Temperament and Winter Ailments.
This is an article I wrote for a magazine in Britain on the different medieval ‘temperaments’, how they affect us during the winter months and the kinds of illnesses we experience at the darker times of the year. I hope you find it interesting and informative.
"How does our temperament affect or influence our experience of the challenge of winter weather and the proximity of viruses and germs? In this short article I would like to give a brief introduction to the medieval humors, indicate some of the remedies considered useful for each of the types and then give an additional recommendation for a medicine which each temperament may benefit from having to hand to ease their passage through the colder months.
In the medieval philosophy of humors, more recently re-examined and extended by Rudolph Steiner, there are four types of temperament: the sanguine, the choleric, the phlegmatic and the melancholic. Most people are, of course, a combination of the four types in varying degrees but there will always be one that dominates. Your homoeopath or natural therapist seeks through questions and observation to identify some of its characteristics in order to select your constitutional type.
One’s temperament is a reflection, a snap shot, of the innermost essence of the human being, as an individual and as a member of the collective ‘human energy’ or consciousness on the planet. When reading through these four types, bear in mind that we can each be or become a bit of this or that on occasion. For example, we can all be a bit phlegmatic at times, appreciating our inner comfort levels and not wanting to be challenged. Or we can all choose to be choleric, hard working and totally focused on our dreams, as and when we really need to be. When we go to a party or social gathering we might decide to put on the ‘sanguine me’, the ‘charming bright and flirty me’, just for the evening. And just sometimes, melancholic me is there and needs to be acknowledged and loved as much as the other types.
A Choleric person has a strong ego, a firm centre to their inner being, they feel things intensely and it is by this ability to feel things at will that enables them to be in command of their lives and of businesses, companies, even countries. When a person can visualize their goals and aspirations in the way that the choleric often can, nothing can stand in the way of their achievements. They conjure up their success. They have an ambition and can see it as though it already exists, then by the sheer force of their ego and will, they bring that target into manifestation. Often this person will have a compact firm body and few obvious physical diseases, perhaps some indigestion or constipation now and again. You can see the determination of the choleric in their eyes and feel the intensity of their daily energy as they seem to steam through life.
The choleric temperament is hot and dry, aggressive, dynamic, a bit irritable and very forceful. These people are dominators, builders of business empires, committed to codes and absolutes and they don’t like to be contradicted. This kind of person is usually worse in the summer, has a sensitive time physically or emotionally at around three in the afternoon.
The choleric body type ranges from medium to small, holding themselves erect and confidant, they are quick and purposeful. Their skin is pale or ruddy, often with reddish or pale hair. The mouth has thinner lips, which can be held tightly and their hands tend to be more square.
Does this description resonate with you? Are you like this? Or do you have a partner or friend who fits this description, even to some degree? If you are, or you do, it’s likely that your homoeopathic first aid remedy kit will include one or more of this list. Colds and coughs come on fast, a scratchy throat and a hung over feeling. Cholerics are likely to reach for the cold medicine as they don’t really have time to be sick but could give have these remedies to hand and use them as a first line and/or as an adjunct to other medicines. Aconite should be in their pocket during the winter months, to be taken as soon as any feeling of inflammation or ‘unwellness’ is noticed. Belladonna works like magic is there is feverishness already set in. Nux Vomica the ‘must have’ remedy for the late nights and results of over indulgence, plus indigestion after fatty foods – or is it a stomach ulcer?
There is a lesser known remedy,Agaricus, which is a useful addition to the choleric remedy kit. This remedy is useful for chilblains, coldness, coughs, cramps, herpes on the lips, fever and frostbite and its causative factors are mental exertion or excitement, over exertion, too much alcohol, and an excessive life style. The remedy should be taken in the 6th potency for conditions such as chilblains and herpes or the 30th potency if symptoms have become more internal.
The sanguine temperament is more spontaneous, chatty, bouncy, colorful, hopeful, needing other people and forming attachments quickly and easily. They feel happy and comfortable in company, and need to discharge their emotions through laughing and crying. They fall in love with great intensity, are passionate, possessive and jealous. Dominated by their nervous system they tend to feel things in surges. They can feel hurried and change their minds easily, not liking to repeat things, their minds flit from one subject to another, full of bright ideas and often prone to exaggeration. Children are quick to understand something but also to forget and it is often the sanguine type of children and adults who have attention deficit disorders.
The sanguine type is usually good looking. The body is well proportioned, the head a good shape, the hands and feet slender and well formed. Their faces are bright and intelligent, and their eyes literally light up with pleasure when they behold anything which promises to be interesting. Such people always want to participate in what goes on around them.
