The word dhatu is derived from the Sanskrit word “Dhru” which means “Dharana”- that which nourishes and supports the body. Tissues that are well nourished give strength to the body, maintain health and boost the immunity.
The 7 tissues are formed in the following order:
Rasa –> Rakta –>Mamsa –>Meda –>Asthi –>Majja –>Shukra
The process of formation of these tissues is continuous. According to ancient Ayurvedic texts it is said that this process is completed in one week. Rasa dhatu or plasma is formed on the first day after ingestion of food while Shukra or semen is formed on the seventh day.
Because this process is constant, one can imagine the toll it takes on the body thus continuous nourishment is required and this depends on the food that we consume. Healthy foods eaten at the proper time and season give nourishment, growth, support and preservation to the tissues.
The nutrient of the 7 dhatus is known as “ahara rasa” where ahara means “food”. Unhealthy food and unhealthy regimen as well as a poor digestive capacity can lead to improper formation of ahara rasa which can interrupt the formation of the 7 dhatus giving rise to disease.
Rasa dhatu (plasma):
– This is the first tissue to get nourished
– It constantly circulates in the body
– It is made up predominantly of the Jala Mahabhuta (Jala means “water” denoting the power of cohesion)
– Cold, liquid and unctuous food promote the development of rasa dhatu
– It is formed in 24 hrs.
– The main function of rasa dhatu is nourishment so that the other 6 dhatus can be formed accordingly
– It is white in colour like kapha
Rakta dhatu (blood):
– The name “rakta dhatu” indicates the red colour of this tissue. This tissue gets it red colour due to the action of Pitta.
– The liver, spleen and heart is where blood is stored
– It is made up predominantly of agni (fire) and jala (water)
– Rakta dhatu has a warm temperature
– Rakta dhatu transports oxygen throughout the body and nourishes the next dhatu (mamsa dhatu).
Mamsa dhatu (flesh):
– Heavy, oily, sweet, non-vegetarian food nourishes mamsa dhatu
– It is made up predominantly of the earth element
– Mamsa dhatu is slightly cold, heavy and unctuous
– Lepana (smearing) is the most important function
Meda dhatu (fatty tissues or fat):
– The word “meda” is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning oleation/to apply oil, it is an unctuous dhatu like ghee
– Meda dhatu is found throughout the body
– It is deposited under the skin and on the buttocks, breasts and abdomen
– It is made up of the water and earth elements
– Oily, soft food products undergo digestion and immediately produce meda
– Meda has the following qualities: Unctuousness, softness, heaviness and stability
– Meda lubricates all the cells in the body
– It controls the formation of sweat and provides strength and energy to the body as well as prevents dryness
Asthi dhatu (bones):
– This is the hardest and firmest dhatu in the body
– It resides under the skin
– Nourishment of asthi dhatu depends on proper nourishment of meda dhatu
– It is predominantly made up of the Pruthvi Mahabhuta (Pruthvi or Prithvi means “earth”)
– The qualities of this dhatu are strong, rough, dry and hard
– The function of asthi dhatu is “dharana” or support it keeps the body erect
– All the soft structures like muscle, vessels and nerves are found around this dhatu
– Asthi dhatu gives shape to the skeletal body and protects vital organs such as the heart, lungs etc.
– The hollow part of asthi dhatu is the main site of Vata dosha
Majja dhatu (bone marrow):
– Majja or bone marrow is filled in the cavity of long bones
– The unctuous quality of majja dhatu maintains the balance between asthi which is dry and possesses the qualities of Vata dosha
– It is predominantly made up of water and earth
– Majja has the qualities of heaviness and unctuousness
– The most important function of majja dhatu is “purana” which means to fill the cavities inside the long bones
– It controls Vata dosha
– Proper nourishment of majja dhatu leads to proper formation of the last dhatu i.e. Shukra dhatu
Shukra dhatu (sperm and ovum):
– The word Shukra is derived from the Sanskrit word “shucha” which means pure
– This is the last dhatu that gets nourishment from the nutrients gathered from the food ingested
– Shukra pervades the entire body
– It made up of predominantly Jala Mahabhuta and is related with Kapha dosha
– It is cold in potency
– The smell of Shukra is sweet like honey
– It is white in colour and is soft, slimy, liquid and heavy
– It has the following functions namely: reproduction, velour, attraction towards the opposite sex, strength etc.