Body Constitution, Temperament and Health: What about the Mind?

Body Constitution, Temperament and Health: What about the Mind?

by Shahid Akbar M. D. Ph. D.


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, January 30
3 New & Used Starting at $11.16


Health means the existence of harmony and synergy among physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of life, and not simply an absence of disease. Our body is a complete unit, a microcosm, but also a tiny part of the universe surrounding it, the macrocosm. Its vitality, functions, movements, and survival are dependent and affected by the environment we live in. The topic of mind, body, and health has been a subject of discussion and the motivation behind a number of books written in the past few decades. The origin of this philosophy can be traced to thousands of years in many ancient cultures.
Knowing how different components of a computer work or how a combustion engine makes the car move forward are not necessary to use a computer or drive a car. However, having basic knowledge about them makes it easier to understand and use these devices effectively. Similarly, knowing about the basic functioning of one's body, both in light of ancient philosophies and in context of modern science, can help better understand the concepts of causes of ill health and the means for protection.
In light of the rising health care cost and the scourge of modern diseases-such as anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.-it is imperative to be aware as much about body, health, mind, and our lifestyles as possible. Knowledge about how ancient cultures protected health from ravages of life and how some cultures can still enjoy healthy, happy, and long lives without spending enormous amounts on health care could be beneficial to all of us.
This book is an attempt to bridge the ancient philosophies with the current concepts and offer some simple and practical solutions to stay healthy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466928831
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 04/18/2012
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)

Read an Excerpt


What about the Mind?
By Shahid Akbar

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2012 Shahid Akbar, M.D., Ph.D.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4669-2883-1

Chapter One


A vast amount of our medical knowledge originated in ancient Greece. Greeks had been using writing since c.1400 BC, but the literature had not been written down. The written form of literature started with the epics of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, in the late 8th century BC in the town of Ionia. This town was also home of Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine (460-377 BC). Before Greece, about five thousand years ago, a place in Southwest Asia, called Mesopotamia (land of rivers, situated between two giant rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates; modern day Iraq), is regarded as the Cradle of Civilization. The Mesopotamians are credited for the introduction of a writing system about 3000 BC on clay tablets. Babylon was the 2nd most important civilization after Mesopotamia, which had code of laws for all walks of life, including the practice of medicine. The earliest known regulations for the practice of medicine came from the ruler of Babylon, the Hammurabi, and are known as the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1728-1686 BC).

Aristotle, another giant of the Greek history, was born in Stagira (384-322 BC) in northern Greece. He is considered the founder of biology, and Charles Darwin regarded him as the most important contributor to the subject. Aristotle was influenced by his physician father, Nicomachus, who was attached to the Macedonian court and who instilled in him a strong interest to observe the structure of living things.

Aristotle became a pupil of Plato in Athens and later joined the Macedonian court and became tutor of the young Alexander the Great. Aristotle called forms of living things "souls," and classified them as vegetative soul (plants), sensitive soul (animals), and rational soul (human beings). His idea of soul was not as a separate entity from the body. Aristotle had amended Plato's (d. 347 BC) idea of soul, who postulated that both the Universe and man consist of a body and a soul. For Plato, there were three types of human souls; the immortal soul situated in the brain, the soul that controls emotions and is located in the breast, and the soul residing in the abdomen that controls desires.

Arabs in the seventh century AD started to study Greek sciences, including medicine. They also paid close attention to other major systems of medicine practiced in the world. The three established and independent medical systems in vogue in the world at the time were the Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine of India and the Greco-Arab Medicine, precursor of modern allopathic medicine. Arabs extensively studied the Chinese and Indian Systems, which were regarded as the most advanced at the time. For the next six centuries they thoroughly analyzed and improved on Greek concepts introduced by Hippocrates and Aristotle, and incorporated some ideas of what Chinese and Indians had been practicing.

