"Under the Galenical system, the way to increase the power of a remedy was to add more and more plants that had the opposite action from the humor that was supposedly causing the illness. Thus, a remedy for someone ill with a fever or an excess of choler--that is, the warm-dry humor--would be a mixture of plants [regarded as]...cooling and moist in quality. No other characteristics of the illness or the remedies were as important as the fever. The medical alchemists rejected that logic and proposed instead that diseases were uniquely different and required specific remedies....Slowly the concept that each disease should be treated with a specific remedy was beginning to contradict the old notions....But the demise of the four Aristotelian elements for most chemists was not to come until later in the 17th century when Robert Boyle published *The Sceptical Chymist* in 1661 in which he argued convincingly that both Aristotle and Paracelsus were wrong." http://molinterv.aspetjournals.org/cgi/content/...
"The imbalance of humors, or dyscrasia, was thought to be the direct cause of all diseases. Health was associated with a balance of humors, or eucrasia. The qualities of the humors, 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 or dry, predominated and four more in which a combination of two, warm and moist, warm and dry, cold and dry or cold and moist, dominated. These last four, named for the humors 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."
Often in Pepys's Diary we find a popular treatment of humoral deficiency was to restore the equilibrium by depleting the other humours which would now be present in relative excess. Purges would result in diarrhoea and a depletion of black bile. Emetics would cause vomiting and reduce the yellow bile.... Blood letting of course would reduce the amount of the dominant humour.
The Four Humours
In Our Time - BBC Radio 4 podcast
Listen in pop-out player - 45 minutes
Melvyn Bragg and guests talk about blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm. These are the four humours, a theory of disease and health that is among the most influential ideas aver conceived. According to an 11th century Arabic book called the Almanac of Health, an old man went to the doctor complaining of a frigid complexion and stiffness in winter. The doctor, after examining his condition, prescribed a rooster. Being a hot and dry bird it was the perfect tonic for a cold and rheumatic old man. This is medicine by the four humours. The idea that the body is a concoction of these four essential juices is one of the oldest on record. From the Ancient Greeks to the 19th century it explained disease, psychology, habit and personality. When we describe people as being choleric, sanguine or melancholic we are still using the language of the humours today. It also explains why, in the long and convoluted history of medical practice, pigeon livers were an aphrodisiac, blood letting was a form of heroism (and best done in spring) and why you really could be frightened to death. The theory was dismantled from the 17th century but in its belief that the mind and body are intimately connected and that health requires equilibrium the humours retain an influence to this day. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b008h5dz
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.