Lightness Quality – Laghu Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

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

Laghu Gun means ‘lightness’ quality. It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be light in nature.
Read – Dravya: Meaning, Ayurvedic Explanation

Introduction

Laghu means easy to digest, which undergoes digestion quickly, which does not stay in the digestive tract for a long period of time.
The term laghu can be applied for the same product.
For example, quarter a piece of pizza is laghu when compared to eating the whole pizza.

Lightness is one of the qualities and is included in 20 gurvadi qualities. It is opposite to heaviness quality. It is often administered in form of food or medicine to counteract the effect of excessive heaviness in the body caused due to increased kapha or due to consumption of heavy to digest foods and sedentary activities. It is also the quality of vata and pitta doshas and hence antagonistic to kapha.
Read – Classification Of Foods And Drinks – Charaka Sahmita Sutrasthana 27

Lightness in terms of substances

Lightness comes from lightness inducing quality present in that substance. Example – hold a paper in one hand and a hammer in another. Paper obviously feels light in comparison to the hammer. Paper is light due to its light weight owing to lightness quality in paper. On other hand, hammer has heaviness quality in it and therefore it has more weight and feels heavy. Lightness and heaviness can be perceived by touch and measured by weight of the objects.
Read – Panchamahabhuta: Application, Areas of Utility in Ayurveda treatment

This quality contributes to the lightness of substance. Absence of heaviness is by itself lightness. Heaviness and lightness are contrasting principles. Lightness is due to air and ether element in substance.

When we drop substances which are light in nature, they either float or slowly gravitate down.
Read – 11 Ayurvedic Eating Tips For Good Health

Lightness in herbs, food

Lightness in terms of medicinal herbs and food substances

Foods and medicines which are light to digest are considered to have lightness as a quality in them. Since these foods are light, they can easily be digested and in quick time too. Lightness does not hamper digestive fire like heaviness quality. In fact, lightness quality may kindle food and keep it balanced.

Vata and pitta are light in nature. Digestive fire influenced by vata is fluctuant whereas that influenced by pitta is intense. When there is synchronization between vata and pitta and when both influence fire, fire is balanced and digests food properly.
Read – Understanding Agni: Concept, Definition, Functions, Types

Light foods tend to increase vata and pitta and hence increase digestive fire. If more light to digest foods are taken and practiced, fire may continue to keep intense and high instead of balanced and high.

Intensive digestive fire may influence other tissue and element fires in tissues and increase metabolic rate. This, when becomes a sustained condition may damage tissues and body on long run and cause many diseases due to increased metabolism.
Read – Understanding Digestion Process From An Ayurveda View

Kapha increasing foods, mainly foods heavy and sweet in nature are natural remedies for excessive lightness in body. Excessive lightness also indicates hyperactivity of vata and pitta and subsequent tissue damage and destruction.
Read – Symptoms Of Vata Dosha Increase And Imbalance – Vata Vruddhi Lakshana

When lightness is balanced in the body, when one feels light and healthy, it is a state of good health and balance of all doshas including digestive fire. Lightness reflects health, excessive lightness with symptoms of physical and mental disturbances indicate a state of imbalance and illness, a backdrop for many diseases to develop.

On contrary, light foods are compatible and conducive for kapha personalities. Since digestive fire influenced by kapha is mild and cannot digest heavy foods, in fact heavy foods can further weaken fire, light to digest foods and medicines go good with these people. Light foods are also administered as remedies for high kapha induced disorders, so as medicines which carry light quality.
Read – Importance Of Diet (Pathya) For Specific Diseases

One needs to remember a golden rule. How much ever food is light in nature and easily digestible, it should not be consumed in excessive quantity. This is because digestive fire can only digest a particular quantity of food which is within its bracket of capacity.
Read – How Much Food To Eat Per Day As Per Ayurveda?