Arabs acquired knowledge of plants from the writings of Theophrastus (c. 371-287 BC), a companion of Aristotle and regarded as the Father of Botany who wrote two famous books on plants, Enquiry into Plants and On the Causes of Plants. Invaluable information about medical uses of plants was also provided by books like De Materia Medica, written by Dioscorides (C. 40-90 AD), who as a surgeon in Nero's armies travelled extensively and gained vast knowledge and experience about medicinal plants used by various cultures. Galen (129-199 AD) was also an avid traveller of far places who studied plants, conducting his own observations and experiments and left a wealth of knowledge in the form of an eleven volumes treatise called 'The Mixing and Powers of Simple Drugs,' and later, 'The Composition of Drugs According to Types' and 'The Composition of Drugs According to Sites.' His place in medical history can be judged by the fact that many of today's formulations are still referred to as Galenical preparations.

Equipped with this vast treasure of knowledge, Arabs introduced new, critically analyzed, refined and updated concepts to the world that took into account the most established and tested theories of the time. A number of valuable and authoritative books on medicine and surgery, such as "Firdaus-ul-Hikmat" by Al-Tabri (838-870 AD), "Kitab Al-Hawi" by Al-Razi (known as Rhazes in the west; 864-930 AD), "At-Tasrif" by Al-Zohrawi (known as Albucasis; 936-1013 AD), "The Canon of Medicine" by Ibn-Sina (Avicenna; 980-1037 AD), and "Tashrih-i-Insan" or Human Anatomy by Mansur Faqih Ilyas, published in 1396, etc. to name a few, were written during this period. The most comprehensive book on Greco-Arab Medicine "The Canon of Medicine" written in 1017 AD was regarded the most authoritative text on medicine and has the distinction of being the standard textbook of medicine all over the world for more than six centuries, until 1657 AD. This book had been translated into all languages of the civilized world, including 28 editions in Latin alone.

Greco-Arab System, brought to India by Arab travellers and merchants is known in the Indian subcontinent as the Unani Medicine due to its origin in Unan (Greece). It is mainly based on Greek teachings and improvements made by Arab physicians and surgeons. The system is practised by thousands of institutionally trained traditional medical practitioners, called Hakims, and utilized by the millions as the primary and sometimes the only source for healthcare in the Indian subcontinent.

According to Unani Medicine concepts, Seven Natural Principles, known as 'Al-Umur-al-Tabiyah' define the constituents and govern the functioning of human body. Existence of human body and maintenance of health depend upon them, and ill-health or disease results from their disorder. These are not just physical attributes of the body like a man-made machine but involve aspects that are sometimes difficult to describe in physical terms. There are similarities, nonetheless in broader sense, with modern physiological concepts that define body and it's functioning.

The Seven Natural Principles are described as:

1. Elements known as Al-Arkaan or Al-Anaseer

2. Temperament or Al-Mizaaj

3. Humours (Body fluids) or Al-Akhlaat

4. Organs (Members) or Al-A'za

5. Pneuma (Vital spirit) or Al-Arwah

6. Faculties (Powers) or Al-Quwa

7. Functions or Al-Afa'l

Additional factors called 'Asbab-Sitta-Zaruriyah' or 'Six Essential Causes' complement the Seven Principles for the preservation of health and optimal body functioning. Their influence and importance in the causation of disease or even death cannot be over-emphasised.

Following are regarded as the six 'Essential Causes':

* Atmospheric air or Al-Hawa-al-Muheet

* Foods and drinks or Al-Ma'kul-wal-Mashroob

* Physical or bodily movements and Repose or Al-Harakat-wal-Sukun-al-Badaniya

* Mental or Psychic movements and Repose or Al-Harakat-wal-Sukun-al-Nafsaniya

* Sleep and Wakefulness or Al-Naum-wal-Yaqzah

* Evacuation and Retention or Al-Istifragh-wal-Ihtibas

These six causes are considered essential for obvious reasons as no living human being can escape them and their influence affects routine daily life. However, there are other factors that do not affect every living human but only those who directly come in contact with them. These factors are referred to as 'Non-Essential Causes' because these are relevant to individuals' circumstances and play a supportive role in healthy living and causation of illness.

