Hot Quality – Ushna Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

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

Ushna Guna means ‘hot / heat’ quality. It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be hot in nature.

Introduction

Hotness is one of the qualities included in 20 gurvadi qualities. It is opposite of cold quality. Foods and medicines consisting hot quality are administered to counteract effect of excessive cold in the body caused due to increased vata or kapha dosha.
Read – Rasa Panchaka – 5 Qualities Of Substance (Dravya)

Both vata and kapha are cold in nature. When kapha or vata increases in body, coldness increases. Many functions will be hampered, congestion occurs in channels leading to blocks, metabolism sheds down, excreta accumulate in the body and wide array of diseases are formed.

Coldness is also increased due to consumption of foods and activities which are cold in nature and exposure to cold climates. Hotness is the quality of pitta dosha and antagonistic to vata and kapha doshas. Since pitta is hot in nature, hotness increases pitta.
Read – Dravya: Meaning, Ayurvedic Explanation

Sanskrit verse

Hotness in terms of substances

Hotness is a quality which can be felt by touch. We would experience heat when we touch hot water or when hot coffee spills on our skin or when skin comes in contact with fire. We have a similar feel when hot air touches our skin and when we are exposed to heat of sun.
Read – Roga, Rogi Pareeksha: Examination Of Disease And Patient

When we drink hot water during winter we feel relaxed. Same feel we get when we have a hot water shower or sudation. Coldness causes congestion and stiffness of body. When heat is provided, ill-effects of coldness go away. This is because hot quality is antagonistic to coldness quality. Hotness also increases burning sensation.

That which increases hotness in the body is called heat or hotness quality.

That which causes reduction in coldness is called heat / hotness.

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

Hot herbs, medicines

Hotness in terms of medicinal herbs and food substances

Hot quality is present in certain foods and medicines. They are basically hot, burning and corrosive in nature. Being antagonistic to coldness, heat acts against increased coldness and ailments occurring due to increased coldness in the body.

Vata and kapha dosha have coldness quality naturally in them. Body metabolism creates lot of heat. This heat is balanced by coldness of vata and kapha. As long as coldness in the body is in a state of balance, it helps in balancing functions of the body. But if this coldness goes beyond normal proportions, it is non-conducive to the body and also harmful.

At same time, hotness i.e. heat produced by pitta in the body will help in balancing increased cold in the body. To combat excessive cold, foods and medicines which have pitta increasing properties are administered. In other sense, these foods and medicines increase metabolic fire and hence heat and temperature in the body.
Read – Functions Of Doshas In Balance In The Body – Prakrita Dosha Karma

This raised temperature and heat of the body will defend and protect tissues and body against severe cold. Pitta in a state of balance will naturally try to combat raising cold in the body but sometimes dual cold caused by increased vata and kapha will be severe enough to combat for pitta. In these instances interventions in form of heat increasing foods, medicines, comforts and lifestyle changes are needed to be administered.

Increase of cold also produces many kapha and vata related diseases wherein there is cold and congestion in many parts of the body and slowing down of metabolism.

When digestion becomes less due to diminished fire leading to slow metabolism, many metabolic disorders are caused. Natural heat produced in the body by pitta and different types of fires, diet and medicines having hot quality and hot potency and hot climate would nullify ill-effects of vata and kapha in the body. Thus balanced hotness maintains good metabolism, balances vata and kapha by preventing their hyperactivity and establishes good health.
Read – Kapha Increase Symptoms – Kapha Vruddhi Lakshana

We should remember that excessive coldness in the body is dangerous and damaging for health and only natural heat produced in the body or heat induced by administering medicines and food having hot quality can keep this coldness in control.

Elemental relationship

Hotness quality is related to fire element. Fire is the basis of hot quality. Fire naturally has heat in it and fire is hot on touch. Hotness quality can be perceived by touch. Sharpness is another quality of fire element. Heat is also sharp and deep penetrating in nature.
Read – Relationship Between Doshas And Basic Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta)

Effect on doshas

Hot quality increases pitta and mitigates vata and kapha.

Vata and kapha are cold in nature and hot quality is by nature antagonistic to coldness.

Therefore foods and medicines possessing hotness property will destroy or pacify vata and kapha. Since coldness and hotness are antagonistic qualities, hot foods, medicines, activities and comforts that produce heat are administered as remedies to mitigate excessive activity of vata and kapha and cure diseases caused by vitiated vata and kapha. Vata and kapha would be in normal limitations and will not cause any disturbances related to health in hot seasons and weather.
Read – How To Balance Kapha Vata Dosha? 6 Factors To Consider

Hotness likewise is one of the qualities of pitta dosha. Medicines and foods having hotness quality would increase pitta dosha. This will lead to the manifestation of diseases caused due to pitta vitiation. Hot seasons too have similar impact on heat of the body and pitta dosha.
Read – Diet And Lifestyle Advice For Vata Dosha Body Type

