Ayurveda is a comprehensive natural healing system of medicine which was developed more than 5000 years ago in India. The term “Ayurveda” means the “science of daily living”, and it is based on a healthy lifestyle emphasized by balancing of doshas. This blog briefly looks at what doshas are, what their functions are, how disease is formed, and how doshas are balanced using the taste of food.
What are Doshas?
Ayurveda recognizes three primary life forces which are called doshas. The three doshas are vata, pitta and kapha and they correspond to the elements of air, fire and water. The function of the doshas is to create, maintain, and destruct all the psychological, biological and physiopathological processes of our body, mind and consciousness. When they are in balance they protect the body, and when out of balance they contribute to disease. They also maintain the emotions such as love, anger, fear, empathy, understanding, hate, greed etc.
Your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs are very unique. By understanding one’s dosha constitution, it is possible to select the most appropriate lifestyle in order to complement these unique needs. Cousens (2000), contains a thorough questionnaire to determine your dosha constitution. Here is a more basic questionnaire.
Six Stage Disease Process
According to Ayurveda, any disease follows these six stages:
- Accumulation (sancaya) – when a dosha starts to increase at a local point due to a bad diet, wrong lifestyle, psychological imbalances, change of seasons.
- Aggrevation (prokopa) – when a dosha continues to increase at a local point and creates local symptoms.
- Overflow (prasara) – when a dosha overflows into other areas such as plasma, blood, and GI tract and organs of the body, causing various disorders and complications. The symptoms increase.
- Relocation (Sthana samsraya) – when a dosha relocates themselves and cause specific diseases.
- Manifestation (vyakti) – manifestation of symptom complexes are relocated sites. A fully developed disease is produced and is difficult to treat.
- Diversification (bheda) – doshas manifest their characteristics and disease is identified according to these doshas.
The Six Basic Tastes
The food in our diets consist of six basic tastes, they are:
- Sweet – wheat, rice, sugar, dates, peppermint
- Sour – cheese, yogurt, lemon, rose hip
- Saline (salty) – sea and rock salt, kelp
- Pungent – onion, radish, chili, ginger, garlic
- Bitter – dandelion root, yellow dock, rhubarb
- Astringent – unripe banana, myrrh, goldenseal
Action of Tastes on Doshas
The actions of the above six tastes makes an impact on the doshas according to the following:
- Sweet – decreases vata and pitta; increases katha; anabolic; increase wholesomeness and rasa, water and ojas; promotes strength; relieves thirst; creates a burning sensation; soothes the body and nourishes it; cold.
- Sour – decreases vata and increase pitta and kapha; anabolic; makes food more delicious; stimulates appetite and makes you sharper; strengthens the sense organs; causes secretion and salvation; light hot and unctuous.
- Saline (salty) – decreases vata: increases pitta and kapha; anabolic; assists in digestion; antispasmodic and laxative; promotes salvation, neutralizes the other tastes; retains water; heavy ; unctuous; hot.
- Pungent – catabolic, decreases kapha: increases vata and pitta; assists in digestion and absorption ; keeps the mouth clean; purifies the blood; cleans the body and the skin; helps to eliminate blood clots; light, hot and unctuous.
- Bitter – catabolic; decreases pitta and kapha; increase vata, antitoxic and germicidal; antidote for fainting, itching and burning sensations; promotes other tastes; is light and cold.
- Astringent – catabolic; decreases pitta and kapha; increases vata; has a sedative action but is constipative, causes constriction of blood vessels, coagulation of blood; is dry, rough and cold.
Finally, understanding Ayurveda allows us to become more conscious of our food and lifestyle so that this scientific and philosophical knowledge can be used to maintain balance and harmony in our emotional, spiritual and physical areas of our lives.
Cousens, G. (2000). Conscious Eating. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.