The following constitute as Non-Essential Causes:

* Geographical location of the country and town, known as Al-Bilaad

* Residential conditions (Home), known as Al-Masakeen

* Occupation, known as Al-Sena't

* Habits, known as Al-Aada't

* Age, known as Al-Asnan

* Sexes, known as Al-Ajnaas

* Other factors antagonistic to health (microorganisms) known as Umur-Muzadal-Tabia't

It is interesting to note that these principles and causes, to achieve and preserve health, were described more than one thousand years ago. Nonetheless, it should not be lost to the reader that they all sound so familiar in our modern context as if they were proposed by the modern establishments. We are presented with these principles as being modern and impressed upon by the media to be the result of modern experimentation and research; a bold example of the adage 'the old wine in a new bottle' with a better and shining label. Following statement is befitting:

Dr. O Cameron Gruner, an authority on Avicenna, in his preface to the first edition of English translation (1930) of the First Book of Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine, compared the ancient and modern in these words: "... the mistake made is to suppose that the older interests were 'wrong', 'incorrect', 'useless' and to label them as 'out of date.' True, fashions of all kinds come to be out of date, but the epithets 'right', 'wrong' do not apply. He further wrote ... "modern medicine claims its title to superiority by its successes, and judges the medicine of the past by its failures."

Elements (Arkaan)

Arkaan are considered the physical body components and are referred to in terms of physical characters, though the description is still fuzzy. Avicenna said. "Arkaan or Anaseer (elements) are simple indivisible matters which are the primary components of the human body. They cannot be further resolved into simpler entities. Various substances (compounds) in nature depend for their existence on the imtizaj (chemical combination) of these Arkan (elements)."

The concept of elements is as old as the physical concept of disease because to define an abnormality (disease) one has to first define what is 'normal?' Normal and abnormal are only states (qualities) of "something" (the body) which has to have its component constituents defined to assign them qualities. However, number and properties of elements or Arkaan have been a subject of discussion since millennia, changing from time to time. Some philosophers like Thales (640-546 BC), Anaximenes (c. 585-c. 528 BC), Heraclitus (540-475 BC) and Phrekides (6th Century BC) maintained that there was only one element that is transformed into other elements after going through physicochemical changes. Thales believed that earth and air were derivatives of water, the basic element of all animal and plant life. Anaximenes theorized that air was the primary element and source of everything that exists in nature. In his opinion, air under the influence of heat and cold transforms itself into various shapes and forms due to expansion (rarefaction) and contraction (condensation), respectively; the rarefaction ultimately results in fire, while extreme condensation tends to form stones.

Some philosophers postulated vapour as the basic component transforming into different elements. Others, however, maintained that the whole Universe depends upon the chemical combination of two elements for its existence. Thus, Anaximander (610-545 BC) theorized that water and earth were the fundamental constituents of all things, influenced with energy provided by the sun. However, fire and earth were considered by some as the fundamental constituents of all living things. There was also a time when some proposed the theory of three elements. This theory was based on the observation that all matters exist in one of the three physical states, i.e. solid, liquid and gas. However, this theory did not gain traction and popular acceptance for various reasons and was soon replaced by the theory of four elements. The person behind this concept was the Greek doctor, poet and philosopher, Empedocles (c.484-c.424 BC). He pondered that there must be more than one kind of matter and he postulated that fire, air, water and earth are the basic components of everything in nature. This concept was widely accepted by most of the great ancient philosophers, including Hippocrates (460-377 BC), Aristotle (384-322 BC), Galen (129-199 AD) and Avicenna (970-1037 AD). In fact, Aristotle added a substance called 'ether' to the list. In his opinion, it was a perfect substance of which all heavenly bodies were composed.

