Ojas or Oja literally means vitality, vigor, luster, power, bodily strength, energy. Oja is the essence of all seven body components (dhatu)[SAT-B.450].. Ayurveda scholars recognized Oja as the active and potent principle of the body that is responsible for the strength, vigor, and vitality of an individual. Specific properties of Oja, its characteristic features, quantity, three stages of its vitiation, clinical features, and its treatment are described in classics. Based on this description, the physicians (vaidya) treat conditions of abnormalities of Oja in current clinical practice. However, scientists are still in search of the exact physiological component, which can be termed as Oja.
|Section/Chapter/topic||Sharira / Dhatu / Oja|
|Authors||Deole Y.S.1, Shilwant A.A.2|
|Reviewed by||Basisht G.1|
1Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.P.G.T.& R.A., Jamnagar, Gujarat, India2Department of Kriya Sharir, G.J.Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand, Gujarat, India
|Date of first publication:||July 31, 2020|
Meaning and definition
Etymology and derivation
The word Ojas is derived from the Sanskrit root “ubja” and “asun” suffix. It means strength, luster.
Bala (strength); sneha (unctuous part); prasad (pure form); sara (supreme, excellent state); Rasa (lymphatics); mahat (prime); dhari (which sustains the integrity of life); Sarva dhatu sneha (unctuous part of body components); parama teja (active principle); Jivashonita (vital principle of blood); shukra (reproductive components); shukra sara (purest form of reproductive components); shukra mala (metabolic byproduct) [A.Hri. Sharira Sthana 3/63]
Ojas is the purest, finest essence formed from all seven dhatu. [Su.Sa.Sutra Sthana 15/19], [A.Sa.Sharira Sthana 6] The shleshma (kapha dosha) in a normal state is considered as Oja. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 17/117]
Oja is present in dormant form in sperms (shukra) and ovum (shonita) of parents. [Dallhana Commentary on Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/9]. After conception, it is manifested as the first body component in intra-uterine life. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 17/75] It is termed as the basic constituent of embryo (garbha sara) and resembles with morula stage (kalala). The embryo is nourished from this essence component. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 20/9-11] Further it is nourished and developed during gestation. After birth, Oja is formed as essence during the metabolism of each dhatu. [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/19], [A. Sa. Sharira Sthana 6] It is the unctuous component of each dhatu having its purest form and supreme quality. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/19] Some scholars opine that it is the essence of reproductive tissues (sara of shukra dhatu). [A. Sa. Sharira Sthana 6/29]. Sharangadhara considers it as a metabolic by-product (upadhatu) of reproductive tissues (shukra). [Sharangadhara Samhita Purva Khanda – 5/17]. Vagbhata opines that it is a metabolic waste product of reproductive components (shukra dhatu). [A.Hr. Sharira Sthana 3/63]
Ghee is present in a dormant form in milk and can be prepared after proper processing. Just like that Oja is present in every tissue of the body (dhatu) in dormant form and is manifested as supreme quality after its proper metabolism. [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/19 – Dalhana commentary] As the nectar is formed from flowers, Oja is formed from all body components(dhatu). [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 17/76(1)] From the above description, it is clear that Oja is formed as a purest secondary component after the metabolism of primary body components (dhatu).
Circulation of Oja
Types & Quantity
Oja is present in two forms: supreme (para) and mediocre (apara) [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/9 – Chakrapani Commentary]
- The supreme form (para ojas) is the most important component responsible for the vitality of life. Its quantity in the body is measured as eight drops (bindu). It is located in the heart. It is generally stable in the body in an equilibrium state. Destruction of this component can cause death.
- The mediocre form (apara ojas) is formed during the metabolism of each dhatu. Its quantity in the body is measured as half anjali (personified measurement unit). It is present in all body components and manifests in the form of the essence of dhatu (sara). This can be observed as factors responsible for immunity. [Cha. Sa.Sutra Sthana 17/74,75,Chakrapani Commentary]
Physical characteristics of Oja
The physical characteristics of Oja are shown in table 1.
Table 1: Physical characteristics of Oja
|1||Touch (sparsha)||Cold (sheeta), unctuous (snigdha), soft (mrudu), smooth (shlakshna), slimy (mrutsna), sticky (pichchila)|
|2||Visible form (rupa)||Pure white (shuddha shukla), slightly red yellowish (ishat rakta-pita, lohit pita), resembling to ghee-clarified butter (sarpi varna)|
|3||Taste (rasa)||Sweet (madhura), like honey (madhu rasa)|
|4||Smell (gandha)||Parched cereal (Laja gandha)|
|5||Others||Heavy (guru), cherishable(prasanna), bulky(bahala), stable (sthira), cool (somatmaka), mobile (sara), clear or distinctly formed (vivikta)|
[Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 24/31 – Chakrapani Commentary], [ Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/26], [Ash. Hri. Sutra Sthana 11]
Nourishment of Oja
As mentioned earlier, the supreme form (para Ojas) is present in the heart. The mediocre form (apara Ojas) is present all over the body. Ancient scholar Bhela (a colleague of Agnivesha) has specified twelve sites as the location of Oja. These include seven body components (dhatu), three metabolic wastes (mala like feces, urine, and sweat), and two dosha (pitta and kapha). [Bhela Sa. Sutra Sthana 12]
- The prime and most important function of Ojas is to maintain vitality and sustaining the integrity of life. Any deviation or depreciation in the normal quantity and quality of Ojas leads to serious health complications and death.
