Medical Tourism in Greece

by Stella Tsolakidou ,  The Greek Reporter | 2012-09-21

Medical tourism (also called medical travel, or health tourism) is not a new alternative therapeutic means. Patients have been on the move searching for medical care for thousands of years, while alternative forms of treatment combining natural sources and elements have begun regaining their glamour in modern times.

The first recorded instance of medical tourism dates back thousands of years to when Greek pilgrims traveled from all over the Mediterranean to the small territory in the Saronic Gulf called Epidauria. This territory was the sanctuary of the healing god Asklepios, and soon Epidauria became the original travel destination for medical tourism of the times.

Spa towns and sanitariums popped up in ancient Greece wherever there was hot water rising from the hollows of the earth. People deemed water as a holy means of treatment and paid tributes to the Greek gods Asclepios and Hygeia (meaning health.) Even before that time, in ancient Babylonia, healers and physicians always knew the properties of water and its possible uses.

In the 5th-Century B.C., the historian Herodotus became the first person to observe and describe spring waters in Greece. The Father of Medicine, Heppokrates of Kos, also recorded the healing properties observed when patients visited water springs. In 1500 B.C., ancient Greeks visited hot and cold water springs for hygiene reasons and soon created public spas in the cities, where patients suffering from various ailments could find treatment.

The most important hot spring of antiquity was located in Euboia and more specifically in Aedipsus (or Edipsus,) where more than 75 thermal springs allowed patients to swim in the healing waters. Both Plutarch and Aristotle wrote about Aedipsos, and archeological evidence suggests that it has been in use for at least 20,000 years.

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