ADJUSTING AND REGULATING BLACK BILE AND THE NERVOUS HUMOR
Calming Wind, Dispelling Melancholy
Black Bile, also called Melancholy or Atrabile, is the humor that is most prone to aggravations and pathology; more pathological conditions are attributable to disorders of Black Bile than to any other humor. The reasons for this are two-fold:
1) Under normal, healthy conditions, Black Bile's optimum level or proportion in the human body is less than that for any other humor, making it the humor most inherently prone to excess and aggravation.
2) Blood is the humor most essential and conducive to vitality and good health; Black Bile is contrary to Blood in all its qualities and attributes, making it the humor most prone to pathology and disease.
In addition, Black Bile, of all the Four Humors, takes the longest time to ripen, or be concocted so that superfluities of it may be purged or expelled, being in this attribute as well contrary to Blood, or the Sanguine humor. Black Bile takes at least fifteen days to ripen, so a course of therapy to adjust or correct imbalances of Black Bile must be followed for at least fifteen days before any definite positive changes can be seen.
The Myriad Manifestations of Black Bile Imbalance
The pathological manifestations of Black Bile imbalance are indeed many and varied, and can affect virtually any organ or part of the body. Because the pathological manifestations of Black Bile imbalance are so many and varied, , an equal diversity of therapeutic modalities, strategies and approaches are needed to correct them.
In the brain, mind and nervous system, also called the Psychic Faculty in Greek Medicine, troubles and afflictions are usually due to the more subtle, vaporous forms of Black Bile, also called Melancholy or the Nervous humor, rising up to the head and brain. The deleterious effects of aggravated Black Bile are seen as nervousness, giddiness or lightheadedness, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, neuraesthenia or nervous exhaustion, tremors, tics and spasms. And so, the herbs and therapies used to treat these conditions have sedative, nervine, antispasmodic and antidepressant effects.
In the musculoskeletal system, aggravated Black Bile will cause arthritic and rheumatic disorders characterized by dryness, hardness, stiffness, tension, and aesthenia, or wasting. These are treated with antirheumatics, vulneraries and antispasmodics. Neuromuscular disorders are also usually due to aggravated Black Bile, and are characterized by wasting, numbness, tremors, spasms, and aesthenia; these are treated with the appropriate antispasmodics, nervous tonics and restoratives.
It must be remembered here that conditions of ischemia, or deficient blood supply to the muscles and tissues, joints and tendons is in fact a Melancholic condition, because the absence of warming, moistening Blood will produce a cold, dry Melancholic condition. And so, increasing the circulation and vital blood supply to an organ or tissue of the body is actually an anti-Melancholic therapeutic approach.
In the respiratory tract, Melancholic conditions arise or are aggravated by the cold, dry weather that prevails in the fall, which can cause dryness, thirst and fits of spasmodic coughing. These are remedied with the appropriate antitussives and antispasmodics, as well as moistening, soothing demulcents and emollients.
In the liver and hepatobiliary system, aggravations of Black Bile can cause hepatobiliary insufficiency and other aesthenic and cirrhotic conditions of the liver, biliary dyskinesia and calculi, and poor blood circulation, hypertension and stagnation in the hepatic portal system. These conditions are treated with the appropriate cholagogues, hepatobiliary tonics and Black Bile purgatives. Aggravated Black Bile in the liver will also cause pain, distension and discomfort under the lower ribs, or hypochondriac region, a condition generally referred to as Melancholia.
Since the spleen is the storage receptacle for Black Bile, this organ is especially vulnerable to excesses and aggravations of that humor, which can cause conditions of indigestion, anorexia or poor appetite, irritable bowel or intestinal obstruction. These conditions are treated with Splenicals, which remove obstructions and morbidity from the spleen.
In the GI tract, aggravations of Black Bile result in poor appetite, indigestion, sour stomach, epigastric or abdominal colic, distension, gas or bloating, irritable bowel and constipation. Generally, these disorders are treated with herbs and medicines that are cholagogue, stomachic, carminative, laxative and aperient; although herbs in these categories are numerous, there are certain special herbs that are particularly adept at adjusting and regulating disorders of Black Bile in cases in which this humor is the cause. Excessively harsh or astringent herbs tend to aggravate Black Bile in the GI tract, whereas soothing, moistening demulcents and emollients relieve it.
In the skin, aggravated Black Bile causes chronic skin conditions, usually characterized by itching, dryness and scaling. Scales and lesions which are surrounded by bright pink, but in which the scale or scab is a milky white are usually caused by Black Bile. Alteratives that cleanse morbid Black Bile from the blood and lymph are used to treat these conditions.
Fevers caused by a putrefaction of morbid Black Bile are called Quartain Agues, or intermittent fevers that come on every fourth day. They are treated with the appropriate antiperiodics.
