Cold Quality – Sheeta Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa B.A.M.S

Sheeta Guna means coldness quality. It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be cold in nature.
Read – Dravya: Meaning, Ayurvedic Explanation


Coldness is one of the qualities included in 20 gurvadi qualities. It is opposite of hot quality. Cold quality consisting foods and medicines are administered to counteract effect of excessive heat in the body caused due to increased pitta dosha or due to consumption of foods which are hot in nature. Among body components, cold quality is quality of vata and kapha doshas and antagonistic to pitta dosha.

Sanskrit verse

Coldness in terms of substances

Coldness is a quality which can be felt by touch. We have a similar feel when cold air touches our skin. When we drink cold water or cold drinks during summer, when body is fatigued by excessive heat or rise in internal heat, we feel at comfort. This is because cold quality is antagonistic to hot quality. Read – Benefits Of Drinking Hot Water, Contra Indications

That which causes reduction in heat is coldness.

Thus, coldness is absence of heat. It is also antagonistic quality of heat or hotness.

Coldness also reduces burning sensation. Read – Home Remedy For Body Heat, Burning Urination And Abdominal Pain

Coldness in herbs, food

Coldness in terms of medicinal herbs and food substances

Certain foods and medicines have cold quality in them. They are basically coolants in nature. They act against increased heat and heat generated health issues. Pitta is dosha which naturally has heat quality in it. If this heat is within balance, it contributes to all metabolic activities of body and also to maintain temperature of body. If this heat goes beyond normal limits due to consumption or exposure to etiological factors causing pitta increase or heat increase, it leads to many inflammatory diseases and metabolic disorders.
Read – Ayurvedic Pitta Diet – Food Suitable For Pitta Body Type Hot climate also does similar impact on the body.

In these instances wherein high pitta and high heat conditions and diseases are manifested, cold therapies, foods and comforts are always advised. Similarly medicines having coolant herbs or prepared from herbs having cold quality and potency are administered to counteract excessive heat in the body. Read – How To Understand And Master Ayurvedic Medicines Easily

Elemental relationship

Coldness quality is related to water element. Water is the basis of coldness quality. Water naturally has coldness in it. In its normal temperature, water is cold to touch. Coldness is also a quality of air element. Cold quality can be perceived by touch. Read – Relationship Between Doshas And Basic Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta)

Effect on doshas

Cold quality mitigates pitta and increases vata and kapha.

Pitta is hot in nature and cold quality is antagonistic to it. Therefore any food or medicine which has coldness quality will destroy pitta. Since heat and cold are opposite qualities, cold foods, medicines, activities and comforts which produce coolant properties are administered as remedies to mitigate hyper-activity of pitta and cure diseases caused due to pitta vitiation. We can observe pitta to be within its limitations in cold seasons and weather. Read – Understand Pitta Dosha By Its Functions

Likewise, coldness is one of the basic qualities of vata and kapha doshas. Therefore any medicine or food having coldness quality tends to increase vata and kapha. This will obviously lead to manifestation of diseases caused due to vata and kapha vitiation. Cold seasons too have similar impact. Read – Understand Kapha Dosha By Its Functions

Effect on Tissues

Cold quality increases tissues and is conducive to them. It provides coolant effect to all tissues and reduces burnouts caused by excessive heat produced by pitta and during cellular metabolism. It wards off excessive heat from tissues and reduces inflammatory reactions. It is soothing in nature. Read – Stambhana – Blocking Therapy Principle For Leaking Disorders

Cold quality also checks bleeding and acts like a styptic.
Read – Stambhana in Raktapitta: Styptic Therapy In Bleeding Disorders

Effect on Excreta

Cold quality stimulates urination and expels urine. Coldness enables diuresis. There is excessive urination in cold season or when we drink more cold drinks. Cold quality causes blockage of feces and sweat. This causes less excretion of feces leading to constipation and also less sweating. Since cold quality is astringent and arresting in nature, it is used to stop excessive excretion of feces as in diarrhea. Anti-diarrheal medicines are predominantly prepared with herbs having coldness quality.

