Rasa dhatu

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The word rasa dhatu literally means the component of the body with nutrients and essence. There are two forms of rasa related to body physiology. Ahara rasa is the essence of food after the first level of digestion by factors responsible for digestion and metabolism (jatharagni) in the stomach. The second form is rasa dhatu. It is the component formed after the ahara rasa gets acted upon by rasa dhatvagni.

Contributors
Section/Chapter/topic Sharira / Dhatu / Rasa Dhatu
Authors Deole Y.S.,Anagha S.
Reviewer and editor Basisht G.
Affiliation Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.P.G.T.& R.A., Jamnagar
Correspondence email: carakasamhita@gmail.com
Date of publication: April 16, 2020

Etymology and derivation

The word ‘rasa’ is derived from the Sanskrit root “ras” having the meaning of taste, to relish, to perceive, to feel, to desire.[1]

Rasa is derived from the root ‘gatau’ which means moving. As the nutrient fluid is continuously circulated in our body, it is known as rasa.[Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 14/13]

Synonyms

• Adyadhatu(first dhatu) [A.Hr.Sutra Sthana 13/25]

• Aharaparinama dhatu(transformed from food) [Cha. Sa. Nidana Sthana 1/23]

• Prasada and Sara are the synonyms of rasa in the context of ahara rasa.

Meanings in different contexts

The word rasa has a wide range of meanings like taste, extract/juice, meat soup, mercury.

In the context of body components, the terms like ahara rasa, rasa dhatu and sharirarasa/garbharasa are described.

The word ‘garbharasa’ is applied to denote essence or vitality (ojas) in embryonic life. This is transformed into unctuous body fluids. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/10]. It is known as ‘sharira rasa’ in later life leading to the formation of ojas. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/11].

Panchabhautika constitution and properties

The rasa dhatu has jala mahabhuta predominance in its constitution. It possesses liquidity(drava), fluidity (sara), opaque(manda), viscous(snigdha) and unctuous(pichchila) properties.[2]

Physiological aspects

Formation,circulation and metabolism of rasa dhatu

Rasa dhatu is formed from essence of food(ahara rasa). The ingested food is disintegrated into two parts: essence or useful part (prasada) and waste (kitta). The prasada is called as essence of food (ahara rasa). This essence is transformed into a nutrient fluid called ‘rasa dhatu’. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 28/4]. It is the ultrafine form of ahara rasa. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 14/3]

The rasa dhatu is further acted upon by rasa dhatvagni. It is divided into two portions. The first portion forms permanent form (sthayi rasa dhatu) for carrying out physiological functions of nourishment and maintenance of the body.

The second portion called ‘poshaka rasa’ is carried forward to nourish the next dhatu i.e.rakta. [Cha.Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 15/16]

During the metabolic process, this rasa is transformed into rakta dhatu by action of ranjaka pitta. It acquires a red colour during this process. This metabolism takes place at yakrit (liver) and pliha(spleen). [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 14/4]

Metabolic byproducts and waste products(Upadhatu and mala)

Breast milk(Stanya) and menstrual blood including ovum (artava) are formed as metabolic byproducts(upadhatu) of rasa dhatu.[Cha. Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/17]. Sharangadhara considers only breast milk(stanya) formed as upadhatu. [Sha. Sa. Purvakhanda chapter 5].

Various secretions and discharges are formed in this process as ‘kapha’. This is termed as "malarupakapha".

Quantity of rasa dhatu in body

The total quantity of rasa is nine anjali. One anjali is equal to the quantity that can be filled in a space formed from joining one’s palms together. This measurement is person-specific.[Cha. Sam. Sharira Sthana 7/15]

Time span

The rasa dhatu is formed in a time span of 3015 kala (five days). [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 14/14].

Circulation of rasa dhatu

The rasa dhatu is circulated through twenty-four vessels(dhamani) originating in the cardiac region. The upper and lower part of the body is nourished by ten vessels each. The remaining four nourish lateral parts of the body. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 14/3] All the twenty-four vessels are described in a separate chapter named ‘dhamanivyakarana sharira'[Su.Sa.Sharira Sthana 9] Vyanavayu carries out the circulation of rasa dhatu. [Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 15/36]

Rasavahi/ Rasaharini

The heart of the fetus is linked to the mother’s heart through the channels carrying nutrients(rasavahi). The fetus expresses its wishes to the mother through these channels. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 3/15].

During the eighth month of gestation, the vital essence(ojas) is unstable. It moves from mother to fetus and from fetus to mother through these channels.[Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 3/24].

Rasavaha srotas

Rasavaha srotas is the transport system of circulating rasa all over the body. It originates from the heart and circulates rasa through ten vessels. [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 5/8] The same organs and channels form pranavaha srotas. [Su. Sa. Sharira Sthana 9/12]. This means the heart and channels transporting rasa also carry vital force (prana) in the body.