Since Black Bile is Cold and Dry in temperament, herbs and therapies used to subdue or eliminate aggravated Black Bile tend to be warming and moistening in nature. Pungent and bitter herbs work well in stimulating the metabolism and ripening of Black Bile, and dispersing its blockages. Many herbs that treat aggravations of Black Bile also seem to have a musky or earthy aroma to them, which resonates with the humor's associated Earth element.
Dietary Therapy to Adjust and Regulate Black Bile
When Black Bile is aggravated or excessive, the digestion gets delicate and sensitive, and the bowels get irritable and constipated. Sensitivities to certain foods abound and become problematic.
Foods that are rough, dry and astringent should be avoided in favor of foods that are more moist, succulent and nourishing. Particularly problematic are certain kinds of nuts and beans.
When it comes to beans, a main protein source for vegetarians, the most problematic ones, which generate the most gas, distension, bloating and other forms of digestive discomfort are soy, lentils, pinto beans and navy beans. Processed or fermented soy products like tofu, miso and tempeh are much more easily handled, as are Edamame, or fresh soybeans. The easiest beans for the Melancholic digestion to handle are mung beans, black beans and garbanzo beans. The latter is used in Mediterranean cooking, in preparations like hummus.
Of nuts and seeds, walnuts can be difficult. Peanuts can be hard on the stomach, and upset the intestinal flora, leading to yeast infections. Almonds are better tolerated if they are soaked in water overnight and their dry, astringent skins are removed; then, they become easy to digest, and very nutritious. Even sunflower seeds can be problematic for certain individuals. Sesame seeds have a heavy, rich, nourishing quality that is beneficial for Melancholics.
Nightshade family vegetables can also be problematic for Melancholic individuals, or for those with aggravated Black Bile. Tomatoes can sour the stomach and digestion, and may cause yeast overgrowth. Eggplant is very heavy and hard on the liver, especially when it is fried or prepared with lots of oil, as it so often is.
Pungent and aromatic spices to flavor one's food and enhance or improve its digestibility are a must for Melancholics, and for smoothing over and remedying digestive disturbances caused by Black Bile. Cumin, Coriander and/or Dill are essential when cooking beans, but the best herb to use is the Mexican herb Epazote, which is a relative of Wormwood.
You can mix the seeds of Cumin, Coriander and Fennel together and make a delicious tea from them that is great to sip after a meal. It will magically resolve Melancholic digestive upsets, and is wonderfully soothing. The Mexican herbal tea called Las Siete Azahares, or the Tea of the Seven Blossoms, is also great for settling a nervous, Melancholic stomach and digestion.
Melancholics and those with Melancholic afflictions need lots of fiber in their diets to help them with their bowel regularity. Certain fruits that provide soft, soluble fiber and bulk should be regular parts of the diet; these indlude plums, prunes, figs and raisins. Flax seeds, freshly ground and sprinkled on one's morning cereal, are also great.
Blood sugar levels can be erratic for Melancholics, or those with Black Bile aggravation. They may develop a frequent craving for sweets to give them a quick energy boost when their blood sugar levels plummet. Even natural sweets, although better than refined ones, can be deleterious and habit forming, and can aggravate the problem. The best solution is to base the diet on the complex carbohydrates of whole grains and root vegetables.
Foods that nourish the blood should also be a high priority for Melancholics, who are prone to aesthenia and anemia. We must not neglect vegetarian blood builders like spinach, nettles, green leafy vegetables and dark red and blue berries. Because meat is particularly strong and efficient for building the blood, Melancholics usually have the hardest time being pure vegetarians of any of the Four Temperaments, and need a little meat, at least one to three times a week.
Especially important for Melancholics and those with Black Bile aggravation is how meat and other foods are cooked and prepared. Meat is best stewed or boiled in soups; grilling is acceptable, but meat and other foods should never be fried, especially never deep fried, which makes it practically indigestible to the delicate Melancholic digestion. Also, frying generates a lot of rancidity, oxidation and free radicals, which generate or aggravate morbid charred or oxidized forms of Black Bile.
Special Greek and Unani Tonics and Purgatives for Black Bile
In Greek and Unani Medicine, certain herbs are highly esteemed as special tonics and purgatives to expel Black Bile when it becomes excessive or aggravated, and thus restore health. The principal ones are as follows:
Chebulic Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) - Moderately warming and drying. Astringent, acrid and bitter. Astringent, antidiarrheic, antidysenteric, digestive, laxative, tonic. One of the three medicinal Myrobalan fruits, the Chebulic Myrobalan, known as Haritaki in Ayurvedic medicine, purges excessive Vata, which is Melancholy or Black Bile. It is considered first and foremost a tonic and rejuvenator of the large intestine, correcting either constipation or diarrhea and restraining all undesirable leakages, as in dysentery and leaky gut syndrome. Haritaki corrects the flow of the Nervous humor in the colon, so that it flows downwards, towards defecation. In Chinese herbal medicine, this descending energy of Haritaki is used to relieve chronic consumptive coughs and clear the voice. Haritaki has a beneficial effect on the liver in cases of Melancholic black jaundice, and increases all of the digestive secretions, with the exception of Yellow Bile. The astringency of Haritaki is useful in scraping fats, and has a cholesterol lowering effect.
