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Circulatory System

The circulatory system is made up of the heart, blood and blood vessels known
as arteries, capillaries and veins. The heart pumps blood throughout your body
through the blood vessels. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to cells and carries
away carbon dioxide and other waste materials.

Heart and Circulation

Did you ever send a valentine with the shape of a heart on it? Did you ever hear
someone say, “That came straight from my heart?” People talk about hearts a lot.
People have always known that hearts are very important.

You have a heart. Your heart does not look like a valentine heart. Your heart is a
pump. When you run very fast, your heart pumps hard and fast. You can feel your
heart pumping, or beating.
Your heart looks like an upside-down pear. It is about the size of your closed fist. It is
almost in the middle of your chest. It is just off to the left side.

Your heart is made of muscle. It is divided into four parts called chambers. The
chambers are hollow inside. The two chambers on top are called atria. The
chambers on the bottom are called ventricles. Your heart also has four valves that let
blood in and out of the chambers.

Tubes called arteries come out of your heart. Tubes called veins go into your heart.
Arteries and veins are also called blood vessels.


Artery, one of the tubular vessels that conveys blood from the heart to the tissues of
the body. Two arteries have direct connection with the heart: (1) the aorta, which,
with its branches, conveys oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to every part of
the body; and (2) the pulmonary artery, which conveys blood from the right
ventricle to the lungs, whence it is returned bearing oxygen to the left side of the


Veins are blood vessels that return blood to the heart from other parts of the body.
This false-color electron micrograph shows red blood cells packed into a capillary,
the smallest type of blood vessel. Blood flows from the capillaries into veins after
oxygen has been exchanged.


Capillary, one of the minute blood vessels that form the connection between the
arteries and the veins. These tiny vessels vary in diameter from 0.0127 to about
0.2032 mm (0.0005 to about 0.008 in) and are present in great numbers throughout
the entire body. The walls of capillaries are exceedingly thin and readily
permeable. They are surrounded by lymph, and there is a constant interchange
between the substances in the blood within the capillaries and the waste products in
the body tissues and lymph outside. This interchange facilitates the processes of
nutrition and elimination and enables the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide to
take place. Lymph capillaries assist the blood capillaries in this process.

The integumentary system is a fancy word that encompasses the skin and all of the
tissues that form out of the skin, such as nails, hair, and some glands.

The skin is the largest organ in humans. Herbalists rely on the physiology of the skin
to better understand an individual. Is the skin hot or cold? Clammy or dry? What
color tone is the skin presenting with? Are there noticeable blemishes on the skin?

Many problems that people associate with the skin have roots in other systems. For
example, rashes may indicate a problem with the liver, the digestive system, or
the immune system.


The skin has five major functions.

 Protection: First and foremost the skin protects the underlying structures by
providing a physical barrier against the external environment. This can
include anything from pathogens to abrasions.

 Temperature homeostasis: The skin helps to regulate temperature by

perspiring when the body becomes too hot. When the body has become too
cold, blood vessels near the surface of the skin constrict to prevent heat from
leaving the body.

 Sensation: Nerve fibers that run throughout the layers of the skin help us to
sense touch, temperature, pressure, and pain.

 Elimination: The skin is one of our eliminatory organs. Perspiration removes

natural metabolic wastes from the body. (Traditionally, sweating has been an
important part of a health regimen.)

 Vitamin D production is another important part of the skin’s functions.


Hair is comprised of a shaft and a root. The hair root grows inside of a hair follicle,
which is a tubular inward growth in the epidermis. The hair shaft is the section that
grows above the skin surface.

Humans have hair on practically all parts of the body. It provides various forms of
protection. For example, eyebrows and eyelashes protect the eyes from sunlight,
particles, and even perspiration. Hair within the nasal cavity prevents dust and
foreign objects like insects from entering.


Fingernails and toenails are keratinized cells formed from the epidermis. Nails
consist of two parts, the root from which the nail grows and the body, which is visible
externally. Nails also serve protective purposes. The lunula is a white moon-shaped
structure that is located near the root of the nail.
The digestive system is a group of organs working together to convert food into
energy and basic nutrients to feed the entire body. Food passes through a long tube
inside the body known as the alimentary canal or the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract).


The mouth is the beginning of the

digestive tract; and, in fact, digestion
starts here when taking the first bite of food. Chewing breaks the food into pieces
that are more easily digested, while saliva mixes with food to begin the process of
breaking it down into a form your body can absorb and use.


Located in your throat near your trachea (windpipe), the esophagus receives food
from your mouth when you swallow. By means of a series of muscular contractions
called peristalsis, the esophagus delivers food to your stomach.


