Ama ~ The Root Cause Of Disease According To Ayurveda


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The Root Cause Of Disease

“Ama” is a concept of Ayurveda which can be best understood as the accumulation of toxic metabolic by-products at various levels of physiology. More simply, ama is the by-product of poor digestion and according to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda – ama is the root cause of nearly all diseases.



General Signs & Symptoms Of Ama

When ama is present within the body it often creates signs & symptoms of fatigue, lethargy, and a sense of uncleanliness. Ama is commonly caused by poor digestion therefore indigestion, low appetite, bloating and constipation are often associated with the presense of ama.


Ayurveda is a Science of "Qualities" ...
For example, Ayurveda describes Agni as the radiant energy of fire which embodies hot, sharp, light, and subtle qualities.  It is the source of all transformative processes in the body and is responsible for digestion, absorption and transformation of food into energy. Ama, on the other hand, has cold, dull, heavy, and gross qualities ... the opposing qualities of Agni!!

So How Does Ama Form? 

In order to answer this properly we must first have a closer look at "Agni" - the flame of digestion. According to Ayurveda, the digestive fire [“Agni”] gives strength, vitality, and happiness to all human beings. Agni governs digestion, absorption and assimilation of all nutrients of the body. It’s explained that if Agni is balanced then the individual will be happy, healthy and holy. On the contrary, poorly digested food [i.e. "Ama'] within the G.I. tract creates a thick and slimy substance which lines the walls of the bowels and impedes the absorption and assimilation of nutrients; i.e. malabsorption.


  • by-products of proper digestion is "ojas"; i.e. health & vitality 
  • by-products of improper digestion is "ama"; disease 


What Might Impair Agni?

Understanding the 'Agni-Ama' relationship, we can appreciate the fact that impaired Agni [impaired digestion] may promote the formation of ama; i.e. toxic by-products of poor digestion which can lead to disease. Therefore, the next inquiry is ... what might impair Agni. The simple answer ... poor nutrition.


“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
- Ayurvedic Proverb


Fundamental Principles ... 

  • "like increases like"
  • "opposites oppose" 


Ayurveda, being the science of qualities, takes into consideration the cumulative principle of "like increases like". For example, the qualities of Agni are hot, sharp, light, and subtle - therefore, food that has similar qualities of Agni [i.e. hot, sharp, light & subtle] will generally promote the function of Agni; i.e. support healthy digestion.

On the contrary, food which has the opposing qualities of agni will oppose the function of agni; i.e. impair Agni/digestion. For example, food which has cold, dull, heavy and gross qualities will impair Agni and ... promote the formation of ama!!


How Does Ama Cause Disease?

Now that we've discovered how ama forms [i.e. via impaired Agni] the next inquiry is, how does ama cause disease? The most simple explanation is that the cold, heavy, dull, and gross qualities of ama creates a stickiness which tends to ... obstruct and clog bodily channels. 


The signs and symptoms of ama are ...
clogging of channels, sense of heaviness, low energy, restlessness, lethargy, indigestion, kapha-type congestion [i.e. expectoration], accumulation of the three wastes/malas [i.e. feces, urine, sweat], loss of taste, and sexual debility.

- Ashtanga Hrdayam 


"These blocked channels can mean many things: coronary occlusion, pulmonary embolism, stagnation, venous engorgement or lymphatic obstruction. For all these, they are using just one phrase: sroto rodha which is due to ama in the system."

- Dr. Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S.
'Ayurvedic Perspectives On Selected Pathologies'



Ama - The Root Cause Of Disease

Ama's stickiness and the ability to obstruct and clog bodily channels causes the accumulation of waste products [i.e. "malas" - feces, urine, and sweat] which, according to Ayurveda, is often considered the root cause to many diseases.


"Leaky Gut" ~ An Ama Perspective

Although the phrase “leaky gut” was never well accepted in the medical community, research over the past two decades has revealed that gut health is critical to overall health, and an unhealthy gut contributes to a wide range of diseases including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.


Mirroring this ancient wisdom is the modern theory of ‘Intestinal Permeability’ [i.e. “leaky gut syndrome”]. Intestinal permeability is the inflammatory response in the digestive tract due to a combination of insults to the gut mucosal lining. As a result, persistent G.I. inflammation eventually disrupts the integrity of the mucosal lining of the gut and tiny perforations allows for molecules much larger than usual to pass through this defensive barrier. As toxic by-products of poor digestion pass through this now weakened defense barrier [i.e. impaired mucosal lining] this initiates an immune response which then allows for the formation of specific antibodies towards these very toxic elemental by-products of poor digestion.


"Sama Dosha" ... From Bad To Worse!!

The science of Ayurveda is explained by the fundamental principles of doshas [i.e. vata, pitta, kapha dosha]. Very briefly, vata is the governing principle of movement, pitta being the fiery principle of transformation and kapha being the preserving and principle of stability. Once ama is formed within the G.I. tract [due to impaired Agni] ... ama may mix with aggravated doshas [vata, pitta, kapha] and enter into the general circulation and travel throughout the body.


