Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
According to Ayurveda, the human body is made up of 3 types of substances.
Shakti Roopa Dravyas: Components which are in the form of energy (Functional components). They are again of 3 types, i.e.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha
They are called Doshas (Shaareerika Doshas).
Shakti Yukta Dravyas: Components which possess and provide energy (Anatomical or structural components).
Rasa (Circulatory Fluid)
Rakta (Blood cells)
Meda (Fat or adipose tissue)
Majja (Bone Marrow)
Shukra (Semen/Sperms/Reproduction tissue)
They are called as Dhatu’s or Tissues of the body. These tissues are regularly formed getting their nutrition from the food we take, destroyed in due course of time and once again replaced (wear and tear phenomenon).
The quality and quantity of food, discipline in timing of food, the strength of the fire within (core metabolism and the tissue metabolism), digestion, absorption, conveyance and transformation of nutrition in the cells, all contribute to the tissue health.
If the tissues are healthy we will have a good in built immunity and we don’t suffer from metabolic disorders. Ojus is said to be the essence of all the healthy tissues. This can be compared to the immune components within us.
Shakti Heena Dravyas: Components which are devoid of energy or metabolic wastes. They too are important components because they keep us healthy by regularly being formed and eliminated naturally.
Mootra (Urine) and
Dhatus or Tissues:
Dhatus means tissues of the body
शरीर धारणात् धातवः।
Shareera dhaaranaat dhaatavaha
Those which wear the body or hold the body are called Dhatus. The word dharana means to wear. This term indicates the responsibility put on the shoulders of the dhatus in holding and guarding the wellness of the body. ‘They wear the body’ should be understood that they form, frame and construct the body.
The Dhatus form the frame and structure of the body. By this definition, we should not have any hesitation in calling the dhatus as the tissues of the body.
धारयती जीवयती इति धातव: (डल्हण)
Dharayati jeevayati iti dhatavaha (Dalhana)
Dhatus, as said above fall into the category of Shakti Yukta Dravyas i.e. substances having energy and strength or capacity (to hold, wear or construct the body). They are the physical forms of energy. They are basically 7 in number.
The Dhatus being structural components take part in our construction. An increase or decrease in their quantity indicates metabolic or nutritional errors. Both conditions are abnormal. Increase in quantity leads to metabolic disorders and decrease in quantity leads to lowering of immunity.
This will also lead to qualitative defects in the tissues. Similarly the qualitative defects which are inherited already through the genes might lead to quantitative errors.
In this article let us discuss in detail about the Rasa Dhatu
What is Rasa?
तत्र पञ्च भौतिकस्य चतुः विधस्य षड् रसस्य द्वि विध वीर्यस्य अष्ट विध वीर्यस्य वा अनेक गुणोपेतस्य उपयुक्तस्य आह्हारस्य सम्यक् परिणतस्य यः तेजो भूतः सारः परम सूक्ष्मः स रस इति उच्यते।(सु.सू.१४/३)
Tatra pancha bhoutikasya chatuhu vidhasya shad rasasya dvi vidha veeryasya ashta vidha veeryasya vaa aneka gonopetasya upayuktasya aahaarasya samyak parinatasya yaha tejo bhootaha saaraha parama sookshmaha sa rasa iti uchyate (Ref – Sushruta Sootra 14/3)
The extract or essence of the food which is in ultra fine or minute form is called Rasa.
The Rasa Dhatu is directly formed from the essence of the food that we take.
The food we take will be enriched with Shad Rasas or 6 tastes i.e. Madhura (sweet), Amla (sour), Lavana (salt), Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter) and Kashaya (astringent).
We consume food in 4 forms i.e.
These forms of food are Pancha Bhoutika in nature (made up of components of 5 elements of nature i.e. earth, wind, water, fire and ether or space)
This food will be enriched with the below mentioned qualities –
Shat Rasa – 6 tastes
Dwividha Veerya – 2 types of potency i.e. Sheeta Veerya (cold potency) and Ushna Veerya (hot potency)
Ashta vidha veerya – 8 types of potency, i.e. Sheeta (cold potency), Ushna (hot), guru (heavy), laghu (light), mrudu (soft), teekshna (sharp), snigdha (unctuous or oily) and ruksha (dry)
Aneka Guna – Many qualities like Guru (heavy), Laghu (light), etc
When the food enriched with above said qualities is subjected to proper digestion by Jataragni (belly fire) – it is converted into a micro-fine extract or essence (just like the juice extracted from the food). This essence of the food is called Rasa.
