Continuing the discussion on the topic of rejuvenation, we will focus on one of the most significant aspects/sections of the wonderful science of Ayurveda, called Rasayana.
Rasayana broadly means promotion of optimum health and longevity by enlivening and purifying the basic tissue called Rasa dhatu (plasma).
Ayurveda says that the food we consume is transformed into seven dhatus. Dhatu is a Sanskrit word, derived from the root/seed word “dha”, which means to hold, to sustain, to maintain, to possess, etc.
The seven dhatus are formed from the food we consume, and they help us to sustain our body structure and maintain good health – they are: Rasa (plasma), Rakta (blood), Mamsa (muscle tissue), Meda (fat tissue), Asthi (bone tissue), Majja (marrow, nerves) and Shukra (reproductive tissue – semen/sperms in men and ova/eggs in women).
The process of digestion commences in the stomach with the help of “Jatharagni” (the digestive fire). The first dhatu which is formed from the food we consume, with the help of the digestive fire, is “Rasa” (plasma), and then the subsequent six dhatus/tissues are formed with the help of “Dhatu Agni” (the fire required for the transformation of preceding tissue into the subsequent tissue).
This means that at each level, when a “Purva dhatu” (preceding tissue) is used as the raw material/main ingredient to produce the subsequent tissue, a specific strength of the fire element is used for that process, and that is called “Dhatu Agni”.
During the process of production of the Pradhan Dhatus (the main tissues/constituents) – plasma, blood, etc., some Upa Dhatus (sub- tissues), e.g. breast milk, menstrual fluid, blood vessels, skin, etc. are also produced. Along with these, some waste matter, e.g. sweat, ear wax, nails, hair, etc. are also produced at each level.
In order to produce appropriate quantity of the main tissues and sub-tissues, as well as to ensure the good quality of these tissues, the “Jatharagni” (digestive fire) and the “Dhatu Agni” (fire element at each tissue level) should be working optimally.
It is imperative to ensure a very good quality of Rasa Dhatu (plasma), which is the first and foremost component used as the main raw material for producing the subsequent tissues. Plasma can be treated like the sap in a tree. As the sap provides the basic raw material/ingredient to form the whole structure of a tree, similarly plasma is used in our body to produce the subsequent tissues/components which help to build and sustain the structure of the body and to maintain our health as well.
As the saying goes…..well begun is half done. Similarly, if the rasa dhatu (plasma) is of good quality and sufficient quantity, this increases the likelihood that the subsequent six main tissues and the sub-tissues will also be of good quality and in appropriate quantum.
Ayurveda talks very elaborately about Rasayana. Literally, Rasayana is a combination of 2 Sanskrit words, i.e. “Rasa” which means plasma/liquid, and “Ayana” which means the path to/through which it flows. So, Rasayana means a methodology which helps to ease/facilitate the flow of liquid throughout the body without any problem/obstacles.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, Rasa also means the “essence” of a particular thing, and ayana also means “shelter”. Therefore, Rasayana also means the food items/herbs/plants, etc. which can not only help to produce good quality Rasa (plasma) and other tissues, but also help to extract the essence (nutrition) from the food consumed and to facilitate the flow of that essence through the channels within the whole body, while at the same time enabling the body to give shelter to that essence, which means to sustain/retain the tissues/components and the energy derived from the food.
Benefits of Rasayana therapy:
- It helps to re-energize and replenish all the vital liquids/fluids of the body.
- It enhances ojas (vitality) and strengthens the immune system, thereby protecting our bodies from most diseases and also helps to prevent adverse effects of advanced age.
- Rasayana also helps to normalize and strengthen the Rasa dhatu (plasma) and thereby maintain the quantity and quality of the other dhatus (body tissues) as well, for a longer period of time.
- Such a state of improved nutrition promotes health and longevity, filled with youthfulness and zest.
- In short, Rasayana therapy has curative, preventive and rejuvenating effects.
The following are the most common herbs which are used in Ayurveda as Rasayana:
- Ashwagandha (winter cherry/Withania Somnifera)
- Shatavarai (Indian Asparagus)
- Amalaki (Indian Gooseberry/Embelica officinalis)
- Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia)
- Haritaki (Terminalia chebula)
- Kumari/Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)
- Brahmi/Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
- Guggulu (Commiphora mukul).
Ayurveda explains in detail about the specific dosage of the above herbs according to the constitution and current state of health of the individual, and also based on one’s age, occupation, time of day, season, etc. It also explains what other ingredients should be mixed with these herbs based on the above factors, e.g. constitution of the individual, etc.