Asthi (Bone or Skeletal System)
अस्थि धातु - मेद धातु के सूक्ष्म तत्वों के द्वारा अस्थि धातु का निर्माण होता है जो शरीर को मूलभूत आधार व आकृति प्रदान करता है। यह धातु पृथ्वी तत्व प्रधान होती है। वात कुपित होने पर हल्की अस्थियाॅं बनती हैं व पित्त प्रधान व्यक्ति में अस्थियों में सूजन का खतरा बना रहता है। बाल, नाखुन व दाॅंत अस्थि धातु की उपधातुएॅं हैं। इनके निरीक्षण के द्वारा अस्थिधातु की गुणवत्ता का पता चल जाता है। यदि शरीर में अस्थि धातु कमजोर है तो बाल भी घने नहीं होंगे। बाल कमजोर व जल्दी टूटने वाले होंगे। इसी प्रकार नाखून भी साफ नहीं आएॅंगे व जल्दी बुरबुराएॅंगे। दाॅंत भी चमकदार व मजबूत नहीं होंगे।
यदि पित्त दोष के कारण अस्थि धातु दूषित होती है तो दाॅंत व नाखुन थोड़ा पीलापन लिए व बाल थोड़े कम काले होंगे।
कफ वाले व्यक्ति में अस्थि धातु मजबूत व घनी होती है। सूक्ष्म शरीर में मूलतः मूलाधार चक्र अस्थि धातु के लिए उत्तरदायी है। मूलाधार चक्र का बीजाक्षर लं है। शान्त भाव से मूलाधार चक्र में लं का जाप पृथ्वी तत्व की शरीर में वृद्धि करता है।
अस्थियों के उचित विकास के लिए आॅंवला व भृंगराज दो औषधियाॅं बहुत महत्वपूर्ण हैं। पित्त दोष से भी ये अस्थियों की रक्षा करती हैं व उनका उचित पोषण व शोधन करती हैं। इसके अतिरिक्त अस्थियों के लिए उचित मात्रा में कैल्शियम एवं विटामिन डी भी आवश्यक है। परन्तु इसका यह अर्थ नहीं है कि हम अनावश्यक रूप् से कैल्शियम की गोलियों का सेवन करने लगे यह भी हानिकारक सिद्ध हो सकता है।
Asthi i.e bones are the finer essence of the Meda Dhatu, which are converted into the most solid form of the Dhatus. They give the basic structure to the body.
According to texts of ayurveda asthis or bones are formed from the nutrients supplied by medha dhatu through asthivaha srothas. The nutrients in medho dhatu which is meant to nourish asthi dhatu are processed in asthivaha srothas by dhatwagnis. Dhatwagni and bhutagni (vayu, agneya and prithvi) bring about hardness and heaviness to these nutrients which form asthi or bone.
Functions of asthi according to ayurveda:
In nature we observe that trees are supported by strong solid stems. Same way human body is supported by strong bones. All muscles (mamsa), tendons and ligaments are attached to asthis (bones). Asthi supports these structures and gives shape to our body.
Bones are made up of a solid structure organized as a matrix. This matrix can be visualized as the letter X. The lines that form the letter are solid and made of earth. The space between the lines are filled with air. Thus, bones create a solid but light structure allowing the body to easily move. Long bones have a hollow core that is filled with hemopoetic tissue called the marrow. This is an aspect of the majja dhatu.
When the asthi agni is low, asthi dhatu is produced in excess. When this occurs, the tissue produced is denser. Those with a kapha nature having lower agni produce thicker and denser bones. Those with a pitta nature, having higher agni produce bones that are not as dense but are more metabolically active. This can lead to narrowing and weakness in the bones as well as inflammation if pitta becomes vitiated. Those with a vata nature, having a variable agni produce less asthi dhatu and that which is produced is of poorer quality. It is thinner and more fragile.
In order to produce healthy asthi dhatu, adequate earth and air must be consumed in the proper balance through the diet. Earth is present in sweet foods such as grains and nuts and astringent foods such as beans. Air is present in bitter and pungent foods such as most vegetables. Consumption alone does not guarantee that healthy asthi will be formed. The two elements must be properly digested so that their qualities can be used to build bones. Thus jatharagni (main digestive fire) must be healthy. If it is not healthy, rather than forming healthy bones these same foods will produce ama and toxify the body and mind.
Pathology and the Asthi Dhatu
Bone pathologies can be simple or complex. Vata vitiation leads to weak or fragile bones that become osteoporotic and fracture easily. Pitta vitiation leads to bone infections (ostoemyelitis) and inflammation. Kapha vitiation leads to excessively thick, dense bones. Other diseases of the bones are more complicated. Osteoarthritis is a combined vata-kapha condition in which vata (age, motion and stress) is responsible for provoking growth in an irregular fashion leading to bone spurs. Rheumatoid arthritis is a sannipatika condition whereby vata pushes kapha to cause irregular bone growth. Vata fans the flames of pitta causing inflammation and bone destruction. Ama is also present. Osteoblastic bone cancer is a sannipatika condition whereby vata simultaneously pushes kapha (bone growth) and fans the flames of agni within the affected tissue creating a high metabolic state for growth. Osteoclastic bone cancer has a dual dosha pathology whereby vata combines with pitta resulting in a high metabolic state that destroys bone tissue.
In the subtle body, the health of the asthi dhatu is dependent upon the flow through the muladhara chakra. Prana flowing through this chakra carries the qualities of the earth element throughout the subtle body and creates a solid sense of self. The flow of prana through anahata and vishuddha chakras are also important. Through these chakras, the qualities of air and ether are circulated respectively. As the flow of prana increases through these chakras so too do their respective elemental qualities and this results in a weakening of the asthi dhatu both physically and psychologically.
Evaluating the Asthi Dhatu
As you can not assess the health of the asthi dhatu directly except through medical testing, it is necessary to assess the asthi dhatu via the upadhatus and malas of its production. Thus, by examining the hair, nails and teeth the practitioner can infer the state of the asthi dhatu.
When the asthi dhatu is deficient, hair density becomes scant. Hair loss may be distributed throughout the scalp or in patches. In addition, palpation of the nails reveals that they have become thin and break easily. The teeth will appear crooked or become darker (gray) than usual. These findings are consistent with deficiency due to vata vitiation.
When the asthi dhatu is in excess, hair density if full. In addition, the nails are thick and the teeth large, straight and white. These are the signs of kapha vitiation within the asthi dhatu. However, these findings are more difficult to discern than deficiency as a person with a kapha prakruti will also exhibit these same findings. Thus, secondary signs of kapha vitiation should also be observed most especially those within the digestive system such as sluggish digestion and the mind such as stubbornness. When these findings are present in addition to dense hair, thick nails and white teeth it can be assumed that kapha has entered the asthi dhatu.
When pitta has entered the asthi dhatu, the teeth and nails will become a pale shade of yellow and the hair will lose its color and turn gray. Over time, the nails will nails will become weaker and the hair may fall out as deficiency sets in due to burn out.
Proper Treatment of the Asthi Dhatu
Healing the asthi dhatu means restoring the proper quantity and quality of earth and air in the body and normalizing the flow of these qualities through the chakras. The proper quantity varies with the constitution of the individual. Those with more kapha in their constitution will naturally have strong asthi dhatu. This makes depletion less likely and excess more likely. Those with more of a vata constitution tend to have a naturally lower amount of asthi dhatu and are the most susceptible to depletion. Those with a pitta nature tend to have a moderate quantity of asthi dhatu and are prone to depletion only when exposed to excessive heat for an extended period or when affected by a vata imbalance.
Meditation for spiritual realization increases the qualities of the ether element in the body and mind. Thus, meditation for healing the asthi dhatu must be modified. Meditaiton while sitting on the floor creates a closer connection with the earth and is better than in a chair. Attention on the muladhara chakra and its connection to the earth also supports building the qualities of the earth element. Visualization of earth energy entering from the base of the spine during meditation and being circulated by the muldhara chakra creates a greater sense of feeling grounded and steady. This supports asthi dhatu. The mantra of the Muladhara chakra is lum. Quietly chanting lum with attention on muladhara chakra enhances the qualities of earth in the body and mind.
Meditations that increase ether and air are beneficial when asthi dhatu is in excess and the earth element is too strong. Air fills the space created by ether and this purifies the asthi dhatu. Meditations on the anahata chakra and vishuddha chackras and chanting their respective bijas mantras; yum and hum increase the qualities of air and ether respectively.
Herbs and the Asthi Dhatu:
Several herbs are beneficial for treating bone weakness (osteoposis) and support healing due to fractures. These conditions are most commonly due to vata dosha vitiation. For these conditions comfrey, oatstraw and amalaki are all excellant. Comfrey has long been used for supporting the healing of bones following fracture. It is cooling and moist and blances vata and pitta doshas.. Oatstraw is a cool tonic that also also balances vata and pitta and has been shown to stimulate bone growth. Amalaki, an outstanding general tonic for the body is also traditionally used to support bone development. Bhringaraj is a important herb that can be used for both tonfiication of the bones and purification. It is most benefical for pitta dosha. Guggul and kutki are two herbs that are specific for purification of the bones and best for treating kapha dosha in the asthi dhatu.
In summary, a healthy asthi dhatu leads to strong bones capable of carrying us though our lifetime. They allow for motion when movement is necessary and steadiness in the face of adversity. In order to keep the dhatu healthy, it is important to know one’s prakruti and vikruti and then to take the appropriate actions to restore balance.
Asthi Vriddhi Laxana:
When asthi dhatu increases more than normal , it leads to formation of adhyasthi (hypertrophy of bone) and adhidanta (formation of extra teeth).
Asthi Kshaya Laxanas:
When asthidhatu or nutrients of asthidhatu reduces the following diseases may surface.
Asthitoda : Inflammation of bones and joints (like arthritis and gout)
Sadana : weakness
Dwija prapatana : falling of teeth
Srama : weakness
Bhagna : pathological fractures
Phakkaroga : rickets
Asthi Kshaya : thinning of bones like osteoporosis
Asthi Vrana : Osteomyelitis
According to ayurveda persons who have healthy bones and skeletal system are known as “asthi sarapurusha”. These persons will have strong bones, teeth and nails. They will be very strong, active and enthusiastic.
Minerals like Calcium, phosphorous, magnesium along with protein and collagen help to build bones. Vitamin D is needed to make bones strong. Hormonal imbalances, increased intake of proteins, salt and stimulants interrupt bone building. Stress and prescription drugs also disrupt the process of bone building. Deficiency of these nutrients leads to osteoporosis, inflammation of joints (arthritis) and painful joints. Dificiency of vitamin D leads to painful joints, stiff neck, hair loss and bone loss.
* Exposing skin to sunrays makes vitamin D available to body. Oysters, cottage cheese and eggs contain small amount of vitamin D.
* Vitamin C encourages collagen production. Hence adequate intake of citrus food helps to supplement Vitamin C .
* Cereals, legumes, Leafy greens and yellow, orange, and red vegetables supply good amounts of calcium.
* Dry fruits, Nuts , seeds (sunflower, black sesame and pumpkin seeds) and their oils are abundant with vitamins and minerals as well as healthy essential fatty acids such as omega-3-and-6 .
* Regular exercise helps to build strong bones and reduce calcium loss. It makes joints stronger and healthy.
* Stress reducing techniques like yoga and meditation help to reduce calcium depletion.
* Avoid excess intake of coffee, tea, cola etc.
* Try to maintain normal weight and avoid getting overweight