FACTOID # 1: Idaho produces more milk than Iowa, Indiana and Illinois combined.
 Home   Encyclopedia   Statistics   States A-Z   Flags   Maps   FAQ   About 


FACTS & STATISTICS    Advanced view

Search encyclopedia, statistics and forums:



(* = Graphable)



Encyclopedia > The four humours

The four humours were four fluids that were thought to permeate the body and influence its health. The concept was developed by ancient Greek thinkers around 400 BC and was directly linked with another popular theory of the four elements (Empedocles). Paired qualities were associated with each humour and its season. The four humours, their corresponding elements, seasons and sites of formation, and resulting temperaments alongside their modern equivalents are:

c. 400 B.C. Hippocrates's four humours blood phlegm yellow bile black bile
Season: spring winter summer autumn
Element: air water fire earth
Organ: liver brain/lungs gall bladder spleen
Qualities: warm & moist cold & moist warm & dry cold & dry
Characteristics: courageous, hopeful, amorous calm, unemotional easily angered, bad tempered despondent, sleepless, irritable
c. 325 B.C. Aristotle's four sources of happiness hedone (sensuous pleasure) propraitari (acquiring assets) ethikos (moral virtue) dialogike (logical investigation)
c. 190 A.D.' Galen's four temperaments sanguine phlegmatic choleric melancholic
c. 1550 Paracelsus's four totem spirits changeable salamanders industrius gnomes inspired nymphs curious sylphs
c. 1905 Adicke's four world views innovative traditional doctrinaire skeptical
c. 1914 Spränger's four value attitudes artistic economic religious theoretic
c. 1920 Kretchmer's four character styles hypomanic depressive hyperesthetic anesthetic
c. 1947 Erich Fromm's four orientations exploitative hoarding receptive marketing
c. 1958 Myers's cognitive function types SP - sensory perception SJ - sensory judgement NF - intuitive feeling NT - intuitive thinking
c. 1978 Keirsey's four temperaments artisan guardian idealist rational
Keirsey, David (1978). Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Prometheus Nemesis Book Co Inc; 1st ed edition (May 1, 1998). ISBN 1885705026.

It is believed that Hippocrates was the one who applied this idea to medicine. "Humoralism" or the doctrine of the Four Temperaments as a medical theory retained its popularity for centuries largely through the influence of the writings of Galen (131201 CE) and was decisively displaced only in 1858 by Rudolf Virchow's newly-published theories of cellular pathology. While Galen thought that humours were formed in the body, rather than ingested, he believed that different foods had varying potential to be acted upon by the body to produce different humours. Warm foods, for example, tended to produce yellow bile, while cold foods tended to produce phlegm. Seasons of the year, periods of life, geographic regions and occupations also influenced the nature of the humours formed.

The imbalance of humours, or "dyscrasia", was thought to be the direct cause of all diseases. Health was associated with a balance of humours, or eucrasia. The qualities of the humours, in turn, influenced the nature of the diseases they caused. Yellow bile caused warm diseases and phlegm caused cold diseases.

In On the Temperaments Galen further emphasized the importance of the qualities. An ideal temperament involved a balanced mixture of the four qualities. Galen identified four temperaments in which one of the qualities, warm, cold, moist and dry, predominated and four more in which a combination of two, warm and moist, warm and dry, cold and dry and cold and moist, dominated. These last four, named for the humours with which they were associated—that is, sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic, eventually became better known than the others. While the term "temperament" came to refer just to psychological dispositions, Galen used it to refer to bodily dispositions, which determined a person's susceptibility to particular diseases as well as behavioral and emotional inclinations.

Methods of treatment like blood letting, emetics and purges were aimed at expelling a harmful surplus of a humour. They were still in the mainstream of American medicine after the Civil War.

There are still remnants of the theory of the four humours in the current medical language. For example, we refer to humoral immunity or humoral regulation to mean substances like hormones and antibodies that are circulated throughout the body, or use the term blood dyscrasia to refer to any blood disease or abnormality.

The theory was a modest advance over the previous views on human health that tried to explain in terms of the divine. Since then practitioners have started to look for natural causes of disease and to provide natural treatments.

The Unani school of Indian medicine, still apparently practiced in India, is very similar to Galenic medicine in its emphasis on the four humors, and in treatments based on controlling intake, general environment, and the use of purging as a way of relieving humoral imbalances.

See also

  Results from FactBites:
Herbs in ancient civilizations: Lessons in history and philosophy (1984 words)
By contrast, the sanguine humour was seen to be weakest at the autumnal equinox, corresponding to the coldness and dryness of the autumn.
By contrast the choleric humour was seen to be weakest at the winter solstice, corresponding to the coldness and moisture of the winter.
By contrast the melancholic humour was seen to be weakest at the vernal equinox, corresponding to the heat and moisture of the spring.
Medieval Women - Scriptorium: Bartholomaeus Anglicus (4150 words)
There are four elements and four qualities which compose the matter of each body, especially the human body, the noblest of all; the human body is the most nobly composed and organized, in that it is the instrument of the reasonable soul, and devoted to all its works.
Humour is the first and principal material origin of sensible bodies, which helps their functioning, because of the nourishment that it provides for them.
These four humours are engendered in the following way: when the body has ingested food, and has "put it in its kitchen", that is the stomach, the subtler part of this food is brought into the liver through the veins; there it is transformed in four humours by the power of natural heat.
  More results at FactBites »



Share your thoughts, questions and commentary here
Your name
Your comments

Want to know more?
Search encyclopedia, statistics and forums:


Press Releases |  Feeds | Contact
The Wikipedia article included on this page is licensed under the GFDL.
Images may be subject to relevant owners' copyright.
All other elements are (c) copyright NationMaster.com 2003-5. All Rights Reserved.
Usage implies agreement with terms, 1022, m