The Sapta (seven) Dhatus (tissues) elements form the pillars of the body that form the means of nourishment and growth while providing support to the body as well as the mind.
Rasa (fluid) Dhatu –Derived from the digested food, it nourishes each and every tissue and cell of the body and is analogous to the plasma.
Rakta (blood) Dhatu – Regarded as the basic of life, it is analogous to the circulating blood cells. It not only nourishes the body tissues, but provides physical strength and color to the body.
Masma Dhatu – The muscle tissue, its main function is to provide physical strength and support for the meda dhatu.
Meda (fat) Dhatu – Consists of adipose tissue providing support to ashti dhatu. It also lubricates the body.
Ashti Dhatu – Comprising of bone tissues, including cartilages, its main function is to give support to the majja dhatu and provide support to the masma dhatu.
Majja Dhatu – Denoting the yellow and red bone marrow tissue, its main function is to fill up the ashti and to oleate the body.
Shukra Dhatu – The main aim of this reproductive tissue is to help reproduction and strengthen the body.
Since the dhatus support and derive energy from each other, affecting one can influence others. For instance, interference in the manufacture of the plasma affects the quality of the blood, which in turn effects the muscle. Each tissue type has its own agni, which determines metabolic changes in the tissues. And forms by-products, which are either used in the body or excreted. Menstrual periods for example are a by-product of rasa. The tissues are also governed by the three doshas, and any imbalance in them also causes imbalances in dhatus. Heavy periods therefore can also be caused by the effects of the excess of Kapha on plasma.
Malas are the various waste products of the dhatus produced during the normal metabolical process. The three primary malas being Purisa (faeces), Mutra (urine) and Sweda (sweat). Ayurveda clearly states that only a balanced condition of doshas, dhatus and malas is arogya (good health or disease free condition) and their imbalance is the cause of ill health or disease.
Purisa is the waste left back after nutrients of digested food have been absorbed in the small intestine. While water and salt absorbed in the large intestine, the residue now converted into solid faeces, leaves the body. The consistency of the faeces depending both on gastrointestinal mobility and nature of diet.
The tridoshas must be in balance to ensure normal evacuation. Pitta and Kapha help digestion and Vata governs the mobility throughout the process. Any discrepancy or imbalance between these can lead to various symptoms of abdominal heaviness or pain, flatulence, constipation or diarrhea. It may also give rise to diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, low-back pain, asthma, bronchitis as well as stomach ulcers and irritable bowels.
Mutra is derived during the course of biological processes within the human body. The first stage of urine formation begins in the large intestine where fluids are absorbed into the system. The entire urinary system (kidneys, uterus, bladder and urethra) takes part in the formation and elimination of urine, regulating the fluid balance in our body and also maintaining blood pressure. Any imbalance of increased or decreased urine, may result in disorders as kidney stones urinary infections, cystitis, abdominal pain and bladder disorders.
Sweda is the third primary mala, and it occurs as a waste product during the synthesis of meda dhatu (fatty tissue). Eliminated through skin pores, it controls body temperature and helps to regulate the electrolytic balance. The channels responsible for bringing the sweat to skin surface are known as sweda vaha srotas. It is essential that normal formation and flow of sweat takes place as otherwise it may lead to skin infections, itching/burning sensation over the body, loss of fluid balance and reduced body temperature.
Ayurvedic Anatomy and Physiology:
Dr. Satish Kulkarni.
We discussed in the previous article that the three basic constituents of the body (treedoshas i.e. vaat-pitta-kafa) are created by five supreme powers i.e. Earth (pruthvi), Water (aap), Divine Fire (tej), Air (vayu) and Universal Space (aakash). Amongst these powers, Divine Fire (tej) is the precursor of pitta and body fire (agni) is the successor of pitta.
Agni plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of body tissues (dhatus). The human body is made up of seven basic tissues or vital substances called dhatus. The meaning of the sanskrit word dhatu is ‘that which binds together’. Dhatu is the element which constructs our body. Dhatu is the base of growth and survival. Dhatus take different forms in our body to maintain life. Different organs (sharir avayavas) and different body systems (strotasas) are made out of dhatus. Our nourishment and development is fully dependent on dhatus.
Ayurveda believes that there are seven dhatus in all. They are: life sap (rasa), blood (rakta), muscles (mansa), fatty tissue (med), bones (asthi), bone marrow and nervous tissue (majja) and semen and reproductive system (shukra). Each dhatu has its own agni i.e. dhatu-agni. Our food intake is converted into life sap by agni of rasa dhatu and rasa dhatu is produced. Likewise, agni of rakta dhatu prepares rakta out of rasa and so on. Every dhatu is a precursor of the next dhatu. Rasa is transformed into rakta, rakta prepares mansa, mansa is further transformed into meda, meda is used to make asthi, asthi forms majja and majja produces the ultimate dhatu i.e. shukra.
Ayurveda researchers must have observed that food is the starting point of life. Food enters the body from the inlet— the mouth and the end products come out of body through the outlet— the genitalia and anus. The second important observation must have been that any living creature (including human beings) survives and grows with food and dies without it. They must have seen that starvation retards growth of the body and destroys the body in the end. Thus, this theory of dhatus must have arrived from these observations.
Dhatus protect our body from external encounters. They are responsible for our immune mechanism. If there is wasting (kshaya) of dhatus then the body construction collapses and ultimately life ends.
Ayurveda recognises shukra as the most important dhatu. It states that one needs a hundred drops of blood (rakta) to produce one drop of semen (shukra). Shukra is the essence of all the body tissues and is that creation of mother nature which has the capacity to produce new life. In any case, it should not be wasted without substantial reason (i.e. reproduction).
Disorder in doshas (vaat-pitta-kafa) affects dhatus. These affected or defective dhatus hamper the quality of life. Proper diet (ahar) and proper life style (vihar) help in maintaining the balance of doshas and in producing healthy dhatus.
To summarize, dhatus account for the ayurvedic explanation of the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Our body processes consumed food and transforms it into life sap, which in turn creates a chain of further body tissues i.e. dhatus. Their gain gives quality to our life and their loss destroys life.
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