This can be compared with butter being heated to form ghee.
The micro-fine form is very essential for the Rasa to flow freely in the circulation and nourish the body.
Sthana or location of Rasa –
तस्य हृदयं स्थानम्।(सु.सू.१४/३)
Tasya Hridayam Sthaanam (Ref – Sushruta Sutra 14/3)
The location or seat of Rasa Dhatu is said to be Hridaya or Heart. The food is digested in the stomach and intestines.
After proper digestion the Rasa (poshaka rasa dhatu – the essence of food whose function is to nourish) is formed. This Rasa being pushed by the Vyana Vayu (sub-type of Vata) reaches the Hridaya (heart).
The Rasa from Hridaya enters the 24 dhamanis (aorta and its branches, main arterial branches) and reaches different parts of the body, pumped by the heart with the help of Vyana Vayu.
Through the 10 dhamanis travelling in upward direction, the Rasa dhatu travels and nourishes the upper parts of the body.
Through the 10 dhamanis travelling in downward direction, Rasa dhatu travels and nourishes the lower parts of the body and
travelling through 4 dhamanis going laterally (side-wards), the Rasa dhatu nourishes the lateral parts or sides of the body.
Travelling all over the body through the dhamanees, the rasa dhatu nourishes the tissues, organs, doshas and malas (excreta). Though the rasa is circulating all over the body, its main site is said to be Hrudaya because it is Hrudaya which distributes the Rasa through the dhamanis.
Rasa Dhatwagni (The fire within rasa dhatu) –
Every tissue has its own fire. It is called dhatwagni (dhatu=fire, agni=fire). Rasa dhatu too has its own agni and is called as Rasa Dhatwagni.
This fire processes the ahara rasa or poshaka rasa (nutrient essence coming from the gut after the digestion of food) and converts it into the below said components –
Sthaayee rasa dhatu – The rasa dhatu proper goes into the circulation and nourishes the entire body.
Poshaka rakta dhatu (Rakta dhatu poshaka rasa) – Some part of the rasa moves ahead to form its successor tissue i.e. Rakta dhatu (blood cells or cellular components of the blood). This part is further processed by Rakta dhatwagni (tissue fire of the blood). The rasa having the property of water is said to gain its colour by Ranjaka Pitta (sub type of pitta).
This happens when the circulating rasa dhatu enters the Yakrit (liver) and Pliha (spleen) which are the roots of Rakta vaha srotas (channels carrying or transporting the blood tissue).
Ranjaka pitta is present in the liver and spleen. When the circulating rasa on entering these organs gets exposed to the ranjaka pitta gets its red colour.
Upadhatu (sub-tissues) – Some part supports and nourishes the sub-tissues of rasa dhatu. The sub tissue of rasa dhatu is stanya (breast milk) and is manifested only in women.
Mala (tissue toxins) – As a result of wear and tear mechanism of cellular metabolism, certain tissue toxins are formed. Kapha is said to be the mala or excreta of Rasa dhatu.
Ushma – liberation of heat due to the metabolism in the cells
Oorjaa – liberation of energy
Functions of Rasa
Tarpana – nourishes people of all ages i.e. kids, middle aged and old aged people
Vardhana – growth and development in kids
Dharana (jeevana) – stabilizes the dhatus and keeps them intact in the middle age
Yapana – the dhatus etc and the body as a whole will deteriorate in quality and quantity at the old age, Rasa dhatu prevents them from getting totally depleted
Snehana – keeps the body parts, tissues lubricated
Avashtambana – stabilizes the body and its components
Tushti – provides saturation and satisfaction
The above said functions of Rasa dhatu is not only limited to the tissues, but Rasa dhatu also renders these functions with respect to body parts, doshas, upadhatus (sub-tissues) and malas (excreta).
This means to tell that the Rasa dhatu does Tarpana, Vardhana, Dharana, Yapana, Snehana, Avashtambana and Tushti of Doshas, dhatus, upadhatus, avayavas (body parts and organs) and malas. These functions of Rasa dhatu is mandatory for the body functions to keep going in a smooth way.
Rasa Dhatu and Ojas
Ojas is the essence of all the seven Dhatus.
Quality of Ojas is dependant upon quality of all Dhatus.
Quality of all Dhatus is dependant on quality of Rasa Dhatu.
Read related: What is Ojas? How To Increase Ojas During Health And Disease?
