Since Hippocrates advised “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” we have defined medicines and foods based on what is known about each substance in terms of efficacy, safety and the significance of its perceived contribution to health.

Over time, we redefine these substances as our experience and expectations change.

The ancient Greeks, for example, viewed garlic as a performance-enhancing drug and officially sanctioned it for this use during the first Olympic games.

During the age of sailing ships, lemons were dispensed to sailors to prevent and treat scurvy. John Woodall, the father of naval hygiene and a Master in Chirurgerie, published The Surgeon’s Mate in 1636 in which he wrote, “The juyce of lemmons is a precious medicine … It is to be taken each morning two or three teaspoonfuls, and fast after it two hours.”

Modern functional foods became available in the 1920’s, when iodine was added to salt to prevent goiter. This was followed by vitamin D milk. Today, many Americans start their day with calcium-fortified orange juice (to strengthen their bones). Then, they spread a margarine that lowers cholesterol on folate-enriched toast (to protect their hearts and prevent birth defects).

Here is a chapter I wrote several years ago. It was intended for pharmacists, but is relevant to anyone interested in learning more about functional foods and nutraceuticals, and how food stores will evolve into “one-stop wellness centers” where consumers will go for basic wellness screening activities, nutritional counseling, and medication advice.

7/17/06 23:04 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.