A Beginner’s Guide to Rasa Dhatu
“Rasa Dhatu” is a term that finds its roots in the ancient Indian system of Ayurveda, which is a traditional form of medicine practiced for thousands of years. The word “Rasa” refers to the essence or juice, and “Dhatu” stands for tissue. Hence, Rasa Dhatu can be translated as the “essence of tissue” and is considered the first of the seven primary tissues, or ‘Sapta Dhatus‘, in the body according to Ayurvedic philosophy.
Rasa Dhatu is fundamentally important as it is the primary component that nourishes every cell and tissue within the body. It is the essence derived from the digested food and acts as nutrition for the subsequent tissue, Rakta Dhatu (blood). In Ayurvedic texts, Rasa is also associated with plasma, the liquid part of the blood that carries the blood cells. It’s not just a physical entity but is also thought to carry the life force, or “Prana”, providing vitality and immunity.
What is Rasa Dhatu?
Rasa dhatu in Ayurveda has different meanings in different contexts. In the context of food and its digestion, it is called aahara rasa, and when this aahara rasa undergoes metabolism by rasa dhatwagni (the digestive energy or the metabolic energy of rasa dhatu), the component formed is known as rasa dhatu.
In the context of Rasashastra, this is referred to as parada (mercury) or any other metal. When any part of the plant, which may be root, stem, leaves, fruit, etc, is processed to extract the juice out of it, then it is called rasa. Jihva (tongue) also known as rasanendriya, perceives different tastes like Madhura (sweet), Amla (sour), Lavana (salt), Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter), and Kashaya (astringent) are called the shadrasa (six tastes).
Thus, the word rasa can be taken into consideration depending on the context where it is mentioned. The word meaning of rasa is to relish, to taste, etc. It is derived from the root word ‘gatau’ which means moving, as the rasa dhatu formed from the aahara rasa circulates or moves throughout the body providing nourishment.
Bhautika composition and its guna (qualities)
Rasa dhatu has Jala Mahabhuta in it. The qualities of rasa dhatu are the drava (liquidity), snigdha (unctuous), Sara (flowing nature of the rasa dhatu), manda (sluggish), pichchila (slimy), etc.
Rasa dhatu can be compared with the plasma and the lymph in the body as per modern science.
Formation of Rasa Dhatu
When the food gets digested with the help of agni (digestive fire) it produces a nutrient and waste products. The nurient part of the food is called rasa dhatu.
Quantity and duration taken to form rasa dhatu
As per Charaka Samhitha, nine Anjali is the quantity of rasa dhatu in shareera (body). The time taken to form rasa dhatu as explained in Sushrutha Samhitha, is 3015 kala (five days).
Importance of rasa dhatu in garbhotpadana (embryogenesis)
Acharya Charaka in his work explains that during fetal life, the fetus gets all its nutrition from the mother from the rasa dhatu through the placenta. This provides strength, nourishment, and complexion to the fetus in the womb of the mother. Besides this, it also nourishes the mother during her pregnancy and helps in lactation after the baby is delivered.
The circulation of rasa dhatu occurs through twenty-four dhamani (blood vessels- that can be correlated with arteries) emerging from the Hridaya (cardiac region). Ten vessels each circulate in upward and downward directions of the body and the remaining four vessels move in the lateral parts of the body. This is the transport system for circulation of the rasa dhatu and any etiology that vitiates rasa dhatu will in turn disturb the rasavahasrotas and the manifestation of diseases.
Functions of Rasa Dhatu
- Tarpana: the nourishment of the body is done by rasa dhatu by the component sthayi rasa or poshya rasa (which nourishes the self-component).
- Vardhana: The growth of the body is done by rasa dhatu.
- Dharana: The support system to sustain the physical and mental stress is carried out by the rasa dhatu.
- Yapana: The maintenance of the body during old age is the function of rasa dhatu.
- Snehana: The unctuousness of the body is due to the rasa dhatu.
- Raktha dhatu poshana: The poshaka rasa (the component of rasa dhatu for the nourishment of other dhatu) does the nourishment of raktha dhatu.
Byproducts and the waste metabolites
After the metabolism is completed at the individual dhatu stage, the metabolites are divided into two parts: one is the byproduct of metabolism and the other is the waste product of the metabolism.
Rasa vriddhi lakshana (increased rasa dhatu symptoms)
- Shaitya (feeling of cold)
- Shaithilya (debility)
- Agnimandya (impaired digestion)
- Praseka (excess salivation)
- Alasya (lethargy)
- Gauravata (heaviness of the body)
- Atinidra (excess sleep)
- Utkleshana (nausea)
- Chardi (vomiting)
- Shwasa (dyspnea)
- Kasa (cough), etc.
Rasa kshaya lakshana (decreased rasa dhatu symptoms)
- Dhatu apachaya (malnourishment of the succeeding dhatu)
- Shrama (fatigue)
- Sharirashosha (dryness of the whole body)
- Mukhashshosha (dryness of the mouth)
- Trishna (excess thirst)
- Shunyata (feeling of emptiness)
- Karshyata (emaciation)
- Shabda-asahishnuta (intolerance to the sounds)
- Hrutshoola (pain in the cardiac region)
- Hrid-drava (palpitations of the heart), etc.
Diseases caused due to vitiation of rasa dhatu
The etiology that can cause vitiation of rasa dhatu is the food intake having an excess of oil, deep fried, and heavy for digestion, over-eating, excess intake of sweet, salt, and sour items, excess daytime sleeping, lack of physical exercise, etc. lead to the manifestation of rasa pradoshaja vikara (diseases of rasa dhatu origin).
The diseases are nausea, anorexia, heaviness, drowsiness, fever with malaise, anemia, giddiness, emaciation, impotency, obstruction to the srotas (channels of the body), premature wrinkling of the skin, premature grey hair, etc. These are the diseases when the rasavaha srotas (transport channels carrying the rasa dhatu) are affected. Thus, vitiation of rasa dhatu leads to disturbance in the rasavaha srotas.
Treatment for the diseases of rasa dhatu
The health of Rasa Dhatu is critical for the overall balance and well-being of an individual. It is influenced by factors such as diet, lifestyle, and emotional health. A balanced Rasa Dhatu is indicative of good nourishment and immunity, while its imbalance could lead to various disorders. Ayurveda provides numerous guidelines for maintaining the health of Rasa Dhatu, including dietary recommendations, herbal treatments, and lifestyle changes.
The treatment for diseases of rasa dhatu depends on the state in which it occurs. If there is a depletion of rasa dhatu, then diseases like rajayakshma (tuberculosis), etc, tarpana chikitsa are advised with the administration of meat soups, foods that nourish the tissues, and provide strength to the body.
If there is Jwara (fever) ) like condition where the digestion is hampered, then langhana (fasting therapy) is advised, and if the dosha and dhatu are in the aggravated stage then, Vamana (emesis therapy) is ideal. Also, the powder massage with or without oil which helps in the reduction of the increased dhatu can also be given. Rasayana therapy where the drugs which are immunomodulators are administered in the depletion of rasa dhatu.
The rasa dhatu in the body is Jala Mahabhuta predominant and measures nine Anjali in quantity. It does the nourishment, helps in growth, forms the supporting system, and maintains the life in an individual. Rakta dhatu and stanya are its supporting tissue elements while kapha dosha is the waste product of rasa dhatu. Vamana and Langhana are the treatments if the rasa dhatu are aggravated and in case there is a decrease, Tarpana, and Rasayana therapies give the benefits.
Understanding Rasa Dhatu is essential for anyone delving into Ayurveda as it lays the foundation for the health and functioning of the entire body. It is the starting point for the formation of life energies and the maintenance of health, and its balance is synonymous with a harmonious state of being.