The Sanguine type responds well to Aconite and Belladonna, but also to Bryonia, those winter coughs that hurt during the cough and where any movement makes them feel worse. Arum Trif, a wonderful remedy for sore throat and hoarseness which is made worse by talking and singing. An interesting addition to this kit would be the remedy Mezerium. The person who will benefit from Mez is very sensitive to cold air and feel generally chilly. They may have neuralgia of the face or bones, tooth or face ache. In the very young it relieves a moist itchy skin eruption that has been brought about following vaccinations, and in the elderly it is most effective for inflammatory rheumatism, neuralgias, sciatica and pain following shingles.
People who have a more phlegmatic temperament tend to organize their lives around and with the feeling and appreciation of inner comfort and well being. They develop a strong will particularly in matters relating to their comfort levels and the outside world. So much so that when everything in their life and surroundings are in order they feel little urgency to direct their inner being toward the outer world. The glandular system dominates the physical body in a phlegmatic type and it can become stout or overweight.
This person does not like to hurry, preferring to make their way carefully through life Sometimes in this type the mind can feel a bit sluggish on occasion with a sense of ‘can’t be bothered’. This person does work steadily through their tasks in life and can pay tremendous attention to the small details and particulars, whether it be in their work or at home, concentrating on one task at a time. In our busy overwhelming world, everyone is phlegmatic at times, often without realizing it. However, these remedies are noted for their dominance by this temperament and they will find one or several of them useful in their first aid kit.
Calc Carb, is a wonderful remedy for the phlegmatic temperament. It follows Belladonna well, and can have a sense of icy coldness in and on the head in winter. They perspire a lot so must be careful about going out into the cold winter air if their hair is wet or shortly after having a shower, as a cold will surely follow. Gelsemium colds and flu develop in the phlegmatic type, with achy muscles and a heavy head.
Dulcamara is a remedy I found so useful for phlegmatic types in the winter months. From the youngest babies, snuffling to breast feed, for the toddler or child with tonsillitis, to the older person with rheumatism. Almost any condition which comes on or is made worse by cold and damp weather can benefit from Dulc. Rheumatism that is a little better from movement, paralysis of single parts – such as the hand or arm that is numb from being slept on – conditions with swollen gland, all can be corrected by this remedy.
The true melancholic type is introspective, philosophical, restrained, methodical, wise, impassive and detached. They do not have to be sad and morose all the time, as the name suggests. Indeed we are each capable of being melancholic and it is a question I would ask clients regularly, ‘ what does your melancholic side look like and do?”
However, when pathology has developed this person is somehow not able to bring about flexibility when it is needed as there is a sense of stuckness there and the melancholic will really feel his or her inner obstacles. That is to say that they cannot find the energy to overcome whatever it is that causes them sorrow or pain and therefore their eye is more often inward. The lighthouse beam of their consciousness is stuck on a group of thoughts and ideas which are more negative than positive and they generally lack self confidence and energy to make the colossal shift necessary to change things. Of all the types, it is my experience that the melancholic’s temperament becomes addicted to the chemicals released in the brain which support and cause sad and negative feelings.
If there is a source of physical pain it will become heightened, dominating their thoughts and experiences of the day. Thoughts and thought patterns become repetitious and enduring. There is no one body type that dominates the melancholic in these times, though of old the type was thought to be heavier and larger. Nevertheless in homeopathy some of our more melancholic remedies can present in all different body shapes, from extremely thin to very overweight, but always their faces are characterized by weariness with downward lines and frown furrows.
The true melancholic type does not like to be consoled or persuaded that things will ‘turn out alright’. They find it hard not to ‘dwell on past disagreeable occurrences’”. A child melancholic who is wronged by a parent in childhood will recall the injury until they are 100!
However, bear in mind that a melancholic mood in a sanguine person can be shifted by a change of environment and bright company, in a choleric person by focusing on a positive dream or feeling and in a phlegmatic person by reinforcing and nurturing their own inner comfort.
These are some of the most commonly indicated remedies for the melancholic type: Natrum Mur, a classic melancholic remedy, has a watery cold, sneezing and soreness that comes and goes throughout the winter. They carry their lip balm and need to apply it frequently as lips tend to dryness and cracking. Graphites is a great melancholic medicine, prone to despondency and indecision, they don’t feel comfortable in changes of weather and hate drafts. Causticum has rawness and soreness of throat and chest and is always worse in dry cold winds Another very useful addition to the melancholic remedy kit for winter would be the remedy Camphora, as it has extreme coldness, chill and sneezing alongside some of the most pronounced melancholic mental symptoms.
I hope I have encouraged you to research some of these remedies further, if you feel an affinity with an individual temperament, and to add a couple of new medicines to your household kit in preparation for the winter months ahead".
Written and copyright by Jude Cresswell and published in Picture of Health, 2007 .