By Seyed Mahdi Mirghazanfari, MD, PhD

Traditional medicine expounds on temperaments: Phlegmatic or melancholic

May 10, 2017 - 9:7

TEHRAN — As explained in the previous articles each individual has a distinguishing temperament- or as well-known in the Persian term ‘Mizaj’- based on which people display distinctive physical and behavioral characteristics.

In the Iranian-Islamic traditional medicine the excess or less of warmness and humidity define four essential temperaments of “Warm and Wet (sanguine or Damawiy)”, “Warm and Dry (choleric or Safrawiy)”, “Cold and Dry (melancholic or Saudawiy)” and “Cold and Wet (phlegmatic or Balghamiy)” respectively. The terms in the parentheses refer to four groups of material in the body (called “humors” or ‘Akhlat’) including blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm respectively. Words written in italic show original Persian terms in the ancient literature. 

Here is a detailed analysis of the people with phlegmatic and melancholic temperaments.

Phlegmatic: Cold and Wet

People with phlegmatic temperament are normally bulky and quickly gain weight with a body composition of larger proportion of fat rather than muscle tissue and they usually seem swollen.

Their body parts are big and smooth due to the wetness of their bodies.

They usually feel cold and run colder than the other people and once someone touches them can tell they are colder than normal. They usually are more sensitive to cold and humid weather.

They are light, fair and smoothed-complexioned and have the best skin relatively speaking. They have silky, straight, smooth and thin hair.

They expel fairly large amount of waste matter (urine, sweat, and feces) but the waste matter don’t have strong color or odor unless waste materials have built up in their bodies. 

They might have runny nose and watery eyes, overproduce saliva or suffer from excess mucus production.

They oversleep and as they get up they feel they haven’t got enough sleep. They usually have trouble waking up and they wake up tired. They feel dizzy and tired early morning particularly when it’s cold or they have consumed food or drinks with wet Mizaj.

These people have poor memory and they may need to read something several times before they fully comprehend it.

They are sensitive to dairy products, sour foods, large amounts of water, and high-water-content foods and should cut back on them.

Mentally speaking they take their time speaking and acting; they are endlessly patient and calm and can put up with people with all sorts of belief.

Melancholic: Cold and Dry

People with melancholic temperament are usually thin and have a small frame. They don’t have much big body parts and they can eat as much as they want but don’t gain weight.

They run colder than the others.

They have a dark complexion and are likely to develop dark spots on their skin. Their skin is dry and rough and their hair is coarse, curly and coily. They also have excessive unwanted hair (hirsutism).

They don’t sleep much, have trouble falling asleep fast, they have a lower sleep efficiency which might cause disturbed sleep. They are also likely to have more nightmares than other people.

They have a retentive memory.

They are sensitive to food stuff with cold and dry temperament and they have to cut down on pickled fruits and vegetables, food stuff with vinegar content, lentil, eggplant, leftovers, and fast food.

From mental point of view people with melancholic temperament tend to be introspective. They might have negative thoughts. They can be perceived as cynical, skeptic, distrustful and suspicious. They act and speak unhurriedly and accomplish a task perfectly.

Seyed Mahdi Mirghazanfari, MD, holds a PhD degree in medical physiology and is an Iranian-Islamic traditional medicine researcher. He is also an assistant professor in AJA University of Medical Sciences, Tehran. 


References for further study:

The Canon of Medicine by Avicenna

Al-Hawi by Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi

Zakhireye Khwarazmshahi by Esmaeil Jorjani

Al-Iqraz al-Tebbieh and Al-Mabahis al-Alaieh by Esmaeil Jorjani

Kholasat-al-Hekmat by Aqili Khorasani 

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