The Four Primary Humours


An individual Temperament and their ideal qualities are maintained by what Traditional Persian Medicine (TPM) refers to as The Four Humours AkhlaatThese bodily fluids are Blood, Yellow Bile, Black Bile and Phlegm, and are produced during the liver’s digestion of the food and drink we consume. Our Humours are infused and interconnected to every organism in our body and are essential in:

  • Providing nutrition for the maintenance of the body’s complex structure by restoring tissues and organs.
  • Providing the energy required for every-day living.

Each Humour has its own qualities of heat, coldness, moistness and dryness, which exists both at a physical and metaphysical level. Just as each person has a unique Temperament, each person has a unique ratio of Humours and qualities to match their Temperament. For example, a person who is dominant sanguineous will have slightly more of the Sanguineous Humour to maintain the ideal heat and moisture associated with that Temperament.

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Whilst our Temperament is fixed, the overall qualitative state of the Humors are constantly in flux due to the influence of our environment, age, lifestyle choices, and seasonal change; particularly, the food & drinks we consume.

In a healthy person, each Humor is in correct proportion to each other, both in strength and quantity; mixes well with each other; and flows smoothly around the body. Pain and illness can occur when one or more of the Humors presents either a deficiency or an excess, or is separated in the body and not mixing with others. When our Humors are balanced and flowing in harmony, we tend to think and feel better.

The Four Humors with their corresponding organ, elements, seasons, sites of formation, and resulting Temperaments:

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From these basic characteristics, we can begin to understand the relationships between the Humors and our body, as well as their qualities and elements. We can also learn how closely intertwined our diet, the seasons, and our wellbeing are.

Our digestion and how we produce the four humors

There are three aspects of the way we metabolise food that produce the humors: digestion, assimilation and residue. Digestion refers to the initial breakdown of foods in the mouth and stomach. Assimilation refers to the absorption of micronutrients in the bloodstream and cells. The evacuation of residue implies the amount of waste products after the body metabolises the food.

The humors are produced as the food and drink we consume and chew transforms into innate heat, acting as our fuel and energy to function healthily. As we chew our food, the enzymes in our saliva and grinding from our teeth help to create a type of heat that helps to breakdown the nutrients. As we then swallow, the food enters the stomach where hydraulic acid (an intense heat) further breaks down the solids into something called ‘Chyme’ –  the essence of food. This fluid then travels to the liver where the finer parts are made into blood and the other valuable nutrient components are carried around the body giving us life.

Digestion means that our nourishment is changed inside our body by natural heat until it becomes a part of the body or is eliminated.

In Traditional Persian Medicine, the four main organs are:

  • Heart
  • Brain
  • Liver
  • Ovaries / Testicles
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Our Body and The  Four Primary Humors

Your mouth consumes food and drink