|Figure 2: The
Sanguine Humour (Blood) containing the Choleric, Melancholic
& Phlegmatic Humours.|
Astrology and Health
vitalism and humours [part 2]
The humours are here explained in detail, from both symbolic and biochemical perspectives, as well as showing
how humoral physiology can be used parallel to biochemical medicine.
In comprehending humoral ideas it is important to stop analysing what the
humours are, in the same way that blood is currently broken up into its
anatomical and biochemical components, but to allow the symbolism of the
Elements to reveal in your mind's eye the nature of the humours.
The Sanguine Humour
The sanguine humour is the principal humour of the blood, which embodies the other three humours, the choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic, within it. The sanguine humour is perceived with the Air Element and is synonymous with the totality of the blood. Since the blood and the Air Element are both hot and moist, this where the symbolic connection is made.
Air is unique amongst the four Elements, since it is the only one of the four gross Elements that is able to embrace the other three equally. Similarly the sanguine humour embraces the other three humours. In a state of health the
choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic humours are indistinguishable within
the sanguine humour. See Figure 2. They only become manifest
when disease occurs.
This is simply demonstrated
by a bruise. Following trauma to the tissues of the body, the damaged
cells cause a localised swelling in which blood pools in the vicinity of
the injury. This increased blood flow brings the extra materials
needed to rebuild new tissue and helps get rid of the waste from damaged
This immediate phase of the inflammatory response involves
the sanguine humour, which initially is a benign protective mechanism.
Next the red blood cells that have saturated the swollen area lose their oxygen and in so doing their hæmoglobin, the pigment that carries the oxygen, changes colour from a bright to a dark red. Through the skin this appears as a black colouration that causes the distinctive appearance of a bruise. This subsequent phase of the inflammatory response involves the melancholic humour, or black bile. This is when the damaged cells die and are broken down.
Next the de-oxygenated red blood cells are also broken down, releasing the yellow bile pigments formed from the destruction of the hæmoglobin. This causes the bruise to turn briefly to a pale yellow. This ensuing phase of the inflammatory response involves the choleric humour, or yellow bile, which is when the new cells grow
to replace those destroyed in the injury.
Finally, once the new tissues have been regenerated, a slight residual swelling remains, that has no distinctive colour. This is when the last of the waste products is removed from the area, allowing the injured part of the body to return to normal. This concluding phase of the inflammatory response involves the phlegmatic humour.
Jupiter Rules the Sanguine Humour
Jupiter is the planetary ruler of the sanguine humour. The seat of the sanguine humour is the liver, which is responsible for maintaining the balance of the humours in the blood. Modern physiology recognizes that the function of the liver is precisely reflected in the biochemical composition of the blood (See Figure 3).
Jupiter in ruling the liver – the largest organ in
the body – ensures that the sanguine humour is properly composed of its
three constituent humours, so facilitating the flow of the vital force
through the body and maintaining health. Jupiter can also be seen
as mediating between the spiritual and material realms, maintaining the
psyche within the body.
Jupiter also traditionally rules the lungs. With each inspiration the chest expands, air flows into the lungs and diffuses into the blood. The condensation of the hot and moist air onto a mirror or plate of glass held in front of the nose is a clinical sign of life. No condensation occurs when the
body is dead.
In contemporary hæmatology, the sanguine humour can be equated with the complete composition of the blood. The principal role of the blood is the transportation of the respiratory gases (Air) and nutriments to the tissues. The importance of this function is highlighted by the brain cells dying in a matter of minutes if deprived of oxygen. Culpeper states the balance of the sanguine humour nourishes the judgement.1 In humoral
physiology the word sanguine is synonymous with health.