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Revision guide to the impact of the Theory of the Four Humours on medicine

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    1. Revision guide to the impact of the Theory of the Four Humours on medicine

    2. Instructions Read and take brief revision notes on the following slides. At the end are some questions to test yourself

    3. What was the Theory of the Four Humours? The four humour theory was based on the idea that the body was composed of four fluids or humours of blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. When these humours were out of balance the patient would be unwell. The theory was also linked to the four elements and the four seasons.

    4. Which individuals were involved in the early years? Greeks were great philosophers and the following people made these suggestions: Anaximander said all things were made up of the four elements: earth, fire, air and water. Pythagoras said a healthy body is one in perfect balance. Alcmaeon said an imbalance of hot, cold, wet or dry elements is a sign of ill health

    5. Importance of Hippocrates (460 BC) Hippocrates wanted doctors to observe patients and the progress of their illness. He firmly rejected magical causes and cures. He noted symptoms and tried to predict patterns of illness He talked about the body being made up of different elements and the need for the elements to be in balance in a healthy person.

    7. Importance of Aristotle (384-322 BC) Aristotle used ideas of other Greek philosophers and produced a clear statement and theory about cause and treatment of disease. Suggested the body was made up of four liquids or humours blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. These were linked to the seasons and elements.

    9. Why was the Four Humour theory so important? It was important because it was the first widespread natural explanation for disease and so can be seen as a turning point in the history of medicine. It lead the way for natural cures and treatments It also led to examination of lifestyle and a healthy environment

    10. Were there any other beliefs at this time? Supernatural ideas co-existed with the Theory of the Four Humours. There was still a belief in gods with Asklepios as the god of healing. Many people still used temple medicine by visiting Asklepions. They would bathe, make a gift to the gods and rest they believed they would be cured by Asklepios who visited at night.

    11. Claudius Galen and beliefs on the Four Humours He followed close observation like Hippocrates. He believed in the theory of the four humours. He developed treatments based on the theory of opposites (which linked to the humours) e.g prescribing pepper for a cold. He had great influence over Arab and Christian doctors in the Middle Ages due to his belief of only one God therefore the humours and opposites theories were long lasting.

    12. Four Humours under the Romans Romans had conquered the Greeks so they had low social status. Doctors tended to be Greeks so were not well thought of. Romans thought they could not trust Greek doctors they were out to make money. At first the Romans adopted the cult of Asklepios and turned away from the humours theory. Thanks to the influence of Galen in Rome (as Emperor Marcus Aurelius doctor) the four humours theory became accepted. His scientific approach to treating disease became well known.

    13. Humours in the middle ages After the collapse of the Roman Empire much medical knowledge was lost as warring tribes took over. Beliefs were now dominated by superstition and they lacked the scientific and technical know how of the Romans. Thanks to the conquest of Asia Minor, North Africa and Spain by Arab Muslims the Greek and Roman written ideas were preserved and developed further.

    14. Impact of Islam on the Theory Arab doctors like Rhazes taught the importance of Hippocrates observation They preserved and translated Greek books and wrote ideas themselves A doctor called Avicenna stressed that medicine was a science and wrote about the 4 humours. His book called The Canon of Medicine spread these ideas in Western Europe in the 12th century. Avicenna also used the four humours and wrote a book called the Canon of medicine which became a standard book in the middle ages and spread these ideas further

    15. How the Catholic Church helped the four humour theory The Christian Church preserved some of the medical works of Greeks and Romans (in libraries and monasteries) They adopted the ideas of Galen he believed in one creator which made him acceptable to the Church However the Church still emphasised the main treatment for illness was prayer to God as illness was due to punishment sent by God or was the work of the Devil.

    16. Effects of the Renaissance

    17. How the four humour theory hindered medicine The Theory was wrong about the cause of disease therefore the cures were not always right Acceptance that it was right meant other ideas were not followed Did not look beyond the Theory for cures Catholic Church ban on asking questions about the Theory or testing it may have slowed progress

    18. What do you know? Look behind the picture board and answer the question. Answer the question and then click on the answer and check. Click home to take you back to this board.

    19. Picture 1

    20. Picture 2

    21. Picture 3

    22. Picture 4

    23. Picture 5

    24. Picture 6

    25. Answer to Blood (picture 1) Blood If you had too much blood you might have a nose bleed or dysentery. It was connected to spring and was moist and warm. The main treatment to remove excess blood was to use bleeding techniques using leeches, cutting veins or cupping.

    26. Answer for Hippocrates (picture 2) Hippocrates was Greek (born in Kos) Famous for Hippocratic Oath, observation of disease and noting symptoms, promoting exercise and health and many others. He talked about the body being made up of different elements and the need for the elements to be in balance in a healthy person.

    27. Galen: Answer for picture 3 Claudius Galen Galen continued to be important in medicine for approximately 1500 years despite getting many theories wrong. He appealed to Islam and Christianity as they believed in one god like him. His theories fitted with their beliefs.

    28. Charles II (picture 4) Charles II (king of England from 1660-1685) Charles was bled from veins and cupping to the shoulders. He was also given emetics to drain away his humours plus an enema and more purgatives. He was also given blistering agents. This all happened over 4 days.

    29. Answer 5 Claudius Galen would have used this as he used the Four humour theory and developed the theory of opposites. We see examples here such as yellow bile needing cool moist plants like rhubarb to counteract the hot and dry symptoms.

    30. Asklepios (picture 6) This is Asklepios Greek god of healing It shows supernatural beliefs. Greeks and Romans used Asklepion (temple healing) and believed that the god or his daughters would visit and heal the patient. It does not mean that natural theories were not important. These beliefs co-existed and some people might try both.