One of the most basic concepts in Ayurvedic sciences is the concept of sapta dhatu which means 7 bodily tissue explaining the formation and functioning of human body. It is believed that the body is made out of seven Dhatus (bodily tissues) each of which have their distinct feature and functions, and each one of them is formed with the help of the one just above it. Let’s have a look at them in detail.
The seven dhatus are rasa, rakta, mamsa, meda, asthi, majja, and shukra/artava.
Rasa Dhatu : Plasma (serum, white blood cells, lymphatic system)
Rakta Dhatu : Blood (red blood cells)
Mamsa Dhatu : Muscle tissue
Meda : Fat, Adipose tissue, lipid
Asthi : Bone tissue and cartilage
Majja Dhatu : Bone marrow, Nerve tissue and connective tissue
Shukra / Arthava : Male and female reproductive tissue.
When the food is consumed, it goes through digestion and transformation into the 7 bodily tissues. Every tissue has its own digestive fire or metabolic energy called dhatvagni which digests and transforms. The dhatvagni of each tissue plays an important role in formation of that tissue and further nourishes the next tissue in line.
When the food is first digested, it is converted into Ahara Rasa. The dhatvagni of each individual dhatu, uses the ahara rasa and converts it two forms. One is the dhatu or mature tissue form itself which is being nourished called sthayi, and other is the raw form or immature nutrition called asthayi for the next level of tissue formation. The asthayi form circulates in the body and provides nutrition to subsequent tissues. When the asthayi dhatu is transformed in the next tissue, it also produces 2 other byproducts called Upadhatus and Mala.
Upadhatu means sub tissues. For example, sub tissue of Rasa dhatu are breast milk, menstrual blood, ovum, top layer of the skin. Mala is the impurity of that particular dhatu.
|Rasa Dhatu||Breast Milk, Menstrual blood, Ovum, Top layer of skin||Poshaka kapha|
|Rakta||Blood vessels, facia||Poshaka pitta|
|Mamsa||Subcutaneous fat, all 6 layers of skin except the top layer.||Nasal crust, earwax, sebaceous secretions, tartar on the teeth, smegma|
|Meda||the flat muscles, sinews, tendons and ligaments||Sweat|
|Majja||Tears||Oily secretions from eyes|
|Shukra||Ojas||Public and auxiliary hair|
Rasa dhatu consists of white blood cells, plasma, blood serum and fluids of the lymphatic system. Entire lymphatic system is a part of rasa dhatu. The qualities of rasa dhatu are the same as kapha dosha i.e. oily, slimy, liquid, cool, heavy, sticky, slow and soft.
Rasa disorders include, rasa vruddhi (increase of rasa dhatu), rasa kshaya (decrease of rasa dhatu) and rasa dushti (disturbed rasa dhatu)
Below are signs and symptoms of rasa disorders
|Rasa Vruddhi||Rasa Kshaya||Rasa Dushi|
|Lymphatic and venous congestion||Anemia||Lack of taste/ perverted taste|
|Repeated colds, bronchial & sinus congestion||Dehydration||Lack of faith|
|Water retention (edema), swelling||Dizziness||Lack of clarity and perception|
|Excess salivation||Dry skin||Fatigue|
|Feeling of heaviness in the heart Pallor||Emaciation||Nausea|
|Fatigue||Generalized pain and body-ache|
|Hypersensitivity to sound||Fever|
Rakta Dhatu refers to the red blood cells that flow through the blood vessels. Both rakta and rasa dhatu act as one to provide nutrition to the tissues and cells of the body. They also transport Mala to elimination organs as well as hormones to different parts of the body. Rakta dhatu specifically gives oxygen to all cells and tissues.
Below are signs and symptoms of rakta disorders
|Rakta Vruddhi||Rakta Kshaya|
|Fullness of blood vessels||Emptiness of blood vessels|
|Bleeding tendencies||Pale skin, conjunctiva, lips, tongue, and nails|
|Skin conditions such as: rash, urticaria, acne, dermatitis, eczema, erysipelas||Dry, rough, cracked skin|
|Hypertension||Breathlessness on exertion|
|Red, warm hands and feet||Craving for iron|
|Red eyes||Craving for hot spicy foods, sour, citrus fruit, or meat|
|Enlarged liver or spleen||Cold hands and feet|
|Loss of luster|
|Lack of enthusiasm|
Mamsa Dhatu is the muscle tissue. It is a combination of earth and water elements. It supports the bodily structure and functions e.g. movement. They provide shape to the body and plasters the important organs. The muscle tissue is dense, firm, heavy, elastic and bulky.
