humoral medicine

The theory of Humoral Medicine is a traditional medical theory based on the concept of "humors." The fundamental idea of Humoral Medicine is that a person's health and well-being depend on a balance of bodily fluids, known as the four humors.

  1. Blood (Sanguis): Blood was considered one of the primary humors, associated with warm and moist qualities. It was believed that a person affected by an excess of blood could be temperamental and passionate.

  2. Phlegm (Phlegma): Phlegm was regarded as cold and moist, associated with the lungs and respiratory system. An excess of phlegm in the body was associated with sluggishness, slow thinking, and a feeling of heaviness.

  3. Yellow Bile (Cholera or Chole): Yellow bile was considered hot and dry, associated with the digestive system. A person with an excess of yellow bile was seen as angry, irritable, and hot-headed.

  4. Black Bile (Melancholia): Black bile was seen as cold and dry, associated with the state of melancholy or depression. A person with an excess of black bile was considered sad, melancholic, and introverted.

The theory of Humoral Medicine originated in ancient Greece and was later developed by Roman, Arabic, and medieval European scholars. The famous Greek physician Hippocrates (around 460-370 BC) is often regarded as one of the pioneers of Humoral Medicine. He believed that a person's health depends on a balance of bodily fluids and that imbalances in these fluids could cause diseases.

The Humoral theory was further developed by other Greek physicians such as Galen (around 129-200 AD), who expanded on Hippocrates' ideas. Galen coined many of the terms later associated with Humoral Medicine, and his writings had a significant influence on medical practice in the Roman Empire and beyond.


During the Middle Ages, Humoral Medicine was further developed and refined in Europe. Arabic scholars such as Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Rhazes (Al-Razi) also contributed to the development and dissemination of the Humoral theory. These ideas were later adopted and interpreted by medieval European scholars such as Hildegard von Bingen and Paracelsus.


Until the Enlightenment, the Humoral theory remained a dominant medical theory in the Western world, gradually fading into the background with the discoveries of modern medicine and advances in scientific research. However, many elements of Humoral Medicine have survived to this day in various cultures and alternative healing systems, and the concept of a balanced body and mind remains an important part of many health philosophies.