There are many ways of formulating, preparing and administering Haritaki, which combines very well with other herbs. Roasting reduces Haritaki's astringency, and makes it better tolerated by sensitive Melancholic individuals with delicate digestions. It can also be roasted with a couple of tablespoons of Castor oil and a few pinches of Asafoetida resin for this purpose, or the dry roasted Haritaki powder can simply be mixed into a paste with honey and taken.
In Ayurvedic medicine, a great medicinal paste or electuary called Dashamula Haritaki,
or Haritaki with the Ten Roots, is made by combining the Chebulic Myrobalan with ten tonic roots. This electuary is extremely remedial and fortifying in cases of chronic nervous exhaustion and debility of the liver and digestive organs. The powders of Western tonic roots like Ginger, Licorice, Dandelion, Ginseng and Elecampane can be used for this purpose, and combined with the powdered Chebulic Myrobalan and Honey.
The Chebulic Myrobalan enjoys an important place in Unani Medicine, and in seventeenth century England, Culpeper himself even includes references to the three Myrobalans, Emblic, Beleric and Chebulic, in medicinal recipes in the back of his herbal. In Tibetan medicine, the Chebulic Myrobalan is esteemed as the King of Medicines.
Cowslip (Caitha palustris) - Nervine, antispasmodic, anodyne, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, rubefacient. Hakim G. M. Chishti recommends Cowslip as a good tonic for adjusting Black Bile. The herb and the flowers are the main parts used. Culpeper claims that Cowslip is under the dominion of Venus, and recommends an ointment of the flowers to women as a treatment for beautifying their skin, as well as reducing sunburn and eliminating freckles. He goes on to say that the flowers remedy all head afflictions from heat and wind, such as vertigo, hallucinations, frenzies, epilepsy, palsy, convulsions, cramps and neuralgic pains. Cowslip roots, Culpeper tells us, ease pains in the lower back and bladder, and ease the passage of urine. Culpeper tells us that the ancient Greeks called Cowslip Paralysis, for its power to strengthen the brain and nerves and remedy palsies.
Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis) - Bitter, cold. Cholagogue, diuretic, laxative, bitter tonic, alterative. Although it is a cholagogue, bitter tonic and laxative useful for removing bilious obstructions from the liver and gall bladder, Fumitory has its main virtues as a powerful alterative that purges residues of morbid Black Bile from the blood and lymph, being effective in chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, which are caused by Black Bile. The main signs are itching, scratching and scaling, and pinkish rings around whitish scabs and blemishes. Fumitory is one of Greek / Unani medicine's main skin remedies, and works wonders.
Senna (Cassia angustifolia) - Cold and dry. Acrid, astringent. Laxative, purgative, alterative. Senna is one of Greek / Unani Medicine's main purgatives for morbid Black Bile, but ironically, it has qualities that are similar to, and that can be aggravating to, Black Bile and the Nervous humor, causing intestinal cramps and griping. To mitigate such undesirable reactions, a few precautions must be considered and followed: The pods are gentler than the leaves. Senna is best combined with soft, moistening emollients and bulk laxatives like Figs, Raisins, Tamarind and Psyllium husks. And Senna in alcoholic tincture form is much more easily tolerated, and doesn;t cause griping. In tincture form, its effects seem to bypass the bowels and go straight to the blood, removing morbid Melancholic residues from it. As an alterative, Senna is used in chronic skin disorders caused by morbid Black Bile, and to promote menstruation.
Oxymel - Oxymel is made from honey and apple cider vinegar, and is traditionally considered to be a great tonic for purifying the the system of excessive, morbid or aggravated Black Bile; it is also useful for bringing down agues, or intermittent fevers.
Galen, in his manual on Hygiene, advises against preparing Oxymel to any rigid, inflexible formula; his main guideline is that in the finished product, the sweetness of the honey and the acidity of the vinegar be perfectly mixed. Nevertheless, he gives us this general formula:
Take one part vinegar, two parts honey, and four parts water. Boil these down by a third or a fourth, simmering the mixture slowly and skimming off the foam. The simmering will remove the raw acidity of the vinegar, blending it in perfectly with the honey.
Other Herbs for Adjusting and Regulating Black Bile
There are many herbs that are therapeutic and useful in some way for managing Melancholic disorders. A few of what I feel are the most important ones are given below:
Acacia Gum (Acacia senegal) - Neutral or temperate. Moderately moistening and binding. Bland. Tonic, demulcent, emollient, bulk laxative. Acacia Gum, also called Gum Arabic, is the gummy exudate of a leguminous small tree or shrub that is native to the hot, arid deserts of the Middle East. Acacia Gum is a bulk laxative, and is also a great healer and restorative of the large intestine or colon, which increases its vital functions and nutritive integrity, promotes peristalsis, and heals chronic ulcers and catarrhs in that organ, and in the entire GI tract. In herbal pharmacy, it is often added to syrups, pills and electuaries as a thickening, emulsifying or bonding agent.