The Rasa dhatu thus pumped and circulated by Hridaya will nourish all the tissues of the body but will follow the chronology of providing nutrition to Rakta (blood) etc tissues. Therefore the most important function of Rasa dhatu will be to nourish it immediate successor tissue i.e. Rakta dhatu (cellular component of the blood tissue)
Rasa Dhatu is constantly in motion (circulation) throughout life. Rasa keeps circulating in the Siras in the form of a wheel, throughout our life. The term Rasa is made up of root word Ras, the meaning of which is to be uninterruptedly in motion or circulation.
The movement of Rasa Dhatu and all its functions are attributed (under the influence of) to the impact of the impressions carried from Purva Janma (previous incarnations).
The normal state, pathological increase and decrease of Rasa dhatu can be known by inference like, pain, tremors (palpitations) etc in the heart suggest qualitative and quantitative depletion of Rasa Dhatu, Hrudaya utkleda (nausea) etc will indicate pathological increase of Rasa Dhatu and the absence of any of these symptoms show that Rasa dhatu is in a state of balance (equilibrium).
Rasa dhatu is said to be Sowmya (having the nature of moon and water). this quality is attributed to Rasa Dhatu on the basis of its functions like Snehana, Jeevana, Tarpana, Dharana etc which are also pleasant functions. Thus rasa is included in kapha varga (components of the body belonging to the class of Kapha i.e. watery in nature).
Types of Rasa
द्वि विधो रसः – स्थायी पोषकः च इति।स्थायि रस पोषक रस भागयोः स्थान भेदादि अभावात् एकत्वम्॥(च.चि.१५/१७, चक्र)
Dvi vidho rasaha – sthaayee poshakaha cha iti, sthaayi rasa poshaka rasa bhaagayoho sthaana bhedaadi abhaavaat ekatvam (Ref – Chakrapani commentary on Charaka Chikitsa 15/17)
Rasa is of 2 types –
Poshaka Rasa –
The Rasa which nourishes is called Poshaka Rasa. The essence of the digested food formed in the gut and coming to the heart to be distributed all over the body is called Poshaka Rasa. It is also called as Anna Rasa (essence of food)
Sthaayi Rasa (The Rasa Dhatu proper or Rasa Dhatu in circulation) –
तिर्यग्गाणां तु चतसृणा धमनीनाम् एक एका शतधा सहस्रधा च उत्तर उत्तर विभज्यते। ताः तु असंख्येयाः। तभिः इदं शरीरं गवाक्षितं विबद्धं आततं च। तासां मुखानि रोम कूप प्रबद्धानि, यैः स्वेदम् अभिवहन्ति रसं च अभितर्पयन्ति अन्तः बहिः च। तैः एव च अभ्यङ्ग परिषेक अवगाह आलेप वीर्याणि अन्तः शरीरं अभि प्रतिपध्यन्ते त्वचि विपक्वानि। तैः एव च स्पर्शं सुखं असुखं वा गृह्णाति।(सु.शा.९/९/१०)
Tiryaggannam tu chatasrunaa dhamaneenaam eka ekaa shatadhaa sahasradhaa cha uttara uttara vibhajyate. Taaha tu asankhyeyaaha. Idam shareeram gavaakshitam vibaddham aatatam cha. Taasaam mukhaani roma koopa prabaddhaani, yaihi svedam abhivahanti rasam cha abhitarpayanti antaha bahihi cha. Taihi eva cha abhyanga parisheka avagaaha aalepa veeryaani antaha shareeram abhi pratipadhyante tvachi vipakvaani. Taihi eva cha sparsham sukham asukham vaa gruhnaati. (Ref –Sushruta Shaareera 9/9/10)
24 dhamanis take their origin from the Hridaya. 10 of which go upwards, 10 move downwards and 4 side wards.
They further branch into thousands of small branches and supply each cell of the body. These branches of dhamanis appear in the form of a large network.
Their terminal endings open up in the roots of hair follicles (pores in the skin – romakupa) through which they excrete the wastes in the form of sweat.
These branches carry Rasa through their minute branches and nourish each and every corner of the body.
The terminal branches of dhamanees located near the surface of the skin or in the vicinity of roots of hair follicles absorb the veerya (active principles) of the medicines when treatments like Abhyanga (herbal oil massages), Parisheka (stream pouring of medicated liquids like oils, ghee, milk etc), Avagaha (tub bath in medicated liquids), Lepa (herbal pastes) etc are conducted or applied over the skin.
The active principles of the medicines get digested and processed by Bhrajaka Pitta (sub type of pitta located in the skin) located in the skin, to a form which is beneficial to the body and are transported to Rasa Dhatu through their terminal openings of dhamanees in the skin.
