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, virility, and vitality.” In the context of spiritual and emotional well-being, it is “the physiological expression of consciousness.”
Ojas is considered the most refined byproduct 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 ojas.
Unfortunately, during those 30 days, many factors can undermine its production. Therefore, many people have depleted ojas and lack the vigor, immunity, and radiant glow they long for.
What Is Ojas?
Ojas is the first thing to be created in the body of all living beings. It is ghee-colored, it tastes like honey, and smells like roasted puffed rice.
Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana 17.74
A plentiful reserve of ojas is reflected in the luster of the eyes, radiance of the skin (that glow so detectable in babies and pregnant women), potent fertility, tenacious immunity, strong digestion, and clarity of mind.
A lack of ojas will be reflected in all the body’s systems, not least of all a sallow or dull complexion, compromised immunity and fertility, anxiety, and a weak mind.
How is Ojas Made?
Perhaps the best way to describe ojas is to compare it to honey. 10–20,000 bees per hive collect the nectar of thousands of flowers and concentrate it into honey, making honey the ojas of 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 digestion is disturbed, the essence of the foods will not be extracted and no ojas will be made.
According to Ayurveda, within the 30 days it takes for the body to manufacture ojas, not only is food ingested and eliminated, but nutrients from the food are used to build what is known as the seven major tissues of the body. The culmination of this process is the production of ojas.
Healthy, wholesome, unprocessed food must be ingested in a calm, peaceful, and relaxed manner in order to create ojas. Rushing through a meal activates a fight-or-flight response and dysregulates the digestion-promoting parasympathetic nervous system.
Potassium-rich foods are a requirement! Our ancestors ate a diet that was extremely high in potassium and lower in sodium or salt. All plant-based foods are naturally very high in potassium and low in sodium. Potassium seems to be a building block to making ojas, as it is the key ingredient in the potassium sodium-pump, which drives the electrical potential and energy of every cell.
We RecommendThe Potent Power of Potassium for Heart Health
The human body actually makes more electricity pound-for-pound that a nuclear power plant, and this energy or ojas simply cannot happen if the potassium-sodium ratio is too salty. The ojas-building ratio is 4x potassium to sodium in your food.3
A healthy and robust digestive system is also required to make ojas from food. The coordinated efforts of the stomach, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder prepare food to be assimilated. (Assimilation is when the nutrients are drawn out of the food and into the bloodstream.)
Once you eat, the 30-day process of building supreme ojas (para ojas) begins. Ojas gradually builds as the digestion process continues and as each tissue is made. A small amount of local or not-supreme ojas (apara ojas) is released as each of the seven tissues is made, adding vigor and vitality to the process.
The Seven Steps of Ojas Production
- 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.
- 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.
- Mamsa converts into fat or medha with the help of muscle enzymes, and releases a small amount of local ojas into the fat.
- Medha or fat converts to bone or asthi, and releases a small amount of local ojas into the bone.
- Asthi or bone converts to nerve tissue or majja, and releases a small amount of local ojas into the nervous system.
- 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 ojas.
- 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.
Oxytocin, Melatonin & Ojas
It is said that the skin of babies and small children glows with ojas. It is also said that holding a baby will build ojas for the holder. Hugging, touching, caring, and loving others the way a mother coddles her baby increase the love and bonding hormone oxytocin.
Oxytocin, which is sometimes thought to be ojas, increases with a mother’s loving touch, from a hug, or when offering concern to others. But science suggests that oxytocin may only be a kind of apara ojas (not supreme ojas) because it is dependent on another, more ancient hormone made in the pineal gland: melatonin.
We RecommendGet High on Massage
Studies have found that the pineal gland produces less melatonin as we age, which is responsible for an age-related decrease in immunity and vitality.