Role of rasa dhatu in embryogenesis:

During embryonic life, rasa dhatu is the only source of nutrition. The heart of the fetus is connected with the mother through the placenta and umbilical cord. The fetus gets nutrient fluid (rasa dhatu) through this placental circulation. Growth and development depend upon nutrition provided by rasa dhatu. This promotes strength and complexion of the fetus as it is composed of materials having all six tastes. This rasa also nourishes the mother’s body and carries out lactation.[Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 6/23]

Rasa is also one among six sources of origin of fetus along with maternal and paternal factors. During embryogenesis, it is responsible for the formation and growth of body parts, sustenance of life, satiety, nourishment and enthusiasm. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 3/12]

Functions of rasa dhatu :

The functions attributed to rasa dhatu are:

  • Tarpana: nourishment of body at any age.
  • Vardhana: growth and development (especially in kids)
  • Dharana / jeevana: stabilizing and maintaining the dhatu (during middle age)
  • Yapana: preventing the total deterioration of dhatu (during old age)

Other functions like stabilizing the body components(avashtambhana), unction(snehana) are also carried by rasa dhatu.[Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 14/3]

It is responsible for satiety(tushti), nurturing body(preenana), nourishing rakta dhatu(raktapushti).[Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/5]

Importance in diagnosis

Causes of vitiation

Excess consumption of heavy to digest, cold, over-unctuous food, overeating and excessive mental stress cause vitiation of rasavaha srotas. [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 5/13]

Abnormal states

The increase or decrease in quality and/or quantity of rasa dhatu can lead to various abnormal conditions. The states can be assessed by following clinical features.

Symptoms of decrease of rasa dhatu (rasa kshaya)* Symptoms of increase in rasa dhatu(rasa vriddhi)**
Degeneration/depletion of other ''dhatu''(Dhatu apachaya/ksheenata) Diminished digestive power(Agnimandya)
Dryness of mouth(Mukhashosha/rukshata) Nausea(Utkleshana)
Dryness or depletion of body mass (Sharirashosha/rukshata) Salivation (Praseka)
Emaciation (Karshya) vomiting(Chchardi)
Thirst(Trishna) Lack of enthusiasm to do work (Alasya)
Feeling of emptiness(Shunyata) Heaviness in body (Gaurava)
Tiredness(Shrama) Whitish discoloration of body(Shvaitya)
Intolerance to sound(Shabdaasahishnuta) Feeling of abnormal coldness of body(Shaitya)
Pain in the heart with a feeling that someone is holding and vigorously shaking the heart(Hrudayaghattana) Looseness in body parts(Angashaithilya)
Trembling sensation of heart or tachycardia(Hrutkampa) Dyspnoea(Shwasa)
Palpitation(Hrutdrava) Cough(Kasa)
Cardiac pain(Hrutshola) Excessive sleep (Atinidrata)
Fatigue or tiredness even after doing a small work (Shrama/klama) --
  • *[Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 27/764], [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/9], [A. Hr. Sutra Sthana 11/17]
  • ** [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/14], [A. Hr. Sutra Sthana 11/7-8]

Clinical features of vitiation of rasavaha srotas

If the transport channels of rasa dhatu are vitiated, then following clinical features are observed:

  • Aversion towards food, anorexia, altered sense of taste, inability to identify tastes, nausea, heaviness in the body, drowsiness, body ache, fever, blackouts, anemia, obstruction of channels, impotence, tiredness (angavasada), emaciation, diminished agni, and premature aging (wrinkling of skin and graying of hair [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 28/9-11]
  • In addition to the above features, the following features are observed after injury to rasavaha srotas:

Emaciation(Shosha),crying due to pain(akroshana), bending(vinamana),confusion(mohana),vertigo(bhramana), trembling(vepana)and death. [Su. Sa. Sharira Sthana 9/12]

Role of rasa dhatu as vitiated factor in disease

Rasa dhatu is involved in the pathogenesis of many diseases like jwara [Cha. Sa. NidanaSthana 1/20], obstinate urinary diseases including diabetes(prameha) [Cha. Sa. Nidana Sthana 4/7] and emaciation including tuberculosis(shosha) [Cha. Sa. Nidana Sthana 5/8].

The extremes of body frames i.e. obesity(sthaulya) and emaciation(karshya) depend on the quantity and quality of rasa dhatu, its distribution, conversion, and utilization in the body. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/32] These two conditions are risk factors for a wide range of metabolic disorders and lifestyle disorders.

Importance of concept in the preservation of health and prevention

The existence of purusha depends upon rasa. Therefore, one should protect and maintain the quality and quantity of rasa dhatu with utmost care.[Su. Sam. Sutra Sthana 14/12] It can be achieved through proper diet and lifestyle.