Thus the dhamanees help in nourishing the rasa dhatu through skin also. These dhamanis also convey pleasure and painful signals experienced by touch (skin) to the Atma (soul) i.e. dhamanees make us feel many beneficial and non-beneficial sensations.
Simile to branches of Dhamanees –
The lotus flower and its stem will have minute openings in the form of pores within them. Through these pores the materials move out of the lotus into he water, at the same time the nutrients and water enter the stem and lotus through these pores.
Similar openings are present in the terminal branches of the dhamanees. Through these pores, the rasa dhatu will flow out of the dhamanees to nourish the tissues and body parts.
The rasa dhatu which oozes from the terminal branches of dhamanees is called ‘Sthayee Rasa Dhatu’. Since the part of Rasa dhatu nourishes the Rasa dhatu, it is called ‘Dhatu Rasa’. Since both Rasa’s are similar (identical) in form, and function and flow in identical channels can be considered as one and the same.
Since the nutrients (poshaka amsha) are available only in the Ahara Rasa (essence of digestion of food), it is called Poshaka Rasa. Since it is a stable element forming a part of body’s composition, just like the other tissues (i.e. blood, flesh, bones etc) it is called Sthaayee Rasa (stable rasa).
The poshaka rasa naturally gets transformed into Sthayee rasa in due course of time. Thus Poshaka Rasa and Sthayee Rasa are both the same tissues.
Simile for Rasa Bhramana (flow and transportation of rasa dhatu) –
स (रसः) शब्द अर्चि जल संतानवत् अणुना विशेषेण अणुधावति एवं शरीरं केवलम्।(सु.सू.४/१६)
Sa (rasaha) shabda archi jala santaanavat anunaa visheshena anudhaavati evam shareeram kevalam (Ref – Sushruta Sootra 4/16)
The rasa dhatu runs in a micro-fine way all through the body uninterruptedly just like the sound waves, flames of the fire and flow of water. Just like one sound wave pushes the other sound wave and occupies its place, the rasa dhatu pushes the part of rasa dhatu ahead of it in the channels and occupies its place.
This pushing forward of the successive part of the rasa dhatu by the part of rasa dhatu preceding it in the channels of dhamanees, makes the rasa dhatu to flow. This is concept of pressure gradient.
When a material burning in the fire example, a wooden log burns in fire, the part of the material burnt gives way to the next part of the wood which is in queue of being burnt. Just like this, when the tissues or body parts make use of rasa dhatu supplied to it, it gets replaced by the rasa dhatu in circulation.
Just like the water due to the pressure oozes or over flows to its surroundings, the rasa dhatu too oozes out from its terminal ends of the dhamanees into the tissues to nourish them.
Rasa Pramana (quantity of rasa) –
Rasa in the body is said to be present in a quantity of 9 anjali (measure of something which fills in one’s own hollowed out hands / palms is equal to 1 anjali).
This is said to be the maximum quantity of rasa dhatu in the body. The quantity can increase or decrease even in normal individuals.
Any tissue is said to be present in normal quantity (in a given person) when its functions are seen to be normal and in the presence of normal physical and mental health along with a feel of pleasure and happiness, a feeling of well being deep in the soul. This rule is applicable to Rasa dhatu also.
Rasa kshaya lakshana
Rasa Kshaya Lakshanas (symptoms of rasa deficiency) –
घट्टते सहते शब्दं न उच्चैः द्रवति शूल्यते।
हृदयं ताम्यति स्वल्प चेष्टस्य अपि रस क्षये॥(च.सू.१७/७६४)
रस क्षये हृत् पीडा कम्प शून्यताः तृष्णा च॥(सु.सू.१५/९)
रस (क्षीणे)रौक्ष्यं श्रमः शोषो ग्लानि शब्द असहिष्णुता॥(अ.हृ.सू.११/१७)
Ghattate sahate shabdam na uchchaihi dravati shoolyate
Hrudayam taamyati svalpa cheshtasya api rasa kshaye (Ref – Charaka Sutra 11/17)
Rasa kshaye hrut peedaa kampa shoonyataaha trushnaa cha (Ref – Sushruta Sutra 15/9)
Rasa (ksheene) roukshyam shramaha shosho glaani shabda asahishnutaa (Ref – Ashtanga Hridaya Sutra 11/17)
Prakruta karma hrasa – When rasa deficiency occurs, the normal functions including nutrition which is conducted by Rasa gets obstructed. Thus the body gets deficit nutrition.
