Annavaha Srotas – Channels Of Food Transport

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
Anna Vaha Srotas are those channels in the body which transport the food and liquids we take. We take varieties of food on daily basis. The food which we take and place in the mouth moves down towards the stomach through the food pipe called esophagus. Here the food gets partially digested and is passed on to the intestines for further digestion.

Thus the food we take moves from our mouth to the stomach and later to the intestines to get digested and get converted into a form which is absorb-able and usable by the body tissues.

Thus, the unrestricted movement of food from upper passages to the lower passages of gastro-intestinal or digestive tract is needed for the body to procure nutrition.

The movement of food takes place in the channels of the body and these channels leading from mouth to the intestines are called Anna Vaha Srotas. (Anna=Food, Vaha=Carry, Srotas=Channels).

In this article I will try to put forth the details regarding the Annavaha Srotas, their point of origin or roots in the body, their functions, effects of damage to these channels and ways of managing the diseases and deformities occurring in the transport system of food, called Annavaha Srotas through Ayurvedic treatment modalities.
Before doing this, let us try to know what exactly is the meaning of the word Srotas?

Srotas

Srotas are millions of channels or pathways forming the sophisticated transport system within the body. They vary in size and shape and connect different areas, organs and tissues of the body.

They carry the tissues, raw materials needed for tissue building, food, air, water and many essential things in the body needed for life activities.

Some Srotas also excrete the metabolic wastes and toxins, keeping the body healthy.

The list of Srotas also comprises of Manovaha Srotas, which co-ordinates mind functions and carry sensory and motor signals along with various emotions.

According to Ayurveda, the whole body is made up of Srotas. The number of Srotas is as many as the number of cells, tissues and organs put together. This explains that every human cell is possibly a Srotas.

Classification of Srotas

Though there are millions of Srotas in the body, for the convenience of understanding, Ayurvedic classics have broadly classified the Srotas into –

Bahirmukha Srotas –
They are the external openings or apertures. They are 10 in number.

They are:
2 nostrils (openings of nose)
2 orbital openings (sockets of eyes)
2 external ears (ear openings)
1 mouth
1 anal opening (opening of anus)
1 urethral opening (outer opening of muscular tube which starts at the lower end of the urinary bladder and helps in excreting urine)
1 opening in the head

In women, there are 3 more external apertures:
2 in Stana or breasts (mammary glands)
1 in Garbhavartma (uterine orifice or cervical opening, opening of birth canal)

Antarmukha Srotas –
These Srotas do not open on the outside of the body. They open at some point (point of origin) inside the body and also ends elsewhere within the body. They are also called Yogavahi Srotas.

According to Charaka, the Antarmukha Srotas is of 13 types.

They are as mentioned below.
Pranavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) Air
Annavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) food
Udakavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) water and liquids
Rasavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) Lymph or chyle
Raktavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) blood
Mamsavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) muscles or flesh
Medovaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) fat tissue
Asthivaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) bone tissue
Majjavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) bone marrow tissue
Shukravaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) semen or reproductive tissue
Mutravaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) urine
Pureeshavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) Stools, faeces or excreta
Swedavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) sweat
Read related: Srotas: Body Channels and Duct systems – Easy Explanation

Sushruta has mentioned the number of Antarmukha Srotas as 11 pairs with some changes from Charaka’s explanation.

They are –
Pranavaha Srotas
Annavaha Srotas
Udakavaha Srotas
Rasavaha Srotas
Raktavaha Srotas
Mamsavaha Srotas
Medovaha Srotas
Shukravaha Srotas
Mutravaha Srotas
Purishavaha Srotas
Artavavaha Srotas – Srotas or channels carrying (transporting) menstrual blood in women

digestive system

We can see that the Asthivaha, Majjavaha and Swedavaha Srotas explained by Charaka have been excluded and Aartavavaha Srotas has been included in the list of Antarmukha Srotas enumerated by Sushruta.
In this article let us focus on understanding the ‘Annavaha Srotas’

Annavaha Srotas

What is Annavaha Srotas?
The Srotas or channels which carry ‘Anna’ or food are called Annavaha Srotas. This can be correlated to the alimentary tract or gastrointestinal tract or digestive tract.

