Pitta Dosha Explained: 8 Characteristics Of Pitta Explored

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Pitta is the second most important dosha, the only dosha in the body that brings warmth and heat. Kapha and Vata both have a tendency toward coldness. Let’s look at how ancient texts described pitta dosha –

सस्नेहमुष्णं तीक्ष्णं च द्रवमम्लं सरं कटु|

विपरीतगुणैः पित्तं द्रव्यैराशु प्रशाम्यति||६०||

Mildly unctuous, warm, and sharp, liquid, acidic, moves like a fluid, pungent

Opposite properties can pacify pitta quickly

Charak Samhita (Sutrasthana 1:52)

In this article we will explore:

  • Definitions of Pitta Dosha
  • 8 Characteristics of Pitta Dosha
a red mandala representing pitta dosha

What is Pitta dosha?

According to the classical Sanskrit etymology, the word pitta emerges from the dhatu (root word) – तप संतापे (tapa). The word “tapa” refers to heat, and the word pitta means “something that burns or produces heat in the body.”

According to the above definition, Ayurveda says तपति इति पित्तं (the one that burns/produces heat) is the pitta.

However, pitta is not a thing. It is a system or process that works on all things. Depending on the input, it can produce different outputs. The mechanism, however, remains the same.

Does Pitta work only inside the human body?

As with Vata and Kapha, Pitta is a cosmic biophysical energy that can be felt both inside and outside of the body. In ancient classical texts, we find a reference to the cosmic contribution of the pitta system.

As per Charak Samhita, Pitta dosha in the body is related to the sun in the universe. The sun plays a very important role in Ayurveda. Solar movement underpins the entire concept of ritucharya (Ayurvedic seasonal regimen).

Sunlight helps plants to grow. According to Ayurveda, the sun feeds life during other seasons. But, extreme heat of sun robs the living creatures of their juice in summer. Hence, the complete annual dosha cycle consists of the same process – solar extraction of vitality in summer and its replenishment.

Pitta dosha has the same function. It breaks down the ingested food and provides nourishment to the entire body. But, an imbalanced pitta can extract vitality from the body tissues and burn them down.

a silhouette of a woman in front of a sunset

What constitutes Pitta?

Everything in the universe is made of the three energies – sattva (balance), rajas (hyperactivity), and tamas (ignorance). These energies form the foundation for the five great elements: space/ether (ākāśa); air/wind (vāyu); fire (tejas); water (jala); earth (pṛthvī).

Each of these five elements has dominant energy. The fire element is dominant in the sattvic energy, which helps to burn down the unrequired to reveal the core.

The Fire Effect

Pitta dosha has all five elements because physical existence is not possible without these fundamental blocks. But the fire is the dominant element that drives the pitta energy.

Therefore, pitta dosha is primarily sattvic. In a balanced state, it creates harmony in both the mind and the body.

With the fire element, pitta dosha brings fire-related heat, penetrating power, the capacity to break down food, burn pathogens or tissues, and many more fiery functions.

fire in front of a black background, representing pitta dosha

8 Pitta characteristics

  • Mild Unctuousness
  • Warmth
  • Penetrating Effect
  • Liquidity
  • Acidity
  • Fluid-Like Movement
  • Pungent Taste
  • Foul Smell

To follow, we are going to explain each of these 8 characteristics in detail.

#1: Mild Unctuousness of Pitta Dosha

Pitta dosha is unctuous, but the ancient text Charak Samhita specifically mentions pitta being “slightly” unctuous.

Both Pitta and Kapha doshas are unctuous. But there is a difference in the quality of their moisture. Pitta’s unctuousness is not exactly moisturizing. It is more of petrol-like oiliness that is light, sharp, and penetrating. Whereas the Kapha unctuousness is more moisturizing, like that of a plant-based oil or ghee.

This petrol-like oiliness which is light and sharp complements all the other properties of Pitta dosha. This oiliness lights up and fuels the Pitta fire, whether it is the digestion or the reception of visual stimuli through chemical conversions in the eyes.

brown eyes looking upwards

#2: The Warmth of Pitta Dosha

Pitta dosha is very special because it is the only dosha that brings warmth to the body. The other two doshas, Vata, and Kapha create coolness. Hence Pitta is the single metabolic pattern that helps to maintain warmth.

Warmth is so important for the body as all the metabolic processes inside it require a specific temperature. The enzymes and hormones get activated at precise degrees of temperature. Therefore, a balance in the temperature is crucial for a healthy metabolism.

This warmth powers the digestive enzymes and softens the food. It also helps to stimulate various secretions throughout the body.

The production, management, and elimination of warmth in the body are completely managed by the Pitta dosha.

Pitta dosha generates warmth in the body by breaking down the food particles in the digestive tract. As a part of the digestive system, the liver is the biggest producer of heat. It is also an abode of the Pitta dosha. The blood passing through the liver absorbs the heat and dilates the blood vessels, even near the skin.

This warmth is the reason people with pitta body types have a reddish tinge to their skin!

The dilated blood vessels transfer the heat to the skin, forming sweat. As the sweat evaporates, it produces a cooling effect and balances the body temperature. Thus, the warmth of Pitta dosha is the primary factor that controls heat exchange and temperature management in the body.

When there is an imbalance in the pitta dosha, the temperature management system of the body is also imbalanced. Thus, Pitta imbalance is the primary reason for fever or inflammation in the body.

a thermometer with 37 degrees on it

#3: The Penetrating Effect of Pitta Dosha

Pitta dosha has a sharpness that helps it to break down and penetrate through substances. Most digestive juices embody this quality of Pitta dosha. They have the harshness that helps them to penetrate through the food particles, break them down, and extract their nutrition.