Dhatu apachaya / ksheenata – degeneration or depletion of other dhatus
Mukha shosha / rukshata – dryness of mouth
Sharira shosha / rukshata – dryness of body parts
Karshya – emaciation
Trushna – thirst
Shunyata – feeling of emptiness of stomach, heart and mind
Shrama – tiredness
Shabda asahishnuta – intolerance to sound (phonophobia)
Hrudaya ghattana – pain in the heart with a feel of someone holding and vigourously shaking the heart
Hrut kampa – increase in heart beats (tachycardia)
Hrut drava – palpitation
Hrut shula – cardiac pain (coronary thrombosis)
Shrama-Klama – tiredness even after doing a small amount of work
When there is dhatu kshaya (tissue depletion) vata vitiation takes place. This rule is applicable to depletion of rasa dhatu also. All the above symptoms occur due to vata vitiation secondary to rasa kshaya.
Rasa vriddhi lakshana
Rasa Vriddhi Lakshanas (signs and symptoms of pathological increase of Rasa dhatu) –
रसो अति वृद्धो हृदय उत्क्लेदं प्रसेकं च आपादयति॥(सु.सू.१५/१४)
श्लेष्मा (वृद्धो) अग्नि सदन प्रसेक आलस्य गौरवम्।
श्वैत्य शैत्य श्लथ अङ्गत्वं श्वास कास अति निद्रता॥
रसो अपि श्लेष्मवत् – (अ.हृ.सू.११/७-८)
Raso ati vruddho hridaya utkledanam prasekam cha aapaadayati (Ref – Sushruta Sutra 15/14)
Shleshmaa (vruddho) agni sadana praseka aalasya gouravam
Shvaitya shaitya shlatha angatvam shvaasa kaasa ati nidrataa
Raso api shleshmavat – (Ref – Ashtanga Hridaya Sutra 11/7-8)
The symptoms of pathological increase in rasa dhatu are similar to kapha vruddhi (pathological increase of kapha).
Agnimandhya – sluggish digestion
Utkleshana – nausea
Praseka – salivation
Chardi – vomiting
Alasya – lack of enthusiasm to do work (in spite of intact physical strength)
Gourava – heaviness of the body
Shwaitya – whitish discolouration of body
Shaitya – feeling of abnormal coldness in the body
Anga shaitilya – feeling of looseness or loss of integrity of body parts
Shwasa – dyspnoea, difficulty to breath
Kasa – cough
Atinidrata – excessive sleep
Rasavaha srotas (channels for transportation of Rasa Dhatu)–
रस वहे द्वे तयोः मूलं हृदयं रस वाहिन्यः च धमन्यः।
तत्र विद्धस्य शोषः प्राण वह विद्धवत् च मरणं तत् लिङ्गानि च। ।(सु.शा.9/12)
रस वहानां स्रोतसाम् हृदयं मूलं दश च धमन्यः।(च.वि.५/७)
अश्रद्धा च अरुचिः च आस्य वैरस्यं अरसज्ञता।
हृल्लसो गौरवं तन्द्रा स अंग मर्दो ज्वरः तमः॥
पाण्डुत्वं स्रोतसां रोधः क्लैब्यं सादः कृश अङ्गता।
नाशो अग्नेः अयथा कालं बलयः पलितानि च॥ रस प्रदोषजा रोगाः…(च.सू.२८/९,१०)
Rasa vahe dwe tayoho moolam hrudayam rasa vaahinyaha cha dhamanyaha
Tatra viddasya shoshaha praana vaha viddavat cha maranam tat lingaani cha (Ref – Sushruta Shaareera 9/12)
Rasa vahaanaam srotasaam hrudayam moolam dasha cha dhamanyaha (Ref Charaka Vimana 5/7)
Ashraddha cha aruchihi cha aasya vairasyam arasagnataa
Hrullaso gauravam tandraa sa anga mardo jwaraha tamaha
Paandutvam srotasaam rodhaha klaibyam saadaha krushaangataa
Naasho agnehe ayathaa kaalam balayaha palitaani cha rasa pradoshaja rogaaha (Ref – Charaka Sutra 28/9,10)
According to Sushruta –
Rasa vaha srotas or channels carrying the nutritive essence to every part of the body are 2 in number. They have their roots in –
Hrudaya – Heart
Rasa vahini dhamanees – the arteries carrying the rasa to every part of the body
Symptoms of damage or injury to Rasavaha srotas –
Shosha – emaciation
Pranavaha srotas viddha lakshana – symptoms similar to those occurring due to injury to Pranavaha srotas
Maranam – death
According to Charaka –
The root of origin of Annavaha Srotas lies in –
Hridaya – Heart and
Dasha Dhamanis – 10 great arteries taking their origin from heart and successively divide into small branches as they get distributed all through the body
Factors causing vitiation
Causes of vitiation of Rasavaha srotas –
गुरु शीतम् अति स्निग्धम् अति मात्रं सम्श्नताम्।
