Mala are different forms of waste matter, by-products formed as a result of the various metabolic and physiological activities continually taking place in the body. Purisha (stool), Mutra (urine) and Sweda (sweat) are considered the main three. They maybe used to identify pathology by imbalanced dosha, or dushya, or cause it if they are not eliminated properly The name Mala is derived from the idea that the principle property of waste is toxification (Malinikaran).
Poor digestion and elimination, and the consequent build up of wastes, is considered a key cause of illness in Ayurveda. As a result of a range of processes continually being carried out in the body, the intake of food and liquids is digested and absorbed, while waste products are separated, formed and expelled from the body. Their proper and timely excretion is essential, otherwise toxins can be reabsorbed into the body, causing problems.
Mala are considered third in the trinity of the body after dosha and dhatu, as according to Ayurveda, the balanced condition of dosha, dhatu and mala is aarogya (disease free condition) so if any of the three are unbalanced or not functioning properly, ill health or disease will follow. For clinical reasons, therefore, the study of mala is an important diagnostic tool and can tell us a lot about the client's health or ill-health. In rogi pariksha (patient examination), we may examine urine, stool, sweat and other (dhatu) mala (nails, for example) to determine the person´s general state of health, deficiencies, malnutrition, dosha imbalance or illness.*
Maha mala (main waste products)
There are 3 ahar mala
Purisha (stool) is the main waste product of the human digestive system processing food and is therefore known as anna mala (food waste) or ahar mala. The stool provides support and tone to the colon (which otherwise would collapse), as well as maintaining the correct temperature. Ayurveda clearly defines the healthy stool as semisolid and smooth, easily passed, with no identifiable undigested foods, yellowish in colour and not too foul smelling. Many subclinical problems can be diagnosed through stool analysis, which is also recognized by Western medicine, at least in the case of gastro-intestinal distress. We must remember that the colon is the main seat of Vata and improper functioning can lead to Vata problems like gas, distention, constipation, anxiety and fear as well as more serious gastro-intestinal disorders such as diverticulitis, colitis and Crohn´s disease.
Mutra (urine) is another important waste product of the body. The kidneys filter impurities, any excess of minerals from liquids imbibed, as well as playing a part in acid-base homeostasis and the regulation of liquids. Any increase or decrease in the production of urine, as well as variations in colour, smell, turbidity, or acidity can aid in the diagnosis of dehydration, diabetes, urinary infections, kidney stones, and various bladder disorders.
Sweda (sweat) is waste that comes out of skin pores and primarily consists of water as well as various dissolved solids, such as sodium. It is considered the mala of meda dhatu (see below) and is a means of thermoregulation in the human body. Sweating, through exercise or sauna, is a well known therapeutic process, in that it eliminates toxins from the body, reduces fat, cools the body, improves the skin and purifies the blood. Any imbalance in sweat production can lead to itching, skin infections, irritation, a burning sensation in body or reduced body temperature.
There are 7 dhatu mala
As we cannot see the dhatu themselves which are inside the body, the external mala give us clues as to what is going on. Bad quality mala from a particular dhatu tell us that nutrition is not reaching that dhatu (and possibly not subsequent ones either) and helps us to reach a diagnosis. For example weak splitting nails suggest a problem in the proper formation of asthi dhatu and leads us to suspect problems in the bones, cartilage, teeth etc.
dhatu function mala
Rasa ´prinana' ´nourishing' saliva, tongue coating, tears
Rakhta ´Jivana' ´life sustaining' bile, estercobilina
Mansa ´lepana' ´covering' ear wax, nose, cavities
Meda ´snehana´ ´lubricating' sweat
Asthi ´dharana' ‘supporting´ nails, hair
Majja ´purana ' ´filling' sneha, eyes gunk, skin,
Shukra ´garbhotpada (production of embryo)
Shukra dhatu has no byproducts and only produces ojas, quintessential life energy, as it is considered a perfect distillation of all the previous dhatu and that all mala have already been segregated and removed from it.
Upadhatu are considered secondary tissues formed as by-products of the dhatu, structurally important but not directly implicated in disease and therefore not so important for diagnostic purposes.
dhatu function upadhatu
Rasa ´prinana´ 'nourishing' breast milk, menstrual, synovial fluid
Rakhta ´jivana´ 'life sustaining' tendons, vessels, veins, menstrual blood
Mansa ´lepana´ ´covering' ligaments, muscles, skin
Meda ´snehana´ 'lubricating' subcutaneous fat
Asthi ´dharana´ 'supporting´ teeth
Majja ´purana´ 'filling' tears, lachrymal secretions
*The way someone typically eliminates waste (through feces, urine and sweat) ie whether Vata (air) Pita (fire) or Kapha (water) predominate, also allows us to determine prakriti, the natural constitution of a person.