Katelyn Harding The Four Humors’ Influence on the Modern Day World The Four Humours created a new way of thinking in the field of medicine during the Middle Ages. This way of thinking is originally accredited to the great philosopher Hippocrates, though it has been changed slightly when it was revived in Europe (Siraisi 2). This popular belief took Europe by storm; in a small period of time it was the new way for providing remedies for ailments.

The theory of medicine advanced from the basis of spirituality and the practice of magic into concrete theories that are connected to scientific methods due to the belief and practice of the Four Humours. This is illustrated through the transformation to the belief of the Four Humours, the evolution of the theories, and the legacy of the four Humours. The four Humours each represent different qualities and “problems” found within people. The four Humours names are sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic.

The basic theory is that one’s body contains all of these four elements (Strathern 34). When they are balanced, one is considered healthy. But if one has too much of a single Humor, he/she will have undesired personality traits. They are each connected with a pair of different temperatures; hot, dry, cold, and moist. Sanguine is hot and moist, choleric is hot and dry, melancholic is cold and dry, and phlegmatic is cold and moist (Strathern 35). When bad personality traits occur, it will be connected with an excessive amount of a Humour.

Also, different sicknesses were related to having too much of a specific Humour. The symptoms of the sicknesses were blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm respectively. This was treated by herbal remedy that would use substance with the opposite temperature. There were also different procedures for the evening out of the bile’s. The Four Humours were related to the four natural elements of the world; earth, water, fire, and air. Sanguine was related to air, choleric to fire, melancholic to earth, and phlegmatic to water.

As the Humours became common and popular, medicine advanced (Kazley). Through the Four Humours, remedies for illnesses and diseases transformed and became concrete and logical. Before the Four Humours, common medicine would be different herbal treatments or spells that nobody knew the exact reason for the ingredients; it had just been passed down from previous generations or passed down by “witches” (Siraisi 2). The Four Humours set a new standard in logic for medicine; people could now understand their treatments better then ever before.

This showed that civilization was still becoming more advanced. Also, medicine was advancing because it now had a concrete explanation. Medicine became similar all over Europe instead of erratic and inconsistent as medicine was previously. In time, the ideas and ways that the four Humours were used in the Middle Ages were not fully accurate, it helped set a basis for medicine to become logical and concrete (Rowling 180). The Four Humours advanced through the ages and were successfully adapted by different doctors. The Four Humours originated in about 400 B.

C. E. by Hippocrates the theory was used until it was discredited in the mid 20th century. In Hippocrates doctrine, Humouralism, the Humours were presented as medical issues that are solved by remedies . The basis of the Four Humours originated from this writing. Then Galen (131-201 C. E. ), kept the Humours popular through his very influential writings. His thought on the theory was that the Humours were not merely in the body, but actually made the body. Galen also believed it was the food one ingested that would cause an excessive amount of a Humour.

In his writing “On the Temperaments” Galen identified each Humour with a different temperature (Siraisi 1-2). The Humours also experienced further advancement through Avicenna in Islamic medicine (980-1037 C. E). In Avicenna’s writing “The Canon of Medicine” he introduced a commonly used table to illustrate the relation of Humours to temperature, emotions, and behaviors. The Humoural method was used in all of the Middle Ages, and in the Renaissance was barely changed but still used. It was discredited when different scientists and doctors came out with legitimate experiments refuting the theory.

For thousands of years, the Four Humours evolved and helped advance medicine (Siraisi 4). Without the Four Humours, many vital procedures found in modern day medicine would not exist. A procedure commonly used was blood letting, which could help even out Humours. Blood letting is still used today to treat specific conditions such as hemochromatosis, which is a disorder where iron pigments effect your metabolism this can cause diabetes and heart disease if it is not treated (Webster Dictionary). Medical language that originates from the four Humours is still used today.

Dyscrasia which is what was the official medical term that was used to describe the unbalance of the Humours is now used to refer to any blood disease. (von Gersdorff) The Four Humours helped keep people healthy through procedures used to treat an excessive amount of a particular Humour. Over the years the Four Humours transformed the way doctors thought of medicine, which in the end help keep the importance of medicine alive. As society and technology advances, more scientific ways of thinking are invented. This is shown through the Four Humours.

The theory of medicine advanced from the basis of spirituality and the practice of magic into concrete theories, whose remnants can still be found, that are connected to scientific methods due to the belief and practice of the Four Humours. Without the Humours medicine would not be in an as advanced state as it is today. When the transformation from magic turned to scientific, medicine became more practical. Through its legend, the Four Humours still remain a key ingredient for evolution of modern day medicine.


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