When Hypocrites said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” he could have been talking about the apple. In fact, the ancient Greeks and Romans prized several varieties of apples. The Egyptians were said to have developed dozens of varieties. And the Ayruvedic physicians of India prescribed it for diarrhea. Even in ancient China, doctors used the bark of the apple tree to treat diabetes. In medieval Germany and England, apples were taken daily as a general health tonic, which is probably where we get the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
The apple was not native to North America and was brought over by early settlers. Today, we have over 300 varieties developed for the North American climate, but back then the early Americans had only a few varieties they used for different ailments. Thanks to the pectin in the apple’s pulp, it can be used to soothe and coat the intestines and fight some bacteria that cause diarrhea, just as the Ayruvedic doctors in India supposed. Daily ingestion of apple has been shown in studies to prevent constipation. Eating apples may also help prevent high cholesterol, not only because of the pectin content, but also thanks to the antioxidants present.
One of the more interesting medical studies involving apples published in Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that pectin binds to and speeds in the elimination of cancer-causing toxins in the colon. Other studies have shown apples to be helpful in preventing cell damage, reducing blood sugar, eliminating toxic metals and slowing metastasizing of certain cancers. Because apples are on the “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables that are heavily sprayed with pesticides, it is best to find organic apples or at the very least wash your apples carefully to reduce exposure. Ingestion of apple seeds should always be avoided thanks to their high cyanide content.