According to Ayurveda, there is one sacred substance in the body that governs aging, immunity, radiant skin, vigor, mood, sleep, digestion, spirituality, and physical strength.
In Sanskrit, ojas (OH-jas) has two prominent meanings. In the context of physical health and vitality, ojas means “vigor.” In the context of spiritual and emotional well-being, it is referred to as “the physiological expression of consciousness.”
Ayurveda considers ojas to be 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.
For the ojas reserves to re-built, one must follow what Ayurveda calls a sattvic (non-violent, loving, giving) lifestyle that is in sync with the daily/seasonal circadian cycles of nature, and eat ojas-building foods.
Enter the Ojas Molecule
The exact chemical that Ayurveda calls ojas has been disputed for eons, but when you study both the ancient wisdom behind ojas and the modern science, there is only one fitting candidate… and that is melatonin! The evidence for this is quite compelling. French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist René Descartes described the pineal gland that sits upon a throne in the middle of the skull as the seat of the soul which is an extremely accurate definition of ojas.
Melatonin is a 3-billion-year-old molecule that exists in every cell of every living creature. There is no known toxic dose of melatonin—and even water has a toxic dose! For example, the LD50 (lethal dose that kills 50% of the people) for water is 6 liters, for coffee, it is 118 cups, and for alcohol, it is 18 shots. (1)
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There is not an established LD50 for melatonin. Much like ojas, the more the better. Like melatonin, there is no amount of ojas that could kill you. This does NOT mean we should be taking large dosages of melatonin—just the opposite! The more you take, the less you need.
A Newsweek Magazine report on melatonin stated, “When government scientists set out to find melatonin’s “LD 50”- the dose that’s lethal to 50 percent of the animals receiving it – they couldn’t make a rich enough concentrate to kill a mouse. And when researchers fed human volunteers 6 grams (6,000 mg) of the stuff every night for a month stomach discomfort and some residual sleepiness were the only reported side effects.” (2)
One of the defining aspects of a hormone is that supplementation suppresses the natural production of that hormone, thus making us dependent on hormone replacement. Melatonin, while labeled a hormone, is not truly a hormone as it does not suppress the body’s natural production. In fact, my clinical experience has shown that my patients need less and less over time, once the ojas (melatonin) levels are rebuilt. (3)
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What about Oxytocin as Ojas?
We have numerous studies linking oxytocin to melatonin. Oxytocin has been called the giving, loving, longevity hormone and, many, including myself, have suggested oxytocin may be the ojas molecule. But now, we know that melatonin is the governor of oxytocin, making it quite possibly the more supreme ojas molecule. In other words, without melatonin production, there is not oxytocin production!
In the body, there are two types of ojas: para ojas and apara ojas.
Para ojas is considered supreme ojas and resides in the heart, and apara ojas is the vitality fluid that is manufactured in small amounts during the 30 days of digestion
It is my take that apara ojas (less supreme) is oxytocin and para ojas or supreme ojas is melatonin.
When oxytocin goes up, melatonin goes up, and vice versa. (4,5) In fact, when the pineal gland (which produces melatonin), is removed, oxytocin levels plummet. This suggests that melatonin is supreme and in charge of the less potent, but still powerful, oxytocin. (6)
There are foods you can eat to boost both ojas and melatonin levels in the body. The two highest sources of melatonin in food are almonds and goji berries, both of which are also ojas-builders according to Ayurveda.
Foods that stimulate the body tend to lower both melatonin and ojas. Foods that build and rejuvenate the body, such as dates, saffron, coconut, ghee, milk, and ripe fruits, tend to boost ojas. (7)
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Melatonin is the master molecule that oversees every cell and organ of the body. Researchers have a hard time with it, as melatonin seems to lend a helping hand in nearly every ailment investigated. This is also the nature of ojas, which is perhaps the most compelling evidence that these two are one and the same.
They both govern every cellular function in the body, but from the most subtle place. Once again, we are finding that, much like the discovery of the microbiome, the most subtle and even invisible aspects of the body are actually the most powerful. This is the hallmark of ojas and the calling card of melatonin.
Comparing Ojas and Melatonin
|Depletes with age||Depletes with age (9)|
|Supports immunity||Supports immunity (9)|
|Supports healthy, radiant skin||Supports healthy, radiant skin.|
There is a high concentration of melatonin stored in
the skin. (10,11)
|Supports deep sleep||Supports deep sleep (9)|
|Supports joyful mood||Supports joyful mood (9)|
|Boosts athletic performance||Boosts athletic performance (8)|
|Slows aging process||Slows aging process (9)|
|Considered a required spiritual substance||Considered a spiritual substance.|
Descartes called the pineal gland “the seat of the soul,”
and it is commonly called “the third eye.” (12)
|Depleted by circadian imbalance||Depleted by circadian imbalance (9)|
|Compromised by stress||Compromised by stress (9)|
|Supports hormonal function||Supports hormonal function (3,9)|