Galen of Perganum.
Constitutional Medicine is based on the undestanding that humans are not identical in their makeup, and that therefore each person has his/her own special requirements for the maintenance of health and for the treatment of disease.
Constitutional Medicine therefore denies that all people should be treated the same, but rather states that treatment approaches in all forms of medicine should be focused on the specific needs of the individual.
Constitutional Medicine is not new; Galen of Pergamum (129 to c.200 AD), one of the great pioneers of modern medicine divided people into four groups: Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic and Melancholic; each with their own particular needs, that included their specific dietary approaches and effective medicines.
Since that time there have been many researchers and scientists that have presented their own variants of Galen's constitutions; some of these are, in chronological order: Francis Gall (1757 - 1858), Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), William Herbert Sheldon (1898-1977), Victor Rocine (1859 - 1943) and Hans Eysenck (1916-1997).
Important development in this area was also brought about on the other side of the world in Korea, by Lee Je-Ma (1837-1900 AD) who combined traditional Eastern medicine approaches within a - to the Orient - unique system of four constitutions, which he designated as follows: Taeyang or the Greater Yang constitution, Soyang or the Lesser Yang constitution, Taeeum or the Greater Yin constitution, and Soeum or the Lesser Yin constitution. This system lists the specific strengths and weaknesses of each constitution and sets out specific approaches for the maintenance of psychological and physical health that include lifestyle, diet and exercise. He also details constitutionally related diagnostics and indicates the specific types of treatments and medicines that are applicable to each constitution.
Lee Je-Ma's Constitutional Medicine, known in Korea as Sasang, is the only system of constitutional medicine that is actively being developed, as a result of which there are now a great many practitioners of this medicine in both Korea and elsewhere in the world.
Lee Je-Ma of Korea.
Why Constitutional Medicine?
Constitutional Medicine evaluates each person as an individual, rather than as some "average" patient. As a result any treatments provided are more targeted to a person, are safer and achieve better results. In fact one of the primary things that stands out with Constitutional Medicine is its remarkable efficacy compared to other Eastern medicine approaches.
According to Constitutional Medicine, each constitution has a certain inherently "dominant" or "stronger" organs and less dominant and weaker organs. The most dominant organ represent the "strength" of a given constitution, while the least dominant organ represents the "weak point" of that constitution. Constitutional Medicine sets out to control any excess activity of the "dominant" organs and to enhance the function of the weaker organs in order to re-establish health. The aim here is not to achieve a perfect balance, as perfection is an abstract that does not exist in nature, but to achieve the kind of physiological balance and optimal organic function that is normal for that individual and provides the highest possible level of health, quality of life and longevity.
What Treatments Methods are Used in Constitutional Medicine?
Treatments used in Constitutional Medicine include counseling, dietary approaches, herbal medicine and reflex therapy; the latter of which which treats active reflex points by means of massage, spot warming, "dry needling", and/or therapeutic magnets.
There may appear to be similarities between our treatment methods and those used by other disciplines; but there is one essential difference: our approaches are always targeted towards a specific constitution. Any apparent similarities between the treatment methods used in this clinic and those of other mainstream "alternative" and "traditional" medicines are due to the fact that once one removes the age-old accumulated philosophical "sediment" that has built up on most of these medicines, and focuses on the healing aspect, traditional medicines the world over have certain core principles in common; after all nature's laws are the same wherever the Sun may rise or set. In the end all traditional medicines use nutrition, herbal medicine and one or more forms of physical therapy. Ultimately what really matters is which therapeutic approach has the greater efficacy. Constitutional medicine can lay claim to this because it uses medicines and therapies in a holistic and integrated way that is targeted to the individual, rather than just a set of disease symptoms.
About the Four Constitutions.
Originally Lee Je-Ma described four basic constitutions:
- A constitution with dominant lung function he called by the Korean name "Taeyang".
- A constitution with dominant pancreas function called "Soyang".
- A constitution with dominant liver function called "Taeeum".
- And a constitution with dominant kidney function called "Soeum".
These are pretty closely aligned to Galen's constitutions, namely: Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic and Melancholic; in that order. This similarity does not indicate that Lee Je-Ma took on Galen's concepts but rather that when a solution to the same problem is found in differing times and at opposite sides of the globe, the results will tend to look remarkably similar.
The following chart provides a summary of the different constitutions. Please note that although the constitutions are represented by either a male or a female figure, both males and females can belong to any of the four constitutions.
"Lung" or Taeyang Constitution.
The upper body and head is relatively large and the hips relatively small; while the muscles are well developed.
The lungs and circulatory system are dominant.
Physically active and courageous. Tends to be dominant; an instigator of ideas and projects. Can be stubborn, lack planning, and show poor attention to detail. Prefers cooler environments, as hot environments can cause or aggravate health problems..
Requires more protein and cooler foods such as salads.
Poor blood quality and liver problems can cause health issues.
"Pancreas" or Soyang Constitution.
The upper body and chest are well developed, the neck is less muscular and more slender.
The pancreas, digestive system and nervous system are dominant.
Usually honest and courageous with a strong sense of justice and duty. Can be superficial, impatient and intolerant. Can easily get overheated, prefers cooler environments.
Can usually eat and digest almost anything.
Stress can cause health issues, as can problems with elimination.
"Liver" or Taeeum Constitution.
This constitution is often tall with an even distribution of fat giving a softer appearance.
The liver and metabolism are dominant, as is the immune system.
Calm, easy-going and loyal with a strong sense of achievement. Often tends to be conservative in general approach rather than challenged. Can be self-indulgent and pleasure-seeking.
Likes warmer environments, perspires easily and needs to do this to maintain health.
Tends to overeat and gain weight readily; exercise is better than diet to control weight.
"Kidney" or Soeum Constitution.
The lower body is more developed and the upper body less so, giving relatively wider hips and narrower shoulders.
The kidneys are dominant, as are the organs of elimination and endocrine system.
Kind and composed, cautious and hesitant.
Can be introspective, non-progressive and inactive.
Likes warmer environments, the cold causes or aggravates health problems.
Digestion is the main weakness and requires mostly cooked food.
Of course this represents very basic information on Constitutional Medicine, in fact since this was first introduced, each of these constitutions has been subdivided into subtypes by later researchers. Nevertheless, we trust this information provides you with confidence as regards the usefulness and potential of Constitutional Medicine; and as regards its relevance to your health.
Copyright© Paul Hysen PhD. December 2012.