Unctuousness Quality – Snigdha Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

Snigdha Guna means ‘unctuousness’ quality. It is present in some substances and those substances are said to be unctuous in nature.
Read – Dravya: Meaning, Ayurvedic Explanation


Inclusion Snigdha is one of the qualities included in 20 gurvadi qualities. It is opposite to dryness quality. Foods and medicines consisting unctuous quality are administered to counteract the effect of excessive dryness in the body caused by increased vata.
Read – How To Balance Vata Dosha? Line Of Treatment And Reasoning

Vata is basically dry and rough in nature and when vata increases dryness and roughness will increase in the body. Dryness reduces the oiliness in the body cells. Unctuousness is needed in the lubrication of tissues and for smooth conduct of all functions in the body. Natural unctuousness is a quality of pitta and kapha.

It is also a quality of muscle, fat and bone marrow tissues. When dryness increases in the body following vata increase the other doshas and tissues contributing to unctuousness will be hampered, damaged and made devoid of oiliness. This will reduce the integrity and endurance of those tissues leading to lowering of strength and immunity.
Read – Symptoms Of Vata Dosha Increase And Imbalance – Vata Vruddhi Lakshana

Kapha and fat increasing foods and four types of major fats i.e. oil, ghee, bone marrow and muscle fat are rich in unctuous property and will enhance the same features and qualities in the body. Body also has a natural balancing mechanism. Kapha is natural antagonistic to vata and dryness caused by its increase.

Salient features

Salient features of Snigdha quality

Snigdha in terms of substances – Whatever we feel when our body has been smeared with oil is called Snigdha. It is the same feel when we experience when our tongue comes into contact with oil, ghee or oily foods. Unctuousness is perceived by skin. Pitta and kapha personalities will have a natural shine on their body which is contributed by the unctuousness quality.
Read – Prakriti – Ayurveda Body Types, Importance In Treatment And Remedies

Similar texture can be seen in people who are fatty and obese. Dryness quality will increase excessive dryness in the body. When unctuousness in the form of external application and internal administration of fats or medicated fats are administered, it combats the dryness and the ill-effects on health caused by increased dryness. This is because unctuous quality is antagonistic to dryness.

That which causes unctuousness in the body, which has the potential to bring about oiliness is called snigdha quality.

That which brings about oiliness, softness and wetness in the body is called snigdha guna.

Unctuousness can also be defined as the absence of dryness.
Read – Substances, Qualities, Action – 9 Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana

Unctuousness in terms of medicinal herbs and food substances – Unctuousness is a quality present in some foods and medicines, especially fats including oils, ghee, and seeds like sesame etc. Medicated oils and ghee are used for oleation therapies in Ayurveda.

This is called as snehana. Any food or medicines which induce oiliness inside and outside the body, softness and wetness in the tissues is called sneha or sneha dravya. The unctuousness produced by these materials is called snigdha.

Unctuous foods and medicines induce oiliness in the body tissues; provide lubrication and softness, cause flexibility and acts as a fuel in kindling the digestive fire in stomach and intestines. By warding off the dryness and vata vitiation in the body, unctuousness quality prevents degeneration and destruction of tissues.

Elemental relationship

Unctuousness is the special quality of water element. Therefore snigdha quality is defined on terms of its capacity to induce wetness in the tissues and body. The property of water to produce wetness is also present in the unctuous quality. Just as water acts as binding substance between two materials and makes the dry things wet, unctuous quality too binds the cells and tissues and removes dryness prevailing in them due to hyperactivity of vata. Increased dryness causes depletion of tissues which leads to degeneration, increase in vata and many diseases caused due to increased vata. Most musculoskeletal and neuromuscular diseases are effectively treated by administration of unctuousness producing medicines and foods used both internally and externally. All these diseases are caused due to vitiated vata and related dryness which has increased beyond balanced proportions in the body.
Read – Diet And Lifestyle Advice For Vata Dosha Body Type

Effect on doshas

Unctuous quality mitigates vata and increases kapha. Therefore it is used in the treatment of vata disorders.

Dryness and roughness is the basic quality of vata. When vata increases dryness also increases in the body. Increased dryness is harmful to the tissues and body functioning. Food or medicine which has unctuousness quality will mitigate vata. On the other hand, unctuousness is the basic quality of kapha and also pitta.
Read – Lifestyle, Food And Factors That Cause Increase Of Kapha Dosha

Kapha increasing foods and medicines will also increase unctuousness in the body, so as the fat increasing foods and medicines. Snigdha quality administered in the form of therapies like oleation, massage, pouring and sprinkling of oil, tub bath with medicated oil, nasal medication, oils and ghee mixed and taken with many foods or food processed with these healthy fats and medicated fats administered through enema treatment will effectively combat vata vitiation and treat all the diseases caused by vitiated vata.

Effect on Tissues

Unctuousness nurtures the tissues and builds them. By decreasing the dryness, wear and tear of the tissues, unctuous quality makes the cells strong and immune. Unctuous quality also increases strength and endurance of the body and also enhances the color and complexion of an individual. Read – Dhatu – 7 Body Tissues As Explained In Ayurveda

Effect on Excreta

Unctuousness quality helps in easy expulsion of excreta, mainly faeces. During snehapana i.e. administration of oral medicated fats i.e. oils and ghee in metered form or during daily administration of medicated fats in small quantities, we can see that the person has few extra bowel movements and also the fats getting expelled through the faeces. The cells and channels are enriched by unctuous qualities and expel their toxins easily. Oiliness of skin is one of the symptoms of proper oleation

Effect on systemic functions

Unctuous quality is aphrodisiac in action. Medicines and foods having unctuous quality are also rejuvenators and support cell functions. The tissues, especially the semen will be formed in optimum quality and quantity when they are provided with unctuous quality regularly.

This quality also endows one with immense strength, endurance and tolerance power.

The below mentioned are also unctuous in nature and quality –

  • Foods having , sour and salt tastes
  • Madhura vipaka – sweet post-digestion effect, first stage of digestion of food is also unctuous
  • Snigdha veerya – unctuous potency

Effect of excessive consumption

If unctuous quality foods are consumed in excess, it leads to manifestation of many diseases and conditions like lethargy, tastelessness, anorexia, indigestion, urinary diseases, diabetes, disorders of fat metabolism, overweight, obesity, ama diseases, dyspnea, cough and other diseases. If diseases are caused due to excessive consumption of unctuous quality, drying treatments including medicines and food substances which induce dryness quality in the body should be administered.


Examples of foods and medicines having snigda quality

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One comment on “Unctuousness Quality – Snigdha Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

  • Shravanthi

    22/04/2022 - 11:15 pm

    Thank you for this detailed explanation!

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