Saturday, 3 October 2009

Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, Melancholic - Galen's Medicine, moods not personalities

The history of medicine is important because we need to know where we are. Just as a patient's medical history is fundamental to understanding their present medical condition, in order to understand medicine we need to know about its past.

Modern Medicine begins in the nineteenth century with the Germ theory.

This represents a dramatic break with Galen's theories of medicine and the four humours, Phlegmatic, Sanguine, Melancholic, and Choleric. A system that had been practiced across Europe for centuries. Modern medicine is not in the holistic tradition.

Further details can be found by clicking here which links to Melvyn Bragg's programme "In our time"

Melvyn Bragg's programme gives a brief history of medicine from the time of Hippocrates to the nineteenth century germ theory. Germ theory, started when bugs were first seen under the microscope. Germs were the start of Modern science when scientist show blood and lymph circulating the body, not "humours".

Yet the success of mechanical model of medicine meant that the holistic approach of Hippocrates and Galen was abandoned and has been replaced by modern specialisation and the individual study of organs.

Teach yourself Medicine is about assimilating what we have learnt in the last three centuries and re establishing our links with the past. And with the links to the past, come links to Eastern medicine as well as Chinese Medicine.

Galen connects to us through mood. He called moods humours - Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic. They are now interpreted as personality types. This makes the "History of Medicine" impossible to understand . How can a system of medicine exist that was based on changing peoples' personalities - it "does not compute"

If we are to make any sense of the past, the humours have to be seen as moods. Mood is how you feel. Physicians wanted to know how you felt and they made the diagnosis and interpreted it the context of your mood

For further information about Mood - go to and

The most useful post are
Matrix Psychology 1
Matrix Psychology 2

Too melancholic and your physician prescribed something lively; too lively and he prescribed something calming.

There are five keys to mood

1 - surroundings
2 - physical health
3 - relationships
4 - what you know and do
5 - who you are

These were what the physicians wanted to know about and the keys to your health still lie here in modern times

Galen's medicine was prescriptive and it was a health based approach. Teach yourself medicine seeks to bring that back to the forefront of medical science and use the modern technological approach as the "back end"

Galenic medicine was based on balance and it is that notion of balance that I want us to return to.

Copyright (c) Dr. Liz Miller

Amazon have sold out
- try Tesco's!! Click here for link
Find out more about moods!
Buy the book!

Copyright (c) Dr. Liz Miller

Find out more!
Buy the book!

No comments:

Post a Comment