Saturday, January 31, 2009

Student Question: Questions about the Temperaments

The following questions on the "Temperaments and Typology" unit were submitted by a student last week. They are VERY GOOD questions so I wanted to share them (and the answers) with you all. The questions are in black. My answers are in blue.

1.In your introduction to Unit 3:
You state that different societies had different humors and then you say that for Ayurveda there is just 3 elements. However, in the online link about unani tibb, they have a chart comparing the humors in different traditional healing methods and they list Ayurveda as using five elements just as TCM has 5 elements. I found another good article online which also states that Ayurveda includes 5 elements/humors and not 3. Yet I have read many times in the past about the 3 doshas. I am confused. Does Ayurveda use 5 elements like the online articles say or do they only use 3.

It is confusing because, you are right, Ayurveda recognizes five humors, but it does not use them in the same way Greek medicine or Unani Tibb does. It is misleading to put them on a chart in comparison. If you look into depth at Ayruveda they actually have more than 3 - but do not limit diagnosis to 5. Here is a summary of how they view the systems:

Panchamahabhuta or five basic elements:

The basic material constituents which exist in the universe and in man are called the Pancha-mahabhuta or five basic elements of Prithivi (Earth), Jala (Water), Teja (Fire), Vayu (Air), and, Akash (Ether). However these are not used in the same way Greek or Islamic medicine uses them. In Greek or The Medicine of Avicenna these are considered as the main forces for disease and healing. In Ayurveda these are viewed a bit differently and the divisions are different. Ayurveda does not view the body as "five elements" of disease and healing - but rather of seven basic tissues and three basic elements - that can then be further divided into 35 total elements of disease and healing. These are:


The human body consists of seven basic and vital tissues called Dhatus. Dhatu means “constructing elements”. These seven are responsible for the entire structure of the body. They maintain the functions of the different organs, system and vital parts of the body. They play an important role in the development, nourishment and even protection of the body. Dhatus are the resultant materials of the functions of the three Humors. They are:

1. Rasa dhatu: predominates the “Jala (water) “Mahabhuta. Function: Prinana(Nurishment)
2. Rakta dhatu: predominates the “Tej (Fire)” Mahabhuta. Function: Jevana(Invigoration)
3. Mamsa dhuta: predominates the “Prithivi (Ether)” mahabhuta. Function: Lepana(holds skeleton)
4. Meda dhatu: predominates the “Jala (water) “Mahabhuta. Function: Snehan(Lubrication)
5.Asthi dhatu: predominates the Vayu and Prithivi. Function:Dharan(support)
6.Majjja dhatu: predominates the Akash Mahabhuta. Function: Purana(to fill the bones)
7.Shukra dhatu: predominates the Jala and Tej Mahabhutas. Function:Garva utpadan(reproduction)

Tridosha or Three Humors:

In Ayurdeda the basic elements of human body are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are called Tridosha or three Humors. Our body is controlled and regulated by the coordinated and balanced functions of Tridosha. It helps the body to be alive. All the physical and mental functions of the body are governed by these three humors.

According to Ayurveda, various health problems are caused by an imbalance in at least one of the three humors. In Unani Tibb or Greek medicine it is thought that imbalance is caused by one of the five humors. It is a bit confusing that the translation of Dosha is humors in the same way they translate the word Panchamahabhuta (elements) of the body and the universe to mean "humors". They are different words in the Indian language and provide a subtle distinction. So the word Panchamahabhuta and the word Dosha are not the same but many articles you read in English translate both words to mean HUMORS. This is incorrect. Below you can see, however, they do further divide these Doshas...

The physical characteristics of Vata are different from others. It is light, dry, mobile, cold, abundant, rough, swift etc. Its fundamental Elements are Ether (Akash) and Air (Vayu).

The physical functions are: it is responsible for body movement, speech, Blood circulation, breathing, Excretion, Brain functions, formation of fetus, sexual act, anxiety, grief. etc.
There are five types of Vata according to their characters and locations.
1.Prana Vayu
2.Udana Vayu
3. Vyana Vayu.
4.Saman Vayu.
5.Apan Vayu.

Pitta is hot like the basic element which is derived from Agni or fire. It is also characterized as being sharp, sour, pungent, fluid, soothing and mobile. It is responsible for vision, hunger, thirst, and digestion, the regulation of heat in the body, softness and luster in the complexion, cheerfulness, intellect, and sexual vigor.

There are five types of Pitta which were first indicated by Acharya Susruta.
1.Pachaka Pitta
2.Ranjaka Pitta
3.Sadhaka Pitta
4.Alochaka Pitta
5.Bhrajaka Pitta.

Kapha is also called Slesma, and is derived from the fundamental elements earth (Prithivi) and Water (Jala). It is smooth, cold, heavy, dull, and viscid.

