PREVENTION is better than CURE! ~ Desiderius Erasmus
In my previous post about “Our Body Machine”, I shared how the “Iranian Traditional Medicine” has helped me, my family and millions of other people in understanding our body type and being able to use the healing power of everyday food, natural herbs and vegetables to balance our body and avoid unnecessary illnesses, pains and aches.
I hope you can use the information in these few posts to identify your body type and be able to adjust your daily diet and lifestyle accordingly in order to stay healthy.
The words in (parentheses) are the Farsi words for my Persian friends.
Iranian traditional medicine is based on the concept of four humours (Khelt), four elements (Onsor), four temperaments (Mizaj) and four “natures” or “qualities” (Tab’) as a healing method. This method was developed by ancient Persian physicians and philosophers Rhazes and Hakim Ibn Sena (Known as Avicenna in the west) and Greek physician Hippocrates and Roman physician Galen. Avicenna authored a five volume medical encyclopedia called The Canon of Medicine in 1025. It was used as the standard medical textbook in the Islamic world and Europe up to the 18th century. This comprehensive encyclopedia is still being used as the basis of Unani (Yunani) medicine; a form of traditional medicine practiced in India to this day.
Each person’s unique mixture of the humours and their elements determines his/her Mizaj (temperament). People with different temperaments have certain behavioral and physical characteristics therefore it is very easy to determine everyone’s temperament or body type (Mizaj), the cause of their illnesses and the natural remedy for their health issues. In this medicine, it is believed that everyone is born with a certain temperament (Mizaj) which will stay with him/her throughout life. Therefore knowing one’s temperament and body type is essential in order to stay healthy.
Like Ayurveda and Unani medicine, Iranian traditional medicine believes that “food is medicine” and it also believes that “every disease starts in the gut.” So by knowing our temperament and adjusting our diet accordingly, we can balance our body’s humours and elements and gain our health back.
This form of medicine is very similar to Ayurveda. Ayurveda has 5 elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth…And it has three doshas: Pitta, Vata and Kapha.
The 4’s of Iranian Traditional Medicine:
The 4 humors are: Blood (Dam), Phlegm (Balgham), Yellow bile (Safrā’) and Black bile (Saudā’)
Blood (Dam) is one of the most important body fluids. Blood is responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients to cells, gathering metabolic waste products such as carbon dioxide away from cells and dumping them into the lymphatic system. It also transports infection-fighting white blood cells, glucose, hormones and other essential substances throughout the body.
Phlegm (Balgham) is the lymphatic system or the mucus (lymph). It originates as plasma (the fluid portion of blood). It is a colorless fluid (similar to egg-white or a very light yellowish color) that travels throughout the body in vessels alongside the arteries and veins. The heart pumps the blood throughout the body but there is no pump to move the lymph (Phlegm) around. Lymph moves by stimulation through movement and exercise, also by the electro-magnetic energy system of the body.
The lymph guides the waste products (that is gathered and dumped by blood) to the “exit doors” for toxins, which are the liver, colon, lungs, skin, bladder and kidneys to be eliminated from the body. Approximately 90% of this tissue fluid flows into the small veins. Here it enters the venous circulation as plasma and continues in the circulatory system. The remaining 10% of the fluid that is left behind is known as lymph or Phlegm (Balgham).
Based on this article on National Institute of Health, it is only in recent years (2015) that modern western scientists have discovered lymphatic vessels in the brain. However, in Iranian traditional medicine the “brain” has been the most important lymphatic body part associated with the Phlegm humour. (See picture above).
Yellow bile (Safrā’) is a digestive juice produced by the liver and it helps the body absorb fat into the bloodstream. This fluid ultimately accumulates in the gallbladder.
Black bile (Saudā’) is the blood sediment or aged blood cells that have a dark or black color and it ends up accumulating in the spleen.
(In my research on this topic I noticed that there is a bit of a confusion on what exactly the “Black bile” is. What I gathered from all my resources, it seems like creation of Black Bile is a natural process that happens in the body. It is just the rate and the speed of this sedimentation that can cause health issues. The Mayo clinic has an article about a blood test that can identify this rate. This test is called Sed Rate, or erythrocyte sedimentation rate ( ESR ) and it can reveal inflammatory activity in your body.)
The 4 elements are: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
It was around 450 BC, that the Greek Philosopher Empedocles wrote that the world and everything in it (including human body, our organs and bodily fluids) is comprised of these four elements. These are not quite the elements in the modern definition. What this means is that everything is made of these fundamental elements and that’s what gives everything their physical properties…even our bodily fluids are comprised of these elements in a certain ratio (different in each person) and the balance between these elements lead to health and their imbalance causes illnesses.
The 4 temperaments (body and personality types) are:
“melancholic“ (Saudaviy): A person with a predominance of “black bile”
“sanguine” (Damaviy): a predominance of “blood”
“phlegmatic“ (Balghamiy): a predominance of “phlegm”
“choleric“ (Safraviy): a predominance of “yellow bile”, also called “bilious”
In my next blog post, I have expanded on the physical and psychological differenced between the 4 temperaments.
Each of us posses these 4 temperaments in different ratios and degrees and it is the dominance of one temperament over the other 3 that shapes our physical and psychological type.
A Ballet performance was choreographed in 1940 called “The 4 Temperaments” and is being performed now by the New York City Ballet. This amazing performance references the medieval concept of temperaments through its classic and modern movements.
Also, Nielsen’s Symphony #2, called “The 4 Temperaments“ makes it so easy to visualize the different temperaments through the music.
The 4 qualities or nature (Tab’) are: “hot”, “cold”, “wet” and “dry”.
Each and every one of us, every organ in our body, our 4 humours, every fruit and vegetable and the food we eat has one of these qualities and sometimes a combination of several of these qualities in a certain ratio.
By knowing our body’s quality, we can easily identify food that is good for us or those that we should avoid.
Read my next blog for more details on this topic.
“15 days to health” book in Farsi, Second Edition, Author: Jamshid Khodadadi pages 111-118
http://www.tandorostan.org/introduction on Humours
It sure is…Our ancestors knew our body and respected it a lot more than we do nowadays.
I really appreciate all the great post. I love how much work and research you put into writing your blogs.
This is so interesting. Ancient and traditional medicine is truly amazing as it gets deep to the root cause of the issue. I know ayurveda has different body types too and this is very similar. It all starts with getting to know our body. Thank you for sharing this great info.
Together with every thing that appears to be building within this particular area, your opinions are actually quite stimulating. I did take pleasure in examining it.
Thanks for sharing..
I am glad this brought back memories for you. You are absolutely right! The power of the traditional medicine is yet to be fully understood and utilized.
When I think about my childhood years in Iran I often reminisce on older aunts and uncles suggesting judicious advice in traditional medicine. The 4 elements, temperaments, and qualities or nature resonate loosely in my mind. With the advent of modern medicine, however, this knowledge was abandoned to oblivion. Like unearthing an ancient treasure, this article is full of wisdom yet to be completely understood and utilized.