Origin, location

Origin (roots) and location of Annavaha Srotas –
अन्न वहे द्वे तयोः मूलं आमाशयो अन्न वाहिन्यः च धमन्यः।
तत्र विद्धस्य आध्मानं शूलो अन्न विद्वेष छर्दिः पिपासा अन्ध्यं मरणं च।(सु.शा.९)
अन्न वहानां स्रोतसाम् आमाशयो मूलं वामं च पार्श्वं, प्रदुष्टानां तु खलु एषां इदं विशेष विज्ञानं भवति; तद् यथा – अनन्न अभिलाषणं अरोचक अविपाकौ छर्दिं च दृष्ट्वा अन्न वहानि अस्य स्रोतांसि प्रदुष्टानि इति विध्यात्।(च.वि.५/७)
Anna vahe dve tayoho moolam aamaashayo anna vaahinyaha cha dhamanyaha
Tatra viddhasya aadhmaanam shoolo anna vidvesho chardihi pipaaso andhyam maranam cha (Ref – Sushruta Shareera 9)
Anna vahaanaam srotasaam aamaashayo moolam vaamam cha paarshvam, pradushtaanaam tu khalu eshaam idam vishesha vijnaanam bhavati, tad yathaa – ananna abhilaashanam arochaka avipaakau chardi cha drushtvaa anna vahaani asya srotaamsi pradushtaani iti vidhyaat (Ref – Charaka Vimana 5/7)
According to Sushruta –
Annavaha Srotas have their roots in:
Aamashaya (Stomach) and
Annavahini Dhamani’s (The channels which carry the food)

When the Annavaha Srotas gets injured or obstructed (blocked) or damaged it causes the below mentioned symptoms:
Aadhmaana – Distension of abdomen
Shula – Pain abdomen (Colic)
Anna Vidwesha – Aversion towards food
Chardi – Vomiting
Pipasa – Thirst
Aandhya – Blindness
Maranam – Death

According to Charaka, the Annavaha Srotas are 2 in number.
They are rooted in:
Aamashaya – Stomach and
Vama Parshva – (left lateral side of the abdomen or belly)
When Annavaha Srotas gets vitiated or damaged, it causes the below mentioned symptoms:
Ananna abhilasha – No interest towards food or aversion towards food
Arochaka – Anorexia

Analysis

Analysis of Annavaha Srotas –
Both Charaka and Sushruta have mentioned Amashaya as the root for Annavaha Srotas. Aamashaya means the place or site for ama or improperly digested food. Thus Aamashaya points towards stomach.

Stomach is an organ where the food is partially digested before it is pushed on to the intestines for further digestion. This partially digested food is called ama. (Ashaya means the abode or place for something to stay or shelter, generally denotes one or the other organ). Aamashaya should also be applicable to oesophagus (food pipe) and most part of small intestine because they too carry food.

The signs and symptoms of injury to the Annavaha Srotas as explained by both Charaka and Sushruta, points out towards the Stomach pathology.

Here injury or damage need not occur due to external injury (the effect of injury may be more severe), it is also due to the damage effected on the Annavaha Srotas by the vitiated doshas (internal injury or damage).

Thirst, blindness and death mentioned by Sushruta as the symptoms of Annavaha Srotas damage point towards the later complications. They may also suggest effects of chronic malnutrition. These symptoms also point towards external injuries like stab etc.

When the stomach as an organ fails to hold, analyze and digest the food, the body will be depleted of all the nutrients and basic amenities needed to hang on with that life element.

Annavahini dhamanis – The actual meaning of dhamani by definition is blood vessels with special reference to arteries, the pulsation being the feature of identification of dhamani.

Here we cannot consider artery as annavahini dhamani because no food passes through them. If dhamani is taken in the meaning of tubes or channels, oesophagus and small intestine can be considered as Annavahini dhamani. The blood vessels and nerves supplying the stomach and upper alimentary tract can also be considered as Annavahini dhamanis.

