The Four Humors - Galenic System


Yesterday in class at Green Wisdom Herbal Studies, we were discussing the traditional systems of Galenic Humoural, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic along with covering other modalities and traditions. One of which was my first tradition of study in herbalism was learning and rooting in the Wise Woman (WOMBYN) Tradition. 


We also covered other modalities like the Doctrines of Signatures, flower essences and homeopathy. I personally vibe with the Wise Woman Tradition and the scientific side of Herbalism. Reflecting on Paul Bergner’s Four Directions Model, I vibrate more on Tradition, Science and Personal Experience side. Intuition, meh, I like to know more of the plant than let “intuition” be my guide. Intuition can lead to trouble. For example, if ones intuition tells them that they should work with a nightshade internally and they know NOTHING about the plant other than its beautiful and their intuition told them to work with it or the plant spirit calls to them, well the results will lead them to the dark side and never returning back. So for me, science is important. I will say that I do understand plant spirit and have connected with plants on a spiritual side I’ve had Elder talk to me, I’ve heard the faeries when I was sitting with Elder - Sambucus spp. So I get it. I also have had Sacred Datura - Datura wrightii call to me when I was in extreme pain with sciatica. But I also study the plants and make myself knowledgeable of the medicine and of the chemical constituents of the plant. 


The systems that I most resonated with was the Galenic Humoural System, having only touched the tip of the iceberg of this system I know I have more studies and I will find myself going down a rabbit hole just studying this system. I am so fascinated by how this approach can be applied to herbalism in studying the classification of types of people how working with plant allies will bring balance to a person that has an excess or is deficient along with nourishing foods, avoiding certain lifestyles that will contribute in the excess or deficiency

I see how these temperate types are connected to our physical health and well-being.  


The Four Humors. 

The Choleric Temperament

This person is a goal setting, go-getter, passionate, aggressive, having strict boundaries and quick tempered. They rest between the fire and earth element. 

In these types of folks it is common to see  excess dryness, heat, anger, aggression, they tend to have digestive problems, ulcers, headaches. Herbs that can help folks like this would be cooling, dispersing and moistening nervine herbs. Linden, Milky Oats, Oatstraw, fresh chickweed are just a few examples. Along with change of diet. Not eating foods with excess heat (spicy foods) salty, drying foods and foods high in fat. Think of cooling and nourishing foods. 

The Sanguine Temperament 

This type is the outgoing, social butterfly, always needing to be around others, never lacking friends or some social event. They seek stimulation, happy go lucky. They rest th between Air and Fire element. 

In these types of folks the tend to be scattered, disorganized and impulsive. They are prone to anxiety, they usually are hypochondriacs, they tend to tire themselves out, they feel drained. They respond to rooted vegetables, calming and grounding herbs. Herbs like burdock root, Ashwagandha, Oatstraw, Astragalus. Avoiding adding extra projects and events to your plate.

The Melancholic Temperament 

This type of folks tend to be introverted. They crave alone time, they are the ones that are reserved, withdrawn, home bodies. They have a tendency to be moody and intense. They rest between Earth and Water element. They tend to be cold (physically), depressed, stubborn, anxious. These folks could benefit from warming herbs and foods. Herbs that will help lift their spirits and help absorb the excess water so astringent herbs and foods would be their ally. Like Dandelion root and leaf, Hawthorn leaf, flowers and berries, Rose and Rose hips and borage the herb for courage! 

The Phlegmatic Temperament 

Folks with this humor will tend to be relaxed, slow moving, lazy, lacking boundaries , quiet, meek, avoiding conflicts. These folks tend to retain water, weight gain come easy for them. They are prone to having kidney and bladder issues and having a stagnant tissue state. They rest in between the elements of air and water and this explains the edema, bloating, mucous accumulation, poor circulation and the cold that they feel. 

Phlegmatic Humors respond to warming and drying foods and herbs to bring balance to the excess of water and cold that they tend to have. Warming foods and herbs like garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, onions, ginger, curries with heat would be ideal, dishes prepared with warming and astringent herbs would be allies. Avoiding anything that will enhance mucous buildup like dairy products or foods that will cause imflamtion like gluten. Herbs that will help establish boundaries would also be allies. Ocotillo, Palo Verde, Hawthorn, Rose are all allies that will help establish boundaries. 


I have worked with plants to help establish boundaries and some of the ones that were the greatest allies were the ones that had thorns on their stems. Now here is were some folks would call it “woowoo” but it’s on a spiritual side of plant spirit medicine. Looking at these plants and trees that have these thorns on their stems represent boundaries and protection. I sat with Ocotillo - Fouquieriaceae splendens after going through a difficult time last winter and she taught me to LOVE MYSELF, to allow my heart to feel open again and to establish and honor my boundaries.


I see how Ocotiollo which has been used as a living fence on peoples properties to detour stragglers and invaders, she is a thriving resilient tree like succulent with her stretched out thorned arms that exude the word BOUNDARIES. She also taught me about withdrawing and preserving my energy. After a good rain Ocotiollos stems that were once brown and dead looking come to life with green leaves and beautiful flowers that make a tasty tea and oxymel! So here observing the period of dormancy and then the period of exuberant beauty that is like a beacon has been such a wonderful teacher.  We can take lessons from the plants and the trees. They speak to us in magickal ways. The emotions and physical states that we have that ebb and flow will be nourished with the plants!  



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