Asafoetida (Ferula foetida) - Hot, pungent, spicy, aromatic. Very hot, moderately drying. Stimulant, tonic, stomachic, digestive, vermifuge, antispasmodic, carminative. Asafoetida is the resin from a species of large Umbelliferous plant indigenous to the Middle East. It has a very strong odor like that of garlic and onions, and is often used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine as a substitute for these condiments. Because Asafoetida is so hot and stimulating, it must be used in small doses, and with extreme care, especially by those who are prone to aggravations of heat and choler.
Used regularly in small doses, Asafoetida strengthens digestion and the functioning of the GI tract. Asafoetida corrects imbalances in intestinal flora and relieves many of the chronic and acute digestive complaints caused by aggravations of Melancholy or Black Bile. These include gas, bloating, distension and colic. Asafoetida is also a vermifuge in cases of parasitic intestinal infections and dysentery. And so, Asafoetida is a common ingredient in many digestive formulas, especially those designed for individuals of a Melancholic temperament.
Bdellium (Commiphora mukul) - Pungent, bitter, aromatic. Moderately heating and drying. Vulnerary, antirheumatic, lipotropic, deobstruent, thymogenic. Bdellium, called Guggulu in Ayurvedic medicine, is a resin similar to Myrrh that is exuded from a shrub native to the Middle East. It soothes rheumatic and arthritic pains in the muscles, bones and joints and opens up the blood vessels as well as the channels of the subtle body. For this reason, Bdellium is a common ingredient of resinous medicines used to treat various types of arthritis and rheumatism. Recent scientific research has focused on Bdellium's ability to lower serum cholesterol. Bdellium is a metabolic stimulant that is also able to treat diabetes and obesity.
Blessed Thistle (Carduus benedictus) - Slightly warming and drying. Bitter, pungent. Stomachic, carminative, cholagogue, bitter tonic, thymogenic, vulnerary, galactogogue, emmenagogue. In European herbal medicine, Blessed Thistle is one of the principal digestive tonics used to treat Melancholic digestive disturbances, and will relax and energize a nervous, worn out stomach and digestion. It also strongly improves the flow of bile and the gastric secretions. Blessed Thistle improves the blood circulation by relaxing and dilating the peripheral blood vessels. For women, it is a menstrual tonic that regulates the menstrual flow and relieves painful menstrual cramps. For nursing mothers, Blessed Thistle is a galactagogue that improves the flow of milk. Blessed Thistle is the principal ingredient of the Benedictine Liqueur, a famous aperitif for Melancholic digestive disorders.
Chicory (Chicorium intybus) - Moderately cooling, slightly moistening. Bitter, slightly sweet and pungent. Choleretic, cholagogue, hepatic, aperitive, bitter tonic, aperient, antiperiodic, alterative. Although Chicory is primarily a bitter tonic to treat jaundice and bilious disorders, it is also used to treat disorders of Black Bile as well. Chicory is a Splenical herb that removes obstructions from the spleen, which is the receptacle for Black Bile. It is also an aperient, which opens up the bowels, and is therefore remedial for the chronic constipation and intestinal obstruction that so often comes with Melancholic aggravations. Culpeper says that Chicory eliminates lingering agues, or intermittent fevers, the most chronic of which are usually due to putrefactions of Black Bile. Chicory is also full of beneficial minerals and nutrients that nourish the Blood, Black Bile's opposite yet complementary humor, which decreases Melancholy by antipathy, and has remedial effects in anemia and diabetes.
Costus Root (Saussurea lappa, Aucklandia lappa) - Moderately warming, slightly drying. Pungent, aromatic, bitter. Carminative, stomachic, aperient, antispasmodic. Costus root has been used both as an aromatic and in medicines since the most ancient of times. Its aromatic properties give it a beneficial carminative and stomachic effect, and a relaxing and regulating effect on the stomach, bowels and digestion. It also relaxes spasms of the gall bladder and bile duct in biliary colic, and has a restorative effect that strengthens and regulates the liver and the spleen. Costus root can be added as a corrective to laxative and purgative formulas to prevent the colic and griping caused by harsh stimulant laxatives; its aromatic properties, in combination with herbs that are excessively bitter, harmonizes them and makes them easier to take.
