Medical Definition of Humoralism

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Humoralism: An ancient theory holding that health came from balance between the bodily liquids termed humors. Disease was thought to arise when imbalance occurred between the humors. The humors were phlegm (water), blood, gall (black bile, thought to be secreted by the kidneys and spleen), and choler (yellow bile secreted by the liver). The humoral theory was devised well before Hippocrates, and it was not definitively demolished until 1858. The word humor lives on as a medical term for liquid or semiliquid substances in the body and as a euphemism for mood (such as being 'in good humor'). Also known as humorism.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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