Vama parshwa – left lateral side of the body (oesophagus and stomach can be taken as vama parshwa, stomach is located in the left lateral side of the abdomen)

Causes for vitiation

Causes for vitiation of Annavaha Srotas –
अति मात्रस्य च अकाले च अहितस्य च भोजनात्।
अन्न वाहीनि दुष्यन्ति वैगुण्यात् पावकस्य च॥(च.वि.५/१२)
Ati maatrasya cha akale cha ahitasya cha bhojanaat
Anna vaaheeni dushyanti vaigunyaat paavakasya cha (Ref – Charaka Vimana 5/12)
Atimaatrasya akaale – untimely intake of heavy quantity of food
Ahita bhojana – unwholesome food
Vaigunyat paavakasya – disturbance or vitiation of the belly fire

Management of vitiation

Management of vitiation of Annavaha Srotas –
The disorders arising from the vitiation of Annavaha srotas should be treated on the lines of treatment of Ama pradosha (i.e. treatment of disorders arising due to the presence of improperly processed food and tissue toxins arising due to sluggish tissue metabolism, in short it should be treated on the lines of treatment of metabolic errors).

Thus Deepana (fire increasing medicines, metabolism increasing medicines and treatments, appetizers) and Pachana (digestants and medicines destroying ama) should be administered.

Agni Deepana

Since the digestive fire or gut fire (agni) will be depleted in Annavaha srotas dushti, we should kindle the fire and establish its capacity to identify and digest food properly.

When the fire gets kindled and starts digesting the food properly, the ama will not be formed. Deepana herbs will not have an effect on ama and do not contribute towards ama-pachana.

Mainly the Deepana herbs which have Tikta (bitter) and Katu (pungent) tastes are effective in handling the Annavaha Srotas vitiation.

The best drugs used for Deepana are –
Pippali – Piper longum
Pippalimula – Root of Piper longum
Chavya – Piper retrofractum
Chitraka – Plumbago zeylanica
Shunti – Zingiber officinale
Amlavetasa – Garcinia pedunculata
Maricha – Piper nigrum
Ajamoda – Trachyspermum ammi
Bhallataka – Semecarpus anacardium
Hingu – Ferula foetida
Madhya – alcoholic or fermented products (medicated)
Lavana –salt
Ativisha – Aconitum heterophyllum
Kiratatikta – Swertia chirata
Hingu – Asa foetida – Ferula foetida
Triphala – fruits of Terminalia chebula, Terminalia bellirica and Emblica officinalis
Mishreya – Bishop’s weed
Shatapushpa – Anethum sowa
Jeeraka – Cumin seeds
Krishna Jeeraka – Black caraway
Takra – buttermilk
Pippalyadi group of herbs
Bilwadi group of herbs
Guduchyadi group of herbs
Amalakyadi group of herbs
The first 5 herbs are called Panchakola

Ama Pachana

Ama, is the intermediate product of digestion formed due to deficit functioning or weak digestive fire. When the weak fire in the belly doesn’t digest the food properly, ama is formed.

Ama cannot be absorbed in the intestines. Being in an undigested form, in an unprocessed form and being sticky in nature, it has a capacity to block and clog the channels of the body.

Since the weak fire in the stomach will also effect in weak tissue fire, the tissue metabolism also will be weak. Therefore Ama is also formed in the tissues. This ama is responsible for production of many diseases of systemic origin.

We need to digest, dry-up and separate the adhering Ama from the stomach and tissues. Removing ama induces lightness and health back into the tissues.

The channels of nutrition and circulation open up and there is free flow of essential things all through the body. The pathology starts regressing and the metabolism comes back to rhythm. Thus ama pachana is the best treatment strategy in tackling the diseases caused due to vitiation of annavaha srotas.

The best medicines which can get rid of ama are –
Dhanyaka – Coriander
Musta – Cyperus rotundus
Pippalimula – Roots of Piper longum
Maricha – Piper nigrum
Shunti – Zingiber officinale
Lavanga – Syzygium aramaticum
Shaileya – Permelliya perforate
Mulaka – Raphenus sativus
Erandakarkati – Carica papaya
Nagakeshara – Mesua ferrea
Haridra – Turmeric
Daruharidra – Berberis aristata
Haritaki – Terminalia chebula
Amalaki – Emblica officinalis
Bibhitaki – Terminalia bellirica
Kushta – Saussurea lappa
Vacha – Acorus calamus
Patha – Cissampelos pareira, Cyclea peltata
Katuki – Picrorrhiza kurroa
Ativisha – Aconitum heterophyllum
Ela – Cardamom
Bhallataka – Semecarpus anacardium
Chitraka – Plumbago zeylanica
Kiratatikta – Swertia chirata
Trayamana – Gentiana kurroo
Patola – Trichosanthes dioica
Chandana – Santalum album
Murva – Marsdenia tenacissima
Guduchi – Tinospora cordifolia
Parijata – Nyctanthes arbortristis
Karavellaka – Bitter gourd
Shigru – Drumstick
Shana – Crotalaria juncea
Tila – Sesame
Sarshapa – Mustard
Atasi – Flax
Tikta skanda – bitter group of herbs
Pippalyadi gana – herbs belonging to Pippalyadi group
Dashamula – 10 roots
Haridradi – Herbs belonging to Haridradi group
Vachadi – Herbs of Vachadi group

Other strategies to tackle the vitiation of Annavaha srotas and to get rid of the diseases getting origin from the vitiation –
Laghu Ahara –
Light digestible food forms the key for effective treatment of Annavaha srotas vitiation and also to combat the diseases resulting from such vitiation.

Since the metabolism is weak due to weak fire in the stomach, the gut will be able to digest only the lightest of the foods. Hot liquid diet garnished with kitchen spices like ginger, pepper, cumin seeds etc should be prescribed. Laghu ahara also serves the purpose of deepana and pachana.

The lightest food format comes in the forms of:
Yavagu – is a liquid preparation in the form of thin gruel wherein rice (1part) is processed in 6 times water. It is seen that the final preparation has more of liquid than solid.

Vilepi – is a liquid preparation in the form of thin gruel wherein rice (1part) is processed in 4 times water. It is seen that the final preparation is of a semisolid nature. Apart from being nutritious and tasty, it is known to destroy ama by its root and kindle the belly fire.

Peya – is a liquid preparation in the form of thin gruel wherein rice (1part) is processed in 14 times water. It is seen that the final preparation has a small quantity of solid portion left over.

Manda – is a liquid preparation in the form of thin gruel wherein rice (1part) is processed in 14 times water. It is seen that the entire solid content is filtered out from the final preparation such that only liquid remains.

Yusha – is a liquid preparation in the form of thin gruel wherein dal i.e. grams mainly green gram (1part) is processed in 18 times water and its extract is filtered out.

Langhana

Langhana means lightening therapies. These are the therapies which induce lightness of the body and establish health. Read related: Langhana Therapy – A Unique Ayurvedic Treatment Principle

यत् किञ्चित् लाघवकरं देहे तत् लङ्घनं स्मृतम्। (च.सू.२१/९)
Yat kinchit laaghava karam dehe tat langhanam smrutam (Ref – Charaka Sutra 22/9)
Anything which induces a feel of lightness in the body is called Langhana

लघु उष्ण तीक्ष्ण विशदं रूक्षं सूक्षं खरं सरम्।
कठिणं च एव यत् द्रव्यं प्रायः तत् लङ्घनं स्मृतम्॥(च.सू.२२/१२)
Laghu ushna teekshna vishadam rooksham sookshmam kharam saram
Kathinam cha eva yat dravyam praayaha tat langhanam smrutam (Ref – Charaka Sutra 22/ 12)
Any medicine or treatment which acts as Langhana functions on the virtue of the below said qualities –
Laghu – light
Ushna – hot
Teekshna – intense
Vishada – clear
Ruksha – dry
Sukshma – minute
Kharam – rough
Saram – flow
Kathinam – hard

Langhana helps the body to recover from the blocks and damages caused by ama. Langhana also destroys the morbidity by serving the purposes of deepana and pachana.