Cyperus Rhizome (Cyperus rotundus, C. esculenta) - Neutral to slightly cooling and drying. Pungent, aromatic, bitter. Carminative, stomachic, emmenagogue. Cyperus, also known as Nutgrass rhizome, has an earthy, musky aroma similar to Valerian, but sweeter and more pleasant. Like Costus root, Cyperus has been used both as an aromatic and in medicines since the most ancient of times. Its carminative and stomachic properties have an immediate relaxing effect on the whole digestive tract, and harmonizes and regulates the functions of the liver, stomach and spleen, which is very beneficial in Melancholic digestive disorders. In Chinese herbal medicine, Cyperus is used as an emmenagogue and female tonic, to regulate the menses, particularly in Melancholic type premenstrual syndrome characterized by severe cramps, mood swings, breast tenderness and food cravings. In Ayurvedic medicine, Cyperus, called Mustaka, is used to correct harmful imbalances in intestinal flora which Melancholics, with their poor intestinal immunity, are prone to, and to treat disorders like Candidiasis when used in large doses. Cyperus is also beneficial in skin disorders, where it relieves itching.
Indian Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) - Neutral to slightly cooling and drying. Pungent, aromatic, bitter. Sedative, nervine, diuretic, cardiotonic, aromatic. Called Jatamansi in India, Indian Spikenard, also called Indian Valerian, has a musky odor similar to Valerian but lighter and less offensive. It is not to be confused with American Spikenard, which is a relative of Ginseng. Due to its musky, Valerian-like odor, Indian Spikenard has been used as a fixative in perfumes and incenses, balms, unguents and medicated oils since the most ancient of times. It was Indian Spikenard that was used in the Spikenard Oil that Mary Magdalene used to annoint the feet of Jesus.
Medicinally, Indian Spikenard's main use is as a sedative and nervine, much like Valerian; however, it is not as dulling to the higher spiritual senses as Valerian, and promotes a mood of peace and tranquility. Even externally, the essential oil can be dabbed onto or massaged into the forehead and temples to ease nervous tension and headache. Indian Spikenard's anti-Melancholic action is beneficial in hysteria, insomnia, palpitations and nervousness. In Chinese herbal medicine, Indian Spikenard is called Gan Song, or Sweet Pine, and its diuretic ptoperties are used to relieve rheumatism and edema in the legs and feet.
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis, L. stoechas) - Moderately cooling. Pungent, aromatic, slightly bitter. Carminative, stomachic, tonic, nervine, antispasmodic. Lavender flowers are a stomachic and carminative that relieves Melancholic gas, distension, bloating and flatulence and helps eliminate putrefactive bacteria from the intestines. The leaves and stems, or spikes, can be used as an anti-Melancholic bitter digestive tonic similar to Yarrow.
In aromatherapy, the cooling, soothing, refreshing aroma of Lavender balances out the entire nervous system. If you want to have sound, restful sleep with beautiful, pleasant dreams, just sleep with a Lavender pillow.
In traditional Greek and Unani medicine, another species of Lavender, called Stoechas or Ustukkudhus, is often used. In addtion to having an overall anti-Melancholic action similar to regular Lavender, Stoechas has a beneficial action in nervous heart disorders.
Mistletoe (Viscum album) - Neutral, temperate to slightly warming. Bland, slightly sweet. Nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, anticonvulsant, antihypertensive, cardiotonic, vasodilator, thymogenic, tonic. European Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on trees. Traditionally, Culpeper tells us, the best Mistletoe is considered to be that which grows on oak trees, although those from other trees may also be used. Used in small doses, preferably in alcoholic tincture form, from 15 to 30 drops, Mistletoe is a very potent and reliable remedy for epilepsy, or the falling sickness, for which it has been used since the most ancient of times. For this purpose, small doses of the powder were also taken, such as that which can be spread thinly over the surface of a penny, but the tincture in drops is a more reliable way of proper dosing. Mistletoe is a cardiotonic and vasodilator that also has a powerful antihypertensive effect that lowers blood pressure while improving circulation in general.
Mistletoe has a loosening and opening action that circulates and removes obstructions; it also has, Culpeper tells us, a dissolving, attenuating action on thick, tough humors, knots, nodules and tumors, as well as a purolytic effect on resolving imposthumes, or abscesses. These actions, plus a thymogenic effect that boosts immunity and strengthens the Thymus gland and pancreas, make Mistletoe an important herb in natural cancer therapy.
Mistletoe is also a sedative and nervine that strengthens the nervous system and dispels Melancholy, relieving tremors, tics, convulsions, palsies and spasms. As a sedative, nervine and antispasmodic, Mistletoe combines very well with other anti-Melancholic herbs like Motherwort and Vervain.
CAUTION: Mistletoe is an extremely potent herb that is best used under professional supervision. The berries are very potent and poisonous.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) - Slightly warming and drying. Bitter, pungent. Cardiotonic, thymogenic, vasodilator, diuretic, sedative, nervine, emmenagogue, uterine tonic. Motherwort got its name because it is both an emmenagogue that regulates the menses and a uterine tonic that helps shrink and restore tone to the uterus of mothers after chilbirth. Motherwort got its second Latin name, cardiaca, because it is a heart tonic that strengthens a tired, nervous heart, removing oppressive Melancholic vapors. Motherwort is also a thymogenic and vasodilator, as well as a diuretic which improves blood circulation and relieves water retention with its diuretic effect.
