it’s also widely consumed throughout the southeastern Mediterranean. The ancient Greeks called it oxygala, and they had a particular liking for it. French explorer Pierre Belon (1517-1564) wrote: “The Greeks and Turks have oxygala, a type of sour milk which they carry in fabric bags hanging off the side of their animals. Though it is quite watery, it stays in the bag without 102

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BACK TO BEAUTY BASICS

Natural is the new gorgeous – in its quest to give its customers a healthy, happy and rejuvenated look, the cosmetics industry in Greece is at the forefront of a return to plant-based ingredients. B Y VA S I L I K I P A P A G E O R G I O U

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ith all kinds of beauty and health secrets hiding in the mountains, hills and plains of the Greek countryside, a number of players in the local cosmetics industry have achieved success by relying on the use of natural ingredients, and by following a philosophy based on the country’s ancient heritage, all while leveraging modern science, too. Given that the country has such a diversity of flora – one of the richest in the world, in fact, with over 6,500 plant varieties, 1,300 of which are endemic – it‘s not surprising that the first systematic study of plants and their properties originated in Greece. In the 5th century BC, Hippocrates and his students laid the foundations of modern medicine and Theophrastus, a student of Plato and Aristotle, pioneered the field of botany with the first-ever classification of plants. It was also a Greek, Pedanius Dioscorides, a physician in the Roman army, who, between AD 50 and 70, compiled the ancient world’s definitive encyclopedia on herbal medicine and related medicinal substances, “De Materia Medica.” This text would become the principal reference work on

01. DOS Cosmetics Collagen Day Cream. Sea collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin offer deep hydration for enhanced skin elasticity and an overall lifting effect. Mountain tea, hypericum, calendula and lavender help to restore shine while reducing fine lines and deep wrinkles. Cara butter, beeswax, jojoba oil, aloe and red tea strengthen the skin, balance it and help it to retain its moisture. (doscosmetics.com)

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02. APIVITA Moisturizing Face Mask with Aloe. Aloe juice, hyaluronic acid and rose juice moisturize intensively. Jojoba and wheat oils promote softness. Panthenol, arginine and organic honey extract soothe the skin. Other ingredients include jasmine extract, vitamin E, green tea infused water and bergamot essential oil, which rejuvenate and balance the skin. Suitable for all ages and skin types, though this cream-gel mask is ideal for dehydrated and sensitive skin. (Available in pharmacies.)

pharmacology across Europe and the Middle East for the next 1,500 years. With the industrial revolution, however, came the chemical industry, and pharmacology began to turn its back on nature. Traditional natural remedies continued to be used for beauty treatments, but even cosmetology eventually succumbed to synthetically produced substances. It was only recently that growing concern over certain chemicals in beauty products began to make the cosmetology industry rethink its approach. Pioneering chemists returned to the teachings of Hippocrates and Dioscorides, and even researched folk wisdom, coming to the conclusion that nature continues to hold the answers to humanity’s age-old quest for beauty and wellbeing. Greece was among the first countries to earn a reputation in the new field of natural cosmetics. Its flora provided all the ingredients the industry needed in order to create safe cosmetics with high concentrations of extracts from plants – extremely effective against a plethora of issues related to skin aging – while its scientists possessed the know-how required to compete with bigger global brands.

03. Korres Pure Greek Olive 3 in 1 Nourishing Oil. Nourishes face, body and hair. Fortified with extra virgin olive oil and a blend of vitamins C, E, F and omega-6 fatty acids. A silicone-free formula improves the natural skin barrier and is suitable for all ages and skin types. (Available in pharmacies.)

04. Fresh Line Hera Regenerating and Restoring Eye Contour Cream. Olive oil, shea butter and borage oil hydrate the eye area, while amino acids stimulate collagen production to reduce the appearance of fine lines and other signs of aging. Rosehip seed oil minimizes signs of photoaging, while arnica reduces the appearance of dark circles and puffiness. For mature skin types. (freshline.gr)


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THE PIONEERS Inspired by the wonderful world of bees and by the legacy of Hippocrates, Apivita creates cosmetics covering the entire range of daily facial, body and hair care needs, making products with 85 to 100 percent natural ingredients and which are completely free from harmful or environmentally damaging substances like silicon, parabens and paraffin oil. It also boasts a line of 100 percent organic essential oils that have a refreshing, uplifting and energizing effect on the mind and body, helping alleviate stress and tension. All of the company’s products are designed to complement each other so as to achieve the best possible overall result. Georgios Korres used the knowledge he acquired at Greece’s first homeopathic pharmacy, first as an employee and then as owner, to create the Korres company, developing it into one of the world’s biggest names in plant-based cosmetology. The firm uses local plants and herbs in preparations inspired by ancient Greek, Egyptian and Latin literature on the subject. Thyme, sage, bay, olives, mastic gum, Kozani saffron and hundreds of other well and lesser-known plants are used in creating Korres’ increasingly popular and successful product lines. New players have followed in the footsteps of these two pioneering companies, adding their products and ideas to a growing industry sector. Fresh Line, for example, produces wonderful face, hair and body products and soaps, as do Cool Soap and BioSelect. DOS Cosmetics and Macrovita have developed their own effective solutions, while Helleo makes handmade soaps from organic extra virgin olive oil.

HERBAL TEA

Anassa Organics specializes in the natural bounty of Greece and embraces ancient traditions related to herbal teas and drinks. It scours the country from border to border to find the best herbs and plants; its philosophy is that its products – presented in attractive tins – are not a trend, but a way of life. anassaorganics.com

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NÉCESSAIRE NATUREL A selection of Greek-made skincare products, many with certified organic ingredients and no synthetic additives, to ensure safe and effective care for every skin type. CLEANSING

No skincare product can do its job unless the ground has been properly prepared first, with a good cleanse to get rid of sebum, dead cells and pollutants that prevent the proper absorption of moisturizers and other products aimed at protecting and improving the skin. Greek cosmetic firms produce a rich array of skin cleaning products, from soaps and gels to milks and lotions, many of which are mild and suitable for even very sensitive skin.

HYDRATION

Hydration is the cornerstone of healthy skin, improving its main functions and strengthening its defenses. Just like our body, our skin, too, gets thirsty and needs moisture to keep its firmness and glow. A range of serums, creams and masks guarantee deep nourishment as nature itself provides the ingredients that improve skin health.

01. MACROVITA Cleansing Milk with olive oil and calendula, for all skin types. Deeply cleanses and leaves the skin free of impurities, makeup and greasiness, while offering hydration, softness and radiance. Available in pharmacies. macrovita.gr | 02. OLIVOLIO Micellar Water for face, eyes and lips. Specifically formulated for sensitive, normal and dry skin types. Enriched with minerals, vitamins, panthenol and natural antioxidants, the non-rinse, fragrancefree daily formula soothes skin as it cleanses. olivolio.gr | 03. FRESH LINE Hesperides Brightening & Hydrating Dry Oil. Improves skin tone, elasticity and skin appearance. A vitamin C derivative specifically enhances luminosity while promoting collagen production. Apply a few drops to the face, neck and décolleté after cleansing and toning. freshline. gr | 04. DOS Cosmetics Collagen Eye & Lip Cream. Nourishes the eye and lip area with sea collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin, filling deep wrinkles.

ANTI-AGING

While there is no way to stop nor reverse the effects of time, the right combinations of cosmetics can ease them, in keeping with the new cosmetic trend that promotes aging gracefully rather than struggling to look much younger than one’s actual age. Products in this category are those that smooth out lines and wrinkles while simultaneously strengthening the skin’s defenses against harmful external factors.

Aloe and squalene enhance the natural production of collagen, while red tea reduces swelling and retinol regenerates new cells in the area. doscosmetics. com | 05. KORRES White Pine Volume Replenishing Age Spots & Deep Wrinkle Concentrate. Targets age spots and deep wrinkles. A mixture of polypeptides and white pepper polyphenols nourishes the skin to reduce those signs of aging. Available in pharmacies. | 06. APIVITA Bee Radiant Age Defense Illuminating Day Cream SPF 30 with orange stem cells. Prevents and reduces wrinkles while it illuminates the skin. Broad-spectrum sun filters and patented propolis extract provide effective protection against UVA and UVB radiation and other external factors. Olive, pomegranate, honey and hyaluronic acid provide hydration. Grapefruit, green clementine, bergamot orange and rose organic essential oils reduce inflammation and rejuvenate the skin. Available in pharmacies.


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BAR-SHOPPING? With its many characteristic natural fragrances, soap is the symbol of cleanliness and freshness. For years, however, solid soap lost shelf space to liquid soap, which acquired a reputation as an easier, safer product, particularly for use in public areas. It was only a matter of time, however, before bars of soap made their big comeback, and now more and more cosmetics manufacturers are introducing high-end soaps to their collections. Why pick natural solid soap? Because handmade soap is rich in natural glycerin, is friendly to the environment, has beneficial qualities and suits every skin type. It is, in short, a treasure, and perfect for daily face and body care.

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01. Natural Soap with propolis, APIVITA, available in pharmacies. 02. Handmade olive oil soap with black beer & rosemary, HELLEO, helleo.gr. 03. Pure Greek Olive, traditional soap with olive blossom, KORRES, available in pharmacies.

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04. Handmade lavender & olive oil soap, Bioselect, bioselect.gr. 05. Elements 02 handmade cleansing soap with green clay, spinach and lavender, COOL SOAP, coolgreeksoap.com. 06. Handmade pomegranate soap, Fresh Line, freshline.gr.

