Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Greek medicine are similar in that they divide people into different constitutional groups. Ancient Greek medicine calls these groups the four temperaments: Sanguine, Melancholic, Choleric, and Phlegmatic.
The temperaments are said to be associated with specific body fluids (“humors”) that influence what each person will be like. Depending on the dominant humor, each Greek temperament is inclined toward certain personality characteristics, symptom presentations, and physical features.
Although we each have a bit of every temperament in us, knowing your dominant temperament can help you better recognize the the ways in which you are likely to get sick, and help choose foods, herbs, and activities to keep you balanced.
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The choleric temperament is that of the ambitious, gregarious yet cut-throat leader. They tend to be impatient and posses an imposing temper. They are also bold, courageous, innovative, and highly driven perfectionists who get a lot done, and have no problem telling others how to as well.
The dominant choleric humor is yellow bile, meaning that they are inclined toward hot and dry conditions such as fevers, infections, inflammations, rashes, ulcers, headaches, migraines, foul odors, high cholesterol, hypertension, fatty liver, and eye irritations.
They tend to be active, sportive types with solid muscle tone.
Cholerics are have vivid imaginations and can easily manifest their visions into reality. They are better at seeing the big picture and having others pick up the details.
Cholerics benefit from moist and cooling foods such as whole grains, cooked vegetables, and fish. Though they enjoy eating spicy and rich food, milder foods will suit them better.
Quiet, thoughtful, philosophical, pragmatic, efficient, serious, and frugal, the melancholics amongst us prefer to keep to themselves. They may be moody, pessimistic, prone to depression and/or anxiety, and don’t like taking risks.
The dominant humor for the melancholic temperament is black bile, making them prone to cold and dry conditions such as nutritional deficiency, hypoglycemia, dehydration, dizziness, arthritis, neuromuscular disoders, insomnia, dry stool and constipation, and digestive disorders.
They tend to be thin and lean and often have knobby joints.
Melancholics prefer predictability and routine, less stimulus rather than more.
They tend to be very studious, analytical, and detail-oriented.
Melancholics tend to have fluctuating appetites, and therefore do best when they have a regular eating schedule. Because of their compromised nutrient absorption, they benefit greatly from wholesome grains, meats, and vegetables, and bitter and aromatic herbs.
The sanguine personality is the charismatic life of the party. Exuberant, enthusiastic, optimistic, cheerful, lighthearted, confident, and outgoing, these folks love to talk about themselves and relish in romance and beauty.
The dominant humor of the sanguine temperament is blood, making them vulnerable to hot and moist imbalances such as gout, diabetes, high cholesterol, food accumulation, bleeding disorders, asthma, respiratory infection, urinary conditions, menstrual difficulty in women, and hypersensitivity.
Sanguines often display a long, swan-like neck on top of their moderate frame.
They have an enhanced sense of justice and like to see the whole picture. Despite their attraction to aesthetics they may tend to be a bit conventional and predictable.
Sanguines have a strong digestive system, but their enthusiasm for food can get the best of them. They do best on a well-balanced, moderate diet, including ample vegetables, and bitter, cooling, and aromatic herbs.
Phlegmatics are solid, calm, passive, nurturing, faithful, and empathetic. They may have a strong spiritual inclination, and are likely to be very sentimental and emotional.
Their dominant humor is phlegm, meaning that they are inclined towards cold and damp conditions such as edema, loose stools, slow digestion, poor circulation, easy sweating, poor skin and muscle tone, weight gain, and easily catch cold.
They tend to be heavy-framed with round facial features, and are likely to have a pale complexion.
Phelgmatics are slow to learn, but once they know something they know it forever.
Constitutionally they are almost identical to the Ayurvedic Kapha Dosha. These people crave sweets and dairy but would do best to avoid them. Instead they would do well to eat wholesome, light, warm, pungent, and stimulating foods.
Although their inclination is to stay home and watch movies, phlegmatics will feel most balanced when they get out and move and try new things.