Ama + Dosha = "Sama Dosha"


Ama + Vata Dosha = "Sama Vata"
When ama mixes with vata dosha this can cause signs and symptoms of erratic digestion [i.e. vishama agni], bloating & constipation, generalized body aches and dry skin.

Ama + Pitta Dosha = "Sama Pitta"
When ama mixes with pitta dosha this can cause signs and symptoms of acid indigestion/heart burn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, feverishness along with hives, rashes, urticaria, eczema, etc.

Ama + Kapha Dosha = "Sama Kapha"
When ama mixes with kapha dosha this can cause signs and symptoms of poor digestion [i.e. manda agni], fatigue, cough, pulmonary congestion, lymphatic swelling, etc.


The above signs and symptoms are for education purpose only. Such disease conditions should be assessed by an Ayurvedic Doctor before attempting any interventions. Always first seek the advice of your primary care physician before considering other healing modalities.



Management Of Ama
According to Ayurveda, the management of “ama” first begins with identifying the cause. Often the treatment of “ama” is simply adjusting to a proper diet and lifestyle suitable to one’s needs. For example, “ama pachana” – which is the ‘burning off’ of ama and  can often be done by the use of certain spices and herbs – with supervision of a qualified Ayurvedic Professional.

Spice Selections To Improve Digestion
Ready-to-use spice mixtures satisfy the six ayurvedic tastes considered essential for balance.

“Prevention Is Better Than Cure.”
Although simple, these principles if followed routinely are often enough to help improve digestion and overall health. It’s often the simple things that are most effective and oddly enough – most overlooked. That said, let’s quickly take a look at the basics.

Avoid the following common causes of “ama”
– overeating and consuming cold substances
–  irregular eating habits
– overconsumption of raw food
– eating heavy and fried food
– incompatible food combining
– eating with extreme emotions [i.e. anxiety, stress]
– sleeping before food is properly digested

 – The Digestive Herbal Formula

Another great consideration is Trikatu – a formula combination of equal parts ginger, black pepper and pippali. The name trikatu means three peppers or the three pungents. It is a wonderful herb with strong digestive properties.


The Ultimate Detox – Panchakarma
The word “Panchakarma” comes from the classical Ayurvedic texts and literally means ‘five actions’. These five actions of panchakarma are a broad class of therapy used to help remove impurities [“ama”] from the body


All content included on this website (including, but not limited to,  images, photos, graphics and text) is the property of ‘Healthy Ayurveda’ and ‘Vedic Sage’ and as such is protected by US and international copyright and other intellectual property laws. 

This information is strictly for educational purpose only and not considered medical advice. Always first discuss with your primary care physician before considering any new health regimen.


Ayurvedic Perspective On Selected Pathologies, Vasant Lad, BAMS – 2nd Edition Revised
Textbook Of Ayurveda Vol. 2 & 3, Vasant Lad, BAMS









Samprapti ~ The Disease Process According To Ayurveda

All content included on this website (including, but not limited to,  images, photos, graphics and text) is the property of ‘Healthy Ayurveda’ and ‘Vedic Sage’ and as such is protected by US and international copyright and other intellectual property laws. 


The Disease Process According To Ayurveda
The ancient writings of Ayurveda describe "Samprapti" as the disease process which, if understood properly, can actually detect and address certain health conditions at each and every stage; i.e. addressing the root cause. According to this philosophy [i.e. samprapti/pathogenesis], there are six stages for the disease process.


The Six Stages Of Disease:
1. Accumulation Of Doshas - Sanchaya
2. Aggravation/Provocation Of Doshas - Prakopa
3. Spread Of Doshas - Prasara
4. Deposition/Localization Of Doshas - Sthana Samshraya
5. Manifestation Of Qualitative Changes - Vyakti
6. Differentiation & Destruction Of Tissue - Bheda


1. Accumulation Of Doshas [Sanchaya]
Accumulation of doshas first takes place in their normal location. For example, vata tends to accumulate in the large intestine/colon, pitta accumulates in the small intestine, and kapha accumulates in the stomach.


What Might Increase Doshas?

Accumulation Of Vata Dosha:
Doshas are increased by certain lifestyle considerations [i.e. food and behavior]. For example, factors which promote and increase vata qualities [i.e. dry. light, rough, subtle, cold, mobile] are foods which have predominately pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Similarly, dry leafy vegetables, legumes, beans, peas, etc. tend to increase the dry and rough qualities of vata which tends to produce symptoms of constipation, abdominal distention, and excess gas production in the colon.

Accumulation Of Pitta Dosha:
Food which is predominately pungent, salty, sour and hot in potency tends to promote the intrinsic qualities of pitta [hot, sharp, light, liquid, oily] and therefore increases pitta dosha. Similarly, certain lifestyle considerations such as emotional states [i.e. anger and grief] and seasonal/environmental factors [i.e. summer season, midday/noon, mid-digestion] also tends to increase pitta dosha within and produces symptoms of heat/burning sensation and slight discoloration of yellow in the white of the eyes.