07. Fig & Green Tea Fizzing Bath Ball, FRESH LINE, freshline.gr. 08. Handmade lavender soap, FRESH LINE, freshline.gr. 09. Natural soap with olive leaves, OLIVOLIO, olivolio.gr. 10. Elements 04 cleansing handmade soap with red clay,

beet & geranium, COOL SOAP, coolgreeksoap.com. 11. Natural soap with rose & black pepper, APIVITA, available in pharmacies. 12. Chamomile softening soap for face and body, KORRES, available in pharmacies.


health M E D ICAL BRIEF

THE DOCTORS ARE IN

Distinguished specialists share some of the latest developments in fields ranging from aesthetic surgery to minimally invasive arthroplasty and from dentistry to IVF treatment. Illustration by Philippos Avramides

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GEORGE CHROUSOS

SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY This eminent physician and scholar advocates the pursuit of eudaimonia, a state of happiness founded on self-control, reflection and generosity of spirit. BY K AT E R I NA BA KOGI A N N I

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nce, as a small child growing up in Patra, George Chrousos came very close to dying and was saved by the family doctor who made a house call to treat him. It was the late 1950s and, playing with some boys in the neighborhood, he had suffered a bad cut on his face from an old German bayonet. Infection set in and, if he hadn’t been treated promptly with penicillin, a drug newly introduced to Greece, he might well not be alive today. He tells me this as we talk almost six decades later at Aghia Sofia Children’s Hospital in Athens, Greece’s biggest university hospital pediatric clinic, which he headed until just a few months ago. George Chrousos is a professor of pediatrics and endocrinology, and has held the UNESCO Chair for Adolescent Medicine since 2010. Before returning to Greece in 2001, he was the director of the Pediatric and Reproductive Endocrinology Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in Bethesda, Maryland, and a professor of 110

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pediatrics, physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University, Washington, DC. He has received worldwide recognition for his research on the physiological and molecular mechanisms of stress, and on the diseases of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). According to both the Institute of Scientific Information and Google Scholar, which measure the number of searches for scientific articles and publications, he is the most cited clinical pediatrician or endocrinologist in the world and is listed among the 100 most-cited scientists worldwide. After so many years of international recognition in the field of science, and having now permanently returned to Greece, do you feel that your Greek background played a role in your successful career path? I consider myself as a Greek citizen of the world, and the US as my scientific homeland. As a Greek, I have always had a keen passion for philosophy and history, and I relate everything I read to medicine. When I began to focus on stress, I wanted to study its history in other, old-


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er societies at the same time. In 2011, I was appointed to the Kluge Chair in Technology and Society at the Library of Congress in Washington, where I discovered and collected a vast bibliography on the subject. I discovered that the need to find a cure for stress has been very prominent since the beginning of the history of humankind. In the ancient Greek and Roman world, three philosophical currents for stress management were developed, by the Stoics, the Sceptics and the Epicureans, who even went as far as to speak about a “cure for the soul.” The psychotherapy we use today for cases of stress, anxiety or depression is called cognitive-behavioral therapy, and it has its roots in the philosophical schools of ancient Greece. What are the findings of your research regarding stress management? Exercise, a diet of high nutritional 112

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value, a regular daily routine, and good sleep are among the sine qua non. It’s far easier to enjoy a good psychological state if you’ve slept well! Beyond this, studies have shown that stress can be managed more effectively by those who have a more philosophical outlook on life. Do you know who lives more than 100 years? Those who can control their baser instincts and regulate their emotions. In the past few years, we’ve studied more than 450 centenarians in the Attica region. On average, they were never overweight, hadn’t suffered bouts of clinical depression, ate a healthy diet and led lives of impressive regularity. Several of them had seen their children predecease them. Yet they’d say stoically, “What can you do? It was God’s will to take them.” Human beings are the only creatures to have developed a formidably complex prefrontal cortex, which can exert control over instincts, impulses and emotions,

stimulate hope and assist in the attainment of a sense of well-being, of a lasting state of happiness. Can someone train their brain to feel better? Of course. As human beings, we can harness the systems of our brain that control stress and the emotions by means of philosophy, psychotherapy, meditation or prayer. All religions, irrespective of how dissimilar they may seem, inherently contain the necessary “ingredients” conducive to a better and happier life. Isn’t Buddhism a way of managing stress? Isn’t meditation and prayer the monks’ way of doing the same? Doesn’t Sufist mysticism claim to do the same for Muslims? Have you arrived at a conclusion as to what constitutes happiness? Aristotle said that in order to be happy, one must be good. Plato and Epicurus used to say that happiness (eudaimonia)


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could only be achieved by following a path of virtue and wisdom. One must have attained a certain maturity, gained a certain amount of experience and wisdom, and have the ability to regulate one’s emotive side and one’s instincts. You need to feel a sense of contentment that in your life you’ve tried your best to give to those around you. I personally believe that Epicurus had reached the highest point of human wisdom. Nietzsche used to say that we haven’t progressed a single step beyond Epicurus. The link between mind and body and its effect on health is being studied at medical institutions everywhere. Does Greece have something to contribute to the world community today as regards this issue? Greece can and does still contribute quite a lot. First of all, Greece carries out and often generates more scientific research than what would normally correspond to its population. One of the new postgraduate programs that we have

nia, both in its original sense as defined by Aristotle, and in its current usage in modern English. We possess the right climate, conditions and environment, the necessary human resources, and a spectacular quotient of history. As Epicurus used to argue, we only get to live once. He entreated us to enjoy this one time. And by enjoyment, he did not mean food or sex, especially given how frugal he was in his own lifestyle – he only ate bread and olives, and, very occasionally, cheese. It is perfectly clear that he meant the kind of eudaimonia, the kind of happiness and pleasure, that can be achieved by developing good habits and by following the path of a virtuous life. True happiness comes from the meaning that life can hold for each of us, a meaning that we must each seek for ourselves. How does one discover the meaning of one’s life? It requires a lot of searching and self-reflection. We each have our own, different meaning. Yet we all have the

WE COULD BECOME A HUB FOR THE STUDY AND TEACHING OF WELLBEING, MORE SPECIFICALLY OF EUDAIMONIA, A GREEK WORD, BOTH IN ITS ORIGINAL SENSE AS DEFINED BY ARISTOTLE, AND IN ITS CURRENT USAGE IN MODERN ENGLISH.

introduced revolves around the science of stress and the promotion of health through a knowledge of the basic principles of biology. I’m surprised that there isn’t a comparable postgraduate module anywhere else in the world, and I’m currently in discussion with the University of Oxford regarding the possibility of setting up a similar program there. Greece was and still is a beacon of philosophy and well-being. We could become a hub for the study and teaching of wellbeing, more specifically of eudaimo-

responsibility to seek our life’s true meaning. And, of course, the act of giving to others is in itself the very meaning of life. A doctor has no need for any other kind of meaning in life, in my view, except for the substantial contribution to his fellow human beings that he can make through his profession. Bertrand Russell used to say that scientists and artists were the happiest people. Why? Because the pursuit of truth and the practice of the arts are by themselves contributions to our fellow human beings.

Have you yourself discovered the meaning of life? Yes, I’ve found the meaning of my own life. I like to study and investigate the evolution and development of human beings, and to use this knowledge in order to help my fellow men. Why did you decide to return to Greece after such a long and successful professional career and a comfortable private life in the US? I like Greece and I’m Greek. The world here is vibrant. There’s a certain polymorphy and diversity, a distinct sense of humor and a feeling of solidarity. I do, of course, go back to the US often, not only to carry out scientific research and to teach, but also because two of my daughters and my grandchildren live there. As a scientist, which factor do you think played the most significant role in your own development? Heredity or the environment in which you grew up? I do believe that heredity was good in my case. But I also had an exceptional mother, who gave me her attention from very early on. She taught me how to read and write when I was three years old, and she inspired in me a love for books and knowledge. I read constantly and continue to learn even today. Plato used to say that the virtues of education should be cultivated in children first of all. We know today that our brains begin to develop synapses, that is to say nerve circuits, very rapidly during the last three months of pregnancy, a process that reaches its peak at around the time of a child’s second year of life; that children have an already developed “moral intelligence” at four; and that most of the higher functions of the brain have been fully developed by the age of five. The conclusion is that if we wish to influence our society towards a more positive state of things, we need to start from a very early stage. Besides, there are socioeconomic studies that prove that a healthy pregnancy and a good early years education yield more benefits to society than school and post-secondary education. H E A LT H 2 018 - 2 019

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INNOVATORS AT WORK

New technologies and new ideas are helping skilled specialists make crucial advances across a wide range of medical fields in Greece, bringing the nation a well-earned reputation as a treatment destination. BY GE ORGE SA K K A S / P HOTOS: DI M I T R I S V L A I KOS

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ogether with a long-held reputation for producing some of the world’s greatest medical luminaries, Greece has, in recent years, been distinguishing itself in the area of medical innovation and clinical research, thanks to the excellent doctors and scientists doing pioneering work inside and outside the country, either on their own or as members of top-flight research teams. Greece is beginning to gain a reputation in the area of medical tourism as well, particularly for providing high-quality medical services in fields such as aesthetic and plastic surgery. Apart from its professional expertise, another significant advantage that the Greek medical industry possesses is a belief in a strong doctor-patient relationship, a warmer and more personal bond than that which usually develops 114

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between doctor and “client” in other countries. The Greek medical community is improving what it offers by way of both advanced treatments and more conventional services for patients suffering from chronic illnesses, as an increasing number of people show an interest in seeking medical treatment in countries where they can get the best value for their money. Meletios Athanasios Dimopoulos, the rector of the University of Athens and an internationally renowned professor of hematology, points out that a great deal of research is currently being carried out in many different areas of expertise at clinics and research facilities across the country, giving both Greek and foreign patients access to pioneering new treatments that have already passed lengthy approval procedures.