Elemental relationship

Lightness quality is related to ether element. It is said to be natural quality of space element. Lightness is also found in air and fire elements. Therefore basis of lightness quality is space, air and fire elements. Any medicine or food rich in these elements will induce lightness in the body on consumption. We should remember that our body and all components are made up of five elements of nature, so as all food and medicinal products.
Read – Akasha Mahabhuta: Qualities, Functions, How To Balance

Effect on doshas

लघु पथ्यं परं प्रोक्तं कफघ्नं शीघ्र पाकि च।भा.प्र।

Lightness quality mitigates kapha dosha while it increases vata dosha.

Heaviness is natural quality of kapha, lightness is opposite quality of heaviness. Any food or medicine possessing lightness quality mitigates kapha.
Read – Understand Vata Dosha By Its Functions

Similarly, lightness is the basic quality of vata. Any medicine or food possessing lightness quality tends to increase vata.

Those foods which increase kapha would decrease vata and those which increase vata would decrease kapha, both these doshas being naturally antagonistic.
Read – Understand Kapha Dosha By Its Functions

Basically increase in vata would decrease kapha and increase in kapha would decrease vata in the body. They are not only antagonistic but also mutually balancing. Lightness is one among many qualities of vata, which is absent in kapha and enables this antagonizing and mutually balancing mechanisms between vata and kapha.

Effect on Tissues

लङ्घने लघुः।हेमाद्रि।

Light quality decreases tissues. It also makes body weak and thin. Decrease in tissues is responsible for increase in vata. If vata is increased, lightness is further increased in the body. Lightness further destroys tissues and this becomes a cyclic process.
Read – Dhatu – 7 Body Tissues As Explained In Ayurveda

Destruction of tissues makes body susceptible to many diseases due to lessening of immunity. Moreover, increase in lightness destroys kapha. Most tissues of body belong to kapha category. These tissues will be destroyed.
Read – Decrease Of Tissues – Dhatu Kshaya – Reasoning, Symptoms

Kapha balance is needed for good health and immunity. When kapha is destroyed in excess by prevailing lightness, body support is lost. Lightness mainly depletes kapha category tissues i.e. lymph, muscles, fat, bone marrow, semen, urine and feces.

Effect on Excreta

Lightness quality decreases excreta and waste products in the body and cleanses the channels. If channels are blocked by accumulated excreta, lightness removes those blocks by expelling excreta and allows free flow of essential ingredients in the body. Mainly lightness quality decreases urine and feces.
Read – Tri Malas – The Three Major Waste Matters Of Body

Medicines used in therapeutic emesis are light in nature. Therefore they tend to move in upward direction. By virtue of this nature, emetics tend to expel morbid doshas out of the body, through oral route.

Effect on systemic functions

Lightness quality, foods having this quality are easy to digest. They also get digested in quick time. Being light, they kindle digestive fire and keep it in a state of balance as long as its quantity isn’t beyond digestible standards.

They are non-satiating and many times there may be crave to consume in more quantities. It wards of ill-effects of saturation. Since these foods having lightness quality are quickly digested, nutritive juices are quickly formed and supplied to the tissues. There is quick release of small packs of energy and light foods keep one fresh and enthusiastic. They are also conducive to the mind as they improve alertness. They produce enthusiasm and energy in the body and mind.
Read – Langhana Therapy – A Unique Ayurvedic Treatment Principle

Below mentioned are also light in nature and quality –

  • Katu and Tikta rasa – foods having pungent and bitter tastes are light in nature. They are also dry in quality; hence satisfy property of lightness. Sour taste is also light in quality but not as much as pungent or bitter. Since sour taste is also unctuous in nature, it may not fulfil entire criteria of being a taste which is predominantly light. Bitter taste is said to be lightest, pungent is moderately light and sour is less light in nature.
  • Katu and Amla vipaka – pungent and sour post-digestion effects are lighter in nature. Pungent post-digestion effect is lighter than sour since it is associated with dry nature. Sour post-digestion effect is less light because it is also unctuous.
  • Ushna veerya – hot potency

Read – Effect Of Vipaka (Post Digestion taste Change) On Doshas 

Examples

Examples of foods and medicines having lightness quality

  • Mudga – green gram
  • Laja – parched rice
  • pomegranate, spices, clove oil, fennel seed, camel milk, honey, etc.

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