Nevertheless, these elements were thought of as mere idealizations (metaphorical) rather than as material substances. This assumption could be supported by the fact that several actual elements were known in ancient times. For example, gold, silver and copper had been in use as pure metals since at least 3000 BC. Ancients also regarded iron, lead, mercury and tin as metals, and sulfur and carbon as non-metals. Therefore, it is not reasonable to believe that they really meant that there were only four elements in the Universe. Indeed, there was a group of philosophers that maintained that a large number of elements existed in nature and all substances in the Universe were composed of different combinations of these elements. Greek scholar Democritus (ca 460 BC - ca 370 BC) and his pupils thought that all matters were made up of small indivisible units called atoma (atoms), the term derived from the Greek words a(not) and tenein (to cut). Until J.J. Thompson (1897) discovered electrons, atom was believed to be indivisible.

Notwithstanding, through ages the idea of four elements as medical concept continued to enjoy general acceptance until the advent of modern chemistry in the 17th century. Robert Boyle, a natural philosopher and active empiricist, believed and argued that only observable and weighable substances should be regarded as elements. He also observed that elements were the primary substances from which other compound substances were made. In 18th century, Antoine Lavoisier defined element as a substance that is not decomposable into simpler substances by chemical analysis. He also recognised that mass is the property of all matter and is conserved in chemical reactions. Thus, a compound resulting from a chemical reaction of an element must always be more than the weight of the element. Despite all his analytical intellect, Lavoisier classified light and heat as elements; both of these are considered weightless.

As of 2011 a total of 118 elements, of which 94 naturally occurring on earth, have been identified in nature. The physicochemical properties of these elements depend upon their specific nature, which is unique for that specific element. Any change in that inherent characteristic of a particular element due to its reaction with other substance(s) or element(s) destroys its uniqueness and it can no longer be called an element. So far, 81 elements have been identified being present in the body, taking part in a number of physiological processes and being involved in a number of diseases. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus make up almost 99% of the mass of human body. Important biochemical processes of the body require the presence of at least sixteen chemical elements, and a number of others are needed for other chemical reactions. Analytical studies of human heart revealed that it contains at least 54 elements that include 18 essential and 12 possibly essential, for its health and normal functioning.

One Indian Urdu poet (Chakbast) described the relationship between life and elements in these words:

What is life is the alignment of the elements?

What is death is the dispersion of these molecules?

According to the four elements theory, elements are essential for everything in nature, meaning all animate and inanimate things have elements as part of their constituent components, including the human body. Since the body's characteristics and qualities must be dependent on its constituents, the constituents must be defined of their own qualities. Therefore, these elements were attributed qualities to indicate their properties and temperament. The binary qualities assigned were a combination of 'hot', 'cold', 'dry' and 'wet'; the former two being the active and the latter ones as passive qualities. None of these qualities were considered absolute rather they were regarded as relative to each other.

Assigned binary qualities to four elements are:

* Fire --- Hot and Dry

* Air ---- Hot and Wet

* Water --- Cold and Wet

* Earth ---Cold and Dry

The philosophers, however, emphasized that when a substance or an element is said to be hot or cold, it does not always mean it to be literally hot or cold rather it may mean that they satisfy one of the following three conditions:

* The substance or element is actually hot or cold to touch e.g. water and earth are cold to touch in their natural states, while the fire is hot.

* The substance or element is not hot or cold to touch per se, but is potentially hot or cold, i.e. when the substance is taken internally it produces the sensation of warmth or cold and thereby increases or decreases the body temperature, respectively, albeit transiently. Water, for example, even if it is not in a state to be perceived as cold by touch, is still capable to quench thirst which is a manifestation of heat.


Excerpted from BODY CONSTITUTION, TEMPERAMENT and HEALTH by Shahid Akbar Copyright © 2012 by Shahid Akbar, M.D., Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Foreword....................ix
2. Preface....................xi
3. Introduction....................3
4. Body Constitution....................33
5. Temperament....................63
6. Preservation of Health....................85
7. Role of Herbs in Health....................117
8. Lessons Learnt....................153
9. Bibliography....................161

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews