Hippocrates and the Four Humors

Balancing the four humors The Greeks and Romans viewed madness and sickness as an affliction from the gods. Greek physicians, most notably Hippocrates, believed these afflictions we from an imbalance of what he called the four humors. These included blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. In many cases many treatments prescribed to balance the humors could be considered precursors to psychotherapy. Hippocrates had his patients’ discuss their dreams to gain insight into their ailments.

From these discussions, he would then prescribe such things as rest and relaxation as well as a change of climate, scenery, or diet. Hippocrates believed that removing a mentally ill patient from a tumultuous family life could restore the patient’s mental health. . Most of these theories can be seen later on as suggestive cures for Freud’s patients even though Freud viewed the causes much differently. Physical ailments were treated with a much different approach when compared to mental health problems.

To balance the humors, physicians chose a variety of procedures many of which would be considered questionable by today’s standards. If a patient was thought to have an excess amount of blood, the physician would bleed the patient to remove the excess amount. When a patient was thought to have too much phlegm and was lethargic, physicians would prescribe a diet high on citrus fruits. Even today elderly patients who have chronic fatigue are given shots of vitamin B-12 which can be found in citrus fruits and chronically ill people are suggested to increase their vitamin C intake which also can be found in citrus fruits.

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