Rasa(Plasma): The Cascade of Nourishment & the First Dhatu(Bodily Tissue)
Ayurveda identifies seven primary Dhatus responsible for the functioning of the organs and bringing the body into its physical form. These are the seven bodily tissues that keep you fit and moving, and govern the overall well-being.
Once the food is digested, the nutrient-rich juice from the digested food, known as Ahara Rasa, travels through each of these seven Dhatus. To maintain optimal health and wellbeing, it is essential to bring nourishment to all seven Dhatus. However, as Ahara Rasa moves along the seven Dhatus, it gets challenging to nourish each successive Dhatu.
Today, we will learn about the Rasa Dhatu, which is the first Dhatu. But before we do that, let's discuss the seven primary Dhatus and the secondary Dhatus to understand why they are important and how each Dhatu affects you.
Introduction to the Seven Dhatus
It is essential to understand that all seven Dhatus work together and cannot be categorized. It is always better to look at all seven of them as working together to focus on one of their functions or structures. Here are the 7 Dhatus, as stated by Ayurveda.
1. Rasa (Plasma)
Rasa means "flow.” The food essence that flows in the body through its network is called Rasa. It represents the flow of nutrition- extracellular and intracellular portions of the body. The main function is to nourish and strengthen the blood and blood flow and hence, the body. Rasa is compatible with the lymphatic system and can be compared to plasma which has rich nutrition throughout that other tissues.
2. Rakta (Blood)
Rakta, the second flowing Dhatu, refers to blood. The blood tissue is responsible for circulating the life force, known as Prana in Ayurveda. It also helps in gaseous exchange and is said to be the preserver of life.
3. Mamsa (Muscle)
Mamsa Dhatu refers to the muscle or flesh, which supports the form of the body. This is a crucial Dhatu that makes the movement possible and also wraps around every organ, or tissue, or structure in the body to maintain the form.
4. Meda (Fat)
According to Ayurveda, the fourth Dhatu, Meda, is responsible for lubrication. Think of it as fat or adipose tissue. Meda is distributed all over the body. Its primary function is to lubricate every tissue and structure in the body.
5. Asthi (Bones)
The fifth Dhatu is Asthi, which means bone. All the bones in the body are composed of skeletal tissue known as Asthi Dhatu in Ayurveda. It is the strongest framework in the body and is responsible for the basic structure of the body.
6. Majja (Bone Marrow)
The Majja is a tissue of a semi-solid nature. These tissues are present inside bone cavities. Think of it as bone marrow or any structure enveloped by the hard bony structure. Whether it's in the spinal cord or skull, Majja Dhatu is responsible for higher function.
7. Shukra (Reproductive Tissue)
Shukra – the last of the seven Dhatus – refers to the reproductive tissues that are responsible for healthy progeny.
While the seven major Dhatus are the most important tissues in the body, let's not forget about upadhatus – the secondary Dhatus or secondary tissues. Upadhatus are the sub-tissues that are essential for secondary bodily functions.
Every Dhatu has its own Upadhatus. For example, Rasa Dhatu has two main Upadhatus – Stanya (breast milk) and Aartava (Menstrual blood). The Upadhatus derive nutrition from the parent Dhatu. So, if Rasa is abnormal, deficient, inflamed, the same thing can be seen in the breast or the uterine tissue.
The Significance of Rasa Dhatu
Rasa is perhaps the most important Dhatu. It is quintessential for all other Dhatus because it carries nutrition to the deeper tissues that are away from the digestive system. For example, the biceps or the deltoid receives nutrition from the gut because of the circulation of Rasa tissue of Rasa Dhatu. Similarly, Rasa nourishes the Meda, Asti, Majja, etc.
So, Rasa's main function is to carry the plasma and lymphatic fluid throughout the body and provide nourishment to the rest of the tissues. As a result, it is essential for the proper proliferation, development, and functioning of the remaining Dhatus.
The wholesome foods that we eat create wholesome nourishment. However, if Rasa is deficient, no matter how much the person eats and assimilates, they will still feel weak or de-energized because the wholesome nourishment will not circulate properly.
Rasa is also important in terms of Rasayana. Rasa is responsible for delivering Rasayana's anti-aging or rejuvenating properties to the bone tissue, bone marrow, and reproductive tissue. Rasa is also an anti-aging agent. Therefore, it is extremely important in the Ayurvedic health and rejuvenation process.
Rasa: How Is It Formed & How Does It Work?
The digestive fire or Agni breaks down the food into the nutritional and the waste part. The waste product moves downwards to form feces, which is ultimately eliminated. The nutritional part, on the other hand, gets absorbed into the body. That is what we call Rasa!
Rasa is a nutritious and rich liquid that flows and has its own Agni. It appropriates all the nutrition to match its soft, liquid, flowing, spreading, cold, unctuous, and moist qualities present in the Rasa Dhatu.
However, if this Agni or metabolism slows down or is impaired, then the type of Rasa that is formed may not have the qualities it needs to circulate nourishment to other Dhatus. When that happens, the Rasa will not be able to perform its function of taking the nutrition from the gut to the tissues.
What Happens When Rasa Circulates through the Body?
As Rasa circulates through the body and is done performing its physiological function, the by-product, it leaves behind is Kapha. Since Rasa's about nourishment, Kapha also coheres with nourishment and stability.
