According to Ayurveda, there is a special substance in the body that governs aging, immunity, radiant skin, vigor, mood, sleep, digestion, spirituality, and physical strength. This substance is called ojas (OH-jas).
In Sanskrit, ojas has two prominent meanings. In the context of physical health and vitality, it means “vigor.” In the context of spiritual and emotional well-being, it is referred to as “the physiological expression of consciousness.”
Ojas is considered the most refined by-product of digestion. While complete digestion of a meal is said to take around 24 hours, it takes a full 30 days for the body to digest food and refine it enough to manufacture this substance.
Unfortunately, during those 30 days, there are many factors that can undermine its production. Therefore, many people have depleted ojas and lack the vigor, immunity, and radiant glow they long for.
What Is Ojas?
Perhaps the best way to describe it is to compare it to how honey is made. Ten to twenty-thousand bees per hive collect the nectar of thousands of flowers and concentrate them into honey: the “ojas” of the flowers.
In the same way, when we eat fresh, unprocessed foods, microscopic amounts of their essence accumulate over time through the process of healthy digestion and become ojas.
If the digestive process is disturbed, the essence of the foods will not be extracted and no ojas will be made.
How is Ojas Made?
According to Ayurveda, the entire digestive process takes 30 days to complete. Within that time, not only is food ingested and eliminated, but nutrients from the food are used to build what is known as the 7 major tissues of the body. The culmination of this process is the production of ojas. As mentioned, many factors exist that can compromise or block its production.
Here is how it is made, step-by-step:
Step 1: Healthy, wholesome, unprocessed food is ingested. The coordinated efforts of the stomach, pancreas, and liver/gallbladder prepare the food to be assimilated. (Assimilation is when the nutrients are drawn out of the food and into the bloodstream.)
This first product of digestion is a nutrient fluid called rasa. Rasa is the first of the seven major tissues of the body. A small amount of local or not-supreme ojas is released as each of the seven tissues is made. The 30-day process of building supreme ojas begins. Ojas gradually builds as the digestion process continues and as each tissue is made.
Step 2: The rasa or first product of digestion is converted by enzymes—called agni or digestive fire—into blood which, in Ayurveda, is called rakta. Here, another small amount of local ojas is released into the blood.
Step 3: The rakta or blood converts into muscle or mamsa with the help of blood-based enzymes. A small amount of local ojas is released into the muscles.
Step 4: The mamsa converts into fat or medha with the help of muscle enzymes, and releases a small amount of local ojas into the fat.
Step 5: The medha or fat converts to bone or asthi, and releases a small amount of local ojas into the bone.
Step 6: The asthi or bone converts to nerve tissue or majja, and releases a small amount of local ojas into the nervous system.
Step 7: The majja or nerve tissue converts into the reproductive fluid, where a small amount of ojas is released into the sperm or ovum. Remember, supreme ojas has been building with the production of each tissue, making the reproductive fluid the bodily tissue with the most accumulated ojas.
Step 8: The final product, supreme ojas, is released and stored in the heart. From there, it nourishes the subtle energy in the body which, in turn, feeds the body’s vigor, vitality, and immunity.
The Western Equivalent of Ojas
Some experts believe ojas is actually the hormone melatonin, which is produced and secreted by the brain’s pineal gland. The pineal gland produces less and less melatonin as we age and this is directly linked to our vitality and immunity.
Others suggest ojas is made mostly of peptides, small protein-like molecules. In the form of ojas, these peptides control immunity, endocrinology (hormones), the nervous and digestive systems, and the psychology.
In the west, cutting-edge research by Candice Pert, Ph.D. at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) discovered that certain peptides also known as neurotransmitters act as carriers for the immune, endocrine and nervous systems, and the emotions. These peptides, as described by Dr. Pert, act much like Ayurveda’s concept of ojas. (1)
Activities that Deplete Ojas
According to Ayurveda, stress and excessive activity deplete ojas. This makes sense when we consider the research by Dr. Gerson in his book, The Second Brain, which confirmed that humans process the majority of their stress through the digestive system. Remember, 95% of the body’s serotonin and the majority of its neurotransmitters are manufactured and stored in the gut. (2)
Stress is also the main culprit behind excess stress-fighting hormones and free radicals, which will alter the function and flow of the body’s peptide (ojas)-based information network. The production of ojas and the neuro-peptides are greatly dependent on the efficiency of digestion. (2)
Since the production of the reproductive fluid is the last step before supreme ojas is made, the reproductive fluid carries all of the accumulated ojas getting ready to be stored in the heart. Excessive sex can deplete the ojas both in the sperm and ovum, prevent supreme ojas from entering the heart, and even deplete the reserves of ojas in the heart. Multiple orgasms a day or sex every day for extended periods of time will deplete reserves.
