Thou, oh Agni, shining forth throughout the days, from the waters, from the stones, from the forests and from the herbs, thou as the ruler of all human souls, are ever born pure.
Rishi Gritsamada RV II.1.1
In ancient Vedic thought, the individual soul was symbolized by fire. Our inner soul, hidden like a secret flame deep within our hearts, abides inextinguishable throughout all our states of consciousness of waking, dream and deep sleep. It endures as the witness through our every birth and death, through all the many sojourns in the various worlds and planes of existence of our soul’s vast manifestation. Being the biological fire that governs metabolism, agni encompasses all the changes in the body and mind from the dense to the more subtle. Such changes include the digestion and absorption of food, cellular transformations, assimilation of sensory perceptions and mental and emotional experiences. Agni therefore covers whole sequences of chemical interactions and changes in the body and mind. Digestive abilities being related to the strength of agni.
Agni and Pitta are closely connected. While both are hot and light, agni is subtle and dry. The heat energy to help digestion contained by Pitta is agni. Pitta is therefore the container and agni the content. Agni is acidic in nature and stimulates digestion. It is subtly related to the movement of Vata. In every tissue and cell agni is present and is necessary for maintaining the nutrition and auto-immune mechanism. By destroying micro-organisms, foreign bacteria and toxins in the stomach and the intestines.
A balanced agni therefore is vital for health. The strength of the body to resist disease and also its physical strength are directly related to its heat energy determining the metabolic processes of the body. Disturbances to Agni are usually the chief causes of disease.
As per Ayurveda there are thirteen types of Agni in the body and mind according to the conversion and the transformation made. The most important of them is the Jathar agni, the gastric fire, responsible for digesting food eaten by correlating hydrochloric acid in the stomach and the digestive enzymes and juices secreted into the stomach, duodenum and the small intestines. If digestive agni is low and the capacity is impaired, one may experience pain, discomfort, feeling of heaviness or gases gurgling, constipation or loose stools.
Ayurvedic purification procedures
It has now been scientifically shown that a natural purification treatment can successfully eliminate environmentally toxic substances such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB's) and pesticides from the body, without damaging side effects.
A study at the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa in collaboration with a special laboratory at Colorado University demonstrated that classical Panchakarma treatment eliminated up to 50% of the detectable toxins in the blood.
Chemicals injure health
The world's largest facility for substance identification, the Chemical Abstracts Service in Columbus, Ohio, USA, currently has more than 13 million artificial substances registered. At least 100,000 of these industrial commodities combine into a chemical “soup” which we constantly absorb through food, air and our skin. Experts calculate that in Germany 30% of the population suffer from environmentally induced diseases.
Most of the toady's environmental toxins are lipophils that accumulate in the fatty tissues of the body. These fat-soluble toxins are associated with a range of diseases such as hormone disruption, immune system suppression, allergies, diseases of the liver and skin, various types of cancer, neurological illness, reproductive disorders and deformities.
The study consisted of two parts: a cross-sectional comparison and a longitudinal pre- and post- treatment. It was designed to examine the level of contamination by toxins in the population and the effectiveness of Panchakarma treatment in eliminating these poisons.
Several modalities in the Ayurveda detoxification procedure use non-toxic, lipophilic materials, such as clarified butter in the oleation phase and herbalized sesame oil in the massage and enema treatments. These traditional methods are believed to sequentially loosen and remove lipid soluble toxicants from their deposited sites and stimulate their elimination.
The cross-sectional study
88 subjects, age 45 years and older, participated in the cross-sectional study: 48 had previously undergone the detoxification procedure an average of 18 times and 40 had not. Blood samples from both groups were sent to the Analytical Laboratory in the Department of Environmental Health at Colorado State University that was blind to the treatment status of the subjects.
