Determination of Sneha (Unctuousness) In Each Tissues

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

According to Ayurveda, the entire body is made up of sneha i.e. fats. Fat is one among the seven tissues mentioned in Ayurveda. Its function is to provide snehana i.e. lubrication and unctuousness to each and every cell. Thus, the fat becomes a buffer system in the body. It is interposed between each cell and prevents wear and tear phenomenon. This is needed for the smooth functioning of each and every tissue and organ of the body.

Five elements and tissues

According to Ayurveda, the entire body is made up of five basic elements of nature. Therefore each and every tissue is made up of these five elements but one or two of these elements dominate in the makeup of each tissue. The elemental make up of each tissue differ. Among the five elements, the water element is present in varied proportions in each and every tissue. The unctuousness and the quantum of fat in each tissue are determined by the quantity of water they have.

15th chapter of Charaka Chikitsa Sthana, mentions that the tissues mutually support each other through ‘the chain of fat support’ throughout the life. This is known as dhatu sneha parampara.

Dhatu nourishment – Forward and Reverse Pathways

The tissues according to Ayurveda are formed from the nutritional juice formed in the stomach after proper digestion of food. They are formed in an forward chronological pathway. Here the lymph, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and semen tissues are formed one after the other.

Each tissue participates in the formation of its successor tissue. Retrograde or reverse pathway of nutrition is its opposite. Example, when the lymph tissue is not formed properly, the blood lubricates and supports it in reverse pathway and helps in sustenance of lymph. This is possible at each tissue level. This is possible if each tissue is healthy in terms of quality and quantity. This is determined by the nutritive fats and unctuousness each tissue has. This again is related to the quantity of water present in each tissue.

Each tissue is made up of different quantity of water, hence different quantity of unctuousness.
Read – Dhatu – 7 Body Tissues As Explained In Ayurveda

Sneha Determination In Each Tissue

How to determine the quantity of sneha present in each tissue?

Sneha in tissue is not by actual terms as fat or unctuousness. Sneha actually means the collective presence of qualities of sneha i.e. fat in the tissues.

Qualities of fat are –
Liquidity, minuteness, mobility, unctuousness, sliminess, heaviness, cold, dullness and softness. Collective presence of these qualities constitute dhatu sneha i.e. unctuous environment in the tissues. The unctuousness in each tissue will have all these qualities but in relatively variable proportions.
These qualities induce unctuous environment and lubrication in the tissues.
Read – Medo Dhatu: Fat Tissue, As Explained In Ayurveda

We will now divide the tissues into three categories.

Doshas and tissues

1. Kapha varga dhatus i.e. tissues belonging to kapha category –

Lymph, muscle, fat, bone marrow and semen tissues, urine and feces belong to this category. They are rich in unctuousness due to predominance of earth and water elements in them. These tissues will have maximum qualities of fat. Related dhatu sara purushas i.e. people rich with either tissue will have optimum unctuousness in their tissues.
Read – Role Of Doshas As Tissues and Waste Products (Dhatu And Malaroopa Of Doshas)

2. Pitta varga dhatus i.e. tissues belonging to pitta category –

Blood tissue and sweat will have moderate quantity of fat and unctuousness. This is due to predominance of fire and water elements in them. These tissues will have moderate qualities of fats. People with richness of blood tissue will have moderate unctuousness in their tissues.
Read – Understanding Blood Functions, Vitiation And Treatment As Per Ayurveda

3. Vata varga dhatus i.e. tissues belonging to vata category –

Bone tissue will have low quantum of fat and unctuousness due to the predominance of air and ether elements in it. This tissue will have fewer qualities of fats. People with richness of bone tissue will have minimum unctuousness in their tissues.
Read – Diseases Due To Pathological Bone Tissue – Asthi Pradoshaja Rogas

Sanskrit Verse

Unctuous quality in each tissue

Quantity of fat and unctuous qualities in each tissue

All tissues have varying proportions of water element. This water ingredient contributes to most of the unctuousness in them.

Lymph tissue – Water+

Lymph tissue is made up predominantly of only water element. It is therefore rich in unctuousness and will have all qualities of fat in rich proportions. Therefore it has capacity to nourish and enrich the subsequent tissues on regular and uninterrupted basis. The quantity of fat and unctuousness needed for regular body functions comes in the form of food. One should consume balanced and easily digestible foods with right quantity of fats on regular basis. This would contribute towards balance of unctuousness in the lymph tissue. If lymph is rich, the subsequent tissues will be formed in proper quality and quantity. For lymph tissue to retain maximum unctuousness, one should adequately drink water and have a balanced digestive fire.
Read – Rasa Dhatu: Definition, Formation, Circulation, Imbalance Diseases, Treatment

Blood – Water+ & Fire ++

Blood tissue is made up of more fire and less water. Blood is formed from lymph tissue. Therefore the balance of water in the blood depends on balance of water in the lymph tissue. It also depends on the relative balance of water in the blood with its own fire. Increase in water component and decrease in fire will increase the kapha nature in the blood. This may reflect in the form of high blood fats or raised sugar levels in the blood. Similarly an increase in fire element and decrease of water leads to reduction of unctuousness of the blood. The blood and its channels might lose support and lubrication. This would lead to excessive heat and dryness. This causes imbalance of pitta and vata leading to conditions like hypertension etc. in comparison to lymph, blood will have less unctuousness. Owing to the presence of fire in blood, the unctuousness may be more fluctuant.
Read – Rakta Pradoshaja Rogas – When Blood Is Vitiated By Doshas

Muscle – Earth ++ & Water

The muscle tissue has more of earth and less of water element. The unctuousness may be less in comparison to lymph tissue but it will be more stable in comparison to the unctuousness in the blood. This is because of absence of the antagonizing effect of fire element in the muscle. The predominance of earth will keep the unctuousness balanced.

Fat – Water +++ & Earth +

In fat tissue, we can see the reverse gradients as in muscle tissue. There is more of water and less of earth. The unctuousness is optimum and is rich in comparison to the previous tissues. If this ratio is maintained the fat will be stable and contribute to good lubrication and insulation. Increase in water element in relation to earth leads to proportional imbalance. This will lead to instability of fat and increased unctuousness i.e. bahu abaddha meda. This will eventually lead to diseases like urinary disorders and diabetes.
Read – Diseases Due To Pathological Fat Tissue – Meda Pradoshaja Rogas

Bone – Earth ++ & Ether +

Bone has more of earth and less of ether. The unctuousness will be less or latent owing to the absence of water. Water is not totally absent but is in a latent form. We cannot consider that the bone is totally devoid of water or unctuousness. This is because bone tissue helps in the formation of bone marrow which has high quantity of water and unctuousness. Bone may have a secret for decoding fats and unctuousness. It may be a storehouse of latent unctuousness.

Bone Marrow – Water +++ & Earth +

The element components of bone marrow are similar to fat tissue. Therefore the proportions of unctuousness in it too will be similar to fat.
Read – Majja Pradoshaja Rogas – Diseases Due To Pathological Bone Marrow

Semen – Water ++ & Earth +

Semen has one portion of water less than that of fat and bone marrow. But it is exactly similar to muscle tissue in terms of elemental composition. The unctuousness in semen will be lesser in comparison to fat and bone marrow but will be richer in comparison to other tissues.

Chronology of tissues in terms of richness of unctuousness in them

The tissues may be arranged in descending order of the richness of water content and related unctuousness in them, as mentioned below.

  • Bone marrow – since it is also considered among four types of great fat substances
  • Fat
  • Lymph – since it has undiluted unctuousness i.e. its water is not associated with any other element
  • Muscle – its unctuous part i.e. muscle fat is one among the four fats. Therefore I have considered it above semen which has similar composition.
  • Semen
  • Blood
  • Bone
    Read – Diseases Due To Pathological Muscle Tissue – Mamsa Pradoshaja Rogas

Important points to note

The richness of water element and related unctuousness in each tissue depends on –

  • the balance of elements in the previous tissue
  • state of tissue fire in each related tissue

The unctuousness in the predecessor tissue helps in formation and balance of unctuousness in the next tissue. Thus, there is entry of unctuousness from nutrition juice into lymph, from lymph into blood and so on. But the balanced quantity of unctuousness needed to maintain the functions of particular tissue is determined and maintained by the related tissue fire.

The qualities of fat are also present in varying degrees of richness in each tissue, individually and relatively. This also is detrimental in grading the tissues in terms of their richness in unctuousness. Example, the semen tissue might have richness of heaviness, liquidity, unctuousness, coldness and sliminess in that order. The order may change in other tissues. The muscle tissue might have richness of smoothness, heaviness, dullness, unctuousness and coldness in that order. In other terms, semen needs more of heaviness, liquidity and unctuousness while muscle needs more of smoothness, heaviness and unctuousness. These permutations and combinations of fat qualities in varying proportions will cause variability in proportions of unctuousness in the tissues. This may be physiologically programmed.

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