Pneuma (ancient medicine)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Pneuma, in ancient Greek medicine, is the form of air required by various organs to function. It is the material that sustains consciousness in a body. According to Diocles and Praxagoras, the psychic pneuma mediates between the heart, regarded as the seat of Mind in some physiological theories of ancient medicine, and the brain.

The disciples of Hippocrates explained the maintenance of vital heat to be the function of the breath within the organism. Around 300 BC, Praxagoras discovered the distinction between the arteries and the veins. In the corpse arteries are empty; hence, in the light of these preconceptions they were declared to be vessels for conveying pneuma to the different parts of the body. A generation afterwards, Erasistratus made this the basis of a new theory of diseases and their treatment. The pneuma, inhaled from the outside air, rushes through the arteries till it reaches the various centres, especially the brain and the heart, and there causes thought and organic movement.

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