Rejuvenating therapy (Rasayana) is a special branch of Ayurveda dealing with the promotion and preservation of health. It helps in maintaining the best qualities of rasa dhatu and other body components. The quality of rasa is directly responsible for the quality of other tissues, immunity, promoting health and longevity. [Dalhana, Su. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 27/1]

Management of diseases

Conditions including increase in rasa dhatu

Fasting and other reduction therapies(Langhana) is the principle of treatment for the disorders due to vitiation of rasa dhatu. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 28/25]

It is also indicated in jwara. [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 3/142] In the context of dhatugata jwara, for the management of rasadhatugata jwara, therapeutic emesis(vamana) and fasting(upavasa) are mentioned as the treatment choices. [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 3/315]

Conditions including decrease in rasa dhatu

In the conditions like emaciation including tuberculosis (rajayakshma or shosha), nourishment therapy(tarpana) is indicated. The treatment regimen includes a variety of meat soups and juices. [Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 8/149-172]

Current researches

In view of modern physiology, the rasa dhatu includes plasma, interstitial fluids and lymph.[3]The rasa dhatvagni is related to glucose metabolism, circulation in portal vein, the formation of white blood cells.[4]

In the opinion of some researchers, rasa dhatu has three major components solids, water and gases. Solids are 7-8 % and contain organic substances like plasma proteins, carbohydrate, enzymes, nonprotein nitrogenous substances, amino acids, internal secretions like hormones and antibodies. Inorganic substances include sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, bicarbonate, chloride, phosphate, iodide, iron and copper. Water is 92-93 %. The gases include oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.[5]

As per the opinion of Singh G., the fluid flowing in blood vessels is a mixture of ahararasa, rasa, shonita etc. It is not one dhatu.From modern physiological point of view also, the liquid flowing in the blood vessels is a mixture of nutrients, plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, etc.[6]

Some researchers opine that the clinical conditions of an increase in rasa dhatu can be considered as acidosis or hypercalcaemia or chronic liver diseases. Whereas the conditions of decrease in rasa dhatu correlates with alkalosis or hypokalaemia or hypocalcaemia or hyponatremia or hypomagnesemia.[7]

List of theses done

1.Vaidya M.D.(1963): Rasavaha Srotasa Pareeksha, Dept of Kayachikitsa, IPGT &RA, Jamnagar.

2.Mishra R. K. (1967): Physio-pathological approach on the concept of Rasa- Kshaya and Rasa- Vriddhi. Dept of Kayachikitsa, IPGT &RA, Jamnagar.

3.Pandey H. N. (1987): Rasavaha Sroto-Dushti Ka Naidanika Adhyayana Hrid- Rogon Ke Pariprekshya Mein. Dept of Kayachikitsa, NIA Jaipur.

4.Kulkarni S.(1994): A study on the concept of Stroto-Dushti w.s.r. to Rasavaha Srotasa, Dept of Basic Principles, IPGT &RA, Jamnagar.

5. Kumara J. M. W.S.(1996): A comprehensive study of Rasavaha Srotasa w.s.r. to Shotha, Dept of Basic Principles, IPGT &RA, Jamnagar.

6.Rakesh M. Changani(2018): Fundamental And Applied Study of Rasapradoshaja Vikara And Its Principle of Management w.s.r. to Aruchi, Dept of Basic Principles, IPGT &RA, Jamnagar.

7. Bharat L. Bhadiyadra(2018): A study on Rasavaha Sroto Dushti in context to Karshya.(Ph.D.), Dept of Basic Principles, IPGT &RA, Jamnagar.

8. Priya Gupta(2019): A study on Hetuskandha in context to Rasavaha Srotas through the Experimental & Survey Study, Dept of Basic Principles, IPGT & RA, Jamnagar.

More information

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Abbreviations

  • SAT = Standard Ayurveda Terminology
  • Cha. = Charak
  • Su. = Sushruta
  • Ka. = Kashyapa
  • Sha. =Sharangadhara
  • Sa. = Samhita
  • A. = Ashtanga
  • Hr. = Hridaya
  • S. = Sangraha

References from Charak Samhita

The list of references for rasa dhatu in Charak Samhita can be seen here.

References

  1. Monier Williams (1899), “रस्”, in A Sanskrit–English Dictionary, new edition, Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, OCLC 458052227, page 0869
  2. Dwarkanath C. Introduction to Kayachikitsa. Chaukhambha Orientalia. Varanasi; 1996. Third edition.pg.320
  3. Dwarkanath C. Introduction to Kayachikitsa. Chaukhambha Orientalia. Varanasi; 1996. Third edition.pg.318
  4. Amardeep Kour, Gupta Vikas, Sodhi Danisha. Importance of Nyayas on Body’s Well-Being – A Conceptual Study. Int J Ayu Pharm Chem. 2015, 4 (1).pg.95-106 available from www.ijapc.com
  5. Neha Rawat and Rakesh et al. Correlation of Rasa dhatu in Modern Perspective: A Review. Int. J. Res. Ayurveda Pharm. 2019; 10(2):28-32 http://dx.doi.org/10.7897/2277-4343.100231
  6. Gurdip Singh, Revisit To Concept Of Dhatu Formation, Journal of Ayurveda Physicians and Surgeons.2015, 2 (2):pg47-51
  7. Gupta A. Byadgi P. S. An Understanding of Rasa Dhatu as Described in Ayurveda in the Light of Modern Science. Int.J.Pharm.Phytopharmacol.Res. 2012, 2(1): 50-52