- It is responsible for providing nutrition and enhancing the immune strength of the body.
- It helps to bring stability in muscle tissue (Mamsa dhatu), its proper growth, significant strength, and stamina.
- It is responsible for maintaining all movements without any obstruction or blockage.
- Ojas is responsible for the superior quality of voice and complexion.
- Due to the presence of normal Ojas, all external and internal senses including the mind do their functions properly. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/20] Thus Ojas is responsible for sensory functions and perception of knowledge.
Abnormalities of Oja
Causes of vitiation of Oja
Oja is affected due to the following causes:
- Any injury or trauma (abhighata)
- Malnourishment or impaired metabolism (kshaya)
- Anger (kopa)
- Excessive thinking (dhyana)
- Grief (shoka)
- Vigorous physical work or exertion (shrama)
- Voracious appetite (kshudha) [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/28]
- Due to these causes, the vata dosha and pitta dosha are aggravated. This leads to the quantitative and qualitative depletion of Oja. It is then easily displaced from its prime seat -heart hridaya.
General clinical features
- Fearfulness or phobia
- Fatigue especially at its sense and motor organs
- Altered skin complexion
- Lack of self-confidence
- Dry and rough skin
- Remarkable emaciation of body. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 17/73]
Three specific abnormalities and clinical features:
The abnormalities in quantity and quality of Oja are observed in three stages. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/24]
- Displacement of Oja from its own site (Oja vistramsa)
- Qualitative deterioration (Oja vyapat)
- Depletion of quality and quantity (Oja kshaya)
The three stages are increasingly severe and harmful leading to death. These three states are considered as three categories of immune disorders viz. Oja-vyapat as immune-aberrations and allergies; Oja-visramsa as a state of dislodged immunity and autoimmune disorders; and Oja-kshaya as a state of immunodeficiency. Some scholars opine that these states show features of immunity compromised state, immunity suppressed and immunity deficiency syndromes respectively.
The signs and symptoms of each state are shown below in table 2.
Table 2: Clinical features of deviation in Ojas
|Sr.No||Oja visramsa||Oja vyapat||Oja kshay|
|1||Feeling of looseness and displacement in joints or synapses (sandhi vishlesha)||Feeling of stiffness and rigidity in body (stabdha guru gatrata)||Fainting or unconsciousness (murchcha)|
|2||Fatigue (gatra sadanam)||Unstable swelling due to vitiation of Vata dosha (vata shopha)||Emaciation and muscle wasting (mamsa kshaya)|
|3||Migration of vitiated dosha to other sites (dosha chyavanam)||Abnormal change in normal complexion (varna bheda)||Confusion (moha)|
|4||Impairment and blockage of all functions in body and mind (kriya sannirodha)||Lassitude (glani)||Delirium (pralapa)|
|5||-||Drowsiness (tandra)||Death ( marana)|
|6||-||Excess sleepiness (nidra)||-|
[Su. Sam. Sutra Sthana 15/24 – Dalhana Commentary]
- Oja is responsible for the vitality of the body throughout life. [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/21] It is superior among all sites of vitality (pranayatana). [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 28] [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 7/9]
- In gestational life, it is responsible for the vitality of the foetus. It becomes unstable in the 8th month of gestation leading to uncertainty of labour. Therefore, its stability is of utmost importance for full-term birth.
- Oja is important for maintaining the superior quality of (dhatu sara). Hence it is directly related to superior functions of all tissues in the body.
- Oja gives strength (bala) to body and mind. Thus, physical and mental strength depends upon the quality and quantity of Oja.
- Oja is responsible to maintain immunity (vyadhikshamatva). It is important for the preservation of health and prevention of diseases. It also plays a vital role in combating disease pathogens if the disease occurs.
- Dosha is unable to carry functions without the presence of Oja. [Ash. Sa. Sutra Sthana 19/36 – Shashilekha Commentary of Indu]
- Quantitative and qualitative depletion of Oja can cause death. [Ash. Hri. Sutra Sthana 11/38]
Role of Oja as a vitiated factor in diseases
- In obstinate urinary diseases (prameha vyadhi), oja is one among the ten vitiated factors(dushya). [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 6/8] Type-1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disorder and the destruction of body tissues by auto-antibody is very fast causing loss of immune- intolerance and immune-component (Oja) thus impairing the body defense mechanism. There is a disturbance in the production and clearance of lipoprotein causing hampered functioning of insulin resulting in hyperglycemia and producing micro-vascular complications like retinopathy and nephropathy.
