Ancient Greek and Roman physicians adopted a system of medicine that originated in the belief that the body possessed four essential humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. They believed that illnesses and diseases were the results of imbalanced humors. According to the system, yellow bile caused anger, liver issues, and further humor imbalance. Black bile caused depression, liver trouble, and cancer. Physicians would use a variety of methods to balance the humors and cure their patients.
It is difficult for historians to find the actual origin of the humors. The concept of chemical systems regulating human behavior was prominent in the writing of Alcmaeon of Croton. He believed there were many humors and that they involved the elements as well. Some people believe the concept of humors is a derivation of Ancient Egyptian or Mesopotamian medicine. Historians typically credit Hippocrates with the creation of medicinal humors and the widespread belief in blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.
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