But it is in its use in European herbal medicine that Motherwort's anti-Melancholic nature really comes to the fore; it is used in nervous exhaustion, tics and neuralgias, and in rheumatism. Culpeper says that Motherwort helps concoct and digest the cold humors, Phlegm and Melancholy, that have settled in the bones, joints and sinews of the body, and eases cramps and convulsions. A teaspoon of the powdered herb taken with wine, Culpeper tells us, "is a wonder to help women that are in their sore travail".
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) - Moderately cooling and drying. Pungent, bitter. Astringent, vulnerary, thymogenic, emmenagogue, stomachic, carminative, tonic. Myrrh is a thymogenic that improves the circulation and immune activity of the blood and dissolves congealed blood; it is also a vulnerary that heals wounds, sores and ulcerations, especially the chronic, indolent ones caused by aggravated Black Bile, and generates new flesh and tissue. It is an excellent gargle or topical application for bleeding gums and mouth ulcerations, and promotes peristalsis in the GI tract while reducing putrefaction and yeast or fungal overgrowth. By dissolving congealed blood, Myrrh is also an emmenagogue that regulates the menses. Myrrh is also an essential ingredient in liniments and dressings for wounds, bruises and traumatic injuries.
Nigella (Nigella sativa) - Moderately warming and drying. Pungent, acrid. Emmenagogue, galactogogue, abortifacient, stimulant, carminative, antispasmodic, antiasthmatic, expectorant, anthelminitic, corrective. The prophet Mohammed, PBUH, said that Nigella, or the Black Seed, is a cure for every disease except death. Nigella is called Khalonji in India; it is also known as Black Cumin. Nigella has a powerful opening and loosening action that is the source of its antispasmodic, carminative and antiasthmatic effects. Nigella will loosen up constrictions, colic and spasms in the respiratory, digestive, and female reproductive tracts.
In the respiratory tract, Nigella opens up the bronchial passages; its warming, pungent, acrid qualities also concoct and expel excess phlegm. In the digestive tract, Nigella relieves gas and colic, expels parasites, and acts as an antispasmodic and corrective to relieve the intestinal griping caused by harsh stimulant laxatives. In the female reproductive tract, Nigella is an emmenagogue effective against menstrual cramps, helps labor and delivery, and also promotes lactation in nursing mothers.
St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) - Slightly warming and drying. Pungent, bitter. Nervine, antispasmodic, hepatic, vulnerary. St. John's Wort is most famous for its blues-busting, anti-Melancholic antidepressant effects; it is a great nervous tonic and restorative that not only increases serotonin levels, but also balances out all neurotransmitters. As an antispasmodic, St. John's Wort is effective against menstrual cramps and digestive colic. Chinese herbal medicine uses St. John's Wort as a hepatic tonic in jaundice and liver problems. In Romania, St. John's Wort is used to detoxify the liver and GI tract, especially in the chronic catarrhal and ulcerative conditions caused by Black Bile aggravation. Topically, St. John's Wort Oil is used to treat wounds, burns, sores, and bruises, as well as earache.
Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) - Moderately cooling and moistening. Sour, sweet. Aperient, laxative, tonic, corrective, febrifuge, refrigerant. Although the anti-Choleric aspects of Tamarind were covered in the previous page, the anti-Melancholic effects of Tamarind center on its use as a soothing, moistening bulk laxative and its ability to correct or counteract the Melancholic aggravation of intestinal griping caused by harsh stimulant laxatives.
Tormentil Root (Potentilla tormentila) - Slightly cooling and drying. Pungent, acrid, bittersweet, astringent. Astringent tonic, anticatarrhal, vulnerary, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, hemostatic. Tormentil is the root of a species of Cinquefoil; it is also called Radix Pentaphyllum. The gentle astringency, tonic and vulnerary properties of Tormentil root makes it perfect for healing bowel disorders caused by aggravations of Black Bile. These include chronic constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic dysenteric, catarrhal and ulcerative disorders of the colon. The astringent properties of Tormentil root make it good to use as a gargle or mouthwash, for stopping intestinal bleeding, and for stopping leucorrhea and vaginal discharges.
Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis, V. wallichii) - Moderately warming and drying. Pungent, aromatic, bitter. Nervine, antispasmodic, sedative, carminative, stomachic, cardiotonic, emmenagogue. Valerian root is most famous as a sedative and nervine to treat nervousness, stress and insomnia. However, it also has many other uses. In the digestive tract, Valerian has a carminative and stomachic effect that regulates the function and the free flow of the Metabolic Force through the stomach and liver; it will also prevent the stagnation or accumulation of excess Melancholy in the liver and hypochondriac region. In addition to being therapeutic for a nervous stomach and digestion, Valerian is also a cardiotonic that will dispel Melancholic vapors and strengthen a nervous heart. Valerian has a gross, heavy quality that dulls the higher spiritual senses, but the upside of this quality is that it is good for treating psychic hypersensitivity, shock and hysteria. Valerian's loosening antispasmodic quality is also good for treating menstrual cramps. It combines very well with, and enhances the effects of, other female tonics.
