The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine

Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) Medical Director, Jupiter Medical Center Dept. of Integrative Medicine Division of Education and Research






Lake Mary Clinic, Gerson Ayurvedic Spa, and Panchakarma Facility: at 635 Primera Blvd. Lake Mary, Florida 32746

Jupiter Medical Center at The Calcagnini Center for Mindfulness
1210 S. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, Florida 33458, Suite M-117.2




 Telephone: (561) 263-MIND (6463); option 2 (407) 549-2800

Basic Principles Of Ayurveda

The Digestive Fire--Agni

Agniis the fire constantly burning with our minds and bodies that kindles all the biological processes of life; it is the fire which powers the transformation of one substance into another. The most obvious function of agni is to promote digestion. But for living beings, everything depends on it--our appearance, body temperature, auto-immunity, awareness, understanding, intelligence; our health, our energy, our lives. Many diseases are connected directly or indirectly to an abnormality of agni. Not only is agni responsible for the breakdown of food substances, but also for neutralizing toxins, bacteria, and viruses which can disrupt our immune system.

When agni is healthy there is excellent digestion, normal elimination, proper tissue formation, good circulation, high energy, strong immunity, good complexion, pleasant body odor and breath, intelligence, enthusiasm, and perception.

When agni is unhealthy however, digestion is inefficient and incomplete and all the functions mentioned above are disturbed. Most importantly, when agni is disturbed, incompletely digested food form an internal toxin known as ama. This substance can further putrefy and ferment within the intestinal tract and can spread throughout the body to cause disease. Thus, without exaggeration, the care of agni is central to maintaining health and treating diseases.

There are thirteen forms of agni, the most important of which is jatharagni, which regulates and contributes a part of itself to the other agnis. Sometimes jatharagni is referred to as kosthagni (Kostha=digestive tract) or pachakagni (Pachana=cooking). A principal function of jatharagni is to cook the ingested food and separate the sara (nutrients) from the kitta (waste). The sara is also known as ahara rasa which is the substrate for the first bodily tissue, rasadhatu.

The other twelve agnis are the dhatagnis (7) and the bhutagnis (5), which are related to the tissues and the five subtle elements, respectively. The dhatagnis regulate the physiological processes in each of the seven tissues, while the bhutagnis regulate the further digestion and assimilation of the pancha mahabhuta contained in the ingested foods.

The Ayurvedic texts mention factors which disrupt agni. These include eating at inappropriate times, overeating, undereating, eating devitalized foods, eating before the previous meal has been digested, excessive sleep, anger, grief, immoral behavior, consumption of excess fluids, or frequent changes in dietary habits.

Agnis are classified into four categories according to how they manifest in the human being:

sharp, mild, irregular, and regular.

Tiksnagni (sharp) implies strong digestion, circulation, and immunity. Impurities, if they accumulate, tend to do so in rasa and rakta dhatus (plasma and formed blood cells). These people have a tendency toward inflammations and acidity. Usually seen in pitta constitutions.

Mandagni (mild) usually manifests as slower digestion, low appetite, cravings for heavy or sweet foods, and a tendency to carry excess body weight. Circulation may be slow and excess secretions often form. Usually seen in Kapha constitutions.

Visamagni (irregular) can promote irregular appetite, with intense periods of hunger alternating with lack of interest in food. There is often intestinal bloating, gas, constipation, or abdominal discomfort. Immunity is often diminished, especially with regard to the nervous system, bones, and upper respiratory tract. Not suprisingly, this type of agni is common in vata constitutions.

Samagni (regular, balanced) occurs in individuals who are well-balanced, eating proper amounts and kinds of foods, exercising, and resting appropriately. One sees normal appetite, satisfaction surrounding meals, normal bowel movements, endurance, (mental) clarity, and (emotional) stabilty.