Our bodily tissues, dhatu, ''element which constructs'', are continuously formed, destroyed and reformed in the body, using materials derived from the food and drinks we take in (see part 1 here).When all the stages of digestion are functioning properly, and our digestive fire is balanced, we are able to build the tissues that make up the structure of our body and which support and maintain us. The last dhatu metabolized, shukradhatu, nourishes 'ojas', that is, 'immunity' 'strength' and 'stamina'. It forms no waste products and can be considered distilled and concentrated nourishment.
The texts state that seven major tissues form sequentially, each one building on the layer that came before it, although each dhatu is also able to take what it needs from circulating rasadhatu.
Kedari Kulya Nyaya First Law of Fields 50% (irrigation)
This law states that when rasadhatu is filled up, then nutrition overflows to rakhtadhatu, then to the other dhatu respectively in a process of irrigation. We have already seen that it takes far less time to form plasma and blood, than to form bone marrow or healthy reproductive tissue.
Khale Kapot Nyaya Field Bird Law 50% (selection)
This law states that the circulating rasadhatu allows the dhatu to operate like birds in a field of grain, where each takes what it needs directly from the rasa circulating in the body.
Modern concepts of nutrition suggest that our bodies instinctively perform a kind of triage when resources are scarce, supporting the First law of Fields. (The term triage comes from the French verb trier, meaning to separate, sift or select and is a recognized concept in hospital or emergency settings, when resources are in short supply) For example the body prioritises immediate needs over long term survival and may shut down reproductive functions if it recognizes that conditions are unlikely to result in a successful pregnancy. (However this depends on the saar and prakriti of the individual, as even in the worse conditions a minority of women with strong constitutions will still manage to become pregnant and give birth to healthy babies.)
Here is a table that outlines the main purpose of each dhatu, the element that dominates it and the dosha which governs it. We can see at a glance why aggravated Vata causes such havoc in the areas of skin dryness, weak muscles, weak, porous or cracking bones, underweight, problems in conceiving or bringing to term a pregnancy, as well causing as a general lack of juice, confidence or physical solidity or wellbeing.
dhatu purpose bhoota dosha
Rasa to circulate nourishment jal kapha
Rakhta to oxygenate blood tejas pitta
Mansa to clothe bones prithvi kapha
Meda to lubricate jal & prithvi kapha
Asthi to sustain/support body prithvi & vayu vata
Majja to transport impulses/fill bones jal kapha
Shukra to reproduce jal & tejas kapha
Rasa include all non-blood fluids: plasma, lymph, breast milk and white blood cells (some texts also say menstrual flow) Its function is to circulate nutrition, provide nourishment, moisture and satisfaction. Optimal rasa would provide a glowing complexion, healthy hair, and a happy, cheerful and content mood. Excess rasa leads to heaviness in the body, cough, excess phlegm. Deficient rasa leads to dryness in the body, nervous tremors, exhaustion, dizziness and general weakness.
Rakta includes red blood cells, blood vessels and tendons. Its function is to transport nutrients to every cell in the body, providing energy and vitality. Well formed rakta gives good colour to hands, cheeks and lips, the skin is warm to the touch and the person feels vital and invigorated. Excess rakta can be seen in skin diseases, allergies, jaundice, excess bleeding, any kind of blood disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure or emotions of anger or jealousy. Deficiency can be seen in low blood pressure, dry cracked skin, lack of energy, weak metabolism, lack of colour and luster in the skin, and coldness in the body generally.
Mamsa includes muscle tissue, ligaments and skin. The function of mamsadhatu is to clothe the bones, provide physical strength and protect vital organs. Good muscle tone and development, strength, stamina, and courageous are evidence of optimal formation. In excess, mamsa may lead to tumors, enlargement of the glands in general, obesity, and fibroids. A deficiency will show itself in emaciation, fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness in the body, painful joints, sunken cheeks, and a lack of energy, courage, and endurance.
Medas – fat in the body. The function of medas is lubrication throughout the body, protection, energy reserve, insulation, providing moisture and contentment of body and mind. In its optimal state it provides adequate body fat under the skin, good energy reserves, healthy cholesterol levels, softness and moisture in the body, healthy metabolism, the ability to love and be loved, affection, and humour. Too much medas leads to sluggish thyroid, tumors/growths, spleen/liver/gall bladder disorders, obesity, lipomas, heaviness, fatigue, diabetes, heavy sweating. A deficiency leads to emaciation, cracking joints, brittle hair, nails and teeth, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, hyperthyroidism.
Asthi includes bone tissue and cartilage, teeth. The fiunction of asthi is structural support for all tissues in body; it provides shape to the body; protects the delicate organs of the brain, heart and lungs and removes heavy metal waste through hair and nails When optimal we see healthy and strong bones and teeth, healthy shiny hair; thick nails; strong joints; stamina and groundedness. Too much leads to bone spurs, bone cancer, extra teeth. A deficiency results in weak bones, osteoporosis, cracking joints, osteoarthritis, joint pain, spontaneous fractures, brittle hair, teeth or nails, hair loss, and insomnia and worry.
Majja includes bone marrow and nerve tissue, eye sclera. Its function is to fill the spaces in the body, it also transports incoming sensory message to the brain and outgoing motor functions from the brain to the body. When I optimal amounts it keeps the mind sharp, the memory good, the eyes clear, allows pain tolerance, and promotes compassion and open mindedness. An excess of majja may result in a feeling of heaviness in the eyes, eye infections, non-healing of sores, bone marrow cancers (leukemia), nerve growths and tumours, fluid in the brain. A deficiency results in lightness of bones, osteoporosis, anemia, arthritis, neurological problems (Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, attention deficit disorder), nerve pain, numbness, sciatic pain, sacral pain, dizziness, darkness around the eyes, sexual debility, and feelings of fear and emptiness.
Shukra is basically reproductive fluid and tissue (ova in females, sperm in males) Its function is procreation, love, creativity, enjoyment, strength, pleasure, vitality, joy. When shukradhatu is well supplied we see lustrous hair and eyes, attractive body, charm, love, empathy, compassion. Too much shukra may cause an excessive interest in sex, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), prostate inflammation and cancer, ovarian cysts. A deficiency in shukradhatu leads to a lack of vigor, loss of sexual desire, sterility, impotence, delayed ejaculation, lower back pain, amenorrhea and infertility. Brahmacharya (sexual continence) is advised particularly for men in Ayurveda as excessive ejaculation depletes masculine energy, vigour and virility, ie ojus.
If each of these tissues forms properly, then ojas is produced. Ojas, which is sometimes considered the 8th tissue, is the subtle energy that provides us with vitality, immunity, stability, stamina and strength. It is considered the end-product of perfect digestion. Without sufficient ojas we become tired, weak and susceptible to a range of physical and mental disorders.
When our body properly digests the correct food and drink, our tissues are maintained in a state of equilibrium. When our body is unable to process what we take in, the disease process starts.