रस वाहीनि दुष्यन्ति चिन्त्यानां च अति चिन्तनात्॥(च.वि.५/१३)
Guru sheetam ati snigdham ati maatram samashnataam
Rasa vaaheeni dushyanti chintyaanaam cha ati chintanaat (Ref – Charaka Vimana 5/13)
Guru aahara – heavy foods
Sheeta aahara – cold foods
Ati snigdha – excessive consumption of oily foods
Ati maatram – eating in excess
Ati chintanaat – excessive thinking (stress)
Management of vitiation
Management of vitiation of Rasavaha srotas –
रसजानाम् विकाराणां सर्व लङ्गनं औषधम्।(च.सू.२८/२५)
Rasajaanaam vikaaraanaam sarva langanam aushadham (Ref – Charaka sutra 28/25)
In the management of vitiation of Rasavaha srotas and the disorders of their origin, all types of Langhana should be followed.
Langhana means lightening therapies (which produce lightness in the body). Langhana is of 10 types.
Vamana – therapeutic emesis
Virechana – therapeutic purgation
Shirovirechana (nasya) – nasal medications
Niruha vasti – evacuation or cleansing enemas
Pipaasa – not drinking water
Maruta – exposure to breeze
Aatapa – exposure to sunlight
Paachana – medicines or treatments which can digest and destroy ama (metabolic wastes)
Upavasa – starvation
Vyaayaama – exercise
Rasa dushti lakshana
Rasa Dushti Lakshana (diseases formed due to contamination of rasa dhatu) –
Ashraddha – lack of interest in the food
Aruchi – tastelessness
Aasya vairasya – feeling of weird tastes in the mouth
Arasagnata – failure to identify any taste
Hrullasa – watering of mouth, excessive salivation, nausea
Gourava – heaviness
Tandra – drowsiness
Angamarda – pain in body parts
Jwara – fever
Tama – feeling of darkness before the eyes
Pandutva – anaemia
Srotorodha – block in multiple channels of the body
Klaibya – impotence
Saada – fatigue, stoppage of working of organs and tissues
Krushangataa – emaciation
Nasho agnehe – destruction of agni, the metabolic fire
Ayatha kala Vali – premature wrinkling of skin
Ayatha kala Palita – premature greying of hairs
Trupti – saturation
Rasa sara purusha lakshana
Rasa sara (twak sara) purusha lakshanas (signs of a person who is enriched with rasa dhatu) –
Rasa dhatu and skin have a proximal relationship. This richness (in terms of quality and quantity) or deficiency of rasa dhatu are shown or reflected on skin.
The following are signs of high quality rasa dhatu in the body –
Roma snigdhata – unctuousness or oiliness around the roots of hair follicles (surface of the skin)
Roma shlakshnata – smoothness softness of body hairs and skin
Shlakshna twak – smooth skin
Mrudu twak – soft skin
Prasanna twak (nirdosha nirmala) – clean skin
Sukshma twak – minuteness of skin
Gambhira roma – deep rooted hair follicles
Sukumara – tender and delicate skin and follicles
Prabha – good lustre and complexion of skin
Suprasanna twak – pleasant and attractive skin
Mrudu twak – soft skin
The Twak Sarata or skin with enriched qualities denote –
Sukha – comfort and happiness
Sowbhagya – luck
Aishwarya – fortune, wealth
Upabhoga – luxury
Buddhi – high intellect
Vidhya – good education
Arogya – good health
Praharshana – exhilaration, natural tendency to be happy
Ayushya – good and prolonged life span
Rasa Dhatu, A modern perspective –
Rasa dhatu is primarily involved in the function of Preenana or carrying and providing nutrition and nourishment to all the cells in the body.
This function is rendered by the blood. But Ayurveda has explained Rakta dhatu or blood tissue as the 2nd tissue in the chronology of the tissues.
The blood has 2 components, one is the liquid portion called plasma or lymph and the other is cellular which comprises of red blood cells, white blood cells, blood platelets etc. the fluid component of the blood can be taken as Rasa Dhatu and the cellular portion is rakta dhatu.
