Dhatu – 7 Body Tissues As Explained In Ayurveda

As per modern science, the description of human body starts with cells. A group of cells form the tissues, a group of tissues form an organ, a group of organ forms system and a group of system is the human body. 

For example, Cardiac cells form heart muscles. Heart muscles form the heart organ. Heart organ with veins and arteries form the circulatory system. Circulatory system along with other systems such as respiratory system, digestive system etc constitute our body.

But Ayurveda explains human body in a different way. It explains human body by the 3 controlling energies – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are called Tridosha. These Doshas control all the tissues of the body. So, the Doshas, working on tissues form the human body. These tissues are known as Dhatus.

Introduction

‘Dhatu’ word is derived from ‘Dhru’ root word of Sanskrit.
That which does Dharana (holding together) is Dhatu.
So, all Dhatus make the body and hold the body together.

Ayurveda explains about 7 body tissues which form the physical body. The functioning of body tissue is regulated by Tridosha. Let us learn about each of them in detail.

Table of Dhatus

Dhatu - Body tissues

7 Body tissues – Sapta Dhatu

  • Rasa – essence part soon after digestion / blood plasma / lymph
  • Rakta – blood tissue
  • Mamsa – muscle tissue
  • Meda – fat tissue
  • Asthi – bone tissue
  • Majja – bone marrow (anything within a bone)
  • Shukra – reproductive system (male and female)

Dhatu nourishment

Each Dhatu nourishes the next Dhatu

  • Food -> Rasa (essence of food)
  • Rasa -> Rakta (blood)
  • Rakta -> Mamsa (muscle)
  • Mamsa -> Meda (fat)
  • Meda -> Asthi (bone)
  • Asthi -> Majja (marrow)
  • Majja -> Shukra (reproductive system)

Importance of knowing Dhatus

  • Dhatus are the strata or base for Doshas to show Dosha action.
  • As per Ayurveda, Dosha, Dhatu and Mala (waste products) form the root – Moola of the body.
  • Organs – such as liver, stomach, intestine, etc are just the place in which Dhatus are formed.
  • Doshas – when imbalanced, get lodged in Dhatus. Imbalanced Dosha -> imbalanced Dhatu -> Disease process.

These seven body tissues are called as ‘Dhatu’ in Ayurveda.
They are –

Rasa Dhatu

Rasa Dhatu – The Rasa is produced soon after digestion. It is the essence part of the food that circulates all over the body and nourishes all the body tissues. It is grossly compared to plasma part of blood. Its basic function is Preenana – to nourish all the body tissues.
It is controlled by Kapha Dosha. Usually Kapha Dosha increase causes increase of Rasa Dhatu and Kapha decrease leads to Rasa dhatu decrease.

After completion of digestion process, the food is divided into essence part and waste part. The essence part is called as Rasa Dhatu. It is the nourishing fluid, which circulates all over the body and nourishes all the body parts. The nourishing action is brought about by Kapha.

  • This is the first tissue to get nourished
  • It constantly circulates in the body
  • It is formed in 24 hrs.
  • The main function of rasa dhatu is nourishment so that the other 6 dhatus can be formed accordingly
  • The essence part of food – entering into blood stream, from Gastro intestinal tract = Rasa Dhatu
  • It circulates all over the body by the pumping of heart. (Vyana Vata).

Rakta Dhatu

It is compared directly with blood and its components. It is formed by receiving the nourishment from Rasa Dhatu.  Its main function is Jeevana – enlivening. It is directly related with Pitta Dosha. Pitta Dosha increase leads to Rakta increase and vice versa.

  • The name “rakta dhatu” indicates the red colour of this tissue. This tissue gets it red colour due to the action of Pitta.
  • Rasa Dhatu gets coloured to become Rakta Dhatu
  • Rakta Dhatu is influenced by Pitta Dosha.
  • Pitta in good condition = good quality blood tissue.
  • The term Rakta implies the liquid that gets nourished by essence part of food, which is the cause for skin complexion, strength and immunity in the body. Ayurveda opines that blood originates from liver and spleen. Hence, blood, Pitta, liver disorders and skin conditions are inter-related.
  • Following seasonal and daily regimens of wholesome foods and activities is a basic pre-requisite for healthy blood tissue.

Features of people having normal blood:

  • Clarity and uniformity in skin complexion,
    Normal functioning of sense organs
    unobstructed digestion and bowel evacuation, happiness, contentment, nourishment and strength.
  • Blood is responsible for strength and immunity, skin complexion, happiness, comfort and longevity of the individual. It plays a very vital role in the sustenance of Vital force of life.

Mamsa Dhatu

It is compared with muscle tissue. It gets its nourishment from Rakta Dhatu. Its main function is Lepana – It gives shape to the body parts and it sticks to the bones, helping in locomotor activities. It is controlled by Kapha Dosha. Usually Kapha Dosha increase and decrease leads to Mamsa Dhatu increase and decrease respectively.

  • Gets nourished by Rakta Dhatu.
  • Influenced by Kapha Dosha.
  • It is made up predominantly of the earth element
  • Lepana (smearing) is the most important function
  • The bulk, strength, composure of muscle tissues is due to Kapha Dosha.

Muscle tissues are responsible for

  • Locomotion – skeletal muscles
  • Heart beat – cardiac muscles
  • Functioning of organs such as blood vessel, urinary bladder, kidney, esophagus, stomach, small intestine etc.

Meda Dhatu

It is compared to fat tissue. It gets nourished by Mamsa Dhatu. Its main function is Snehana – lubrication. Its increase and decrease is influenced by Kapha Dosha. Hence, Kapha dosha dominant person is usually rich in fat tissue.

