Ayurveda, Agni, and the Microbiome
“The human microbiome in terms of the six ayurvedic tastes – the story of (your) life from mouth to colon.”
by Coen van der Kroon, MA
Agni in Ayurveda is near to the concept of microbiome
Medical as well as nutritional sciences have recently introduced the ‘living’ concept of a ‘microbiome’. The microbiome is the total environment found in our gut. It consists of many living organisms who – in cooperation and coexistence with the human cells and systems – regulate our entire process of digestion and assimilation. According to recent scientific findings, this microbiome also influences – through various factors – our extra-intestinal process, both physiologically and psychologically. There are many correlations between a disturbed microbiome and – for example – depression. Recent research has suggested clear proof being available for this.
Agni represents full digestion and transformation
Though presented as a new concept Ayurveda has already worked with a very similar concept for millennia. At its very core Ayurveda defines Agni as a substance and a process which – in a human organism – governs and regulates the full, complete, and satisfactory digestion, metabolism, and assimilation of food, but also of emotions, thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Agni in the body has its main seat in the digestive tract. The three doshas support Agni, both functionally and in terms of location (Kapha, Pitta, and Vata stage of digestion). The doshas represent biological forces and intelligence but they are never defined as only or purely ‘human structure’. This is contrary to the dhatus, which are part of – or at least substratum of – the ‘human cell clusters out of which the human body consists.
Agni and Doshas and tastes in Ayurveda
A closer look into Ayurveda also brings us from the three doshas to the six tastes, which – at first sight – only look like a random collection of tastes related to ‘taste areas’ as they present themselves on the tongue. The six tastes are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. However, these six tastes have a lot more value in them. One can take into account their order (in which they are presented) and the elements they cover. But also the relation they have with the three doshas, and the connections they have with emotions.
Also, you can quite directly correlate them to biochemical components and different digestive enzymes in our digestive tract. Saliva is not only sweet in taste but also governs (or starts) digestion of ‘sweet’ (carbohydrates). The colon does its final work in ‘drying’ feces as well as absorbing and assimilating gross minerals, a typical function related to the taste ‘astringency’.
Ayurveda, the science of life
In this presentation ‘life’ and its intelligence express in words like ‘living’ and ‘bio’ in microbiome, biochemical, and biological (bios = life in Greek language). ‘Ayur’ in the word Ayurveda also means ‘life’, and Ayurveda is the science of life. This science seems to have developed its own – but very accurate – concept (and language) of what we now see reappearing as ‘microbiome’ in modern scientific language regarding the gut. It is our own biological ‘center of life’, crucial in defining both how our human cell structures will be formed as well in ‘who we are’ as human beings on other levels than just the physical one.