Sapta Dhatu: 7 tissue layers in Ayurveda
Sapta Dhatu refers to the seven fundamental tissues that constitute the human body according to Ayurveda. Derived from the Sanskrit word “Dhātu,” meaning “that which holds,” Dhatus represent the building blocks of our physical structure and are responsible for maintaining the overall health and functioning of the body. Sapta or seven Dhatus and are regulated by the Tridosha: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
What are the seven layers?
In common terms, the Sapta Dhatus are plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and reproductive fluid. In Ayurveda, they are called Sapta Dhatus: Rasa, Rakta, Mamsa, Meda, Asthi, Majja and Sukhra respectively. Ayurveda states that there are 7 primary bodily tissues:
- Rasa: Plasma (Kapha Dosha)
- Rakta: Blood (Pitta Dosha)
- Mamsa: Muscle (Kapha Dosha)
- Meda: Fat (Kapha Dosha)
- Asthi: Bone (Vata Dosha)
- Majja: Nervous Tissue (Kapha Dosha)
- Shukra & Arthava: Male & Female Reproductive Tissues (Kapha Dosha)
According to Dr. Marc Halpern of California College of Ayurveda, “The health of the seven dhatus is paramount to the health of a person. When the seven dhatus are functioning normally, they allow the body to express the will of the ego and/or the soul. Pathology of the dhatus results in either an excess or deficiency of tissue. This results in symptoms.”
Sapta Dhatu Formation
To put it simply, once we’ve digested and processed our food, the nutrient rich “juice” of that digested food (called Ahara Rasa) begins to travel through each of the 7 tissues, nourishing them in successive order. It begins at Rasa Dhatu and ends in the reproductive tissues, Shukra (male) and Arthava (female). Rasa dhatu is the easiest tissue to nourish, while Shukra and Arthava dhatus are the deepest, and most difficult to receive nourishment.
Once the deepest layers of tissues have been nourished, the final product of Ojas is produced – bringing vitality and wellbeing to our bodies and minds.
Rasa Dhatu’s dominant element is Jala (Water). Aided by Vata’s mobility, it circulates nutrients, hormones, and proteins throughout the body. It is cold, heavy, moist, soft, stable, smooth, flowing, cloudy, gross and dull. These qualities are very similar to kapha dosha, which is made up of water and earth.
Rakta Dhatu has Agni (Fire) as its primary element, and its red shade is due to the presence of Pitta. It preserves human life by transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. It is hot, light, dry, hard, unstable, rough, flowing, clear, subtle and sharp. These qualities are very similar to pitta dosha which is made up of mostly fire and a little water. Thus, the health of rakta dhatu plays an important role in determining the health of pitta dosha.
Mamsa is the tissue that covers all organs and is related to strength and stability. made up of earth and fire, has the following qualities: hot, heavy, dry, hard, unstable, rough, dense, cloudy, gross and sharp. These qualities are similar to a combination of pitta and kapha doshas and, as such, these doshas play the greatest role in its development and health.
Meda is solid and firm. This dhatu keeps the lubrication between the various body organs and help the body in maintaining right internal temperature. It is the storage site for excess fat in the body. Jala and Prithvi (Earth) are its dominant elements. The presence of water reveals the nourishing nature of fatty tissue. The presence of earth reveals its role in stabilizing the functions of the body and mind.
Asthi gives the body its stability. Nourished by the food consumed, it makes the human body strong. It is the finer essence of the Meda Dhatu. Asthi Dhatu is mainly associated with Vata dosha and then Kapha dosha. The Mahaabhootaas associated with Asthi dhatu are Earth and Air. Excessive Asthi Dhatu results into abnormal growth of bones and teeth, very dense hairs, and calcification. Whereas, deficiency of Asthi Dhatu results into conditions like osteoporosis, hair falling, and cracked or debilitated nails.
Majja, in Ayurveda, is associated with the nervous system, and it is considered to govern metabolic process in the brain and the spinal cord. In order to produce majja dhatu the primary elements that must be taken in the proper balance are air and water. The balance of air regulates the flow of nerve impulses. Water provides a counterbalance to air, protecting the nerve against excessive motion and agitation. The brain as well the myelin that surrounds the structure of the nerve consists largely of fat. It is composed primarily of the element water and has kapha-like characteristics.
Shukhra is the cause of Ojas, which is said to be the essence of the Dhatus as it is responsible for life, vitality, and energy. Shukra is the seventh and final dhatu in the dhatus formation cycle. Water is the primary nourishment of the body and of the dhatus, and shukra is its most refined form.
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