  • The word “meda” is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning oleation / to apply oil, it is an unctuous dhatu like ghee
  • Oily, soft food products undergo digestion and immediately produce meda
  • Meda has the following qualities: Unctuousness, softness, heaviness and stability
  • It is influenced by Kapha Dosha. Hence, Kapha dominant foods increase fat tissue.

Fat tissue / adipose tissue is present
– Subcutaneous layer deep to skin
– Around the heart
– Around the kidneys
– Yellow marrow of the long bones
– Padding around the joints
– Inside the eye-socket, posterior to the eyeball.

  • Adipose tissue acts as an insulating layer, helping to reduce heat loss through skin
  • It also has a protective function, providing mechanical protection (“padding”) and support around some of the major organs, e.g. kidneys.
  • Adipose tissue is also a means of energy storage.
    Food that is excess to requirements is converted into fat and stored within adipose tissue in the body.

Asthi Dhatu

It is compared to bone tissue. It gets nourished by Meda Dhatu. Its main function is Dharana – to hold the body up straight. It is influenced by Vata Dosha. But Vata Dosha increase leads to Asthi Dhatu decrease and Vata Dosha decrease leads to Asthi Dhatu increase. This is why, in old age, when Vata is increased, bone tissue degeneration occurs.

  • This is the hardest and firmest dhatu in the body
  • Gets its nourishment from Meda dhatu
  • It is predominantly made up of Pruthvi Mahabhuta (Pruthvi or Prithvi means “earth”)
  • The qualities of this dhatu are strong, rough, dry and hard
  • The function of asthi dhatu is “dharana” or support; it keeps the body erect
  • All the soft structures like muscle, vessels and nerves are found around this Dhatu
  • Asthi dhatu gives shape to the skeletal body and protects vital organs such as the heart, lungs etc.
  • Asthi dhatu is the main site of Vata dosha. But increase of Vata decreases Asthi Dhatu.

Bones

  • Forms the framework of the body
  • Locomotion – walking, jogging etc
  • Voluntary motions of hands and legs
  • Holds the muscles in their place
    • Protects body organs –
      –skull – brain,
      –rib cage – heart and lungs
      –Vertebra – spinal cord

Majja Dhatu

It is compared to bone marrow and all the tissue that fill bone cavity. For example, eye tissue is also considered as Majja. Some also consider brain tissue also as formed by Majja Dhatu. Its main function is Poorana – to fill in the bone cavities.

  • Majja or bone marrow is filled in the cavity of long bones
  • Bone tissue nourishes Majja Dhatu.
  • It is predominantly made up of water and earth
  • The most important function of majja dhatu is “purana” which means to fill the cavities inside the long bones
  • Majja Dhatu is controlled by Kapha Dosha.
  • Bone marrow is present inside the shaft / cavity of long bones
  • The major function of bone marrow is to generate red and white blood cells.
  • Bone marrow also produces  fat, cartilage, fibrous connective tissue (found in tendons and ligaments), stromal cells that support blood formation, and bone cells.
  • Marrows remove old cells from circulation.

Shukra Dhatu

It is compared to male and female reproductive system and its secretions. Its main function is Garbhotpadana – reproduction. It is controlled by Kapha Dosha. It gets nourishment from Majja Dhatu.

  • The word Shukra is derived from the Sanskrit word “shucha” which means pure
  • Gets nourished by Majja Dhatu.
  • Shukra pervades the entire body
  • It is controlled by Kapha Dosha.
  • Male and female reproductive system
  • Sex hormones – estrogen, progesterone, testosterone
  • Semen, Sperm, Ovum

Upadhatus

Upadhatus (subsidiary / secondary tissue elements)

  • Breast milk (Stanya)and menstrual blood (Arthava) are formed out of Rasa
  • Kandara (tendons) and vessels (Sira) are formed out of Rakta
  • Vasa (muscle fat) and 6 layers of skin are formed out of Mamsa and
    Snayus (sinew / ligament) are formed out of medo-dhatu.
  • Read more – Upadhatus: Sub-Tissues Of The Body

Dhatu Mala

Dhatu Mala – waste products

  • 1. Anna (food) yields stool and urine as waste products
    2. Rasa Dhatu yields Kapha (phlegm) as waste products
    3. Rakta (blood) gives out pitta (bile of liver)
    4. Mamsa (muscle tissue) kha-mala (waste products excreted from the cavities like ears, eyes, nose, mouth and genital organs)
    5. Medas (fat tissue) –  sweat
    6. Asthi (bone) – kesha (hair) and loma ( small hair / body hairs)
    7. Majja (bone-marrow) the unctuous substance present in the eyes, stool and skin
  • Nutrient fraction and waste products –  these 2 categories of products arise out of Dhatu Paka (digestion at the level of tissues.)

    Read more – Dhatu Mala: Tissue Waste Products: Ayurveda perspective

10 thoughts on “Dhatu – 7 Body Tissues As Explained In Ayurveda”

  1. I like this article. Would like to know more about diseases when a dosha enters a tissue where they should not be.

    Reply
  2. Hi, really sorry for the confusion.
    I did not mean to write that Shukra Dhatu is only for men. (corrected the sentence in the article now). Even in women, the reproductive system and all its components are considered as Shukra Dhatu.

    Reply
  3. It can be said that excess of Vata, abnormally increased Vata Dosha is catabolic, leading to depletion of muscle, fat, bone etc tissue and abnormally increased Kapha dosha is anabolic, especially when Gurutva – heaviness quality of Kapha dosha is increased.

    Even in normalcy, there is some truth to this anabolic (constructive) and catabolic (destructive) theory. This is why, it is said, in the first 1/3rd of life, Kapha is dominant, in second 1/3rd, Pitta and last 1/3rd Vata Dosha is dominant.

    Reply

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