Understanding Agni: Ayurveda Metabolism and the Digestion Process

Man with Healthy Salad

Ayurveda emphasizes the natural diet intake and its regulations.

Digesting the food is also regarded as essential, so as to provide complete nourishment to the body.

The digestive or biological fire is regarded as agni in the ancient Ayurveda text. According to Ayurveda science, agni is the comprehensive function of metabolism in the human body.

What is Agni?

In the exact translation of the word, agni means fire. And fire is the manifestation of the fire body humor, or pitta.

Man with Healthy SaladAgni contributes to all the metabolic activities in the body. When we eat food, agni works on it in the following ways:

  • Agni decomposes and transforms the food.
  • Agni is responsible for the process of oxygenation.
  • Agni, as pachaka pitta, digests the food in stomach and in intestines.

Agni is responsible for 2 main processes: digestion and metabolism. This means when agni is not functioning properly, food will not be digested and there will be impairment of metabolism in the body. This defective agni produces aama, or undigested food. Aama causes fermentation and putrefaction in the stomach and consequently results in formation of diseases.

Types of Agni

Ayurveda recognizes various types of agnis.

Jatharagni: This is the main vital agni, or the digestive fire which works in the abdomen. This is mainly responsible for conversion, assimilation, and digestion of the entire food that we eat. Jatharagni mainly applies to the digestive fire that digests food in the stomach and intestines as the very first stage of food conversion. Further converts this food into aahar rasa which is a uniform homogenous suspension of the digested food.

Dhatwagnis: There are seven agnis present in the seven dhatus, or body tissues:  rasa, rakta, mansa, medha, asthi, majja and shukra. These agnis are significant as their working on the level of the 7 body tissues manifest in the second stage of food digestion. This is responsible for conversion of the semi-digested food.

Bhootagnis: There are five agnis which pertain to and work upon the five panchbhoots: aakasha, vayu, tejasa, jala and prithvi. This agni works on digesting the food on elementary level. This is the third stage of digestion, wherein agni works in the liver and converts the food into elementary stage.

Digestion of Food

Different Forks Holding Different FruitFor maintaining natural well being, proper digestion of food is essential. This means the agni has to be invigorated and working on all the three levels of digestion.

If the agni is weak, food will remain undigested, and this undigested food—which is referred to as aama—is the root cause of a wide variety of ailments (for example, aama vatta, or rheumatoid arthritis).

There are five agents of digestion:

  • Agni: This digests food with the prime application of pachaka pitta.
  • Vayu: The air moves the food down towards the intestines for digestion and also at the same time fans the agni.
  • Moisture and Viscosity: These are the belongings of kledaka kapha, which moistens the food, softening it for proper digestion.
  • Time: This is also considered an important factor in the process of digestion of food. Time is essential for the completing for the process of digestion.

The 4 State of Agni

Ayurveda sages have distinguished and highlighted four various stages of agni pertaining to their performance in the digestive process.

  1. Manda agni: In this state of agni, kapha dosha is dominant. For this reason, the digestion is slow, weak, and sluggish.
  2. Tikshana agni: In this state, pitta influences the digestion. This is a fast and sharp kind of digestion, which is the natural manifestation of pitta dosha.
  3. Vishama agni: This is an irregular and erratic digestion which is mainly influenced by vatta dosha.
  4. Sama agni: This state of agni signifies a balanced state of all the three doshas—vatta, pitta, and kapha. This agni is ideal for the digestion of food in the body.

Dr. Sonica Krishan is Ayurveda and Natural Lifestyle Healer and Consultant based at Chandigarh, India. She has authored the natural home cure books Herbal Healers, Home Remedies, and Healing Through Ayurveda. Dr. Sonica is presently writing for national and international publications. She may be contacted at drsonica@herboveda.co.in or visit http://www.herboveda.co.in/.