Mamsa dhatu gets its nourishment from rakta dhatu. Below are signs and symptoms of mamsa disorders
|Mamsa Vruddhi||Mamsa Kshaya|
|Muscle hypertrophy||Muscle atrophy, wasting|
|Muscle flaccidity||Muscle rigidity|
|Undue growth of muscle, myomas, fibromas||Loss of muscle power|
|Fibrocystic changes in the breasts||Emaciation|
|Enlarged lips, cheeks, tongue||Dislocation of joints|
|Craving for meat|
Meda dhatu is the adipose or the fat tissue. It also includes phospholipids, steroids such as cholesterol, and all other types of lipids. The adipose tissue forms the cell membranes and other structures inside a cell. It also nourishes the cells. Along with having this function, it is also used in the body for lubrication purpose. It insulates the body and maintains body temperature.
Fat is also found between muscles to avoid creation of friction during movement. It surrounds internal organs as a protective layer. Below are signs and symptoms of meda disorders.
|Meda Vruddhi||Meda Kshaya|
|Pains in the joint||Emaciation|
|Breathlessness on exertion||Osteo (degenerative arthritis)|
|Underactive thyroid||Overactive thyroid|
|Profuse sweating||Osteoporosis (bone loss)|
|Lipomas (fatty tumors)||Enlarged spleen|
|Excessive thirst and sweet taste in mouth|
Asthi dhatu is the bone tissue which is the most hard and dense tissue in the body. It holds the body structure with the help of mama dhatu. It gives shape to the face, shoulders, head, thorax, nose and limbs and protects the vital organs by creating cavities like cranial cavity, thoracic cavity and pelvic cavity.
Asthi dhatu excretes the heavy metals like mercury, arsenic and lead as a mala to hair and nails hence protecting the inner organs from toxicity. This dhatu gets its nourishment from the meda dhatu.
|Asthi Vruddhi||Asthi Kshaya|
|Bony protuberances, spurs||Hair loss|
|Osteomas (bone tumors)||Rough, dry, brittle, crooked nails|
|Calcification||Osteoporosis (bone loss)|
|Lordosis (abnormal convex curve of lumbar spine)||Osteo (degenerative arthritis)|
|Kyphosis (hunchback)||Rheumatoid arthritis|
|Bone fusion||Arthralgia (joint pain)|
|Extra teeth||Spontaneous fractures|
|Excessive hair growth||Shortened height|
|Scoliosis and spinal misalignment||Scoliosis and spinal misalignment|
Majja Dhatu is responsible for filling the spaces inside asthi dhatu, needless to say, it gets its nourishment from asthi. It is not just the bone marrow, but also the nerve tissue.
One of the main functions of majja dhatu, is communication. It moves the awareness throughout the body. Majja dhatu brings all the organs together throughconscious awareness. All five senses ie. tasting, touching, hearing, smelling, and seeing are carried out by majja. It is also responsible for voluntary actions of the skeletal muscles and for the involuntary actions of smooth muscles.
|Majja Vruddhi||Majja Kshaya|
|Pineal and pituitary tumors||Osteoporosis (bone loss)|
|Neurofibromatosis (tumors on peripheral nerves)||Anemia|
|Heaviness of eyes||Osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis|
|General heaviness and sluggishnessof lumbar spine)||Sexual debility|
|Hydrocephalus (accumulation of fluid in ventricles of brain)||Neurological problems|
|Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)|
|Lack of understanding|
Shukra dhatu is the male reproductive tissue and artava is the female reproductive tissue. The function of this dhatu is the creation of new life / offspring.
|Shukra / Artava Vruddhi||Shukra / Artava Kshaya|
|Preoccupation with sex||Low libido|
|Increased desire for sex||Sterility|
|Shukra only: Excess semen flow with increased prostatic secretion but low sperm content||Pain during coitus|
|Premature ejaculation||Fear of sex|
|Prostatic calculi||Shukra only: Oligospermia (low sperm count)|
|Artava only: Premature orgasm||Impotence (failure to achieve or maintain erection sufficient to maintain penetration and coitus)|
|Sterility||Artava only: Primary sterility|
|Multiple cystic ovary||No ovulation|
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