Accumulation Of Kapha Dosha:
Food that has predominately sweet, sour, and salty tastes with oily and heavy qualities [i.e. cheese, cream, butter, ghee etc.] tends to increase the intrinsic qualities of kapha [heavy, cold, dense, oily, liquid] and therefore kapha increases within kapha's primary location, i.e. the stomach. Increase and accumulation of kapha produces symptoms of heaviness, lethargy, fullness of stomach and low appetite.


Intelligent Cravings Of The Body ...
As doshas begin to accumulate within the primary sites [i.e. vata in the colon, pitta in the small intestine, and kapha in the stomach], the inner intelligence of the body begins craving qualities opposite to which is accumulating in the body.

For example, if vata qualities [dry, light, rough, subtle, cold, mobile] begins to accumulate there will be a desire for oily and heavy foods with predominant tastes of sweet, sour and salty tastes and the desire to sleep and rest. If pitta qualities [hot, sharp, light, liquid, oily] begins to accumulate there will be a desire for cold and dull qualities with sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. If kapha qualities [heavy, dense, slow, oily, cold] begins to accumulate there will be a desire for hot and spicy foods with pungent, bitter and astringent tastes to help reduce the accumulation of kapha dosha. This desire for the opposite qualities should not be neglected because this is the inner intelligence of the body attempting to pacify the accumulation of doshas within.


2. Aggravation Of Doshas [Prakopa]
If certain lifestyle considerations [i.e. food/emotional states] and seasonal factors continue this will increase doshas within their primary location which will eventually cause doshas to reach their maximum capacity in their respective sites ... and the doshas will become aggravated/provoked.

The aggravation of doshas will cause symptoms similar to the above-mentioned symptoms described in 'accumulation' but symptoms will become more significant. Vata symptoms during this stage of aggravation [prakopa] will be increasing pain in the flanks or mid-back, hyperperistalsis, gurgling and even breathlessness. Pitta symptoms will be indigestion and heartburn and kapha symptoms will be cough, congestion, heaviness.

Despite the doshas accumulating and becoming aggravated, the aggravated dosha is still relatively easy to remove since they are still located within the digestive system [i.e. vata in the colon, pitta in the small intestine, and kapha in the stomach]. However, once the doshas begin to spread from the digestive tract into the general circulation and into peripheral tissue management becomes increasingly more difficult and more complex.


3. Spread of Doshas [Prasara]
Upon further increase and aggravation of dosha allows for the driving force which moves the dosha from the gastrointestinal tract spreading its way into the general circulation [rasa/rakta dhatu]. Due to certain affinity of qualities [i.e. 'like increases like'] doshas will tend to spread to their secondary sites.

Spreading To Secondary Sites:

Vata dosha tends to spread to the ears, skin, bones and thighs. This will create symptoms of ringing in the ears, dry skin, and cracking/popping and pain in the joints.

Pitta dosha tends to spread to the stomach, eyes, sweat glands, skin and subcutaneous fat tissue which creates symptoms such as nausea, acid indigestion, burning and irritation to the eyes, inflammatory skin conditions [i.e. rash, hives, urticaria, eczema].

Kapha dosha tends to spread to the lungs, sinuses, lymphatic system, breast tissue, mouth and head and will create symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, lymphedema/swelling and lethargy.


4. Deposition/Localization [Sthana Samshraya]
As disease progression [samprapti/pathogenesis] continues, the aggravated dosha which is spreading via the general circulation will eventually move into a defective location which has weakness and poor tissue integrity; this point is called "Khavaigunya".

As the dosha enters the weakened entry point [i.e. khavaigunya] of peripheral tissue the aggravated dosha deposits and localizes its qualities upon the peripheral tissue which will eventually influence the structure and function of the tissue. The unique combination/amalgamation of dosha and dhatu [peripheral tissue] is the fourth state of samprapti which is called sthana samshraya.


5. Manifestation [Vyakti]
During this stage of disease progression [samprapti/pathogenesis], the aggravated dosha has not only entered into a weakened/defective [khavaigunya] entry point of the peripheral tissue - BUT - the qualities of the aggravated dosha now begins to override the functions of the peripheral tissue manifesting the classic signs and symptoms of a particular disease.


6. Differentiation & Destruction Of Tissue [Bheda]
In this final stage of samprapti, not only are functional changes of peripheral tissue/organs/channels become evident but structural changes occur thereby increasing disease severity as well as introducing other associated complications of the disease process.


All content included on this website (including, but not limited to,  images, photos, graphics and text) is the property of ‘Healthy Ayurveda’ and ‘Vedic Sage’ and as such is protected by US and international copyright and other intellectual property laws.


The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.