One of the areas in which Greece has been breaking new ground is in innovative spinal surgery, even drawing the attention of the US medical community. What is of particular interest is the focus on “small-incision” surgery that allows patients more rapid recovery, often seeing them up and about the day after surgery. This minimally invasive approach achieves results that are as good if not better than classic neurosurgery, with the advantage of a smaller entry incision, which means significantly less destruction of the natural tissue in order to reach the affected area. This particular surgical method is being used increasingly to treat spinal ailments in children, giving young patients facing the gravest of health challenges a chance to lead an active and normal life. The surgeries performed on children are often carried out to repair congenital defects, while in adults the approach is used to tackle either age-related problems or those resulting from autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. In the field of neurosurgery, the future lies in the repair of injured neurons. Surgery will deal with the consequences of the injury, while the recovery of the nervous system will be achieved with drugs or with other treatment protocols, such as those involving stem cells. It is worth noting the Greek presence in this field by highlighting the work of the team of professor and neurosurgeon Vasilios A. Zerris in the recent breakthrough procedure that involved implanting a chip in the brain of severely paralyzed patients; by “reading” their thoughts, the chip helps them move a computer cursor to propel a wheelchair or control a robotic arm.

INFORMATION:

Professor Vasilios A. Zerris, Head of Neurosurgery at Hygeia Hospital and Professor of Neurosurgery at Texas A&M University in the United States, is a graduate of Harvard University.


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INTERVENTIONAL RADIOLOGY Interventional radiology is an innovative area that uses the imaging possibilities of radiology to treat a number of illnesses without surgical intervention. This method of treatment can replace certain surgical procedures, reducing risk for patients and minimizing their stay in hospital. Interventional radiologists invented both angioplasty and the first stent to be inserted by catheter, originally used to spare patients with vascular disease from having their lower limbs amputated or operated on in some other manner. Today, they use imaging technologies such as X-ray, ultrasound, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging to see inside patients’ bodies, pinpoint problem areas and then come up with a plan to reach that area without having to make a large incision. Instead, they insert catheters through the vascular system or the skin via a pencil-tipsized cut of just 1-2 centimeters, treating diseases or growths directly in the affected area with the help of images that reveal the internal anatomy of the body. Interventional radiology allows doctors to treat patients with hardening or narrowing of the carotid arteries; patients who present with prostate enlargement; patients with uterine fibroids, liver cancer, varicocele or problems with the bile duct; and patients who have suffered an acute stroke. The G. Genimmatas General Hospital in Athens has one of the few Interventional Radiology Units in Greece, and carries out all of the procedures mentioned above.

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Nikolaos D. Ptohis, MD, MSc, PhD, EBIR, is an attending interventional radiologist at G. Gennimatas General Hospital, Athens

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CLINICAL DENTISTRY The objective of clinical dentistry, and of the medical sciences more generally, is to achieve the best possible result, both in terms of treatment outcome and appearance, with the minimum degree of intervention. Thanks to advances in technology, clinical dentists in Greece are now in a position to execute any treatment plan with precision, safety and speed. Digital photography and imaging (including cone beam computed tomography) allows us to collect all of the necessary data concerning the patient – clinical picture and microscopic anatomy included – in 3D and then feed this information into planning software and design the desired intervention/ restoration virtually. Once this process has been completed and the expectations and needs of the patients are accounted for, the clinical dentist will choose the necessary surgical or prosthetic options – digitally guided dentistry can be applied in surgical procedures as well as in prosthetic restorations – so that the treatment plan can be implemented safely and precisely. Today, digital computing technology in dentistry is in use all over the country and Greece’s clinical dentists ,who already had a well deserved reputation for doing excellent work, are taking full advantage of these technological advancements to responds to the needs and requests of their patients. INFORMATION:

Konstantinos Valavanis, Doctor of Dental Surgery, is president of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI) Hellas.

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NEW APPLICATIONS OF LAPAROSCOPIC SURGERY Bariatrics, or the treatment of obesity, is one area where laparoscopic surgery has become standard worldwide. Procedures are normally carried out on adults who suffer from extreme obesity, are under 65, haven’t responded to more conservative methods of dealing with this disease – mainly diet and exercise – and whose situation has remained unchanged for at least two years. There are three approaches in bariatric surgery; all are now carried out laparoscopically, according to guidelines established by the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity (IFSO). Malabsorption procedures like enterectomy or bowel resection drastically reduce the absorption of food but they also transform the anatomy of

the digestive tract so that the absorption of nutrients is seriously curtailed as well. Mixed procedures such as long and mini-gastric bypass and biolopancreatic diversion reduce stomach capacity, but they, too, curtail the ability to absorb nutrients from food. Restrictive surgical prodcedures involving gastric banding, gastric balloons, stapling, vertical gastroplasty and sleeve gastroplasty, however, limit the stomach’s ability to take in a large amount of food. In effect, they restrict the quantity of food that can be consumed in a single meal so that the feeling of being full occurs earlier and earlier. Another area in which Greek hospitals are approaching the achievements of the world’s greatest medical centers – in terms of methodology – is in

living-donor kidney transplants. Since February 2015, laparoscopic surgery has opened new paths for living transplants in Greece, after the country’s first laparoscopic kidney removal from a live donor was carried out at Athen’s Evangelismos Hospital. This procedure involved taking a kidney out of a 75-yearold man and transplanting it into his son, 42, who was suffering from kidney failure. This was a milestone in Greek medicine; it signaled the start of a program for the removal of kidney transplants via the laparoscopic method, an approach which allows the donor to leave the hospital after just three days and to return to his or her normal activities within two weeks. The method has since been adopted with great success.

INFORMATION:

Dr Vasileios Drakopoulos, MD, PhD, FACS is a Consultant General Surgeon at District General Hospital of Athens “Evangelismos”.

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MAKING MIRACLES: IVF A favorable legal framework, state-of-the-art facilities and outstanding medical specialists experienced in the field of assisted reproduction make Greece a leading choice for couples hoping for help in becoming parents. BY THE GREECE IS TEA M

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reece is fast becoming a competitive destination for in vitro fertilization, thanks to the combination of high-quality and innovative services at reasonable rates. Year after year, more and more couples from Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia are placing their trust in medical professionals in Greece to help them realize their dream of childbearing. Greece’s progressive IVF legislation is one of the main reasons why couples choose Greece as a destination. It allows anonymous and voluntary egg donation; the transfer of more than one embryo (depending on the age of the woman who is going to bear the pregnancy); embryo, egg and sperm freezing; prenatal checks; and surrogacy. In Greece, women up to the age of 50 are given the chance to become mothers, sperm donors can maintain their anonymity, egg donations are allowed and single women can seek a sperm donor, all factors that have contributed to the evolution of IVF-related 122

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medical tourism. Greek IVF units operate under license from the Greek National Authority of Assisted Reproduction, which monitors compliance with legal requirements and Greek and European regulatory frameworks. Recently, the authority launched a program of detailed checks, aiming not only to reassure IVF candidates that they will receive a secure and reliable service but also to get a clearer picture of the current situation in the field of assisted reproduction in Greece. To date, the country has 46 licensed assisted reproduction units (departments of private or public hospitals, independent centers

A technician injects human sperm into a human egg cell using a technique known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

and individual medical practices) that provide IVF treatment, micro-assisted fertilization (ICSI, a method for treating male infertility), the transfer of cryopreserved embryos and egg donation. These units apply best practices and are staffed with trained specialist doctors and excellent personnel. They offer advanced services at a much lower cost than elsewhere in Europe. Another significant advantage is the speed at which

ON AVERAGE, A SINGLE IVF CYCLE COSTS IN THE REGION OF €3,000, ABOUT ONETHIRD OF THE PRICE IN COUNTRIES SUCH AS THE UNITED STATES.


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LOCUS MEDICUS

INSIGHT INTO A BREAKTHROUGH

Egg storage for in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Tube of eggs in cryogenic storage.

“The high percentages of pregnancies achieved in Greece, a country that ranks first internationally in many different areas relating to IVF, are also due to a reason that’s not medical: the country’s bioclimate. The sun and the quality of life on the islands, where the couples stay, improve well-being and boost positivity,” said Dr Konstantinos Pantos, secretary-general of the Hellenic Society of Reproductive Medicine and a member of the Medical Tourism Committee of Athens Medical Association.

Information courtesy of Dr Aristidis Antsaklis, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Athens and president of the Greek National Authority of Assisted Reproduction, and George Sakkas, medical journalist.

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treatment begins after the first visit to the unit. The process of sperm and egg donation is considered particularly swift in this country, given that in many other parts of Europe, it can take more than three months. Each one of these units has developed a “full-package” offer and is ready to assist couples with the financial aspects of the process. On average, a single IVF cycle costs in the region of €3,000, about one-third of the price in countries such as the United States. The fact that medicines in Greece are among the least expensive in Europe also helps contain costs. While most clinics are located in Athens and Thessaloniki, there are pioneering units on islands and in smaller cities like Larissa. A large unit in Crete, for example, has received roughly 200 couples from European, African and North American countries, as well as from places as distant as Australia and Sri Lanka. The couples remain on the island for 7 to 45 days in order to complete their treatment, combining their stay with a holiday.