Therefore, an abundance of Rasa means an abundance of Kapha. Normal Kapha has a building or constructive ability to other tissues and helps with cohesiveness. But if the Rasa is abnormal, then the Kapha formed is also abnormal.
Signs and Symptoms of Dhatu Disorder
Dhatu disorders often manifest because of a lack of Rasa Agni (Rasa kshaya) or excessive production of Rasa (Rasa vriddhi).
Here are the signs and symptoms of Rasa imbalance.
Signs of Excess Rasa Production
A thick, whitish coating appears on the tongue, and the taste may turn salty or saline. You may also experience excessive salivation. Sluggishness and lethargy follow as Rasa enters other parts of the body. As it travels into the brain, you may experience brain fog and sleepiness throughout the day.
The skin is also affected by Rasa imbalance in the body. You may notice puffiness, swelling, or congestion. Eventually, excess Rasa starts pouring out from the smaller mucous membrane channels, leading to watery or puffy eyes, post-nasal drip, congestion, etc. You may also experience a frequent need to urinate.
Signs of Rasa Deficiency
Rasa deficiency is just as problematic as excessive Rasa in the body. You will notice dry skin, brittle nails, and increased hair fall. As the heart is responsible for pumping Rasa, Rasa deficiency may also cause heart palpitations. Women may notice a change in their regular menstrual cycle. The same Rasa is responsible for anemia and may cause a lack of immunity.
How to Overcome Rasa Imbalance
Dietary and lifestyle changes can help you overcome Rasa imbalances to make sure nourishment effectively reaches all Dhatus. Let's take a look at some tips and tricks to enhance Rasa enriching.
Eat Rasa-Enhancing Foods
If you are struggling with Rasa deficiencies, opt for Rasa-enriching foods that are easily digestible and wholesome. Some excellent sources of Rasa include brown rice, hand-pound rice, milk, ghee, lentils, and mung beans. You can also consider fresh fruits and honey to boost Rasa.
Always Go for Fresh Food
It may be tempting to devour that leftover pizza resting in the fridge, but it won't help with Rasa enrichment. Freshly prepared food contains the most Rasa. Comparatively, stale processed foods have lesser Rasa.
Focus on the Right Tastes
Want to create Rasa balance in the body? Focus on these three tastes – sweet, sour, and salty. Add fresh fruits that are sweet or sour to your daily diet. Honey is also an excellent source for sweet taste. For a salty taste, Himalayan salt is recommended.
Avoid Processed Foods
Just like stale food, processed foods have low Rasa. Unfortunately, the American diet is highly dependent on processed foods. Even vegan and vegetarian diets rely heavily on processed foods. It is best to opt for less processed foods for daily consumption to establish a Rasa balance.
Pay Attention to Your State of Mind
According to Ayurveda, the state of mind in which you consume food directly impacts the quality and quantity of Rasa. If the state of mind is disturbed, Rasa to support the tissue nourishment may not be produced regardless of what you eat. The food consumed in a bad or disturbed state of mind will form more waste than nourishing Rasa.
Improve Rasa Agni with Spices
Spices can help improve Rasa Dhatu Agni. For example, turmeric is a Rasa cleansing spice. Ginger is a Rasa enhancing spice, whereas aromatic spices like cardamom, coriander, and cumin make the Rasa pure. That's how Ayurveda looks at these spices being added to the food and their influence on Rasa.
These spices can suck out the pure essence of Rasa from the food. They also improve the rasa metabolism so that Rasa is conducive to every tissue in the body. As a result, all tissues increase with the highest quality of tissue formation.
Try Rasa-Enhancing Herbs
Here is a list of Rasa-enhancing herbs that you can consume to improve Rasa and your overall well-being.
- Amalaki: Also known as Dhatri, Amalaki is Indian gooseberry. It is rich in vitamin C and other active nutrients. Except for being salty, it has all the other five tastes. It's rich in terms of nourishing and making the Rasa pure.
- Anantamul: Rich and aromatic, Anantamul has properties almost similar to milk. It is the root of Hemidesmus indicus or the Indian sarsaparilla plant. It works to enrich and improve the quality of Rasa.
- Shatavari: Shatavari is known as the most valuable tonic for females. However, men can also take it. It is a root or tuber known as Asparagus racemosus and helps to bring the material required for the Rasa formation.
Exercise Daily to "Move" Rasa
If your Rasa is stagnant, it won't do you much good. So, try to move Rasa by engaging in exercise or physical activity daily. It will also help with the development of Rasa. Something as simple as walking can have a major impact on Rasa. Activities like swimming, Pilates, and Yoga are some excellent options to get your Rasa moving. However, keep in mind that overexertion may be counterproductive.
Get Adequate Sleep
The resting mind is always good for the Rasa. Therefore, deep and timely sleep helps enrich it. On the other hand, a busy mind is always detrimental to Rasa. While asleep, the mind becomes completely nullified. As a result, Rasa becomes very pure and serene. This type of Rasa is very important for the functioning of the heart and also for immunity.
Wake Up Early
According to Ayurveda, waking up early in the morning allows Rasa to reach its highest quality in terms of nourishment and circulation.
The Bottom Line
The seven Dhatus are interrelated and intermingle to support physiology and different body processes. Out of all these seven major tissues, six receive nutrition because of Rasa Dhatu, and that's why Rasa Dhatu is very important for overall health and wellbeing. Now that you know all about it, you can implement Ayurvedic practices to establish a Rasa balance in the body.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, make sure you check out the article about Rakta, which is the second Dhatu.