The stomach is a hollow organ, or "container," that holds food while it is being mixed
with enzymes that continue the process of breaking down food into a usable form.
Cells in the lining of the stomach secrete a strong acid and powerful enzymes that
are responsible for the breakdown process. When the contents of the stomach are
sufficiently processed, they are released into the small intestine.
Small intestine

Made up of three segments - the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum - the small intestine
is a 22-foot long muscular tube that breaks down food using enzymes released by
the pancreas and bile from the liver. Peristalsis also is at work in this organ, moving
food through and mixing it with digestive secretions from the pancreas and liver.


The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the duodenum, the first segment of
the small intestine. These enzymes break down protein, fats, and carbohydrates. The
pancreas also makes insulin, secreting it directly into the bloodstream. Insulin is the
chief hormone for metabolizing sugar.


The liver has multiple functions, but its main function within the digestive system is
to process the nutrients absorbed from the small intestine. Bile from the liver
secreted into the small intestine also plays an important role in digesting fat. In
addition, the liver is the body's chemical "factory."


The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile, and then releases it into the
duodenum to help absorb and digest fats.

Colon (large intestine)

The colon is a 6-foot long muscular tube that connects the small intestine to the
rectum. The large intestine is made up of the cecum, the ascending (right) colon, the
transverse (across) colon, the descending (left) colon, and the sigmoid colon, which
connects to the rectum.


The rectum (Latin for "straight") is an 8-inch chamber that connects the colon to the
anus. It is the rectum's job to receive stool from the colon, to let the person know that
there is stool to be evacuated, and to hold the stool until evacuation happens.


The anus is the last part of the digestive tract. It is a 2-inch long canal consisting of
the pelvic floor muscles and the two anal sphincters (internal and external). The
lining of the upper anus is specialized to detect rectal contents. It lets you know
whether the contents are liquid, gas, or solid.

Nose and Nasal Cavity

The nose and nasal cavity form the main external opening for the respiratory
system and are the first section of the body’s airway—the respiratory tract through
which air moves. The nose is a structure of the face made of cartilage, bone, muscle,
and skin that supports and protects the anterior portion of the nasal cavity. The nasal
cavity is a hollow space within the nose and skull that is lined with hairs and mucus
membrane. The function of the nasal cavity is to warm, moisturize, and filter air
entering the body before it reaches the lungs..


The mouth, also known as the oral cavity, is the secondary external opening for the
respiratory tract. Most normal breathing takes place through the nasal cavity, but the
oral cavity can be used to supplement or replace the nasal cavity’s functions when
needed. Because the pathway of air entering the body from the mouth is shorter than
the pathway for air entering from the nose, the mouth does not warm and moisturize
the air entering the lungs as well as the nose performs this function.


The pharynx, also known as the throat, is a muscular funnel that extends from the
posterior end of the nasal cavity to the superior end of the esophagus and larynx.
The pharynx is divided into 3 regions: the nasopharynx, oropharynx, and
laryngopharynx. The nasopharynx is the superior region of the pharynx found in
the posterior of the nasal cavity. Inhaled air from the nasal cavity passes into the
nasopharynx and descends through the oropharynx, located in the posterior of the
oral cavity. Air inhaled through the oral cavity enters the pharynx at
the oropharynx.


The larynx, also known as the voice box, is a short section of the airway that
connects the laryngopharynx and the trachea. The larynx is located in the anterior
portion of the neck, just inferior to the hyoid bone and superior to the trachea.
Several cartilage structures make up the larynx and give it its structure. The
epiglottis is one of the cartilage pieces of the larynx and serves as the cover of the
larynx during swallowing.


The main function of the trachea is to provide a clear airway for air to enter and exit
the lungs. In addition, the epithelium lining the trachea produces mucus that traps
dust and other contaminants and prevents it from reaching the lungs. Cilia on the
surface of the epithelial cells move the mucus superiorly toward the pharynx where
it can be swallowed and digested in the gastrointestinal tract.

Bronchi and Bronchioles

The main function of the bronchi and bronchioles is to carry air from the trachea into
the lungs. Smooth muscle tissue in their walls helps to regulate airflow into the lungs.
When greater volumes of air are required by the body, such as during exercise, the
smooth muscle relaxes to dilate the bronchi and bronchioles.


