Hippocrates (460-370 BCE) devised a theory about bodily health. This was that good health depended on a balance of the humours (bodily fluids) and disease occurred when the humours were unbalanced. The theory described a systematic and rational approach based on the balance between the bodily fluids which were named the Four Humours: blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. If the patient had too much of one or other of these the fluids became unbalanced and disease resulted. Different diseases were connected to each type of fluid. Black bile was an indication of a melancholy, a fever indicated a problem with the blood, diarrhoea was connected to yellow bile and phlegm was an indication of catarrh. Humoural imbalance was affected by the seasons, weather, food, drink, work and emotion.
Treatment to rebalance the humours was directed at removing the fluids by drugs which caused vomiting, purging, urine production or by bloodletting. Foodstuffs or medicines were used to fight disease. For example phlegm was considered to be cold and wet so hot and dry foods were prescribed. If the patient had a fever then cooling foodstuffs such as cool drinks, lettuce and cucumber were prescribed.
These ideas were taken up into Islamic culture between the eighth and eleventh century CE through the translation of the Greek texts written by Hippocrates and other eminent practitioners in the Hellenistic world. With the rise of Islam Muslim scholars wanted to apply medical ideas to theological debates. On a practical and political level, because of the new relationship between the new Islamic dynasty and the Hellenistic world Islamic scholars and practitioners had access to libraries contained manuscripts from which they acquired new medical knowledge. There may also have been kudos amongst the social elite and the rulers whose wealth funded the translations.
Translation of Greek texts was complicated. Complete texts were rare and contained words for...
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