The diagnostic method developed by the Greek company Locus Medicus has revealed an important cause of male infertility, which prevents many couples from having children. The pioneering method examines sperm specimens for infectious microorganisms which are likely to either prevent conception or infect the fetus, resulting in miscarriage. However, both of these possibilities can be prevented by appropriate treatment, if the infection is detected. “Couples who’ve used IVF several times and suffered early miscarriages, were able to have children naturally, immediately after having received the treatment,” says one of the method’s two inventors, Vassilis Tsilivakos, histopathologist-perinatal immunologist and co-founder of Locus Medicus SA. The examination is becoming increasingly popular abroad, particularly in the UK, Ireland and the US, and Locus Medicus is about to announce a partnership with another European company to promote it further around the world.

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PHYSICAL MEDICINE AND REHABILITATION A WIDE RANGE OF SERVICES IN AN IDEAL ENVIRONMENT Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is the medical field which aims to restore and enhance the functional ability and quality of life of those who have suffered strokes, traumatic injuries and acute illness, or are suffering from various chronic diseases, disorders, or post-operative conditions. Such rehabilitation entails interdisciplinary care to achieve improved health and deliver the higher quality of life that comes with that improvement. Thanks to state subsidies, Greece has experienced a surge of growth in this field since 2000, with many private rehabilitation and recovery centers being established around the country, most of them in the regions of Macedonia and Thessaly. They offer top-notch facilities staffed with highly competent and experienced doctors, therapists and nurses, implementing well-established techniques, as well as new clinical innovations, all supported by cutting-edge medical and rehabilitation equipment. Greek rehabilitation centers also stand out for their competitive prices. For a 30-day neuro-rehabilitation all-inclusive

package, for example, an in-patient should, according to the Union of Rehabilitation Centers of Greece (EKAE), expect to spend around €9,900. This price includes use of the center’s facilities and rehabilitation services, full-board accommodation, transfers to and from the airport, special diet menus, laundry and ironing services, and much more. There are currently 19 major private Greek rehabilitation centers, all following internationally recognized protocols. Their rehabilitation programs take into account patients’ individual needs and combine services from the range of specialties available: physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychological support, nutrition and dietetics. Cutting-edge facilities, superb services and extensive medical experience, powered by low prices and aided by the Mediterranean climate and diet as well as the famed Greek hospitality, make Greece an ideal recovery spot for natives and foreigners alike.

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PLASTIC SURGERY WORLD-CLASS STANDARDS OF BEAUTY AUGMENTATION Safety, lower costs, spectacular aesthetic results, a great environment enhanced by the well-known pleasant climate of Greece, the possibility of short vacations in the Greek islands and the vibrant culture found in today’s Greece are only some of the compelling reasons someone should come to Greece to beautify him/herself and to look younger. Most Greek plastic surgeons have been trained at internationally accredited centers worldwide and have acquired the valuable experience needed for excellent performance in the medical tourism field. Some of the Greek plastic surgery clinics have ISO and TEMOS accreditation and are already renowned for both their international clientele and the high levels of after-treatment patient satisfaction they achieve.  The most popular aesthetic plastic surgery operation in southern Europe is breast augmentation, followed by facial fillers and botox, liposuction and gluteoplasty, and other aesthetic treatments. For every procedure, there are specific mandatory pre-operative and the post-operative steps. Before any surgical oper-

ation or beautifying procedure occurs, a thorough discussion takes place with the patient. All details are reviewed, a medical history is taken and full preoperative clinical-laboratory tests are performed to ensure patient safety. All surgical operations take place in a fully equipped medical clinic in the presence of an experienced anesthesiologist. Post-operative instructions (and medication, when necessary) are given after each treatment. Depending on the procedure/operation, the patient remains in Greece from one to 15 days. Office procedures do not require post-operative follow-up. For one-day clinic procedures like liposuction, breast augmentation (2+1 triple-plane or 2+2 quadru-plane), the patient will usually be able to travel on the second or the third post-operative day. With more complex surgical operations, such as facelifts, the doctors will probably need at least 10 days for post-operative treatment.  One of the best ways one can find out about aesthetic plastic surgery in Greece is through social media, where many doctors have a significant professional presence.

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DENTISTRY EXCEPTIONAL STANDARDS AT LOWER COSTS In recent years, a number of Greek dental clinics have become part of a dynamic branch of medical tourism, attracting not only Greeks living overseas who return for treatment but also patients from other countries, chiefly the UK, Belgium and Russia. The largest dental centers in this category are private and operate in Athens and Thessaloniki; there are less than a dozen of them, and they offer high-quality services at costs up to 50 percent lower than similar clinics in Europe and the US. Equipped with the very latest infrastructure (including advanced laser technology, robotic dentistry devices and dental microscopes) and enjoying both international recognition and quality-of-service certification to ISO standards, these centers offer the highest quality dental care at an affordable cost. There’s even a clinic for children with special needs, which has earned a fine international reputation by successfully undertaking even the most difficult dental cases.

In addition to the actual treatment, the cost package that you are offered by these clinics may include transfers to and from the airport, accommodation at a good hotel, special arrangements for accompanying persons, and provisions for covering additional expenses in cases where more days are needed than those originally scheduled. And, of course, there will also be time for sightseeing and excursions. Treatment is generally of short duration, thanks to the simultaneous provision of care to the patient by a number of specialists. The clinics are manned by dental practitioners representing up to 10 different fields, including oral and maxillofacial surgeons, cosmetic dentists, implantologists and periodontists. Most of the dentists and other specialists at these centers have completed post-graduate training abroad, often in Scandinavia, North America or Australia, and many are dental care “veterans,” with experience spanning four decades, who also collaborate with medical schools in Greece.

Information courtesy of the Athens Dental Tourism Cluster.

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OPHTHALMOLOGY NEW ADVANCED SURGICAL TECHNIQUES Ophthalmology is the field of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye. It is one of the major specialties on offer in the context of medical tourism. Technological progress in this field, along with new advanced surgical techniques, have made it possible for almost all surgical procedures in ophthalmology (approx. 90 percent) to be performed without the need for hospitalization. This means it is even easier nowadays for patients to seek medical services in countries other than their own and to combine an opthalmological procedure with a vacation. Medical centers and clinics in Greece typically include an ophthalmology department, but most medical tourists seeking out ophthalmic procedures are likely to opt for one of the country’s day clinics, established under new laws in 2014. They boast cutting-edge equipment alongside expert ophthalmologists, opticians, optometrists and nurses, and can perform surgical procedures that require only a few hours of post-operative hos-

pitalization. Their rates are quite competitive compared to those in other countries, making Greece one of the top destinations for ophthalmic treatments. Among the standard procedures on offer in Greek day clinics are excimer laser refractive surgery for the correction of myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism; cataract and glaucoma surgery; and treatment for age-related macular degeneration and for diabetic retinopathy. Some medical tourists may also seek out oculoplastic interventions, performed to correct an injury or done simply for esthetic purposes. According to a recent study, Greece could attract at least 100,000 medical tourists, in particular from the EU, southeastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, the US and China within the next five years, and up to 400,000 patients within a decade. Greece’s high-standard services in ophthalmology could play an important role in shaping the country’s future as a medical destination.

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DIALYSIS A USER-FRIENDLY DESTINATION FOR KIDNEY PATIENTS Every other year, kidney patients undergoing blood dialysis at Liège University Hospital take their vacation in Irakleio. They don’t choose it just because of the beautiful beaches, the amazing sights and the Mediterranean cuisine. After all, they couldn’t enjoy any of these if a hemodialysis unit didn’t operate there. Every two days, these tourists visit the local unit for blood dialysis, a process necessary to keep them alive. In Greece, hemodialysis tourists began appearing a few years after the first private Greek hemodialysis unit opened in a Cretan hospital in 2000. Nowadays, there are 62 active private units in the country. With specifications meeting European standards, they are ISO 9000 and 9001 certified, which ensures quality. Over the past 15 years, these units have attracted more than 20,000 foreign kidney patients; English, Dutch, Germans, Danes, Swedes, Italians and Belgians, as well as a few Americans and Australians. They prefer the Greek sun and the cheaper prices that Greece offers them over its main competitors, Spain and Turkey. Some come for a few days, others arrive during the off-season and remain for roughly five to six months. They often stay in popular tourist cities and islands, within or near the hemodialysis units. Using their accommodation as a base, they take short cruises and trips. Crete, Santorini, Rhodes, Kalamata and Meteora have all invested heavily in hemodialysis units, becoming key players in the medical tourism industry. “What did you do to her that improved her condition so

much?” asks a Swiss doctor about his patient who returned home in much better shape after her trip to Irakleio. “The difference wasn’t in the dialysis method; the standards are the same as those followed elsewhere in Europe. It was the Greek climate, the good food, the sun and the sea that changed the mental well-being of this kidney patient,” says Nick Stathoglou, General Manager of MESOGEIOS Dialysis Centers, a medical group that, apart from its facilities in Crete, also has units in Athens, Kalamata, Halkida and Serres. In just 17 years, these centers have received more than 9,000 patients, most of them traveling with chaperones. For the most part, these private Greek hemodialysis units offer advanced medical services and, in addition to nephrologists, are also staffed with specialists such as cardiologists, pulmonologists and urologists; many also collaborate with social workers, psychologists and nutritionists. The units are usually linked to large public hospitals and are equipped with modern medical facilities in attractive surroundings. Some of them remind you more of hotels than clinics, with libraries as well as dialysis suites. On the other hand, if patients ask about sightseeing tours or other organized activities, they might be disappointed in the options on offer. There’s still a lot of room for improvement in creating medical tourism packages. However, most units are happy to handle simpler logistical matters such as transfers and accommodation for foreign patients. They also offer friendly prices to their patients’ chaperones.

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MEDICAL BRIEF

REGENER ATIVE MEDICINE

STEM CELL THERAPY Treating common injuries and chronic orthopedic diseases using autologous adult stem cells and other biological derivatives.