Effect on Tissues

Hot quality decreases tissues and is harmful to them. Apart from blood tissue, other tissues form abodes of vata or kapha. Hotness destroys these tissues since it is antagonistic to vata and kapha. Hotness is favourable for pitta increase. Increase of pitta leads to consequent increase of heat, burning sensation and inflammation in body tissues. Tissues are damaged on long run. This leads to reduction of immunity, strength and endurance of body.
Read – Immunity In Ayurveda: Concept, Diet, Herbs, Medicines, Exercise

Blood tissue and pitta have a strong bonding. They are related by resident and residence relationship. Blood is residence and pitta is resident. They have similar properties. When pitta increases, blood too increases and when pitta decreases, blood too decreases.

When pitta increases pathologically it would vitiate blood. Fluidity of pitta adds up to blood and blood increases in the quantity. Pitta also burns blood. This blood contaminated and increased owing to vitiation of pitta tends to overflow and bleed from different orifices and skin of the body as happens in disease called raktapitta i.e. blood contaminated by vitiated pitta.

This also happens due to increase in hotness of pitta and consequent hotness of blood. Thus, increase in the heat tends to excessive discharge of blood i.e. increased hemorrhage.
Read – Dhatu – 7 Body Tissues As Explained In Ayurveda

Effect on Excreta

Hot quality causes excessive expulsion of all three forms of excreta i.e. urine, feces and sweat. We have seen that when body heat rises, there will be increased sweating. Heat also promotes flow of urine and excretion of feces.

In pathology of diseases like atisara i.e. diarrhoea, grahani i.e. irritable bowel syndrome etc Ayurveda has explained involvement of pitta in causation of pathology. Increase in heat and liquid qualities of pitta are responsible for excessive defecation and loose feces.

Hot water also acts as a laxative. In hot seasons we get thirstier and tend to drink more water because of dehydration caused by excessive elimination of urine and sweat due to excessive heat in environment.

Effect on systemic functions

Hotness quality helps in metabolism. It enables two-fold action at gut and tissue level. They are deepana i.e. increasing metabolic fire and enabling it to digest food properly and pachana i.e. digesting food and also digesting immature nutrition juices formed due to sluggish digestion of food in stomach.
Read – Understanding Digestion Process From An Ayurveda View

Digestion of food is primarily carried out bypachaka pitta, a sub-type of pitta in stomach and intestines. Pitta is said to be a representative of fire element. Fire has heat and so does pitta. Therefore presence of heat in gut is very essential for food to get digested in a proper way and for nutritional juices to be formed in optimum quality and quantity so as to nurture entire body. This heat should be in a state of balance.

If heat increases beyond normal limits, there is burning and charring of food. This leads to deficit production of nutritional juices and depletion of tissues due to lack of nutrition. This leads to manifestation of many diseases. On other hand if heat in the belly decreases, food is not properly digested. This leads to formation of ama i.e. immature nutritional juices which tend to block all channels and transport system of body and causing many diseases.
Read – Rasa Dhatu: Definition, Formation, Circulation, Imbalance Diseases, Treatment

When heat is balanced, food is properly digested, nutritional juices are formed in optimum levels, body tissues get good nutrition and eventually comprehensive health, endurance and immunity are established in the body.

Therapeutically when pitta and heat of the body is high, coolant medicines and food are provided. When heat is less and ama is formed, heat enhancing medicines and diet are provided to increase digestion of ama and also to kindle metabolic fire.
Read – Ama Chikitsa: Treatment For Ama And Saama Conditions

Normal body temperature is also due to balance of heat and pitta in the body. Abnormal increase and decrease of body temperature reflects many pathological processes taking place inside the body. Body getting totally devoid of heat is said to be a sign of death.

Excessive heat in the body causes burning sensations, increase in metabolism, burnouts at tissue and organ levels, excessive thirst, loss of consciousness and fainting. It also produces mental disorders.

Anger is said to be a form of unnecessary heat in the body. Anger increases pitta and fire component of body with subsequent rise in heat of body. This is not conducive to overall health of the body.
Read – Lifestyle, Food And Factors That Cause Pitta Dosha Increase

Low heat causes low energy at physical and mental levels. Low heat reflecting low pitta also reflects high kapha and raised cold element in the body. This will lead to low metabolism and disorders caused due to high kapha including lethargy, laziness, indigestion, and sleepiness, heaviness of body, increased cold, breathing problems and depression.

Below mentioned are also hot in nature and quality –

  • Katu, amla, lavana rasa – foods having pungent, sour and salt tastes are hot in nature i.e. they have hotness quality. All these tastes increase pitta and heat in body.
  • Ushna veerya – hot potency

Read – Six Tastes Of Ayurveda: Qualities, Benefits, Therapeutic Action (Shad Rasa)

Examples

Examples of foods and medicines having hotness quality

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