Where did drinking hot water originate from?
Ancient practitioners of Chinese medicine advised their patients to start the day with a drink of hot water to aid the digestive system and this practice is still recommended in Chinese medicine to this day- but where did this belief originate from?
Firstly, it was a matter of practicality – in Ancient China, it was far harder to keep food and beverages cold than it was to keep them warm. It was so difficult to freeze food, that during the reign of the imperial family during the Zhou Dynasty, they employed a special team of servants to harvest ice during the winter months! As well, the substandard living standards most Chinese people were subjected to, meant that for many, staying warm was more important than cooling down – and drinking a hot beverage like water, which was relatively abundant and free, helped them feel more toasty.
Hot water’s starring role really took off after the Taiping Rebellion broke out in 1850 in eastern China, as this event caused 1.5 million refugees to flood into Shanghai and by May of 1861, a major cholera epidemic had erupted. The south remained relatively unaffected by the outbreak and though research eventually showed that the epidemic was actually spread by northbound mailboats, people at the time weren’t aware of this, so they attributed the South’s escape to the powers of hot water!
The practice of drinking hot water regularly isn’t just limited to the Chinese though, as it has also long been an Ayurvedic recommendation, particularly during the colder months, as it’s believed to keep the Vata and Kapha doshas in balance. Ayurvedic doctors recommend boiling water for ten minutes before consuming it, as this is believed to stimulate the agni, or digestive fire, and prevent the build up of ama, or toxins which slow down digestion.
Many people in the West still favour cold water over hot, but even we have some history with the heated beverage too – as far back as the time of King Richard III, in England, people were adding herbs and spices to water and boiling it, to make tonics to enhance their health!