The lungs are a pair of large, spongy organs found in the thorax lateral to
the heart and superior to the diaphragm. Each lung is surrounded by a pleural
membrane that provides the lung with space to expand as well as a negative
pressure space relative to the body’s exterior. The negative pressure allows the
lungs to passively fill with air as they relax. The left and right lungs are slightly
different in size and shape due to the heart pointing to the left side of the body. The
left lung is therefore slightly smaller than the right lung and is made up of 2 lobes
while the right lung has 3 lobes.

Functions of the Muscular System


The most obvious function of the muscular system is movement. Organisms have
adopted a variety of methods to use the contractile function of the muscular system
to move themselves through the environment. The most basic movements of fish
include contracting muscles on opposite sides of the body in succession to propel
themselves through the water. In organisms with limbs, tendons and other
connective tissues are used to secure muscles to the joints and skeleton, which may
be internal like human skeletons, or external like the exoskeleton of crabs. The
nervous system coordinates the contraction of the muscular system to synchronize
the movement of the limbs. Animals like the cheetah, swordfish, and bat have
obtained speeds above 60 miles per hour through the power of their muscles alone.

The second and less obvious function of the muscular system is to assist with
circulation. Visceral and cardiac muscle tissues surround the blood vessels and
lymph vessels that carry crucial nutrients to the cells of the body. Cardiac muscle
makes up the heart, and supplies the main force for blood traveling through the
body. Large arteries and veins have associated muscles which can contract or relax
to control the pressure of the blood. The actions of large skeletal muscles also help
pump the blood and lymph through the body. While you exercise and contract large
and small muscles, they push vessels aside, which works like a pump to move fluids
around your body.


Much like its ability to move fluids through vessels in the circulatory system, the
muscular system also aids in moving food through the digestive system. Most
digestive organs are surrounded by visceral, or smooth muscle tissue. Although the
tissue cannot be voluntarily contracted like skeletal muscles, it is controlled
subconsciously. When food needs to be moved through the gut, the muscles contract
in a synchronized fashion in a wave through the digestive system.

The skeletal system includes all of the bones and joints in the body. Each bone is a
complex living organ that is made up of many cells, protein fibers, and minerals. The
skeleton acts as a scaffold by providing support and protection for the soft tissues
that make up the rest of the body. The skeletal system also provides attachment
points for muscles to allow movements at the joints.


The skull is composed of 22 bones that are fused together except for the mandible.
These 21 fused bones are separate in children to allow the skull and brain to grow,
but fuse to give added strength and protection as an adult. The mandible remains as
a movable jaw bone and forms the only movable joint in the skull with the temporal

The bones of the superior portion of the skull are known as the cranium and protect
the brain from damage. The bones of the inferior and anterior portion of the skull are
known as facial bones and support the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Hyoid and Auditory Ossicles

The hyoid is a small, U-shaped bone found just inferior to the mandible. The hyoid is
the only bone in the body that does not form a joint with any other bone—it is a
floating bone. The hyoid’s function is to help hold the trachea open and to form a
bony connection for the tongue muscles.
The malleus, incus, and stapes—known collectively as the auditory ossicles—are the
smallest bones in the body. Found in a small cavity inside of the temporal bone, they
serve to transmit and amplify sound from the eardrum to the inner ear.


Twenty-six vertebrae form the vertebral column of the human body. They are named
by region:

With the exception of the singular sacrum and coccyx, each vertebra is named for
the first letter of its region and its position along the superior-inferior axis. For
example, the most superior thoracic vertebra is called T1 and the most inferior is
called T12.

Ribs and Sternum

The sternum, or breastbone, is a thin, knife-shaped bone located along the midline
of the anterior side of the thoracic region of the skeleton. The sternum connects to
the ribs by thin bands of cartilage called the costal cartilage.

Pectoral Girdle and Upper Limb

The pectoral girdle connects the upper limb (arm) bones to the axial skeleton and
consists of the left and right clavicles and left and right scapulae.

The humerus is the bone of the upper arm. It forms the ball and socket joint of the
shoulder with the scapula and forms the elbow joint with the lower arm bones. The
radius and ulna are the two bones of the forearm. The ulna is on the medial side of
the forearm and forms a hinge joint with the humerus at the elbow. The radius allows
the forearm and hand to turn over at the wrist joint.

Pelvic Girdle and Lower Limb

Formed by the left and right hip bones, the pelvic girdle connects the lower limb
(leg) bones to the axial skeleton.

The tibia and fibula are the bones of the lower leg. The tibia is much larger than the
fibula and bears almost all of the body’s weight. The fibula is mainly a muscle
attachment point and is used to help maintain balance. The tibia and fibula form the
ankle joint with the talus, one of the seven tarsal bones in the foot.