- Diabetes (madhumeha) is caused when Oja is taken to the urinary bladder from its own site by vitiated vata dosha. [Cha. Sa. Nidana Sthana 4/37] This condition is incurable due to its severity, susceptibility to complications(mahaatyayitvat) and contradictory treatment options(virudhopkramatvat). [Cha. Sa. Nidana Sthana 6/38]
- Depletion of Oja (kshaya) is observed due to obstruction of samana vata by vitiated vyana vata. The other features are syncope (murchcha), drowsiness(tandra), delirium(pralap), body ache( angasada), depletion of digestive functions, and strength (agni and oja kshaya). This condition is treated with exercise (vyayama) and light to digest diet (laghu bhojana). [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 28/213]
- Displacement of Oja (vistramsa) is also observed due to obstruction of udana vata by vitiated pitta dosha. The other features are syncope (murchcha), burning sensation (daha), weakness in the umbilical and chest region (nabhi and ura klama) and bodyache (angasada). [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 28/223]
- In case of anemia due to geophagia (mrudbhakshanjanya pandu), quick depletion of the strength of senses(indriya), luster (teja), potency(veerya), Oja, and digestive capacity(agni) is observed. [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 16/28,29] This condition is treated with strong purification therapies, medicated ghee processed with strength promoting herbs. [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 16/118]
Contemporary views and current researches
Generally, the concept of Oja is connected with the concepts of strength(bala) and defense capacity or immunity (vyadhikshamatva).  It is referred to as a part of vitamins, albumin, glycogen, internal secretions of testicles, ovary, prostatic secretions by Dr. Ghanekar. Thus, the factors responsible for strength and immunity can be applied to assess the status of Oja. Some researchers propose that the endoplasmic reticulum and its functions in conventional physiology seem to resemble Oja.
Assessment of the status of Oja
Clinically the status of Oja is assessed through observation of its properties, normal functions, and quality of body tissues (dhatu sara). In research perspectives, various laboratory investigations can be carried out for the objective assessment of Oja. Though, these tests can only provide some clues about the functional status of Oja. Immuno assay, a biochemical test utilizing antibody or immunoglobulin can be useful to assess strength promoting activity (balya). Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), memory lymphocyte immunostimulant assay (MELISA), and radioimmunoassay can be done to assess the immunological status of a person. The comprehensive metabolic panel can also be an important tool to assess strength promoting activity (balya). This selectively screens functions of the liver and kidney. Investigations involving major fluids of the body like synovial fluid, peritoneal fluid, pericardial fluid, and meningeal fluid-like joint fluid analysis can also be helpful in evaluation.
Measures for the preservation of Oja and treatment of its disorders
The treatment measures of pacification of vata and pitta dosha and enhancement of kapha dosha are applied to preserve the quality of Oja and treatment of its disorders. The diet and lifestyle regimen having similar properties as Oja is prescribed in treatment. Rejuvenation therapies (rasayana) and aphrodisiac therapies (vajikarana) are two major treatments. Dietary items like ghee [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 13/14] and cow milk [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 27/217] are beneficial for enhancing Oja. Ghee, milk, and meat soup processed with herbs enhancing vitality (jeevaniya) [A.Hr. Sutra Sthana 11/41] is prescribed for the treatment of Oja.
The disorders of Oja are treated with the herbs with immunomodulatory activity like Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Shilajatu, Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Tulasi (Ocimun sanctum), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Pippali (Piper longum), and Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa). The rejuvenation potency of herbs is studied in view of free radical scavenging activity as anti-oxidant. The herbs like Rubia cordifolia, Strychnos nuxvomica, Moringa oleifera, Semecarpus anacardium, Mucuna pruriens, Bacopa monnieri, Nardostachys jatamansi showed good efficacy as anti-oxidants. Hence, these herbs are used in the treatment of disorders of Oja. A research study on the effect of Terminalia arjuna on Oja kshaya showed cardioprotective herbs (hridya) medicines might have an effect on enhancing Oja. Lifestyle also plays a significant role in the conditions of Oja.
Scope of further research
There is a wide scope of research to study fundamental physiological body components having similar functions like para Oja and apara Oja. Functional aspects of Oja need to be studied with the help of molecular biology. Research on Oja is required in view of genetic studies, stem cell studies, epigenetic pathways of its disorders, effect of anti-oxidant herbs on the repair of its disorders on DNA. The researches can open new windows in the treatment of immunological disorders.
Research theses done in Ayurveda institutes
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