Introduction To Living Physiology
Physiology is the study of how the living body functions and how it responds to certain situations. It is one of the pillars that sustains the practice of medicine, conveying us with information on how to understand the signals, or symptoms, so that adequate action can be taken.
The absolutely essential notion that an apprentice must have is that balance is health. The world around us revolves around the concept of balance: light and shadow, pain and pleasure, failure and success, and so forth. Whenever a concept arises, naturally, another is deducted to be its counterpart, its other extreme.
The living body, being part of the world, is no exception to this balance. It requires that both the vital fluids and ailments are present and in equilibrium.
There are essentially two true ailments, and a third that derives from the lack or excess of a vital fluid.
Poison is the first of the true ailments. It acts as a destroyer of tissue and a numbing agent of the mind. The destroying power of a poison, or toxin, depends on its concentration and its target. There are a number of poisons that paralyze, cause pain, keep wounds from closing, numb limbs, et cetera. No matter its effect, a poison is always more dangerous the more concentrated it finds itself.
To preserve the balance, the body requires a quantity of poison at all times. Indeed in non-sinister settings the living body is constantly absorbing poison from the air, the water, by drinking any alcohol, from eating meat, herbs, touching objects, and even when bathing. The concentration is, of course, minimal when performing such deeds, but it is a quantity of poison the body requires to be healthy. It is also fruit of reason that excesses of these minimal concentrations lead to an excess of poison and an unhealthy state. Drinking too much beer results in intoxication by alcohol, and even medicine like Icecap Oil may lead to Icecap poisoning if in excess.
There is always a limit - generally very varied from substance to substance and person to person - to which any increase becomes an excess and affects the balance.
Disease is the second of the true ailments. It is a product of death, conducted by Scourge magic. Its sole purpose is to inhabit a host and shift its natural physiology to pursue other goals, such as to spread the disease to others, consume the host's flesh, affect the host's mindset, and other morbid affairs. Diseases can spread by any means, though single diseases tend to spread by a single method. They can be,
- airborne (pestilence),
- waterborne (contamination),
- infectious (open wounds, ingestion)
- contagious (sneezing, coughing, touching).
The last two apply to living beings or food.
A certain measure of disease is required to preserve the health balance, and it can be naturally obtained and subtle enough to not be noticed. An essential notion to have, is that there is a very high number of different disease agents and an infinity of variations of these. A good part of these agents are benign - the quantity we require to be healthy, by passively keeping the body fighting minor intrusions -, and another good part are malign - strong disease agents that surpass the limit and tip the balance. These cause symptoms as a result of the struggle between the body and the disease to take control of the host - and some are simply terminal - disease agents of such strength that the body's defenses are completely crushed. Examples include the Plague.
The direct opposite of death is life. The sources are undeath and holy, respectively. Therefore, the most effective way to counter disease is with holy magic. This can be done through herbs with holy properties (such as Morning Glory) or with holy cleansing spells.
There are four vital fluids, in balance with the ailments. The quantity of these fluids vary greatly from person to person, but their added concentration matches that of the ailments in a healthy body. The vital fluids present in every living being are blood, bile, water and mana.
Blood is vital to life. It is the fluid that connects all the organs of the body. In an analogy to a kingdom, the blood vessels would be the trade routes. The body can never have an excess of blood naturally, though there is such a condition as the lack of blood (third ailment). This leads to an unhealthy body through weakness and dizziness for example. The body is capable of regenerating lost blood.
Bile is the acid that melts what we ingest and is essential to create the fuel that keeps us alive. An excess or lack of bile is a sign of unbalance and an unhealthy body. The body is able to generate bile, just like blood, but is ignorant to the balance limit.
Water is the only one of the vital fluids that is not created by the body. Instead, it is required to drink water to replenish the supply of this vital fluid. Water can not have concentration, as it is what determines concentration of other substances. Despite its unique property, it is a vital fluid that reigns not by concentration but by presence: water is always required for the body to function, to create the other vital fluids, et cetera. An excess or lack of water leads to complications and an unbalanced body.
Magic is present in every aspect of the world of Azeroth, including medicine. It is present in the herbs, in the invisible ley lines that surround us, in the form of awe-inducing magical beasts, and so on. As part of the world, our bodies are no exception. Mana is the vital fluid present in everyone - including non-casters -, that marks the connection between the physical and the magical. When a mage casts magic it is drawn to the mage and conducted through the mage's body towards the target of the spell. Mana is the fluid that conducts the magic, much like how steel conducts lightning.
Whenever the arcane energy flows through mana, it consumes some of the fluid to sustain its presence in the physical plane. Physiologically, mana is the fluid of energy - debated whether or not it is the source of life. This is why casting magic becomes more and more fatiguing over time, with the consumption growing in proportion to the power of the spell.
Every living being has mana - its quantity depending -, or else the magical properties of herbs and magic would have no effect over it, granted that there is no connection with the magical. A high concentration of mana in the body of a mage, added to his disregard for exercise, accuses the mage's physical frailty, and also his high perseverance when casting magic that exhausts, and the generally long lifespans they boast.
An excess of mana may lead to unstablility when conjuring magic, and a lack of mana may lead to fatigue, weakness or even comatose.