How the Seven Body Tissues Can Deplete Ojas
When any one of the seven bodily tissues described above engages in excessive activity, ojas will be depleted and overall vitality and well-being will be compromised.
The production of rasa, which is the first nutrient fluid that eventually becomes lymph, is literally stopped by the chemistry of stress. This can be stress from work, exercise, emotions, travel or digestive stress from bad food.
The lymphatic fluid flows best in an alkaline environment. Stress releases stress-fighting hormones that have acidic waste products. Excessive stress results in excess acidity which causes the lymph to congest.
Rakta, the body’s blood, can deplete ojas when it becomes inflamed and toxic and can carry damaging, inflammatory, and degenerative chemicals throughout the body.
Mamsa, the muscle tissue, most commonly depletes ojas through excessive exercise and exhaustion.
Medha, the body’s fat, will deplete ojas when it is stored and taken out of circulation due to the excesses of stress. Most toxic chemicals are fat-soluble and, thus, are stored in the fat in times of stress.
Asthi, the body’s bone, will deplete ojas in the case of chronic issues, such as osteopenia and osteoporosis. These conditions are extremely rare in second and third world countries, where stress culture is not as rampant.
Majja, the nervous system, depletes ojas when it is directly affected by stress and excessive activities. Excess stress stimulates the release of degenerative hormones which accelerate aging, cause chronic disease, fatigue, sleep issues, and much more.
Shukra is the reproductive fluid. Excessive sex will deplete this precious substance.
Note: Since ojas accumulates in each of the seven tissues, the last three are the more common sites of symptomatic ojas depletion: the bone, nervous system, and reproductive fluid.
Activities that Build Ojas
- Loving others
- Acting on things you are passionate about
- Giving and serving others
- Yoga, breathing, and meditation
- Nose breathing exercise
- Being in nature
- Eating fresh wholesome foods in a relaxed manner
- Getting ample rest: 7-8 hours of sleep with the natural cycles (up early, to bed early)
Using Foods to Build Ojas
Eating these foods and herbs in combination with a more balanced lifestyle will support immunity, sleep, vitality, complexion, mood stability and longevity.
The following recipe is derived from our Ojas Nightly Tonic formula and can be taken before bed to boost vitality and support sleep. This may be the yummiest, most nourishing drink you will ever have.
I realize milk is a controversial issue, but most healthy grocery stores sell non-homogenized, vat-pasteurized, chemical-, antibiotic-, and hormone-free milk. Don’t drink milk? You may substitute with non-dairy milk, such as coconut, almond or hemp.
Ojas Nightly Tonic Recipe
1. Add small amounts of these to one cup of milk as you slowly bring it to a boil:
- Chopped dates (1 tbsp)
- Chopped almonds (2 tsp)
- Coconut meat or flakes (1 tbsp)
- Saffron (1/2 tsp)
- Ghee (1-2 tsp)
- Cardamom (1/8 tsp)
2. Add ojas-building herbs to the milk (1/8 tsp or one 500mg capsule of each):
- Shatavari (Strength of 100 Husbands, sometimes spelled Shatawari)
- Ashwagandha (Strength of Ten Horses, sometimes spelled Ashwaganda)
3. Optional: Once the milk, herbs, foods and spices are cooked and off the flame, add 1 tsp of raw honey.
Drink one cup each night for 3 months to rebuild ojas levels to support sleep, immunity, and overall well-being.
In the LifeSpa online shop, you’ll find these delicious ingredients formulated into an organic, 30-day supply called Ojas Nightly Tonic.
Print the Ojas Nightly Tonic Recipe here: