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 Ayurvedic Medicine: An Introduction to Ayurveda  

Pitta Qualities
Pitta is a biological combination of fire and water elements. It has hot, sharp, light, liquid, sour, oily and spreading qualities. Pitta has a strong smell, like a fleshy smell, and has a sour or bitter taste. If an individual has excess pitta in the body, these qualities will be manifested. Because of the hot quality, the pitta person has a strong appetite and warm skin. The body temperature is a little higher than the vata person. The pitta person can perspire at a fifty degree temperature, but the vata person cannot perspire even at a much higher temperature. This difference is very important. Pitta is hot, therefore the pitta person has a strong appetite. If hungry, he has to eat otherwise he will become irritable and hypoglycemic.

The second quality of pitta is sharp, therefore the pitta person has a sharp nose, teeth, eyes, mind and while talking uses sharp words. They also have very sharp memory. Because of the oily quality, they have soft warm oily skin, straight oily hair, and the feces are oily and liquid. Because of the hot, sharp, and oily qualities, pitta people have a tendency to grey prematurely, a sign of early maturity. Pitta girls get earlier menstruation and reach puberty earlier. They can even start their menstruation at the age of ten. Pitta is light, which is the opposite of both heaviness and darkness. Because of this light quality, pitta people are moderate in body frame, and they do not like bright light. They like to read before they go to bed, and sometimes the pitta person sleeps with a book on the chest. Because of too much heat in the body, the pitta person tends to loose his hair in the full bloom of youth. The pitta person can get a receding hair line, or a big, beautiful, bald head.

The next quality of pitta is strong smell. When the pitta person perspires, under the arm pit there is a typical sulphur smell, and if he doesn't wash his socks, they will have a strong smell. That's why a pitta person loves perfumes. Pitta people are lovers of knowledge and have a great capacity of organization and leadership. They are often wise, brilliant people, but can have a controlling, dominating personality. Pitta people have a tendency towards comparison, competition, ambition, and they have a quality of aggressiveness, so naturally they criticize. If there is no one to criticize, pitta people will criticize themselves. They are perfectionists. Pitta people tend to get pittagenic inflammatory diseases, while vata predominant people tend to get neurological, muscular and rheumatic problems.

Kapha Qualities
The next dosha is kapha. Subjects having more kapha in their body, will have heavy, slow, cool, oily, liquid, dense, thick, static and cloudy qualities. These are the important qualities of kapha, and kapha is sweet and salty. Because of the heavy quality, kapha people have heavy bones, muscles and fat. They will have a tendency to put on weight. A kapha person may even do a water fast and will put on weight. Kapha is slow, therefore a kapha person has slow metabolism and digestion. The kapha person can work without food, while it is very difficult for a pitta person to concentrate without food. Kapha is cool hence kapha people have cool, clammy skin. The skin is cool, but within the G.I. tract the digestive fire is high therefore they have a strong appetite.

Kapha people have other qualities, thick wavy hair, and big, attractive eyes. They have slow but prolonged, steady memory. Kapha people are forgiving, loving and compassionate. Because of the slow quality, kapha people walk slowly and talk slowly. They don't like jogging and jumping. They love eating, sitting and doing nothing.

Because of the cloudy quality, their mind is heavy and foggy and after a full meal they feel lethargic and sleepy. Unless they have a cup of coffee or strong stimulant in the morning they cannot move. Finally, the kapha person has a sweet tooth and loves candy, cookies and chocolate.

Prakruti, Individual Constitution
Individual constitution is determined at conception by the particular combination of the three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Every human being is a unique entity with its own individual constitution. The constitution, the psycho-somatic temperament of a person, is primarily genetic in origin. The male seed, sperm, and female egg, ovum, carry within them the constitution of both the parents. At the time of conjugation, the dominant factor of prakruti in the sperm (predominance of vata, pitta or kapha) can either neutralize a weaker or exaggerate the similar attributes of the prakruti of the ovum. For example, a sperm of strong vata constitution can inhibit some of the characteristics in the ovum of kapha constitution. The dry, light, rough, mobile qualities of vata will suppress the oily, heavy, smooth, and stable qualities of kapha. Vata and kapha are both cold, so the cold quality will be exaggerated in the prakruti of the foetus and the baby will be sensitive to the cold. The baby in this case will inherit a vata-kapha constitution. If both parents, i.e. the sperm and ovum, are of vata constitution, the offspring will inherit a vata predominant constitution. The constitution of the parents and therefore of the foetus is influenced by diet, lifestyle, country, climate, age and emotions.

Samprapti, the Disease Process
According to Ayurveda, health is a state of balance between the body, mind and consciousness. Within the body, Ayurveda recognizes the three doshas, or bodily humors vata, pitta and kapha; seven dhatus, or tissues, plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, nerve, and reproductive; three malas, or wastes; feces, urine and sweat; and agni, the energy of metabolism. Disease is a condition of disharmony in any of these factors. The root cause of imbalance, or disease, is an aggravation of dosha, vata-pitta-kapha, caused by a wide variety of internal and external factors. According to the attributes of these different etiological factors the bodily humors become aggravated and start to accumulate at their respective sites. Vata tends to accumulate in the colon, pitta in the intestines and kapha in the stomach. If the provocation continues, the accumulated dosha reaches a state of overflowing the original site and spreads throughout the body. The aggravated dosha then enters and creates a lesion in a specific weak tissue where pathological changes are manifested in the organ or system.

Causes of Disease
There are many factors that affect the doshas. Disease can result from imbalanced emotions. If a person has deep seated unresolved anger, fear, anxiety, grief or sadness, that also effects the doshas. Ayurveda classifies seven major causative factors in disease: hereditary, congenital, internal, external trauma, seasonal, natural tendencies or habits and supernatural factors. Disease can also result from misuse, overuse and under-use of the senses: hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell. The disease itself can be described by the number of doshas involved, the specific tissues effected, the quality or combination of qualities that aggravated the dosha, whether the disease is primary or secondary, strength, and the length of time of the disease.

There are many recognized hereditary pathologies. These can take the form of tendencies or dispositions towards a specific problem or manifest as actual abnormalities. A mother's lifestyle, diet, habits, activities, emotions and relationships can also affect the foetus.

Internal conditions such as ulcers or a damaged liver, may be caused by overuse of taste, e.g. too much hot spicy food or alcohol. External traumas are violent actions, such as automobile accidents, gunshots. etc.

Seasonal causes usually are more indirect. A person has a tendency to take his or her own primary dosha (vata, pitta or kapha) to an imbalanced state. There are four seasons. Summer season, bright light and too much heat, that is the pitta season. The autumn season is cold, windy and dry, it is a vata season. The winter season is cold, windy, snowing and raining, a kapha season. The spring season is both kapha and pitta. Early spring is cooler, with beautiful flowers and new leaves and is gorgeous and extremely beautiful, so earlier spring is kapha, and later spring is pitta. So these four seasons, have vata, pitta and kapha qualities. Apart from the lifestyle, diet, and all these changes, the vata person has a tendency for their vata to go out of balance. Vata people have a tendency towards constipation, sciatica, arthritis and rheumatism. Pitta people in the summer season aggravate their pitta and may get hives, rash, acne, biliary disorders, diarrhea or conjunctivitis. The kapha person, during spring season, has a tendency to get colds, hay fever, cough, congestion, sneezing and kapha type of sinus disorders.

Natural tendencies can also be a problem, such as overeating and smoking. Supernatural causes are those such as sunburns, lightning, and the influence of planetary bodies.

Clinical Barometers of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is an ancient clinical art of diagnosing the disease process through questioning (inquiring about the past, present and family history), observation (inspection), tactile experience (palpation), percussion, and listening to the heart, lungs and intestines (auscultation). In this art, Ayurveda talks much about interpreting the pulse, tongue, eyes and nails in the clinical examination, and also a specific examination of functional systems separately.

Ayurveda describes the basic three types of pulses (vata, pitta and kapha) and their characteristics. There are twelve different radial pulses; six on the right side, three superficial and three deep; and similarly, six on the left side. There is a relationship between the superficial and deep pulses and the internal organs. One can sensitively feel the strength, vitality, and normal physiological tone of the respective organs separately under each finger.

An ancient art of tongue diagnosis also describes quite characteristic patterns which can reveal the functional status of respective internal organs merely by observing the surface of the tongue. The tongue is the mirror of the viscera and reflects many pathological conditions, some of which are shown in the following diagram.

Note: This diagram is used to look at one's own tongue in a mirror. It is a mirror image.

A discoloration and/or sensitivity of a particular area of the tongue indicates a disorder in the organ corresponding to that area. A whitish tongue indicates a kapha derangement and mucus accumulation; a red or yellow-green tongue indicates a pitta derangement; and a black to brown coloration indicates a vata derangement. A dehydrated tongue is symptomatic of a decrease in the rasa dhatu (plasma), while a pale tongue indicates a decrease in the rakta dhatu (red blood cells).

Ayurvedic physicians also do urine examinations as one of the diagnostic tools to understand the doshic imbalance in the body. The body fluids, such as blood (rakta) and lymph (rasa), serve to carry wastes (malas) away from the tissues that produce them. The urinary system removes water (kleda), salt (kshar) and nitrogenous wastes (dhatu malas). The urinary system also helps to maintain the normal concentration of water (apa dhatu) and electrolytes within body fluids. It helps to regulate the volume of body fluid and thus the urine helps to maintain the balance of the three humors vata, pitta and kapha, and water (kleda).

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 About The Author
Dr.Vasant Lad Vasant Lad is an Ayurvedic Physician and Executive Director of the Ayurvedic Institute. Dr. Lad brings a wealth of classroom and practical experience to the United States. A native of India, he served for three years as......more
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