There are 10 types of Langhana but the forms of Langhana which could come handy in dealing with diseases originating from vitiated Annavaha Srotas are –
Upavasa – means partial or complete fasting.
Pipasa Nigrahana – controlling the urge to take water
Pachana aushadha – medicines which digest and mobilise the morbid ama
Aatapa – exposure to sun’s heat
Vyayama – exercise

These types of Langhana help in:
Kindling the digestive fire,
Rectifies metabolism,
Controls ama,
Removes stagnation and blocks in tissues and channels,
Brings lightness and sense of healthiness in the body,
Regresses the initial pathological processes,
Strengthens the digestive system,
Cleanses the tissues of the blocks and helps in their recovery and halts the progression of the diseases. These should be taken under medical advice and supervision.

The other forms of Langhana are – Vamana (therapeutic emesis), Virechana (therapeutic purgation), Shiro-virechana (nasal medications), Niruha Vasti (decoction enemas) and Maruta (exposure to wind).

The first 4 are called Samshodhana procedures (evacuating, purificatory or detoxifying therapies) which will be more effective when the diseases are in advanced stages.

Basically when the Annavaha srotas vitiation is in the earlier stages, these forms of Langhana are of not much help. The forms of Langhana explained above are useful.

Signs of properly done Langhana –
वात मूत्र पुरीषाणां विसर्गे गात्र लाघवे।
हृदय उद्गार कण्ठ आस्य शुद्धौ तन्द्रा क्लमे गते॥
स्वेदे जाते रुचौ चैव क्षुत् पिपास सह उदये।
कृतं लङ्गनं आदेश्यं निर्व्यथे च अन्तरात्मनि॥(च.सू.२२/३४,३५)
Vata mutra pureeshaanaam visarge gaatra laaghave
Hridaya udgaara kantha aasya shuddau tandraa klame gate
Svede jaate ruchau chaiva kshut pipaasa saha udaye
Krutam langhanam aadeshyam nirvyathe cha antraatmani (Ref- Charaka Sootra 22/34, 35)
Below mentioned are the signs of properly administered Langhana –
Vata mutra pureeshaanaam visarge – proper and timely elimination of flatus, urine and stools
Gaatra laghave – feeling of lightness in the body
Hrudaya shuddhi – feeling of lightness and comfort in the region of heart
Udgaara shuddhi – clear and tasteless belching
Kantha shuddhi – feeling of cleanliness and lightness in the throat
Aasya shuddhi – feeling (and appearance) of cleanliness and lightness in the mouth
Gata tandra – reduction of drowsiness or feel to rest and sleep
Gata klama – reduction of tiredeness
Swede jaate – manifestation of sweating
Ruchau – manifestation of taste in food
Kshut udaya – manifestation of hunger
Pipasa udaya – manifestation of thirst
Nirvyathe antaraatmani – soul at ease and free from the feel of discomfort and pain

Some medicines when taken induce the effect of Langhana therapy and produce lightness in the body.The Langhana group of herbs also have the above said qualities of Langhana therapy. 

The best herbs which serve the purpose of Langhana are –
Guduchi – Tinospora cordifolia
Musta – Cyperus rotundus
Triphala – Fruits of Terminalia chebula, Terminalia bellirica and Emblica officinalis
Takrarishta – fermented liquid prepared on buttermilk base
Madhu – honey
Vidanga – Embelia ribes
Shunti – Zingiber officinale
Kshara – Alkali
Lauha bhasma – calx or ash of iron
Yava churna – Barley powder
Aamalaka – Emblica officinalis
Brihat Panchamula – Roots of greater Panchamula group of drugs i.e. Roots of Aegle Marmalos, Clerodendrum phlomidis, Oroxylum indicum, Stereospermum suaveolens and Gmelina arborea (along with honey)
Shilajit – Asphaltum
Priyangu – Callicarpa macrophylla
Shyamaka – Setaria italica
Kodrava – Paspalum scrobiculatum
Mudga – Green grams
Kulattha – Horse gram
Chakramarda – Cassia tora
Aadhaki – Cajanus cajan
Patola – Trichosanthes dioica
Madhoodaka – Honey water etc

Truptighna drugs

Trupti means satiation or saturation. It is a kapha related disorder of the stomach in which ama is formed due to indigestion and sluggish metabolism which in turn may predispose to the manifestation of conditions like indigestion, anorexia, nausea and many systemic illnesses.