Effect on systemic functions

Coldness mainly wards off ill-effects caused by high pitta. When pitta gets high in body, there is abnormal rise in heat and temperature of body. This is dangerous for the body, mind and senses. Excessive heat and temperature damages tissues and impairs many functions. It leads to inflammation and burnouts and causes many diseases caused due to pitta vitiation. Read – Shothahara Gana Of Charaka – Anti Inflammatory Group Of Herbs Excessive pitta causes burning sensation, excessive thirst, loss of consciousness and fainting. Cold quality helps in pacifying burning sensation, excessive thirst, fainting and many other symptoms caused by high pitta.

Cold quality is refreshing to the mind. One would find himself at comfort after intake of cold things, exposure to cold air or after having undergone cold comforts.

Below mentioned are also cold in nature and quality –

  • , tikta and kashaya rasa foods having sweet, bitter and astringent tastes are cold in nature, i.e. they have cold quality. All these three tastes are antagonistic to pitta and pacify pitta aggravation. Sour taste is also cold in touch but is hot in potency; therefore it is pitta aggravating in nature.
  • Madhura vipaka sweet post-digestion effect also is cold in nature and mitigates pitta.
  • Sheeta veerya – cold potency


Examples of foods and medicines having cold quality

  • Chandana – sandal wood
  • ice cream, butter, amla, coconut water, coconut oil, cow milk, raisins, rice water, Shatavari, cucumber, Shankha Bhasma, etc.

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Coldness with dryness

It is said that unctuousness and hotness is an ideal quality combination. Does it mean that roughness (opposite to unctuousness) and coldness (opposite to hot) are bad for health?
Dr. JV Hebbar
Unctuousness (oiliness) and hotness is combination of qualities
a. for healthy people, especially for good digestion of food and flow of nutrition across different body channels without any blockage. This combination is good for keeping the body channels patent and active.
Unctuousness – oily, fatty nutrients in the food provides the nutrition
hotness ensures proper digestion and distribution of energy.
This quality combo ensures
timely digestion of food,
timely distribution of energy generated from the food to all the tissues and
timely elimination of waste products out of the body.
But there is a famous quote in Sanskrit
अति सर्वत्र वर्जयेत् –  ati sarvatra varjayet
Avoid excesses everywhere. 
While this combination has such benefits overall, excess of it can lead to excess hotness and excess oiliness – as if a hot oil is running all over the body, leading to Pitta aggravation, blood tissue vitiation and bleeding disorders such as nasal bleeding, ulcerative colitis, burning urination mixed with blood etc.
This is where counter balancing with roughness and coldness comes into the picture.
Unctuousness (oily, fatty) and coldness can cause potential blockages in the body. Trans fats, wrong food combinations such as a fat rich diet with ice cream, refrigerated oil fried foods etc. are a few examples of this. This leads to uneven distribution of nutrition only to fat tissues, leading to diseases such as fatty liver disorder, fatty kidney, obesity, cholesterol increase, constipation, thyroid complications, depression etc.
Dryness and hotness combination as in excess consumption of hot spices, leads to extreme dryness of the body and deprives the body of nutrition. In Ayurvedic terms, it increases Vata and Pitta Dosha.
We need good amounts of spices in our foods, with oils, proteins, carbohydrates etc. in a combination. Just the spice rich diet won’t serve the body with required nutrition levels.
Having said all these, dryness and coldness indeed have some benefits.
Ubtan – Powder massage – Master Vagbhata mentions that after daily oil massage, one has to undergo the dry powder massage. This dry powder massage takes away excess oiliness out of the body.
Astringent taste, a combination of dryness and coldness, is advised to be consumed as the last part of the meals, and has a significant role to dry out excess moisture and juices from the gut. This is why having buttermilk at the end of the meals makes so much sense.

Herbal smoking, which is a drying therapy is advised after nasal drops, oil pulling and Vamana Panchakarma to dry up the excess moisture. 

Absorbent quality – present in buttermilk makes it an ideal inclusion in the diet  
Triphala powder – which is astringent dominant, is useful in stopping bleeding wounds and drying up the slough and healing the wounds faster. This is why Triphala powder mixed with turmeric is used for dusting over infected wounds.
Vetiver powder, sandalwood powder applied on the face, body helps to reduce the burning sensation again, with the coolant, dry properties.
Most of the bitter and astringent herbs with antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-bleeding activities are a combination of dryness and coldness (with some exceptions having hotness). Eg: Neem, curry leaves, pointed gourd, Vasa (Adhatoda vasica) etc.  

Overall, unctuousness and hotness is a combination ideal during peace times.
Dryness and coldness contribute during certain war times. 

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