Let us try to understand this concept in this way:
The whole water content of the body is seen in 2 forms:
Intra cellular fluid (fluid which is present within the cells) and
Extra cellular fluid (fluid which is present outside the cells)
The distribution of extracellular fluid in the body can be seen in the forms of –
Trans cellular fluid – Example Cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF), Peritoneal fluid (present between the layers of the membranes covering the abdominal viscera), Pleural fluid (present between the layers of membranes covering the lungs), Pericardial fluid (present in between the layers of membranes covering the heart) etc
Interstitial or tissue fluids –surrounding and bathing the cells of the tissue
Fluid of connective tissues
Intra vascular fluid – this is the fluid present in the blood vessels. This is of 2 forms – a) plasma and b) lymph.
It is the clear, straw colored liquid portion of the blood that remains after the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed. It is single largest component of the human blood, comprising of about 55% and contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins.
It normally holds the blood cells in whole blood in suspension. It forms the extracellular matrix of red cells. Plasma also serves as the protein reserve of the human body.
It plays a vital role in an intravascular osmotic effect that keeps electrolytes in balanced form and protects the body from infection and other blood disorders.
Functions of Plasma –
Transports nutrition – One of the most important functions of the plasma is to transport nutrients throughout the body. As food is digested in the stomach and intestines, it is broken down into its components. This includes amino acids, lipids, sugars and fatty acids. These nutrients are distributed to the cells throughout the body where they are utilized to maintain healthy functions and growth.
Transports waste – The plasma also transports waste products such as uric acid, ammonium salts, creatinine etc from the cells to the kidneys. The kidneys filter these wastes out of the plasma and excrete them through urine.
Maintains blood volume – about 7% plasma is made up of protein, mainly albumin (protein important for tissue repair and growth). This concentration is important for maintaining the osmotic pressure of the blood. Albumin also if found in the fluids surrounding the cells (interstitial fluid).
The concentration of albumin in this fluid is lower than that present in the plasma. Because of this, water is not able to move from the interstitial fluid into the blood.
In the absence of plasma albumin, water would move into the blood and increase the blood volume. This would lead to increase in blood pressure. This also would impart high work load over the heart.
Balance electrolytes – Plasma has salts called as electrolytes. They include sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and bicarbonate. These electrolytes are essential for many body functions. Example, contraction of muscles, transmission of nerve impulses and signals etc are some of the important functions of electrolytes.
Provides body defence or immunity – Plasma also carries other proteins called immune-globulins (antibodies). They fight off foreign substances like bacteria and protect the body.
Fibrinogen is a protein necessary to help the platelets to form blood clots. By carrying these proteins, the plasma is playing a critical role in defending the body against infection and blood loss.
Lymph is nothing but another form of plasma which has come out of the blood vessels because almost all the constituents of the plasma are more or less same in the lymph also.
It contains lymphocytes and other white blood cells. It also contains waste products and cellular debris along with bacteria and proteins.
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph. The lymphatic system primarily consists of lymphatic vessels, which are similar to circulatory systems veins and capillaries.
The vessels are connected to lymph nodes, where the lymph is filtered. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus are all part of the lymphatic system.
The plasma constituents which fail to enter the venous system will form the lymphatic system. This system starts from sub-cutaneous tissue, muscle spaces, abdominal and thoracic organs in the form of lymph capillaries.
The lymph capillaries of intestinal villi which carry the absorbed fat are known as lacteals. These lacteals join the left thoracic duct. The left thoracic duct drains from the lower limbs and abdominal viscera and left upper limb.
The right part of the chest and right upper limb are drained by right lymph duct. Both right and left thoracic ducts drain their contents into right atrium by joining right lymphatic duct and left sub clavian vein respectively.
The lymph flow depends upon – interstitial pressure, arterial pulsation, intra thoracic pressure and muscular massage.
Lymph Nodes – On its course, the lymph passes through the filtering units at certain centres called lymph nodes. They are mainly present in the groins (inguinal lymph nodes), axillae (axillary lymph nodes), neck (cervical lymph nodes), abdomen (abdominal lymph glands), hilum of the lungs (hilar lymph nodes) etc. a lymph gland is a round body. It is divided into outer cortex and inner medulla.
The centre of the gland is called hilum. The lymph vessel enters the gland at the cortex as afferent lymph capillary. Then it spreads through the lymph sinuses of the gland.
