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The Three Humors

In Tibetan Medicine, the three humors are the vital substances of the body. The three humors are wind [Tib: lung], bile [Tib: tripa] and phlegm [Tib: beken]. Each humor embodies a particular principle of energy and a specific type of action. Collectively, they are responsible for the basic functioning of the body. All diseases can be described in terms of an imbalance of one or more of the humors. The humors are interdependent and it is their relative balance to each other that determines if one is excessive or deficient.

There are five types of each humor and they each have specific locations and functions within the body. Generally, the wind humor is connected with the lower part of the body, bile is associated with the middle part of the body and phlegm is associated with the upper part of the body.

Of course, the humors, like all phenomena, are composed of the elements. Wind is mostly the wind element and it is characterized by movement. Bile is predominantly the fire element and is characterized by heat and transformation. Phlegm is comprised predominantly of the earth and water elements and is characterized by solidity and cohesion.

The humors embody a system that seamlessly weaves together the gross physical level of the body and the subtle mental level. Each of the humors is connected, via its close relation with its corresponding elements, with a negative emotion. When the humor is aggravated, this emotion manifests. Likewise, if this emotion manifests for another reason, the corresponding humor will become aggravated and imbalanced. In this way, the mind causes disease in the body, and the mind can also heal disease in the body.