Hippocrates – Blood, Bile and Phlegm


Alcohol has long been humanity’s favoured lubricant in facilitating social intercourse.  Historically however, good company and good conversation were only part of the story when deciding what to drink because the social sophisticates of yesteryear were concerned with health in addition to wellbeing.  The forbears of  modern cocktails were elixirs routinely put together using cordials, bitters and shrubs made from herbs that were understood to have curative properties, or at the very least acted as aids to digestion.

This idea had its roots in an ancient belief that the body is filled with four basic ‘humours’, being blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm.   These humours were in turn related to the “four temperaments”, the theory that suggests that there are four fundamental personality types, sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic.​

So if you fell ill, or were in a bad mood it was believed that this was because the balance of the humours in your body had become disrupted, basically because you had not been eating, drinking and exercising properly.   This idea first arose with Hippocrates in Ancient Greece and was enthusiastically espoused by the Romans, subsequently dominating western medical practice until the 19th century.

So if you fell ill, or were in a bad mood it was believed that this was because the balance of the humours in your body had become disrupted

So what you ate and drank was a very serious matter.  ?Ye Olde Apothecary Shoppe would therefore have been a rich source of supply to the nascent bartender of centuries past, along with the household medicine cabinet and herb garden. ?

The idea that “we are what we eat” still resonates, whether it be through governmental advice to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, celebrity diets or an understanding of the idea that we should drink less, but drink better. Buying organic and buying local have been laudable aims in recent years, and there is increasing interest in taking this a step further, by stepping out into our local environment and foraging for natural ingredients.  People are increasingly searching locally for wild foodstuffs and flavours that are a reflection of their individuality, and their personal space.

In this context, The Botanist becomes an inspirational catalyst.  What greater motivation could you need to step out on that walk, or spend an extra hour in the garden, than foraging for a new and exciting twist to your traditional B&T?

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