Kapha constitutes the entire solid structure of the body. The functions of Kapha are unctuousness, binding, firmness, heaviness, sexual potency, strength, forbearance, restraint and the absence of grief. Kapha was also categorized into five divisions:

1.Avalambaka Kapha
2.Kledaka Kapha
3.Bodaka Kapha
4.Tarpaka Kapha
5.Shleshaka Kapha.

2. More confusion:
The assigned readings say that the humoral theory existed among Greeks even before the time of Hippocrates. So why is Hippocrates given credit as the originator of humoral theory in healing? Is it because he named 4 specific types and used them in a practical system? The text also says that Galen is the one who came up with the idea of 4 temperaments which correspond with the 4 elements/humors. Does that mean that during time of Hippocrates up until Galen, people were only focusing on the physical aspects of the humors and that Galen then originated and developed the system which used the humors to describe emotional/psychological traits?
This is important because Hippocrates lived about 6 hundred years before Galen.

People have used the humors in all their aspect probably farther back than history has recorded. However, this is a very typical and classical case of "the historical credit problem". This is a problem I try to point out frequently during the course but I do not always suceed in doing so enough. The problem is that all medical and healing traditions are actually discoveries of many different people or peoples. Many of these traditions have been used for hundreds of years before someone "took credit". However history always gives credit to the person who was able to define the tradition and write it down. So credit for iridology is given to the first person who created a chart. Credit for reflexology is given to the first person to create the zone system. Credit in homeopathy is given to the person who created a comprehensive book of all the remedies. In some ways this credit is deserved - the person was usually responsible for A: Defining the tradition in a way everyone could understand so that it had more chance of surviving over time and being taught to more people and B. Expanding and devloping the tradition beyond what it was. In the case of homeopathy it had been used before but nobody (that we know of) had taken the time to test so many rememedies before., Hahnemann was amazing in this respect. However, in reality the system of any healing tradition cannot be attributed to one person.

3. In the reading from the columbia encyclopedia source, it lists winter as the corresponding season for the phlegmatic type which does not seem right because phlegmatic types are considered cold and moist which fits more with autumn and melanchoic fits more with winter because it is marked by cold/dry qualities which fits winter best. what do you think?

Corresponding the humors can be confusing! I can often see how one or more types could fit in each season, in each character, etc...but ultimately you are looking for the basic characteristic of the person or season. Autumn definately has a DRY dominant side because the leaves fall in the Autumn and are dry. The earth is dry. However, phlegmatic is very wet. So they cannot go together. Winter is actually very moist because of the snow and ice that is classic of a traditional winter. However, one interesting thing about modern times that I noticed - since we use heaters in our homes we have actually created a very cold and dry environment for winter. I think this is responsible for a lot of the health problems we have in the winter. We are not allowing our bodies to cycle through the natural seasons and we are making a "wet" season into a "dry" one.

To see more student questions and information be sure to check out the student BLOG index from time to time! I will send the index in the next e-mail for those of you who receive the BLOG via E-mail.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Course Corrections: Updates on Unit Two

Dear Students,

Thank you to student Dee who brought to my attention that two links in Unit 2 have changed.

They are:
(Unit 202:3) is now at:

The First Aid articles from 7Song have been changed.

Herbal First Aid for Groups was changed from:

To: Herbal First Aid for Groups

Wilderness First Aid was changed from:


Thank you Dee!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Course Corrections: Unit One

There will be an additional correction made to Unit One. It seems there is an ongoing problem with the file "Cooking and the Humours". I am now in the editing process of a new file that will not involve any links online. I will upload it to the site as soon as it is done. If you are working on Unit One: Nutritional Healing - DO NOT TRY TO OPEN "Healing and the Humors" use this new file instead. For now, it will be called "Healing and the Humors Replacement File"

It would be confusing if I constantly changed files as I made updates every few weeks or months so once or twice a year I make all the updates at one time to prevent overlap, confusion and double-download problems. Because of this continuing state of updates you should ALWAYS check the updates page to see if the Unit you are reading has any updates. This page is at:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

News and Tidbits: Vitamin D

The topic of Vitamin D came up earlier this week on the list and this same week I received the following e-mail in my inbox from another list I am part of. I wanted to share it with everyone who was interested in the "Vitamin D" topic:

Accumulating data have provided evidence that vitamin D is involved inbrain function. Vitamin D can inhibit the synthesis of induciblenitric oxide synthase and increase glutathione levels, suggesting arole for the hormone in brain detoxification.The study shows that vitamin D helps remove mercury from your bodysafely by radically increasing the amount of intracellular glutathione.CONTINUED HERE:

Blessings & Health,