When melatonin goes up, oxytocin production rises and when it goes down, oxytocin levels fall. Melatonin is a precursor for oxytocin, which makes low-dose melatonin a possible candidate for apara ojas or perhaps para ojas itself.4–6
Others suggest ojas is made mostly of peptides: small protein-like molecules. Like ojas, these peptides control immunity, endocrinology (hormones), the nervous and digestive systems, and the psychology.
In the West, cutting-edge research by Candace Pert, PhD at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that certain peptides (neurotransmitters) act as carriers for the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems, as well as the emotions. These peptides, as described by Dr. Pert, act much like Ayurveda’s concept of ojas.1
What Depletes Ojas?
- Lack of sleep
- Excessive alcohol
- Orgasm (for both men and women)
- Overexertion in exercise or sports
- Poor digestion and absorption (weak agni)
- Draining emotions, such as sadness, fear, anxiety, depression, irritability, and anger
Activities that Deplete Ojas
According to Ayurveda, stress and excessive activity deplete ojas. This makes sense when we consider the research by Dr. Michael Gershon in his book, The Second Brain, which confirms that humans process the majority of their stress through the digestive system. Remember, 95% of our serotonin and the majority of our 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 neuropeptides are greatly dependent on the efficiency of digestion.2
Since production of 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 will deplete reserves.
How the Seven Body Tissues Can Deplete Ojas
When any of the seven bodily tissues described above engages in excessive activity, ojas will be depleted and overall vitality and wellbeing will be compromised.
The production of rasa, the first nutrient fluid that eventually becomes lymph, is literally stopped by the chemistry of stress. This can be stress from work, exercise, emotions, or travel, as well as 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.
We Recommend3 Ways to Cleanse Your Brain Lymph
- Rakta, blood, can deplete ojas when it becomes inflamed and toxic and can carry damaging, inflammatory, and degenerative chemicals throughout the body.
- Mamsa, muscle tissue, most commonly depletes ojas through excessive exercise and exhaustion.
- Medha, fat, will deplete ojas when it is stored rather than burned as fuel. Most toxic chemicals are fat-soluble and store in fat in times of stress.
- Asthi, 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 is not as rampant. Note: decrease in melatonin production has been linked to bone density concerns.7
- Majja, the nervous system, depletes ojas when it is directly affected by stress and excessive activity. 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. Studies suggest that stress triggers the release of excess progesterone and cortisol. If stress is chronic, progesterone may become depleted as it is a direct precursor to the body’s major stress hormone cortisol.8
Note: Since ojas accumulates in each of the seven tissues, the last three are more common sites of symptomatic ojas depletion: bones, nervous system, and reproductive fluid.
The Fun Part: What Builds Ojas?
- Eating fresh, unprocessed, seasonal, whole foods in a relaxed manner
- Love and affection
- Not rushing
- Activities that make you happy
- Acting on things you are passionate about
- Giving to and serving others
- Yoga, breathing, and meditation
- Nose breathing exercise
- Being in nature
- Ample rest: 7–8 hours of sleep with the natural cycles (early to bed, early to rise, and not in excess)
Traditionally, a concoction of the herbs and foods on this list were blended in a milk base, which was warmed and taken before bed as an ojas-building sleep aid. (Find a recipe below!)
Activities to Build Ojas
Laughing and loving others are two of many activities that replenish us and build para ojas. All of these also increase apara ojas (which may be the love and bonding hormone, oxytocin).9
We RecommendLove Unconditionally on the Road Less Traveled
Foods to Build Ojas
All whole, non-refined, non-processed, plant-based foods are naturally high in potassium, low in sodium, and are classically ojas-building. Certain foods are known to better build ojas than others. 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 health food 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, Moon Milk + Golden Milk Recipes
- Add small amounts of these to one cup of milk as you slowly bring 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)
- Add ojas-building herbs for reproductive strength and virility to make Moon 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)
- Add 1/8tsp-1 capsule Turmeric Plus to black pepper (16 parts: 1 part) to make Ojas-Building Golden Milk.
- 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 wellbeing.
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: