Hippocrates and the Humoral Theory

The Greek physician Hippocrates, c.460-c.370 B.C., is referred to as the father of medicine. He is believed to have been born on the island of Cos, where he later taught, however little is known about him. The famed Hippocratic Collection probably contains only a few of his own works and may be the remains of the Hippocratic School at Cos.

Although Hippocrates accepted the belief that disease results from an imbalance of the four bodily humors (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile), he maintained that the humors were glandular secretions and that outside forces influenced the disturbance. He taught that medicine should build the patient's strength through diet and hygiene, resporting to more drastic treatment only when necessary. Hipcrates postulated that an imbalance among the humors resulted in pain and disease, and that good health was achieved through a balance of the four humors.

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    Peter L. Heineman
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