PCBs and Pesticides Found in Blood Samples
Blood samples from both cross-sectional groups were assayed for 17 lipophilic toxicants, including 9 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners and 8 pesticides and metabolites, such as DDE, a by-product of DDT. The specific PCBs and pesticides that were studied had either been previously linked to major health problems or had been of high concern for their potential toxicity.
The results showed that blood levels of PCBs and several pesticides were significantly lower in the detoxification group than in the controls.
The longitudinal study
In the longitudinal study, blood samples from 15 subjects who participated in the Vedic Approach to Health (MVAH) Ayurvedic detoxification procedure were assayed, pre- and post-treatment, by Colombia State University Analytical Laboratory.
The results of the two-month longitudinal study showed that PCBs and Beta-HCH levels were reduced by 46 percent and 58 percent respectively in the MVAH detoxification group. Without this intervention, the expected drop in PCBs and Beta-HCH over two months would be only a fraction of one percent. Previously, no method had been scientifically verified to reduce levels of these lipid-soluble toxicants in the human body without causing negative side effects.
The study came to two conclusions:
1) An alarming finding of the study was that PCB and DDE levels appear to be unexpectedly high in the general population, and may actually be increasing. This is surprising since these toxicants were banned decades ago in many countries. However they have not disappeared from the environment since they have half-lives several years in duration. Also they are still entering the food chain through imports.
2) Within days Panchakarma treatment eliminated a large proportion of these fat-soluble toxins from the body. Without this intervention, the expected drop would be only a fraction of one percent.
Study Shows Banned PCBs and Agrochemicals in Blood Reduced 50 Percent
By Centuries-Old Detoxification Procedure.
Reference: Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, (Sept./Oct. 2002),Vol. 8, No. 5: pp. 93-103
Agni is the fire inside our body. Agni is the body which governs living beings physically and mentally. We can describe it as an element related to our general body metabolism. We have seen in the last article that Agni is the successor of pitta (one of the tridoshas i.e. the basic body constituents) and pitta is the successor of Divine Fire (tej) (one of the five supreme powers). Agni plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of dhatus (body tissues). There are seven types of agnis for seven different dhatus.
Agni is related to both the body and the mind. It initiates digestive activities in the digestive tract and generates thoughts, emotions and decisions in our psyche. Agni contains heat which helps in the digestion of external elements that enter our body. The food which enters our digestive tract is converted into life sap with the help of agni. This then goes on to ensure our survival, growth and recovery from illness.
The knowledge of the external environment which enters our body through our special senses is transformed into memories with the help of agni which further initiates thoughts, generates emotions and helps in taking decisions.
The main function of agni is the break down of external stuff and its conversion into body stuff. Agni works with and for every body tissue. Agni gears the dosha-dhatu-mala cycle and thus life goes on.
Agni also helps in destroying ama (toxins). These are produced if there is an imbalance of doshas. In other words agni helps in maintaining the status of health and in interrupting the disease process. Thus agni is a statutory body which governs our immune system.
Agni protects us from both external as well as internal problems. It saves us from attack by external and internal ‘terrorists’. Agni keeps a careful watch on the body functions. A wide range of functions (from digestion of food to giving color to the skin) is taken care of by agni.
Impairment of agni suggests that the basic balance of the tridoshas has been hampered. Affected metabolism, compromised immunity and lowered general body resistance are all results of impaired agni. If agni is impaired, food will not be digested properly. It will not initiate the chain of formation of the seven dhatus (from rasa to shukra) in a proper way. Instead of creating a life sap, ama (toxins) will be created and these will accumulate in the body. The body channels will choke and life will enter a state of illness.
To summarize, ama indicates a diseased body. Ama is produced when agni (body fire) is retarded, which in turn is a result of the imbalance of tridoshas (vata-pitta-kapha). Agni’s functioning depends on the food, clothes and shelter we use. It also depends on the things we see, hear, smell, taste and touch. If these things are pro-life then we will also be healthy. If these things are anti-life then we may acquire ill health.