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Aristotle developed and endorsed the theory of the four humors. According to the theory, four principal fluids-or humors-exist within the body: blood, choler (yellow bile), melancholy (black bile) and phlegm. The "ideal person" bore all four in equal proportion. However, in most people, one or more humors predominate, giving rise to particular temperaments or characters.
 
Laboratory versus Nature
 

From the early 19th century, the chemical laboratory began to regularly supplant Mother Nature as the source of medicines. In 1803, narcotic alkaloids were isolated from the opium poppy (papaver somniferum). A year later, insulin was extracted from elecampane (Inula helenium). 

In 1838, salicylic acid, a chemical forerunner of aspirin, was isolated from white willow bark (Salix alba), and was first synthesized in the laboratory in 1860. From this point on, herbal medicine and biomedicine were to take separate paths. Indeed, the increasingly fashionable use of mineral cures such as mercury led to the growth of chemical formulations, culminating in scientific medicine's ultimate break away from herbal practices.
 
Aspirin, an entirely new chemical formulation, was first developed in Germany in 1899. But this was still an early step. For the time being, the influence of the universities, medical schools and herbal medicine prevailed as the predominant form of treatment for most people around the world.
 

 

 

 

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