STAVROS ALEVROGIANNIS

MD, MSC. (ORTH), PHD, SENIOR CONSULTANT ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON/SPORTS PHYSICIAN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF THE REGENERATIVE AND RECONSTRUCTIVE, ORTHOPEDIC CLINIC AT METROPOLITAN GENERAL HOSPITAL to replace those destroyed in osteoarthritis; they activate the internal mechanisms of regeneration of the body and have anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties as well. Stem cell preparation is according to existing European law, a “same-dayprocedure” that must always be performed in a sterile clinical environment. In the Regenerative and Reconstructive Orthopedic Clinic, we follow an innovative combined biological process,which essentially consists of 3 stages: • Joint activation to create the ideal environment for theapplication of cell therapy; • The application of bone marrow-derived stem cells by injection; • Stem cell acceleration with the use of growth factors’ stimulation, so as to achieve the desired therapeutic effect. ADULT STEM CELL THERAPY OFFERS MANY BENEFITS: • The biologic product is completely autologous (it does not require the use of chemicals or pharmaceuticals), so it is absolutely safe; • It’s application, may delayand/or prevent major surgery; • It involves either minimal or no complications,since no graft rejection reactions are present; • There is no blood loss and the technique is completely painless; • It requires no hospitalization; • The patient is immediately mobile again, and can return quickly and safely to daily activities; • It requires no prolonged physiotherapy protocols; • There are no ethical or religious issues involved in itsimplementation.

WWW.STAVROSALEVROGIANNIS.GR | MAIL: ST.ALEVROGIANNIS@GMAIL.COM, SALEVROGIANNIS@METROPOLITAN-HOSPITAL.GR W W W.G R E E C E - I S .C O M −129 − H E A LT H 2 017- 2 018

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The progress of medical science, coupled with the explosion in biotechnologyin recent years, has focused medical world’s interest on a rapidly growing medical specialty called “Regenerative Medicine.” A number of regenerative or rejuvenation clinics have been established around the world, with the most well-known being the Panama Stem Cell Institute in Panama,the New Stem Cell Research − Hadassah Medical Center in Israel, and the Swiss Institute for Regenerative Medicine (SIRM) in Switzerland. The goal of these clinics, and of this medical specialty, is to provide prolonged healthy longevity through the process of creating live functional human organs, strengthen and regenerate tissues damaged by age, illness, injury or abnormality. Following international protocols and responding to patient’s demand, it is more than a decade now that we have established the Regenerative & Reconstructive Orthopedic Clinic at Metropolitan General Hospital in Athens.Our main target is the treatment of the most common injuries and chronic orthopedic diseases by biological means, using autologous adult stem cells and otherbiological derivatives. The therapeutic protocols we follow,have been established in collaboration with the abovenamed international clinics, by which we have been recognized and certified for the medical services we provide. Regarding treatment processes, adult stem cells (which act asrepair cells for our body, replenishing and maintaining organsand tissues) can be derived from various adult tissue origin– bone marrow, fat or synovial membranes. Stem cells are of particular interest in the clinical practice of orthopedics, because, beyond their ability to regenerate, they can easily proliferate and differentiate into multiple cell types and thus into cartilage cells,


MEDICAL BRIEF

AESTHETIC DENTISTRY

STRAIGHT TEETH IN MONTHS, NOT YEARS You shouldn’t have to wait 2 years to straighten your teeth. With us, you won’t.

CHRISTINA BOUTSIOUKI

DDS, MSC, PHD CAND., IS AN AESTHETIC DENTISTRY SPECIALIST, A SCIENTIFIC ASSOCIATE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GIESSEN, GERMANY, AND THE EXCLUSIVE PROVIDER OF SIX MONTH SMILES® IN GREECE.

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Nine out of ten adults would like to change something about their smile, and nearly everyone can! Invisible orthodontics is the modern solution to a new, straighter smile. Clear Aligners and Six Month Smiles® are the two quickest and most convenient methods for adults who wish to fix their smile and gain back confidence. Which one you choose is up to you. CLEAR ALIGNERS Clear aligners can straighten your teeth effortlessly, without clasps, screws or brackets and without anyone around you noticing that you’re using them! Digitally designed and manufactured clear splints gradually move teeth into their correct positions; this is accomplished by changing splint size during dental checks that take place every three to four weeks. Despite the fact that Clear Aligners are extremely thin (0.5-0.75 mm) to guarantee comfort, the polymer material is hard enough to guide “stray” teeth back into place! For most patients, the duration of treatment is from seven to ten months. Clear Aligners are usually worn for all but three or four hours per day, but they can, of course, be removed at any time for special occasions like important meetings, weddings or other events, as well as for meals and cleaning. PROS: Removable, Suitable for out-of-town patients CONS: Longer duration of treatment

SIX MONTH SMILES® The Six Month Smiles orthodontic system is for adults or teens with crooked, misspaced or misaligned teeth. By using barely noticeable, discreet clear braces and tooth-colored wires, your teeth can be straightened in an average time of only six months. This is due to specially engineered brackets, able to deliver fast tooth movement. Adjustments and dental checks are made every three to five weeks, the therapy is completely pain-free and you’ll begin to see a change within the first month. Results are quicker than with either Clear Aligners or traditional orthodontic therapy with metallic braces, so if you’ve got an important date coming up and you need results immediately, this is probably the right choice for you. PROS: Shorter duration of treatment, less fuss before and after meals CONS: Cannot be removed during treatment ARE YOU A GOOD CANDIDATE? Although there are no contraindications regarding general health or the severity of orthodontic problems, invisible orthodontics are not suggested for patients under the age of 16. If you’re not sure whether invisible orthodontics are right for your smile makeover, send us a picture of your teeth to info@odontiatreio-smiles.gr for a free online consultation and a chat about pricing.

INFO

WWW.ODONTIATREIO-SMILES.GR ODONTIATREIO.SMILES

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ADVERTORIAL

PROMOTING GREECE AS A HEALTH DESTINATION

Greece is a safe European country, very accessible, with stateof-the-art private medical facilities and highly skilled healthcare professionals. In combination with its diverse natural environment, mild climate, rich cultural heritage, Mediterranean cuisine, and famous hospitality, it is obvious that Greece, has both the potential and the infrastructure to rank among the most popular medical tourism destinations and to become an international brand name in this sector. The Greek Medical Tourism Council called ‘ELITOUR’ is aiming to raise the country’s profile internationally and to help reinforce its reputation as a quality medical tourism destination for health services such as IVF, plastic surgery, orthopaedics, dental and rehabilitation among many others. ELITOUR was established in 2013 as an initiative of the largest private hospital groups in Greece, together with companies that operate in the sectors of tourism, air transportation and advertising. It is the first successful collective effort to introduce and integrate Greece into the international medical tourism market as a premier destination.

Since its founding, ELITOUR has undertaken several important initiatives, through cooperation with similar international organizations, commissions, European agencies and local authorities, to achieve its strategic objectives of interconnecting Greek healthcare providers and penetrating international target markets. Towards that end, ELITOUR successfully hosted for the first time in Athens the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit of 2018, signifying the key role of Greece in the medical tourism industry. With a careful strategic approach, ELITOUR is closely collaborating with relevant institutional bodies and government officials and is actively helping to shape the legal and macroeconomic environment to accelerate growth in the medical tourism market in Greece. Over the years, Elitour had successfully increased its membership community by attracting new and dynamic members has and helped establish ELITOUR as the biggest institutional partner of the Greek state, officially representing the private Greek Medical Tourism industry to international markets. WWW.ELITOUR.ORG

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The country’s first successful group effort towards recognition as a top medical tourism destination.


MEDICAL BRIEF

IVF TRE ATMENT S

IVF IN GREECE: A SUCCESS STORY When couples look for help in starting a family, they often turn to IVF treatments. The standard of such treatments in Greece are of the highest quality.

DR DIMITRIS F GIANNARIS

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IVF EXPERT, EMBRYO ART, MAIL: GIANNDI@OTENET.GR WWW.EMBRYOART.GR According to the World Health Organization’s definition, infertility is when pregnancy has not occurred after two years of unprotected sexual intercourse when the woman is under 35 years old, after one year when the woman is older than 35, and six months when the woman is over 40. The likelihood of pregnancy when a woman is younger than 25 is 60 percent in the first six months of unprotected sex and 85 percent within the first year. The possibility of pregnancy is 30 percent in the first month of unprotected sex and increases up to 53 percent in the second, but as more time goes by, the possibility of pregnancy decreases. On average, 15 percent of couples suffer from infertility; half of these will resort to assisted reproduction treatment, mainly in vitro fertilization (IVF). The main causes of infertility are sperm-related problems, ovulation disorders, fallopian tube damage or blockage and endometriosis, while a quarter of couples suffer from unexplained infertility. The woman’s age is of paramount importance and should be taken into account. As far as the causes are concerned, it seems that the modern lifestyle enhances infertility. Heavy alcohol consumption and obesity can affect sperm count and motility, whereas smoking affects the functioning of the oocytes. Sexually transmitted diseases (such as chlamydia) cause damage to the salpinges. Infertility treatments, especially IVF, are effective but success is not guaranteed. There are many confounders for successful

treatment, but the main one is the age of the woman. The success rate is 40 percent on the first IVF attempt, reaching up to 70 percent over three attempts in women aged 35-38 using their own eggs. However, the rate drops to 25 percent in women aged 40 and it greatly decreases to 1 percent at 45. Nowadays, IVF treatment has been enriched with new techniques, such as the pre-implantation genetic screening of the embryos, egg freezing for maintenance of fertility and the cryopreservation of embryos through vitrification. The treatments are safe as current evidence shows no correlation with ovarian, breast or other cancer, while iatrogenic complications such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome are treatable. As regards the likelihood of multiple pregnancies, this is reduced through single embryo transfer. Greece is a pioneer in assisted reproductive technology. Top scientists, using the most advanced technology to apply innovative treatments and techniques, in a country where the legal framework supports their actions provide certainty and safety to couples. More than 45 private IVF centers are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, offering low-cost infertility treatment in an optimal environment. According to recent surveys, EU societies, including Greece, are ageing. Infertility treatments ought to be part of a national strategy. A case in point is the Israeli experience, where couples are eligible for six IVF attempts with full state coverage.

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MEDICAL BRIEF

H A E M O D I A LY S I S

HOLIDAY DIALYSIS MORE ACCESSIBLE THAN EVER Sophisticated Dialysis Units in key holiday destinations can render Greece No 1 choice for renal patients worldwide

PANTELIS KATSIFARAKIS

Last month you announced the opening of the third Nephroxenia Dialysis Center, on the island of Corfu. Are there any plans for further expansion? The Corfu dialysis unit opened its doors a few days ago, aiming to cover the hemodialysis needs of all the local patients as well as visitors from all over the world. With the Corfu clinic, we have completed our primary plan to establish luxurious dialysis units in tourist destinations. We are now looking to expand in urban areas, with a different approach, that of urban dialysis centers. You have referred to the impact of medical tourism on the Greek economy. How does the Nephroxenia Dialysis Centers Group contribute in this field? The term “medical tourism” is misunderstood in Greece. Personally, I believe there are two types of medical tourism – direct and indirect. The direct kind is driven by the actual need for a service whereas the indirect type is linked to destination, cost and quality. Dialysis is a de facto direct service, since a patient suffering from total renal failure should ensure a dialysis slot before booking his or her holidays. So far, the Nephroxenia Group has invested in units in major tourism destinations, making it easy for patients from all around the world to visit Chania, Chalkidiki and now Corfu, where there was no infrastructure to host them in the past.

Does Greece have a competitive advantage in the field of medical tourism? Our research indicates that most patients suffering from chronic kidney disease residing in the EU (for which statistics are available and where patients are fully covered by social security funds) mainly choose Spain, Italy and Turkey for their holidays. Our goal is to make Greece the number one destination for vacation dialysis worldwide. With continuous growth across the whole spectrum of the hospitality sector as well as infrastructure privatizations (airports, ports and highways), which always lead to better and safer services, the goal of attracting more individual and group visitors, in collaboration with regional municipalities and hoteliers’ associations, can be achieved. What is the secret to your success? My associates. I take great pleasure when I read the questionnaires our patients fill in or the reviews they submit on social media and see that they always go a step further, praising not only our state-of-the-art equipment but also the professional, humane and friendly manner of our personnel. In my honest opinion, the only way to succeed in such a delicate business is by investing in people and, so far, this investment has paid off.

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FOUNDER & MANAGING DIRECTOR / NEPHROXENIA VACATION DIALYSIS CENTERS S.A. MAIL: P.KATSIFARAKIS@NEPHROXENIA.COM


MEDICAL BRIEF

UPPER GI, BARIATRIC AND ME TABOLIC SURGERY

BARIATRIC SURGERY A safe, cost-effective and reliable option for those who suffer from excess weight.

DIMITRIS P. LAPATSANIS

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MD, PHD, EBSQ, IFSO, CONSULTANT UPPER GI AND BARIATRIC SURGEON MAIL: DIMITRISLAPATSANIS@GMAIL.COM

“It is very injurious to health to take in more food than the constitution will bear.”[1] Although more than two-and-a-half millennia have elapsed since Hippocrates noticed the negative impact of obesity on well-being, only recently have we demystified its role as a major threat to health. Obesity affects both developed and developing societies alike, while it makes no discrimination between genders. According to the World Health Organization, more than one in three adults worldwide is overweight and one in ten is obese. Apart from the apparent consequences to physical stamina and social image, the risks of obesity are far more serious and insidious. Obese people should be deemed true patients, as they are particularly susceptible to developing lethal conditions, such as diabetes, ischemic heart disease and certain cancer types. Obesity is the result of both genetic predisposition and environmental influences. Although intensive research has enhanced our understanding regarding the mechanisms that lead to obesity, our capacity to translate it into clinically tangible results remains elusive. On the contrary, interventions to modify the course of obesity have begun to bear fruit. The most efficient weapon against obesity is bariatric surgery, reflected in the fact that relevant operations have increased more than five-fold over the last 15 years.[2] At present, surgery is the only means to accomplish substantial and sustainable weight loss, when compared to non-surgical interventions, such as taking medication or going on a diet and keeping a food journal.[3]

“Bariatric surgery” comprises multitude procedures acting in one or more ways: restriction of the capacity of the stomach, decreased absorption of fattening nutrients and triggering of hormonal pathways that awaken the metabolism.[4] The most common operations worldwide, in declining order of popularity, are laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG), gastric bypass, either Roux-en-Y (RYGB) or one anastomosis (OAGB), adjustable gastric banding (AGB), biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD-DS) and gastric plication (LGP). The decision to proceed with surgery is tailored to each individual’s needs and is taken after thorough patient education by a multidisciplinary team of scientists, including surgeons, endocrine physicians, dietitians and other professionals. Most importantly, these decisions do not strictly depend on weight alone. For example, bariatric surgery can help elderly patients to get rid of obesity-related health problems, such as high blood pressure, lower back pain and sleep apnea.[5] Furthermore, it seems promising for treating diabetes, even in non-obese patients, and it seems to be more effective than diets, pills or insulin shots in achieving blood sugar control in the long run. Bariatric surgery has evolved into a safe, cost-effective and reliable option for those who suffer from excess weight. Our duty as healthcare professionals is to raise awareness among obese people and help them regain control of their weight and their lives.

REFERENCES

[1] BMJ 2013;346:f1050. [2] ObesSurg 2015 DOI 10.1007/s11695-015-1657-z [3] Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2014;8:CD003641. [4] Current Obes Rep 2017;6:253-265. [5] ClinInterv Aging 2015;10:1627-1635.

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MEDICAL BRIEF

PHYSIOTHERAPIE

LASER THEAL A unique adaptive therapy, Theal Therapy uses different wavelengths which can be combined to obtain the perfect mix for a specific pathology or a particular patient.

THEOFANIS TH. MOUNTZOURIS PHYSIOTHERAPIST WWW.PHYSIOF.GR

THEAL Therapy makes it possible to modulate the energy in a selective manner, creating a mix of wavelengths and emission modes, which allows specific pathological situations is to be treated selectively and safely, thus maximizing therapeutic results. THERMAL CONTROL OF TISSUES THEAL Therapy is an innovative therapeutic method which allows tissue temperature to be monitored in real time during the treatment. THEAL Therapy allows the treatment of pathologies of the musculoskeletal system of patients with different photo types and different types of tissue in total safety, thanks to the modulation of energy and constant feedback from the infrared thermal sensor. MANY PATIENTS, A SINGLE REMEDY THEAL Therapy allows treatments to be adapted to the physiological parameters of the patient (age, pain, photo type and tissue type), greatly improving therapeutic performance and reducing recovery times. THE FASTEST WAY TO RECOVER THEAL Therapy is effective on pain and joint movement from the very first treatment, offering immediate relief to the patient, and allowing the rehabilitation process to start quickly. THEAL Therapy is an innovative, unique, safe and effective method. Its results have been scientifically proven by research carried out at

the University of Bari. Clinical studies show that, for 97 percent of patients, pain is reduced immediately and significantly from the very first treatment. PAIN THERAPY THEAL Therapy is an advanced therapeutic method which is innovative and patented, and allows the elimination of pain effectively, rapidly and safely. Pain is the main reason why athletes seek medical help. The removal of pain increases the quality of life and allows operators to take a natural approach to rehabilitation, which makes treatment more comfortable for the patient. THEAL Therapy, with its patented stochastic E²C emission mode, together with a custom wavelength mix, interacts with the peripheral nervous system, reducing pain signals and offering the patient immediate relief from the first treatment. With its patented thermal tissue control system, THEAL Therapy allows interaction with the peripheral nervous system in an optimal and naturally thermal manner, to quickly relieve pain. PHYSIOLOGICAL ACCELERATOR THEAL Therapy is a powerful physiological accelerator, which accelerates the natural regeneration of biological tissues. Thanks to the powerful synergy between patented multi-mode emissions and the customizable mix of wavelengths, THEAL Therapy modulates the processes of cellular repair by providing the correct dose of energy in the correct position. THEAL Therapy, through the focused, selective administration of energy, reduces cellular deficits, supporting metabolic processes for rapid stabilization of the intra-and extra cellular equilibria which guarantee the integrity of the cell and all its processes, reducing recovery times for stable, complete healing without side effects.

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THEAL (Temperature-controlled high-energy adjustable multi-mode emission laser) Therapy is a patented therapeutic method, which is unique, focused and personalized and which expands the possible applications of phototherapy and laser technology.


