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Galenic Medicine and Good Diet

6hoh Four Humors Illustration
An illustration from  the Quinta Essentia, written by Leonhart Thurneisser zum Thurn, of the four humors in Galenic Medicine and their associated elements.

Cogan discusses diet and food, relating their benefits and risks, as well as putting them into the context of the four humors. Scholars considered the humors to have a strong determination on a person’s well-being. A person’s humoral balance was thought to be affected by their gender, age, class, and regional location [1]. These attributes would factor into a person’s diet, as food was the main method of adjusting the humoral balance. The elderly were thought to possess a naturally cold and dry temperament, while women dealing with their monthly menstruation were considered to be more humorally hot and wet. Southern Europeans were considered to be more inclined to a hot temperament, and even Cogan ascertains that the English possess a colder and wetter balance. A cold and wet inclination allowed for the English to more readily ingest honey, which was consider inflammatory to the body and risked choleric [2].

Galenic Medicine included digestion as a form of cooking, where the internal body heat assisted in turning the food into blood. The blood would then travel to the other organs, bringing nourishment [3]. Cooking food before ingestion was thought to aid in digestion, and certain methods of cooking were thought to also have an influence on the humors. Boiling was meant to counter act dry foods, frying or roasting foods to lessen wetness, and so on, in hopes of adjusting the humoral temperament of the food before ingestion. This would hopefully help the body absorb it.


 [1] M. Smith, review of Food and Health in Early Modern Europe: Diet, Medicine and Society, 1450–1800, by David Gentilcore, (London: Bloomsbury, 2016),  Medical History 60, no. 4 (2016): 574–76, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5058394/, (accessed November 7, 2017).
[2] Cogan, Haven of Health, USU SCA, 128. 
[3] Rachel Laudan, "Birth of the Modern Diet." Scientific American Special Edition vol. 16, no. 4 (2006), 4-11, http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=221cd652-91f7-4b42-b3c9-e53d5d48bd5c%40sessionmgr4010&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=23628198&db=hxh (accessed November 7, 2017).