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Science and Health

(without key to the scriptures)

Everything in the world is composed of four elements:
    Earth, Air, Fire and Water

In the human body, the humours are the natural bodily fluids. They correspond to the elements and have various qualities: cold, dry, hot, and moist.

The nature or complexion of anything is a combination of two of these humourous qualities.

Here is a simple chart of the relationships of the humours and elements. Most people are aware of this chart to some degree. (Hypochondriacs have it memorized.)
Element Humour Quality Nature
Fire Choler (yellow bile) hot and dry Choleric (angry, temperamental)
Air Blood hot and moist Sanguine (jolly, lusty)
Water Phlegm cold and moist Phlegmatic (sluggish, slow)
Earth Melancholy (black bile) cold and dry Melancholic (sad, lovesick)

When the humours are all in balance in a person, he or she is completely healthy. If they get out of balance, illness results.

Doctors bleed their patients to restore this balance, because blood is considered to have pre-eminence over the other humours.

Bleeding is performed with a lancet and a bowl, not with leeches (ick). In fact, leeching is a separate type of operation.

Blood is usually drawn from the arm or the foot.

Someone with a natural abundance of choler is said to be choleric, or naturally angry and quick-tempered. (Does that mean you could call them 'pissy'?)

Black bile is considered to be the foam off the top of the blood. Whatever that is.

Andrew Boorde's Breviary of Health is a popular text around many households for advice on staying healthy.

There is nothing that doth comfort the heart so much beside God as honest mirth and good company. And wine moderately taken doth comfort the heart, and good bread doth confirm and steady a man's heart. And all good and temperate drinks the which doth engender good blood doth comfort the heart. All manner of cordials and restoratives and all sweet and soothing things do comfort the heart, and so doth nutmeg and ginger and poached eggs not hard, their yolks a cordial… But above all things, mirth is best to bedward.
      — A Breviary of Health, 1547

The liver, not the heart, is considered the source of the emotions, although the heart is the source of love.

The stomach is the seat of courage.

The spleen is the source of anger.

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26 March 2008 mps