ADVERTORIAL

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THE IDEAL GETAWAY FOR VACATION DIALYSIS New-generation dialysis centers for patients suffering from renal failure who want to combine world class treatment with a memorable vacation. NEPHROXENIA CORFU

NEPHROXENIA CHALKIDIKI

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NEPHROXENIA CHANIA

Nephroxenia Vacation Dialysis Centers S.A. (or Nephroxenia S.A. for short) is a private group of renal care service providers with a network of three units in Greece. The company’s mission is to treat patients suffering from Chronic Kidney Failure (CKD) and End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) by providing dialysis treatments that maximize patient comfort and meet patient expectations while also ensuring the utmost medical safety. The clinics can be found in widely disparate locations; in the area of Chania on the island of Crete; in Chalkidiki in Central Macedonia; and on the island of Corfu. They offer hemodialysis (HD) and hemodiafiltration (HDF) treatments in a relaxing environment with state-of-the-art equipment, including top-name European-made dialyzers and other relevant medical devices. Our number one priority is the comfort of our CKD and ESRD patients. Our in-house concierge has experience helping visitors from all over the world and makes short work of all the non-medical details regarding transportation, accommodation, sightseeing, dining out and venue bookings, and more. All of our visitors can be secure in the knowledge that their visit will come off without a hitch.

All-inclusive packages for groups include the booking of handpicked hotels at all destinations. Our plans are specifically designed to meet different patients’ needs and wishes regarding their dialysis vacation. For groups of patients traveling together, the option to enjoy their treatment in the same shift is available. By special arrangement, groups can also opt for nocturnal dialysis sessions. Complimentary accommodation for up to two accompanying nurses and/or technicians is offered for group bookings as well. Our mission is to help put Greece on the global Vacation Dialysis map. We provide patients with compelling reasons for choosing to spend their vacation at our popular destinations by making sure all their needs, both medical and non-medical, are met. We offer luxurious dialysis rooms together with all the amenities anyone could ask for during a stay abroad, combined with magnificent sea views and a luxury 5-star resort feeling at an advanced medical facility.

WWW.NEPHROXENIA.COM

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MEDICAL BRIEF

ΕΝΤ

IMPORTANT ADVANCES IN EAR, NOSE AND THROAT SURGERY New surgical techniques involving atraumatic interventions mean less bleeding, less pain, shorter surgeries and faster postoperative healing.

ANATOLI PATARIDOU

As Hippocrates said millennia ago, the most important contribution that medicine has made to humanity is relief from pain, disease and fear. Nonetheless, despite the amazing developments in modern medicine, patients often postpone necessary surgery, mainly due to the fear of postoperative pain and discomfort. For this reason, all surgical specialties today seek to achieve the same outstanding therapeutic effects for their patients with minimally invasive surgery (MIS). The advantage of MIS over classic open-surgery methods is that the target organ and the surrounding healthy tissue are affected to the least extent possible. Head and neck surgery in particular has seen great progress recently, thanks to the application of modern endoscopic techniques. Requiring no external incisions, endoscopic surgery of the nose and paranasal sinuses represents a much more desirable treatment for diseases and/or conditions such as sinusitis (chronic or acute), nasal polyps, benign (and even some malignant) tumors, and cases of deviated nasal septum. Using magnification and illumination in association with powered surgical instruments and anatomical navigation systems, the surgeon has the ability to treat patients more effectively and with less risk of complications. This is extremely important, especially in surgery on children. In cases of adenoidectomy and tonsillectomy, this approach also ensures full removal of the tissue in question. Other common ENT problems in children that can be treated

with the new endoscopic techniques are choanal atresia and chronic rhinosinusitis. Transoral endoscopic laser surgery in the throat area has radically changed the treatment of benign diseases, as well as early-stage cancers. This new technique has two main advantages for the patient: it is an alternative to a tracheostomy, and it can be repeated in cases of local recurrence, particularly in patients with glottic cancer. In recent years, the use of three-dimensional cameras in transoral robotic surgery in otorhinolaryngology has enabled a more precise estimation of the anatomical structure and the depth of the surgical site. In addition, wristed instruments and robotic surgery offer better access to hidden points of the upper airway. Such surgery is now recommended for benign diseases such as obstructive sleep apnea and for the early stages of pharynx and larynx cancer. It has also begun to play a very important role in exploring head and neck cancer with unknown primary sites. The major advantage of robotic surgery for the patient is that it involves less postoperative edema, pain, bleeding or difficulty in swallowing. I would highly recommend these new surgical techniques involving atraumatic interventions, because they mean less bleeding, less pain, shorter surgeries and faster postoperative healing for the patient.

In recent years, the use of three-dimensional cameras in transoral robotic surgery in otorhinolaryngology has enabled a more precise estimation of the anatomical structure and the depth of the surgical site. W W W.G R E E C E - I S .C O M −137 − H E A LT H 2 017- 2 018

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ENT, HEAD & NECK SURGEON KIDS & ADULTS, SCIENTIFIC ASSOCIATE OF HYGEIA HOSPITAL – MITERA WWW.PATARIDOU.GR


MEDICAL BRIEF

ENDOCRINOLOGY IN GREECE A HOLISTIC APPROACH

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BY DR PARI RAPTI, ENDOCRINOLOGIST Endocrinology is the science that studies the complex effects of various hormones as well as disturbances caused by excessive or deficient levels of those hormones. Endocrine glands are hormone-producing organs; hormones themselves are involved in the management and process of regulating and rehabilitating various functions of the body. They affect, among other things, metabolism, absorption of nutrients, physical growth, height, hair growth and skin quality. Hormones also shape the way an organism responds to internal and external environmental stimuli by causing biological activity in every cell and by providing the appropriate energy for the various functions of the human body. The endocrine system consists of the hypothalamus and of the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus and adrenal glands, as well as the pancreas, the ovaries and the testicles. Hormonal secretions begin in adolescence, accompanying – and determining – the lives of women and men throughout their lives. Chemical messengers transmit information crucial to all bodily functions, starting with sex hormones produced by the ovaries, including estrogen and progesterone, as well as androgen from the adrenal gland, which must be present in defined amounts in a woman’s body, as it’s responsible for breast development, the shape of the pelvis, the density of the bones, the deposit of adipose tissue in specific locations that grant femininity to the female body and also the stimulation

of hair growth in various areas. In addition, the same hormones determine the regularity and rhythm of menstruation, and affect the psyche. In men, height, weight, hair adhesion, libido, middle fat tissue, personality and the activity of thymus are all influenced by hormones, especially testosterone. In general, the thymus in women affects sex characteristics, metabolism, bone structure, fatty tissue and mood changes, early menstrual syndrome, cramps, pains, constipation, indigestion and acne. Generally speaking, a balanced diet is necessary to maintain hormonal equilibrium from puberty to menopause. Maintaining such a balance is crucial to quality of life and longevity for women. Hormones have cardio-protective properties, psychotropic properties (with effects that include mood improvement and cognitive function improvement) and help determine skin quality, so maintaining the proper hormonal balance is of paramount importance. I’m an endocrinologist and, as such, my aim is to diagnose and treat hormonal disorders by restoring hormonal balance in the body. My specialty is diseases of the thyroid gland. I also deal with aesthetic endocrinology (wellness and well-being), combining specific diets (with a focus on super-foods and/or weight loss targets) with physical exercise and thermal spa sessions. All treatments are presented in an holistic way in order to achieve a more attractive appearance as well as better health. INFO

DR PARI RAPTI

ENDOCRINOLOGIST EMAIL: PARI@RAPTI.GR | WWW.RAPTI.GR

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MEDICAL BRIEF

Generally speaking, a balanced diet is necessary to maintain hormonal equilibrium from puberty to menopause. Maintaining such a balance is crucial to quality of life and longevity for women.

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MEDICAL BRIEF

ONCOLOGIC AND COLOREC TAL SURGERY

SILS IN COLORECTAL SURGERY An innovative and attractive minimally invasive technique.

DIMITRIOS TSAMIS

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MD, MSC, PHD, FACS, GENERAL, ONCOLOGIC & COLORECTAL SURGEON, ATHENS MEDICAL CENTER In the modern medical era, the removal of a part or the whole of the colon is performed using minimally invasive techniques. Many benign or malignant diseases, such as colorectal cancer, diverticular disease and inflammatory diseases of the colon, are being treated with surgical intervention. In the past, the colectomies were performed via a large incision in the center of the abdomen. This long incision resulted in significant pain, postoperative hospital stay of approximately a week and a slow return to everyday activities for the patient. Nowadays, minimally invasive techniques in colorectal surgery are the mainstay of treatment, even in malignancies. This is a fact supported by many documented studies; the vast majority of medical centers in Europe and Northern America are using such techniques. Single incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS) is one of the most modern minimally invasive techniques used in colorectal surgery. In selected patients, our surgical team performs colectomy from “a single hole” in the center of the abdomen. A small incision

of approximately 4-5 cm is made at the level of the umbilicus. From that hole, the necessary laparoscopic instruments and the camera that allows surgeons a clear view of the internal area are inserted. The operation is performing laparoscopically. At the end of the operation, the excised part of the colon is removed from that hole, and the surgeons then perform an anastomosis of the two remaining parts of the intestine. Our surgical team combines the SILS technique with the ERAS protocol (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) for suitable patients undergoing colorectal surgery. The goal of the team is to support the patient’s recovery. The duration of hospitalization ordinarily does not exceed 3 to 5 days, and patient’s mobility and return to most daily activities is achieved soon after surgery. Right from the very first postoperative day, the patient begins to drink fluids and then eat light meals. Moreover, there’s remarkably less need for painkillers, and the aesthetic result from the smaller incision is greatly appreciated by the patients.

INFO

Dimitrios Tsamis is a general surgeon with specializations in oncologic and colorectal surgery. The doctor practices surgery in the Athens Medical Center in Marousi, Greece. Dr Tsamis specialized in general surgery in the 1st Propaedeutic Surgical Clinic of the University of Athens. He was trained in oncologic and colorectal surgery at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, US and at St Mark’s Hospital and Academic Institute in London, UK. Dr Tsamis specializes in minimally invasive surgery, laparoscopic surgery, single-incision surgery (SILS) and trans-anal minimally invasive surgery) (TAMIS) for benign and malignant diseases of the colon and rectum. He follows the ERAS (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) protocol to achieve swift recovery for patients who have undergone major surgery.

