Agni and the Liver

We have talked about Agni in previous posts. It is one of the most important concepts in Ayurveda.

Agni is often translated as digestive capacity. But every organ is considered to have agni, and their individual agni is what enables them to function. Agni is also metabolism, your body’s ability to convert nutrients into energy and movement.

Agni is a Sanskrit word for fire, and if you imagine that fire heats, energises, and transforms, you will have a good understanding of agni.

Not only does agni relate to digestion, absorption, and assimilation not only of food, it also relates to how we process and “digest” our perceptions and life. If we lack agni, we can tend to get anxious and depressed, and react to situations rather than respond with clarity. We also tend to get over-attached to the past – because we have not processed it completely.

The seven types of agni

Ayurveda traditionally considers seven types of agni:

  1. Jathara agni. The core fire seated in the stomach and small intestine, jathara agni governs the initial process of digestion and nutrient breakdown in the gastrointestinal tract; it is the source of all other agni.
  2. Kloma agni. Contained in the pancreas and choroid plexus, kloma agni is primarily responsible for the digestion of sweet taste and water balance; it can be equated with pancreatic enzymes.
  3. Bhuta agni. Housed in the liver, bhuta agni has five subtypes, each corresponding to one of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) and the digestion of that corresponding element; it can be equated with liver enzymes.
  4. Jatru agni. As the transformative power of the thyroid and thymus, jatru agni plays a primary role in both cellular metabolism and immunity.
  5. Dhatu agni. As the digestive energy of each dhatu (tissue layer), each of the seven dhatu agni maintains tissue nourishment and metabolism and converts immature into mature tissue—rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), meda (fat), asthi (bone), majja (nervous system), and shukra or arthava (reproductive tissue).
  6. Pilu agni. Within the cellular membrane, pilu agni serves as the guardian of the cell and provider of cellular nutrition.
  7. Pithara agni. Within the nuclear membrane of the cell, pithara agni is the genetic agni that converts cellular nutrition into consciousness, affecting the DNA.

(From Devani, V., Agni: The Key to Optimizing Health)

The role of the liver

The role is a large organ just under the right lung. It performs may vital functions, including:

  • Removing toxins from the blood stream
  • Producing bile to process and digest fats
  • Converting sugar into glycogen as an energy store for the muscles
  • Synthesising proteins and cholesterol and keeping blood cholesterol balanced
  • Produces blood-clotting factors
  • Stores essential factors like iron, copper and Vitamins A, D and B12
  • And much more.

The liver affects the health of the skin; if the liver is compromised it shows in poor skin health, including outbreaks like acne, eczema and psoriasis. If the liver is not functioning optimally, it will store toxins, causing allergies, elevated blood cholesterol, jaundice, cirrhosis and more.

Keeping Bhuta Agni balanced and strong is vital for the liver to work well.

Natural Balancing of liver through Diet

Eat organic, freshly-cooked foods and avoid toxins. Foods that are laced with preservatives and chemicals or processed or left over, should be avoided becauses, liver has to work overtime to filter out the toxins which, eventually affect the health of liver. Alcohol is well-proven to be the cause of cirrhosis and need to be avoided even in small doses by the Pitta constitution in summer season. Cigarette smoking aggravates pitta and capable of damaging health of liver in no time. Air pollution and exposure to chemicals of daily house hold and other toxic substances are injurious to liver health. Drinking plenty of pure water to flush out toxins is beneficial.

The best way to prevent liver imbalance is to keep Pitta dosha in balance. Eat a Pitta-pacifying diet in summer for example, sweet, juicy fruits, summer squashes, cooked greens, sweet milk products, lassi, and grains. Sour or fermented foods like vinegar, pungent like chilies, and salty foods are harmful especially for the persons having lot of Pitta in basic constitution. Start the day with a stewed apple or pear, to set the metabolism and cleanse the liver. Just eating a sweet, juicy pear every day can go a long way to soothing Pitta dosha and cleansing the liver.

Natural Balancing of liver through Lifestyle 

Do not skip or delay your meals, which help in balancing Pitta. In evening, it is preferable to dine early and sleep before 10:00 PM.  Pitta time of evening starts from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., and   awakening during this time, will increase Pitta dosha and prevent the liver from performing its essential functions. Also, lack of sleep has been shown to disturb metabolism of glucose, resulting in weight gain. It also has been linked to an increase in anger. Both of these symptoms are indicative of liver imbalance due to insomnia.

 Avoid the situations leading to conflict or anger due to work pressure. Regular practice of yoga specially Meditation reduces mental ama, prevents stress and helps in optimum liver function. Negative emotions create hormones that flood to the liver with toxins. Take proper care to balance your liver function which helps in generating more energy, developing glossy skin and stronger immunity.

(From National Health Portal, India)

The way to better health through improving agni and the liver

By becoming aware of the principle of agni, and how the liver affects health, we are armed with tools to maintain great health. By looking after your agni and your liver, you will be well on the way to maintaining all the functions of your body – and of your mind, because the body’s chemistry does affect the mind.

In another post, we will discuss more ways to look after your agni.

If you feel you need further assistance, or if you are experiencing illness, get in touch with Dr Priya Punjabi for a consultation and treatment programme with ayurvedic herbal formulas.

Meet the Author

Dr Priya Punjabi

Dr. Priya Punjabi is a ranked Ayurvedic practitioner in New Zealand, having represented the nation on National TV and at the International Health Convention. Dr. Punjabi earned her Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) degree in 1989, at the prestigious University of Pune, under the Tilak Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya School.