Hardness Quality – Kathina Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
Kathina Guna means ‘hardness’ quality. Substance in which has this quality is said to be hard in nature. Hardness is one of the 20 gurvadi qualities. It is opposite to mrudu guna i.e. softness quality. They also balance each other.  Hardness makes the body parts tough and hard whereas softness makes them soft and lax.
Read – Dravya: Meaning, Ayurvedic Explanation


Hardness quality is defined on basis of capability and strength of foods, medicines and activities which have capacity to induce hardness and stability in body parts. Therefore, foods and medicines which cause hardness in components of the body and bring about hardness and integrity in body parts are considered as having katina guna i.e. hardness quality.
Read – How Dose Of Ayurvedic Medicine Is Decided? 7 Factors

Sometimes components of the body get softer and loose beyond permissible limits. To stop this process, an antagonist quality to make these excessively soft components hard is needed. To achieve this, intervention in the form of medicines, foods and treatments which have hardness quality should be administered.

Softness is caused due to increased kapha in the body. Hardness is caused due to increase of vata in the body. Also, hardness causes increase in vata. Vata is antagonistic to kapha. Hardness caused by vata antagonizes and balances softness caused by kapha. When kapha is controlled by hardness quality, softness caused by kapha too decreases. Thus, hardness quality antagonizes the activity of softness quality and makes the body parts hard, and removes softness.
Read – Lifestyle, Food And Factors That Cause Increase Of Kapha Dosha

Salient features of hardness quality

Hardness in terms of substances medicinal herbs and food substances –
Hardness is a quality which can be perceived by touch. Inside the body hardness can be known through its action, i.e. its ability to produce hardness of body parts after consumption of foods, medicines and treatments which have hardness quality in them.

Bones, ligaments, teeth, hairs, tendons etc structures in the body have hardness quality and thus are hard structures of body.
Read – Asthi Shareera – Definition, Anatomy, Types Of Bones

Those which give a feel of hardness and toughness on touch and are stable in nature are called kathina or are said to have hardness quality.

यस्य दृढीकरणे शक्तिः स कठिनः।हेमाद्रि।

 ‘That which produces hardness and stability of the body parts is called kathina guna i.e. hardness quality’

Hardness quality may be induced in body by administering medicines, food or activities having hardness quality predominantly.
Read – Rasa Panchaka – 5 Qualities Of Substance (Dravya)

Elemental relationship

कठिनत्वं पार्थिवम्।र.वै.२/५८।

Hardness quality is related to earth element. Therefore hardness quality is formed by presence and predominance of earth element in any substance.

Medicines and foods rich in earth element will naturally induce hardness in body parts.
Read – Relationship Between Doshas And Basic Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta)

Effect on doshas

Hardness quality increases vata and mitigates kapha. Vata naturally has hardness as one of its qualities. Vata induces hardness in body owing to hardness quality it has. Likewise, anything which increases vata increases hardness. Anything which increases hardness also increases vata.
Read – Kapha Decrease Symptoms, Analysis, Treatment

Kapha has softness quality. Increase in kapha produces increased softness in body and the tissues get lax and loose. Too much softness of structures is harmful.

Example – kapha governs soft tissues. Majority of tissues are belong to kapha group. This also includes muscle tissue. Consider excessive increase of kapha in muscles. Muscles will get loose and excessively soft. Though softness is a property of muscles, excessive softness is harmful and makes the body weak and lethargic.

In such conditions excessive softness should be effectively handled by administering foods, activities, medicines and therapies which has hardness quality in them. Hardness being antagonistic to softness quality reduces softness and induces hardness in muscles. Same rule is applicable for other tissues wherein excessive softness occurs.
Read – Activities And Diet For Kapha Balance

Hardness quality also increases vata which is antagonistic to kapha. This increased vata and hardness quality nullify hyper-activity of kapha and reduce excessive softness.

Effect on Tissues

Hardness quality make tissues hard, stiff and stable. Stability is a quality of hardness. When this quality is in a state of balance, tissues do not lose the minimum hardness which is needed for them to be stable and supportive.
But when this quality increases, soft tissues lose their softness and flexibility and cause serious problems. Excessive hardness increases vata. Increased vata further damages tissues.
Read – Upadhatus: Sub-Tissues Of The Body

Effect on Excreta

Hardness quality makes excreta dry, especially faeces. When faeces become dry it is expelled with difficulty. This quality in the form of foods and medicines rich in hardness quality can be administered to make stools hard in conditions like diarrhoea etc or in all conditions wherein there is excessive wetness owing to accumulation of excessive fluids or there is excessive discharge of watery elements. Balancing body fluids will also bring back stability of the body.

How hardness quality decreases mala (waste products)?
Dr JV Hebbar:
It decreases the volume of feces. Also, increased hardness of feces blocks the colon to cause constipation, again decreasing the volume of feces.

But Ruksha guna causes kathinata then how ruksha causes malavriddhi and kathinata causes malakshaya?
Dryness does not cause malavriddhi
Read details of rooksha guna. We have written that it can cause constipation.
To make it very clear,
excess dryness makes the bowels hard -> constipation.
Normal, healthy dryness -> gives healthy shape to feces -> normal bowel evacuation.

Does Malavriddhi mean toxins accumulation?
Dosha or visha words are used for toxins. Mala term is used for waste products.

Effect on systemic functions

Hardness quality can be used to nullify ill-effects of excessive softness in body parts and induces hardness in them. It is used to treat symptoms and conditions like excessive looseness and softness of tissues and body parts.
Read – Diseases Due To Pathological Muscle Tissue – Mamsa Pradoshaja Rogas

The medicines used have hardness quality. Hardness quality and the dryness produced by this quality are also used to induce hardness in excreta and check their excessive excretion. Therefore it can be used in treatment of loose stools.
Read – Constipation Causes, Ayurvedic Treatment, Home Remedies

Hardness quality is used to control kapha increase and also to treat kapha disorders wherein there is excessive softening of body parts.
Hardness also increases vata in body. Excessive increase of vata is also dangerous for the body and tissues.
Read – Symptoms Of Vata Dosha Increase And Imbalance – Vata Vruddhi Lakshana

Effect of excessive consumption

If foods having hardness quality are excessively consumed, it leads to hardness and tightness of muscles and other tissues. This reduces flexibility of the body and many functions will be hampered.

Excessive hardness also causes abnormal increase in vata. The increased vata destroys the tissues and causes vata disorders. Increased hardness causes dryness of excreta and conditions like constipation etc.
Read – Muscle cramps: Causes, Symptoms, Ayurvedic Treatment, Herbs


Examples of foods and medicines having hardness quality

  • Pravala – coral –
    Read – Use Of Gems In Ayurveda
  • Mukta – pearl
  • Silver
  • All the metallic compounds used in Ayurveda, such as Iron, Zinc, Copper, Bronze etc

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