In the Greek world, Hippocrates helped solidify thinking about the importance of vital bodily fluids, described and categorized in the theory of the four humors
. In healthy people, the four humors
(each a distinct type of bodily fluid) were thought to be in balance.
Depression dates back to the Age of the Pericles when Hippocrates attributed depression to an imbalance of the body's four humors
. He recommended balancing the body's systems with the help of healthy living strategies and relaxation, including blood-letting and leeches.
Chapters 1 and 2 outline the enigmatic difficulties that plague presented to Renaissance medicine founded on the interaction among the four humors
. If disease, for the Renaissance, meant an imbalance within the individual body's humoral makeup, then sickness ought to strike isolated individuals and not be transferable.
As it portrayed sex, this culture looked back deep into the European past to the medical perception of the body as governed by the four humors
, with heat and blood as the source of sexual desire.
It is a little difficult to know who is the right audience for this book, which is elementary in some regards (laying out the theory of the four humors
, defining "norm"), and advanced in others (quoting Middle English without translation, including thorns and yoghs).
Here he combines his "modern" anatomic theories with the ancient theory of the four humors
, mentioned previously.
He also believed that one cause of disease was the imbalance of the four humors
or fluids in the body (namely blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile).
For the past two decades, ever since Gail Kern Paster's landmark study The Body Embarrassed (Cornell, 1993), scholars have extensively researched how Galenic medical theory, with its emphasis on the fluctuation and balance of the four humors
, shaped early modern notions of the body, affect, emotions, and environment.
Do the four elements "correspond to the four humors
of the Galenic body" (21)?
Thus, this medical treatise blends traditional Greco-Roman physio-pathological knowledge based on the humoral system and the so-called six "non-natural things" (air--environment, food--drink, sleep--wakeful-ness, motion--rest, evacuation--repletion, and passions of the mind, considered able to alter the balance of the qualities and the four humors
) with magical and occult practices, with religious procedures based on the therapeutic benefits of the Quran, and with local healthcare customs.
They then concentrate on practice, including discerning when the four humors
became fundamental to medieval Islamic medical practice, complexion and experiment, tibb in India, Mesoamerican heat and cold in diet and health, balance in East Africa, anger in Chinese medicine, the golden rule of Ayurveda, Tibetan healing practices, and the medical-moral nexus of moderation.
The scientific debunking of false beliefs is as relevant today as it was when skeptics took a good look at bloodletting, alchemy, and the balancing of the four humors
in the pursuit of good health.