In this condition the person feels early satiety or satisfaction after consumption of a small quantity of food. The medicines which destroy Trupti can be effectively used in handling the Annavaha srotas vitiation and the diseases related to it because they too destroy ama and excessive kapha in the stomach.

Some of the Truptighna herbs are:
Nagara – Zingiber officinale
Chavya – Piper retrofractum
Chitraka – Plumbago zeylanica
Vidanga – Embelia ribes
Murva – Marsdenia tenacissima
Guduchi – Tinospora cordifolia
Vacha – Acorus calamus
Musta – Cyperus rotundus
Pippali – Piper longum
Patola – Trichosanthes dioica
Dhanyaka – Coriandrum sativum
Ajamoda – Apium graveolens
Brihatyadi group of herbs
Guduchyadi group of herbs
Amalakyadi group of herbs

Rochana drugs

Ruchi means taste. Aruchi or Tastelessness is one of the prime manifestations of Annavaha sroto dushti. The medicines which increase taste are called Rochana dravyas.

The below said are important Rochana herbs:
Amra – mango
Amrataka – Spondias pinnata
Lakucha – Artocarpus lakoocha
Karamarda – Carissa carandas
Vrikshamla – Garcinia cambogia
Amlavetasa – Garcinia pedunculata
Badara – Zizyphus jujube
Dadima – Pomegranate
Matulunga – Citrus medica
Changeri – Oxalis corniculata
Jambira – Citrus limon
Amlaskanda – fruits which are sour
Hrudhya gana – drugs which are cardiac tonics
Parushakadi group of herbs etc

Just before finish –
Food is the most important necessity of mankind. We can claim that we are taking good food in terms of quality and quantity, but yet we are at lowest of health and immunity.

Just taking food is not enough. The body needs to convert it into a form which is suitable to body tissues and to keep up the energy, health, immunity and life process intact.

To do this the fire within should be damn good. If the stomach and intestines do not function properly and if they can’t digest the given food properly, it leads to indigestion. This indigestion is the basic culprit which causes many systemic illnesses.

Therefore first and foremost we need to take care of our stomach and appetite. We need to understand the Annavaha srotas and its behavior.

We should not neglect the symptoms like tastelessness, aversion to food, indigestion, burping, bloating etc when they persist for longer duration. They may be signs of a serious disease which is fast approaching us.

Always the golden rule tells that ‘Prevention is better than cure’. So it is wise to see a doctor and seek help when we see any of the above mentioned symptoms which indicate errors at the level of Annavaha srotas.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) Email: [email protected]

6 thoughts on “Annavaha Srotas – Channels Of Food Transport”

  1. Your efforts are simply marvelous. I am looking forward to having the explanation of other remaining srotas.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Thank you for the informative articles Sir! I am waiting for an article on acidity, throat burn or stomach burn causes, symptoms etc. There is conflicting literature in this regard. It is said that low acid condition also mimics the symptoms of hyperacidity, hence taking HCl tablets are recommended by some doctors to check if the problem is due to hypo- or hyper-acidity. Off late, I have been observing that even simple home cooked low fat grains, cereals and vegetables diet; or even fruit and vegetable juices and light food like ‘sabudana’ is also causing burning throat. That leaves me confused about the acidity issue. Kindly clarify one of your future articles. I will be grateful to you.

    Reply
  3. Superb comprehensive article, as always. I will use as a reference again and again to understand deepan pachan single herbs, langhana methods, truptighna and rochana dravyas. Thank you!.

    Reply

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