According to Ayurvedic philosophy, there are three doshas (a.k.a. humors) present in every cell, tissue, and organ of our body that govern our psychobiological functioning. These doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—comprise the five potential states of matter (i.e., space, air, fire, earth, and water). All five of these elements are present in each dosha, but the two predominant elements in a dosha determine its defining qualities. When in balance, the three doshas create health; when out of balance, they cause disease. They are also responsible for the vast variety of differences and preferences that exist among individuals, and they inﬂuence all we are and all we do, from our food choices to the ways we relate to others.
As the forces that govern our physiology, the doshas regulate the creation, maintenance, and destruction of body tissue, as well as the elimination of waste products. They also act as psychological drivers, governing our emotions and mental state. When in balance, the doshas generate the understanding, compassion, and love that sustain mental health. When their balance is disturbed by stress, improper diet, and environmental conditions, they give rise to disturbances such as anger, fear, anxiety, confusion, depression, and disease.
The pitta dosha governs all the various forms of digestion and transformation that manifest in our mind and body—from digesting sensory impressions and emotional responses to transforming chyle (lymph and fatty matter from partially digested food) into protoplasmic substances like sperm and ova. Pitta is closely related to agni(digestive fire). Its qualities are pungent, hot, penetrating, greasy, oily, sharp, liquid, spreading and sour. The main locus of pitta is the small intestine, where most chemical digestion takes place, but it also resides in the eyes, blood, sweat glands, stomach, and lymph.
Made up of tejas (fire) and apa(water), pitta seems like a contradiction in terms, but its two constituents are actually complementary. The liquid nature of pitta protects the tissues from the destructive aspects of fire and enables pitta’s metabolic properties to flow through the body in fluids such as bile, digestive enzymes, and hormones. In additional to playing an important role in the digestive and endocrine systems, pitta affects body temperature, visual perception, hunger, thirst, and skin quality.
Mentally and emotionally, pitta promotes sound judgment, discipline, responsibility, and joyfulness when in balance. If out of balance, it generates restlessness, anger and irritability, obsessiveness, jealousy, resentment, or deep negativity.
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.