Yarrow (Achillea millfolium) - Slightly cooling, drying. Bitter, pungent, aromatic. Carminative, stomachic, tonic, emmenagogue, hepatic, thymogenic, vulnerary, antiperiodic. In the previous page, we covered Yarrow's anti-Choleric properties and uses, but here we will focus on its therapeutic effects in Melancholic disorders.
Yarrow is great for dispelling excess nervous tension and Melancholy from the stomach and liver and promoting the free flow of the liver's Metabolic Force, improving digestion and metabolism. Yarrow is one of the best herbs to improve the blood flow through the veins of the hepatic portal system, which is often stagnated and congested by residues of aggravated Black Bile.
Yarrow also has a subtle yet profound tonic effect on the blood, optimizing its consistency, viscosity and clotting properties. It is also a thymogenic which vitalizes the blood and improves its circulation. These blood tonic properties make Yarrow a great menstrual tonic as well as a hemostatic, vulnerary and wound herb. Yarrow is most suited for premenstrual syndrome of the Melancholic type, with marked cramping,, indigestion, food cravings and mood swings. The topical application of Yarrow poultices is great to stop bleeding and promote the healing of wounds. As an antiperiodic, Yarrow can also be used for quartain agues, or intermittent fevers caused by a putrefaction of Black Bile.
Aromatherapy for Melancholic Disorders
The major therapeutic fragrances and essential oils for aggravated Melancholy are Jatamansi, Lavender, Nutmeg and Vetivert, or Khus-Khus. Nutmeg oil can be rubbed directly into the temples to soothe the pain and tension of a nervous headache. Pillows can be stuffed with either Lavender or Yarrow - or both - to promote sound sleep and brighten the dreams.
In Persia, the seeds of Syrian Rue or Wild Rue, called Harmal in the Middle East (Peganum harmala), are burned, and the strong smelling smoke is used to clear the air in the house of any negative psychic energy.
Melancholy and Medicinal Oils
There is something about oils, especially when used topically in oleation and massage, that is tremendously heavy and grounding, smooth and soothing. The use of healing balms and medicinal or medicated oils is great for dissipating the nervous tension and frenetic, ungrounded psychic energy of aggravated Melancholy.
Oils that are especially thick and heavy are the most soothing and calming for excess nervous energy. And one of the thickest and heaviest of all oils is Castor Oil. In addition to its soothing, calming qualities, Castor Oil has two other wonderful therapeutic virtues: it draws out pus and toxins; and it is a deobstruent, dispersing tension, congestion and blockages. Taken internally, Castor Oil is a lubricant laxative, and great for dispelling the accumulated colicky tension of aggravated Melancholy from the bowels.
In general, and as a base oil for medicated massage oils, Galen considered Olive Oil to be the most equable and balanced in temperament of any oil. For topical oleation and massage, Galen stipulated that only Sabine Oil, or Olive Oil from the Sabine region of the Italian peninsula, be used. This was because it was absolutely free of any harshness or astringency that might unduly aggravate Melancholy. In terms of the varieties of Olive Oil that are commonly available today, Pomace Olive Oil would be the one to use, since it is totally free of the harshness, "bite", or astringency found in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Black Bile and Cancer
In traditional Greek and Unani Medicine, morbid Black Bile was considered to be the humor most implicated in cancer. This is because cancerous tumors, in their gross, manifest properties and appearance, have qualities commonly associated with Black Bile and the Earth element: they are hard, cold, dark in color, and firmly rooted or embedded in the surrounding tissue.
Cancer is Latin for "crab", and the cancerous tumor, or carcinoma, from karkinos, the Greek word for crab, has crab-like attributes. The main tumor or nodule is the body of the crab, and the claws or roots that insinuate themselves into the surrounding tissue are like the crab's legs. And, last but not least, cancer spreads, or metastasizes.
Conventional allopathic medicine sees the cancerous growth or tumor as a pathogenic invader, as a group of mutant renegade cells trying to take over an otherwise normal host. And so, its main therapies have been focused on trying to cut, burn or poison these mutant cells out of the body.
But this approach is quite myopic and shortsighted, and yields only limited success. The radical intervention of conventional cancer treatment can be very debilitating to the host organism as a whole; if the patient recovers, it is too often in spite of the treatment, not because of it.
The holistic approach of Greek Medicine and other natural healing systems is to see the malignant growth as merely the surface manifestation of a deeper systemic malignancy or derangement. In order for recovery from cancer to be lasting or complete, these deeper disorders must be addressed.
