Rasa Dhatu or Waters in Ayurveda

By Anuradha Rao, Zobeida and Arjun Luthra (Ayurveda Counselor Student)

Our annamaya kosha (physical bodily sheath that covers our energetic self) is very intelligent, to convert what we consume as ahara, air and thoughts into us to sustain the life in us. The ahara becomes us and the heterogeneous separation between the annamaya kosha and the ahara, becomes homogeneous. This inclusiveness with everything has been the ultimate goal of any spiritual path (aka the liberation or moksha) and our annamaya kosha takes the first steps in this path through the act of digestion. To bring about this inclusivity, a lot goes in the body and various systems come together in order to achieve this.

Our physical bodies are made up of sapta dhatus or 7 kinds of tissues as per Ayurveda. These dhatus could be created sequentially, parallely or selectively; this again depends on the body's needs. To create these dhatus, the primary fuel or source of creation is the essence of the food or saara. Saara is nothing but the superior food that has been filtered out by the digestive agni from the complete ahara that has been consumed. And out of the sapta dhaatus, Rasa dhatu is the first dhatu that’s created out of the essence or sara.

‘Rasa’ literally translates to juice or taste in Sanskrit. This rasa could mean the taste of food (shad rasas) experienced by the physical body or taste of emotions (nava/dvadasha rasas) by the manasa/mental body/manomaya kosha. Thus, rasa dhatu is naturally the first dhatu to be born out of the saara, as digesting the first taste of food or first emotions of thoughts is the first step for any human being. Rasa dhatu in western pathology translates to lymph, plasma, and white blood cells; and is responsible for the immunity and protection of the body as well as nourishment and growth.

The word Rasa can be found in Ayurveda in more than one situation. When used in conjunction with food, it refers to taste. When used with emotions, implies taste for life, contentment. In Ayurveda Kriya Sarira, Rasa is one, and the first, of the seven dhatus (tissues) of the body.

The dhatus, are the foundation of the physical body. They provide the body with support, structure, and growth.

Rasa dhatu is the first dhatu formed post-digestion and the primary juice of life that gives the foundation for the creation of the rest of the dhatus. Rasa dhatu refers to the fluids of the body, the plasma, the lymph, and interstitial fluids. It is related to Kapha dosha and to Apa –water- mahabhuta, the gunas are cold, heavy, dull, moist, smooth, fluid, stable, liquid, cloudy.

Rasavaha srotas is the channel related to Rasa, it originates in the heart, travels throughout the body, and carries lymph.

The main functions of Rasa dhatu are:

Providing nutrition to all the cells in the body
Providing gratifying effect
Maintaining life
Giving satisfaction
Formation of asthayi Rasa –unstable Rasa dhatu-
Formation of upadhatus (Menstrual fluid, breast milk, and Tvak)
Formation of Kapha
Transport waste from the cells to the kidneys
Avoiding initiation of the disease process
The Upadhatus are constructing elements that do not give nourishment to the body. The upadhatus of Rasa dhatu are:

Stanya –breast milk: It provides nourishment and immunity to the baby. It travels through Stanyavaha srotas.
Artava/Raja –menstrual fluid: It is present only in women and flows through Artavavaha srotas.

Dhatu sara –Tissue excellence

Is a state of well tissues. When Rasa dhatu is excellent –Rasa/Tvak sara- the skin unctuous, soft, smooth and glossy. The hair is tender and the hair follicles are less in number and deep rooted.

Imbalanced Rasa dhatu

Rasa dhatu can increase, decrease or get vitiated. Hetus of imbalanced Rasa dhatu can be cold, heavy, excess of dry food, excess of unctuous food, excess eating, worry, anxiety, too much fasting.

An imbalanced Rasa dhatu leads to anorexia, nausea, lethargic feeling, drowsiness, heaviness, fever, early greying hair, anemia, wrinkles, menstrual imbalance.

When rasa dhatu is vitiated in the body, it results in the following signs:

Dryness of the mouth
Dry skin
Cracked skin
Excess thirst
Intolerance for sound
Scanty menstrual fluid
Decreased menstrual bleeding/scanty bleeding
Decreased lactation
Dryness of mouth
Dryness of vagina
Early greying of hair
Dry skin
Intolerance for sound

When rasa dhatu is increased in the body, it results in the following signs:

Excess salivation
Moist skin
Swelling, edema
Heavy menstrual fluid
Increased menstrual bleeding/excessive bleeding
Oily skin
Water retention
Increased salivation

Rasa dhatu is the first dhatu that is nourished from the ahara rasa(essence of the food which we take). The nourishment and development of all other dhatus is dependent on the quality and quantity of the rasa dhatu. Unstable rasa dhatu is transformed into rakta dhatu. From the western perspective, it is the water portion of the blood that carries proteins and essential nutrients. This is then circulated by the help of vyana vayu. When rasa dhatu is increased, the accessory elements are increased, which are breast milk and the menstrual fluid(aartava). Likewise, when the rasa dhatu is depleted, the accessory elements are also depleted. Thus depletion of rasa dhatu affects the quantity of rasa dhatu that is matured into aartava and is manifested during monthly periods.

This also affects the breastmilk quantity and quality. That is why it is important that a pregnant women has sufficient rasa during her pregnancy because it supports growth and development of her baby as well and it promotes life satisfaction. Having a baby can lead to vata imbalance and excess vata which is dry and mobile can dry out rasa of the body.

Rasa dhatu has the qualities of cold, unctuous, heavy, oily. And thus rasa dhatu is governed by Kapha. Rasa dhatu is created in the following manner:

Rasa dhatvagni

Saara (Essence) -----------------------> Stable Rasa dhatu + Unstable Rasa dhatu + Upadhatu (Breast milk + Menstrual fluid) + Mala (Kapha)

For this rasa dhatu to flow in the body, there are rasa vaha srotas or channels and as per Ayurveda the rasa vaha srotas originate in the heart and are spread throughout the body.

So as it can be easily deduced, the essence of what is being eaten gets converted to Rasa dhatu. Hence, the quality of rasa dhatu relies heavily on the quality of nutrition.

Other signs of decreased rasa dhatu is dry skin, dry mouth, exhaustion, tremors, excess thirst and intolerance to sound. Depleted rasa dhatu could be due to dehydration and physical symptoms could include sunken eyes, dry hair and cracked lips.

The manasa aspect is that there will be less satisfaction with life. Excess rasa dhatu relates to drowsiness, heaviness, swelling, water retention, excess salivation and heavy menstrual flow. Vitiation of rasa dhatu is related to anemia(excess paleness of face is an indicator), anorexia, drowsiness, early greying of hair, anemia and appearance of wrinkles.

Based on the dushti and diagnosis, a proper regimen is then accordingly given in order to balance the rasa dhatu such as a rejuvenation therapy when rasa dhatu is vitiated or cleansing therapy when rasa dhatu is in excess.