WWW.DTSAMIS.GR MAIL: TSAMISDIM@HOTMAIL.COM

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MEDICAL BRIEF

VA SCUL AR SURGEON

A RICH CONTEMPORARY ANGIOLOGY Advances in vascular and endovascular medicine are improving the lives of patients across the country.

DR PAVLOS G. VAKALOPOULOS

Greece is an inherently healthy place, a country bathed in sunlight, washed by the sea and fed on a Mediterranean diet, but even here our modern lifestyle makes it difficult to maintain healthy habits such as daily walking and exercise, swimming and cooking healthy food at home. Instead, a sedentary lifestyle, little exercise, a fat-rich diet and a widespread habit of smoking, along with work-related stress, are combining to cause obesity, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and arterial hypertension. The country that gave birth to Hippocrates, the father of medicine, still has brilliant health scientists who are successful in preventing and treating diseases. In the field of vascular conditions in particular, there has in recent years been a veritable revolution in approach. Greek vascular surgeons use the latest techniques and follow the most up-to-date international guidelines in dealing with aneurysms, carotid stenosis, peripheral artery stenosis, obstructed arteries, varicose veins, spider veins, fistula, vein thrombosis and diabetic foot. Vascular disease may involve the venous, arterial or lymphatic systems. Swollen and tired feet, pain in the lower limbs, varicose and spider veins, and venous thrombosis are some common vein problems. A conservative treatment plan is the first step; it may involve weight loss, exercise, proper shoes, graded compression stockings and medication. Thrombosis can be treated with drugs that prevent the expansion or enhance dissolution of the thrombus. Today, even when a limb and potentially a patient’s life is in danger, another therapeutical choice is the use of special devices that enter the vein and aspirate the thrombus. Varicose veins are treated with minimally invasive methods such as Intravenous Laser Ablation (EVLT). This enables a quick return to work, and post-procedural

pain and scars are no longer a problem. Spider veins can be removed with sclerotherapy, during which a foam solution is injected into the vein, a particularly suitable approach in the case of larger veins. It’s important to note that the success of conservative treatments depends on both patient compliance and on the patient’s other health issues. Carotid stenosis, a critical condition that may affect a patient’s quality of life due to the possibility of stroke, can be treated successfully by stenting, in cases where a classic open surgery approach is considered very risky. When severe intermittent claudication appears due to lower limb arterial stenosis, a balloon or stent can be inserted. Special medication can be released through the balloon before stenting to achieve the best long-term result. In extreme limb-salvage conditions, special devices are inserted temporarily in the artery, to remove the atheromatous plaques. An experienced specialist in vascular surgery can treat aneurysms with stent-graft placement. This can be done can without general anesthesia or any large incisions; it’s painless, doesn’t require many days of hospitalization and comes with a lower rate of perioperative difficulties. We can say with certainty that Greece today is at the forefront of medical science. Its vascular surgeons can cope with any disease or condition safely and with high success rates. Qualified, experienced doctors put their consistently up-to-date knowledge into practice at modern, well-equipped hospitals where the availability of cutting-edge technology is standard. These same physicians apply their desire to heal the sick as well; Greece has always been a hospitable country, and its doctors are naturally willing and eager to serve any person in need.

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MD, MSC, DIRECTOR OF VASCULAR CLINIC, NAVAL AND VETERANS HOSPITAL OF ATHENS, DIRECTOR OF VASCULAR CLINIC, BIOCLINIC ATHENS, MSC IN ENDOVASCULAR TECHNIQUES & VASCULAR COLOR DUPLEX ULTRASOUND POSTGRADUATE WORK IN BELGIUM WWW.AGGEIOLOGIA.GR | MAIL: PAVLOS@AGGEIOLOGIA.GR


MEDICAL BRIEF

SPINE SURGEON

GET BACK IN THE GAME New Approaches and techniques can mean a world of difference for patients facing surgery for spinal conditions and injuries.

GEORGIOS VASTARDIS

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MD, PHD, SPINE SURGEON HEAD OF ENDOSCOPIC & MINIMALLY INVASIVE SPINE SURGERY CLINIC METROPOLITAN GENERAL, ATHENS, GREECE MAIL: GVASTARDIS@HOTMAIL.COM | WWW.ENDOSPINEHELLAS.GR Innovative endoscopic and minimally invasive surgical techniques provide solutions for spinal column conditions. Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) treats the whole spectrum of spinal conditions with modern, advanced techniques. They are implemented with small incisions of the skin (~1cm) and the use of micro-endoscopic techniques under visual magnification. This prevents bleeding and minimizes the destruction of adjoining tissues, achieving a great surgical result. It includes techniques such as: • Epidural, intrathecal infusion, the exclusion of the posterior joints (facet joints) and infusions to the sympathetic nerves. These techniques can treat chronic or acute spinal or leg pain caused by nerve roots under intraoperative fluoroscopy imaging and under local anesthesia. • Thermal or chemical reduction of the nucleus of the intervertebraldisc (discoplasty). • Endoscopic spine surgery for the pathologies of the intervertebral disc or for stenotic disorders of the spinal canal or the foramens. • Removal of the traumatic disc hernia as well as annuloplasty, which involves cauterization with radiofrequency or laser fibers of the disc annulus, in order to strengthen it or reduce the size of the fibrous ring, so as to minimize post-operative pain and complications. • Rhizotomy, which treats lower back pain caused by arthritis or inflammation of the posterior joints of the spine, cauterizing with radiofrequency or laser fibers the medial branch of the sensory nerves that are responsible for the perception of low back pain.

• Decompression of the spinal canal, relieving the pressure with fenestration, hemilaminectomy or laminoplasty of the spine, in cases such as central stenosis, meaning the narrowing of the spinal canal that provoke sciatica or a neurological deficit, reducing muscle strength. • Foraminoplasty, which is the decompression of the nervous structure in lateral foraminal stenosis, meaning stenosis of the canal from which the nerve route exits and can cause sciatica or neurological deficit, reducing muscle strength. Other spinal conditions, like wedge vertebral fractures of the spine, which are caused by some injuries or by an automaticmechanism due to strain of the spinal column and some related pathology, such as osteoporosis or other conditions, are treated with kyphoplasty, which involves the internal reduction and stabilization of the fractures percutaneously under fluoroscopy. In cases where it is necessary to perform a stabilization of the spine (spinal fusion), this can be performed through minimally invasive percutaneous techniques under fluoroscopy, O-arm assistance or under Robotic guidance. These techniques do not destroy the surrounding tissues. The surgical procedure, which is performed through small incisions, can be applied in almost all spinal conditions, which means the patient no longer needs to undergo classic open surgery, even if we have to treat Failed Back Surgery Syndrome or even deformities of the spine, such as scoliosis or kyphosis in children or adults. The patient can return home the same day, a few hours after surgery. Many of the above procedures can be performed under local anesthesia and will leave patients with minimal pain, enabling the patient to return to his or her usual activities as soon as possible.

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MEDICAL BRIEF

AESTHETIC MEDICINE

BIOREGENERATION AND BIOCOMPATIBILITY THE NEW ERA IN AESTHETIC MEDICINE “Beauty comes from within.” This is how our own biological systems can be activated in order to get the best out of us.

DR HARRIS VRETTOU

Aesthetic medicine is the science that uses non-invasive or minimally invasive medical procedures in order to improve the physical appearance and, consequently, the self-confidence of healthy people. Aesthetic medicine bridges the gap between beauty and health. A new exciting and rapidly advancing field in aesthetic medicine is regenerative medicine. Regenerative aesthetic medicine promotes soft tissue regeneration using stem cells and biological growth factors. A specific and highly standard Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment can be a concentrated source of growth factors that will activate the proliferation and the metabolism of the dermal and epidermal cells. Furthermore, PRP can be enriched with stem cells, which can differentiate into a variety of mature cells, according to each patient’s needs. As a result, the skin will have a more tightened and glowing appearance, with improved tone and elasticity and less discolouration, wrinkles and pores. This specific technique does not include any chemical additives, either so-called “activators” nor anticoagulants. This is due to the particular method that I use, which requires none of the above in the procedure. Hence, it’s called Biological Skin Regeneration, which can also be combined with any aesthetic

medicine treatment, enhancing their results. It has been confirmed that fatty tissue underlying the dermis decreases with time, contributing to the ageing process. This biomaterial can also be injected into the layers under the skin in order to increase tissue trophism. If, however, this is not quite enough to compensate for tissue atrophy and bone morphological changes, we may always consider the correct use of fillers. We have nowadays a fully biocompatible, non-allergenic, pure product called Agarose that can replace volume loss, reshape bone resorption and remodel the face in order to beautify and not change who we are. One of the latest discoveries in the world of aesthetic medicine, Agarose is a polysaccharide derived from an algae that is not chemically modified and as a result, integrates itself in human tissues without causing inflammation, long-term edema or other complications. Having been an aesthetic medicine practitioner for over a decade, I aim to use natural, biological, biocompatible and regenerative treatments, always putting safety first. Of course, efficiency in treatments is the next priority and I always strive to achieve the highest and most natural results, keeping abreast with the latest innovations in the field.

“I aim to use natural, biological, biocompatible and regenerative treatments in order to beautify and not change who we are.” SITE: WWW.MEDICALANTIAGING.GR | FACEBOOK: @HARRISVRETTOUMEDICALANTIAGING | EMAIL: HVRETTOU@MEDICALANTIAGING

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MD, MSC, SPECIALISED IN AESTHETIC MEDICINE AND INTERNATIONAL TRAINER


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