Although morbid, oxidized forms of Black Bile are involved in the process of carcinogenesis, in cancer, the whole metabolism, and all of the humors, are deranged. This profound morbidity and derangement of all the humors is evidenced by the sickly, cachexic complexion of so many cancer patients, particularly in the advanced stages of the disease.
To put the metabolism back in order, pepsis and the Digestive Fire must be stimulated. The liver, which generates and regulates all the humors, must be thoroughly cleansed, its temperament rectified, and its humoral metabolism normalized. The functions of all the eliminative organs, especially the liver and the colon, must be greatly stimulated to evacuate accumulated metabolic wastes. The blood, spleen and lymphatic system must be cleansed with herbal blood cleansers, or alteratives.
Cancer also involves a profound derangement and depletion of the immune system. Even in the normal, healthy person, stray mutant cancer cells are generated from time to time, but the host's immune system destroys these abnormal cells before they can take root, grow and metastasize. But by the time cancer finally takes hold, the host's immune system is already greatly compromised.
In Greek Medicine, the immune system and the immune response of the organism is carried on the Blood, or the Sanguine humor. This is what Greek Medicine calls Thymos, or the Immune Force. Pure, fresh, healthy blood has a high vital function and thymic activity; it is also well oxygenated. With impure, devitalized, toxic blood, the reverse is the case; its oxygenation and immune function are low. Improving the thymic immune response of the organism, then, means improving the circulation, oxygenation and vitalization of the blood.
Malignant tumors often form in areas where the flow of blood has become compromised, congested or stagnant. According to Greek Medicine, the stagnant blood putrifies and mixes with morbid charred or oxidized forms of Black Bile, forming the hard nodule of a tumor. The fact that putrefactive processes are involved is evident from the fact that, when a cancerous tumor is incised or cut open, a foul, putrid odor issues forth.
The Phlegmatic humor, especially the lymph, provides an important supporting role in maintaining optimum immunity. If the lymphatic system does not purify the lymph, plasma and serous fluids, which are recycled back into the bloodstream, immunity will suffer. And the spleen, the largest lymphatic organ in the body, depends on the Retentive Virtue and chelating action of the normal Black Bile it stores to filter particulate impurities out of the blood and lymph.
When fighting a chronic degenerative disease like cancer by natural means, a comprehensive treatment plan must be devised, preferably under the guidance of a holistic healthcare professional. Such a treatment regimen must incorporate the following:
Dietary Therapy, since diet profoundly affects our metabolism, as well as the humoral balance and purity of the organism.
Herbal Therapy to cleanse the liver and bowels, blood and lymph, to stimulate and balance pepsis and metabolism, dissolve tumors, nodules and accumulations of morbid humors, and to support and stimulate the immune response of the organism.
Hygienic Purification Therapies like colonics and enemas to remove accumulated waste matter from the body.
Nutritional Supplementation to give the body the vital nutrients it needs for optimum constitutional strength and resilience to fight the cancer and win.
Lifestyle and Psychological Therapy to ensure adequate exercise and rest, constructive living habits, and a positive mental and emotional outlook, which benefits the overall immunity of the body and strengthens the will to live.
With natural methods as well as conventional, early, prompt diagnosis and treatment are all important. Our chances for total victory against the cancer are much better if we catch it while it is still a localized phenomenon; after the cancer metastasizes and spreads systemically, our chances for recovery get a lot slimmer.
When taking on "the Big C", or fighting a life threatening disease like cancer, we must reach deep down inside ourselves and follow our deepest gut level convictions. This is necessary because we must have strong faith, belief and conviction that the therapeutic path we are following will work in order to follow through with the treatment, and successfully go the distance.
When it comes to natural treatments for cancer, there are two basic approaches: either use natural and herbal methods exclusively, or to use natural methods to boost strength and immunity and to complement or offset the debilitating side effects of conventional treatment. In terms of their overall invasiveness and injurious or debilitating effects on the innate vitality, immunity and metabolism of the organism, surgery ranks first as being the most desirable option, followed by radiation, and finally chemotherapy. But either way, I feel, natural methods are indispensable to give yourself every chance possible of a successful, full and complete recovery; even if you're using conventional treatments as your core approach, you're only playing with half a deck if you're not also incorporating natural methods.
In closing, I would like to leave you with an excellent article about Chicory root and cancer treatment from the Muslim Heritage website:
by Professor Nil Sari
The Traditional Healer's Handbook: A Classic Guide to the Medicine of Avicenna
by Hakim G. M. Chishti, N.D. @1988, 1991 by Hakim G. M. Chishti
Healing Arts Press, Rutland Vermont pp. 173 - 174
Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice
by Sebastian Pole
@ 2006 by Churchill Livingstone Elsever Ltd., Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA
pp. 191, 194, 200, 228
Culpeper's Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper
@ 1995 by Wordsworth Editions, UK
The Herb Book by John Lust, N.D.
@ 1974 by Benedict Lust Publications