The reticulo-endothelial cells of these sinuses engulf and destroy the harmful substances caught here by lymphatics and thus purify the lymph.
The purified lymph leaves the lymph gland through the hilum. We have experienced that if any thorn pricks or injury takes place to the leg, the inguinal lymph glands are swollen within 2-3 days, which indicates that the lymph glands have filtered the toxic substances coming from the leg and thus inflamed.
Lymphatics are spread throughout the subcutaneous tissue under the skin, just adjacent to the blood capillaries, and serve the purpose of draining the metabolites.
Function of the lymphatics
Removes interstitial fluid from tissues
Absorbs and transports fatty acids and fats as chyle from the digestive system
Transports white blood cells to the lymph nodes and from the lymph nodes into the bones
Transports antigen-presenting cells, such as dendritic cells, to the lymph nodes where an immune response is stimulated
Summing up –
Since blood plasma is an important part of the blood, thrown into the circulation by the heart (rasa vaha srotas), it can be correlated with ‘rasa dhatu’ due to its similarity in terms of appearance, functions and circulation.
Some authors have also compared the other form of plasma i.e. lymph as rasa dhatu. But lymph like venous blood has a one way root and moves towards the heart.
The human circulatory system processes an average of 20 litres of blood per day through capillary filtration which removes plasma while leaving the blood cells. Roughly 17 litres of the filtered plasma are reabsorbed directly into the blood vessels, while the remaining 3 litres remain in the interstitial fluid.
One of the main functions of the lymph system is to provide an accessory return route to the blood for the surplus 3 litres. Thus lymph also forms an important part of the circulatory system and can be included under rasa dhatu, if not in true terms as in case of plasma which has a completed circuit, starts and ends in the heart, which is rasavaha srotas.
The lymph is doing the same job of sthayi rasa dhatu (poshaka rasa dhatu or rasa dhatu in circulation) like filtering the toxins etc. Thus plasma and lymph can be correlated with rasa dhatu.
Just Before Finish –
रसजं पुरुषं विध्यात् रसं रक्षेत् प्रयत्नतः।
अन्नत् पानात् च मतिमान् आचारात् च अपि अतन्द्रितः॥(सु.सू.१४/१२)
Rasajam purusham vidhyaat rasam rakshet prayatnataha
Annat paanaat cha matimaan aachaaraat cha api atandritaha (Ref – Sushruta Sutra 14/12)
We are all made up of the essence of the digested food. Our health depends on how best it is formed, how uninterruptedly it circulates all over the body and how it nourishes other tissues.
The best quality and quantity of rasa is formed only on supplying our stomach with good food in terms of quality, quantity and time. Judicious and conscious eating will take care of that.
रस निमित्तम् एव स्थौल्यं कार्श्यं च॥(सु.सू.१५/३२)
Rasa nimittam eva stoulyam kaarshyam cha (Ref – Sushruta Sutra 15/32)
If the Rasa is not formed properly or if it is contaminated it leads to many systemic diseases as discussed above. The extremes of body frames i.e. obesity and emaciation too depend on the quality and quantity of rasa dhatu, its distribution, conversion and utilisation in the body, by the body components.
Even today obesity and emaciation are the burning issues of the modern world. These 2 again leads to wide array of psychosomatic disorders.
This article has been written with the intention of giving information and creating awareness of the ‘food essence’ called rasa dhatu which forms and supports our body.
We need to be aware about what exactly happens to the food after entering in our body and how exactly it maintains our health. This will help us to keep away many diseases caused due to faulty nutrition or erratic food choices.
Eat good food, eat well and be healthy
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)
How to Improve Rasa Dhatu?
Rasa is the nutrition derived food that circulates in the blood.
Improving Rasa dhatu means improving the body nutrition and nourishment. This can be achieved by
1. High quality foods – A food, well balanced with all six tastes, having right mix of carbohydrate, proteins, vitamins, fats, minerals, salts, water, prepared fresh and served hot, is highly essential for high quality Rasa Dhatu.
2. Good digestion strength – Not all people who take nourishing foods have good quality Rasa Dhatu. It also requires the person to have high quality digestion strength, called Agni in Ayurveda. Only if the person has good digestion strength, then the nutrition is well absorbed from the gut and is well distributed to all body parts.
3. Disciplined lifestyle – Along with the above two factors, one has to have disciplined lifestyle with right amount of sleep, not eating or drinking without feeling hunger or thirst, right amount of exercise, meditation, having a good mental balance – all these contribute to a healthy body, healthy Agni and healthy Rasa Dhatu.