Another example of Pitta sharpness is visible during the allergic reaction, where the skin shows symptoms within seconds.

Another interesting example is the hormonal effect on the body. The hormones like insulin have a strong penetrating ability that helps them to produce a powerful impact even in minute quantities.

Consider the effects of narcotics, alcohol, or snake venom on the human body. All these substances are pitta-enhancing agents.

Due to their powerful penetrating power, these substances disperse rapidly throughout the body and produce effects within seconds. All these substances easily permeate various layers of the metabolic system. This is all due to the sharp penetrating capacity of Pitta dosha.

This penetrating effect is also important for pathogen destruction in the body. In Ayurveda terms, the digestive juices can digest and destroy the toxins (bio-chemical elements that hinder the normal metabolism) present in the food due to the penetrating power of pitta.

Excess sharpness in the pitta may lead to harsh digestive juices. In combination with other properties like acidity, it may lead to disorders like leaky gut, or internal clots.

These disorders happen when the blood embodies this sharp penetrating effect and leaks out of the blood vessels.

a selection of alcoholic spirits

#4: Liquidity of Pitta Dosha

The Sanskrit word for liquid is drava. It refers to moisture and the ability to make things wet.

However, Pitta dosha produces liquidity as it melts the substances with its heat. So, this liquidity is not quite water-like but akin to hot molten lava. Hence, it also embodies all other properties of Pitta dosha like sharpness, unctuousness and acidity.

The best way to understand Pitta liquidity is through the digestive acid. The liquidity not only softens but also facilitates the penetration inside the food particles. It may burn up the chemical bonds in the food bio-molecules and free the nutrition.

At the same time, this liquidity preserves the nutrition from burning up and balances the Pitta heat. However, sometimes, an overly harsh Pitta system may produce digestive acids that may burn the nutrition as well.

One of the important abodes of Pitta dosha, the blood is liquid for better transportation purposes.

Excess liquidity in the body may lead to a more liquid blood and tissue fluids. This may lead to disorders like anemia, where the solid mass of RBCs is lower compared to the serum. Excess liquidity may also lead to swelling.

Swelling or edema brings us to the topic of glaucoma. Pitta dosha resides in the eyes, and excess liquidity in Pitta with a weak eye metabolism may lead to glaucoma.

a silver liquid

#5: The Acidity of Pitta Dosha

Pitta dosha naturally produces acid in the body. This property comes in handy in the formation of different digestive juices in the alimentary canal, whether it is the hydrochloric acid in the stomach or the lactic acid that forms in the muscles during exercise.

This natural acidity of the Pitta dosha is the major factor in digestion as it helps to break down the food.

The digestive system is the first one to experience an imbalance in the excess acidity of Pitta dosha. In the long term, this excess acidity may also lead to disorders like heartburn, peptic ulcers et cetera.

An imbalance in this Pitta property can lead to excessive acidity in the blood which can travel through the body to its organs. This acidity is one of the main reasons for chronic inflammation and related disorders.

Combined with other properties like sharpness and heat, excess acidity can dissolve the body tissues and lead to degenerative disorders.

Also, excessive intake of acidic food can cause pitta imbalance in the body as the same properties in two substances to add to produce an enhanced effect. This is the reason, excessive consumption of acids like Alcohol can aggravate the pitta dosha. It can pollute and damage the pitta sites like blood and liver.

According to Ayurveda, this is one of the reasons excess alcohol consumption causes liver cirrhosis!

lemons and a pot of salt

#6: The Fluid Like Movement of Pitta Dosha

The special fluid-like movement of Pitta dosha can be explained in two ways.

One example is the movement of petrol. Petrol spreads and evaporates faster than water. It exhibits both liquid and vapor behavior at the same temperature. And liquid and vapor are both classified as fluids.

Excess fluidity by Pitta imbalance directly affects the liquid parts of the body like the blood. 

Fluidity may also refer to the vapour like behavior of Pitta. In some cases, excess heat may cause the blood to abnormally surge towards the higher parts of the body. Combined with other features like liquidity and sharpness, it may lead to disorders like nose bleeds and hemorrhagic disorders.

#7: The Pungent Taste of Pitta Dosha

The pungent taste naturally results from the sharp burning effect of the Pitta dosha.

According to Ayurveda, each taste produces a specific result. Pungent taste emerges from a combination of air and fire elements and contains pitta enhancing properties.

It enhances the Pitta dosha the way a breeze kindles a fire. The digestive property of Pitta is fueled by the pungent taste, as the pungent taste also stimulates better secretion of the digestive juices.

a child feeding her mum a spoonful of food

#8: The Foul Smell of Pitta Dosha 

Another authority text in Ayurveda – Ashtanga Hridya mentions two distinct qualities of Pitta dosha. It says that Pitta naturally produces a foul smell. This is the reason Pitta dominant people tend to foul smell in their sweat.

Sweat is a way for the body to excrete toxins. So, the blood deposits its impurities in the external layer of the skin, where they are eliminated via sweat.

However, in case of Pitta, the acidity, sharpness, and liquidity lead to excess sweat formation, mostly with a foul smell. Also, the Pitta body needs excess sweat to keep cool.

There are many other examples of foul smell in body excretions in case of a Pitta dominant body. For instance, the foul smell in farts is a direct result of Pitta-based fermentation gone astray.

Also, the foul smell that emerges from a highly infected wound is an effect of imbalanced Pitta dosha.

A Summary

Pitta dosha is the biophysical energy that lights up the body. As the controller of the digestive system, pitta is the source of nutrition and health. It manages the body temperature, water, and electrolyte balance through sweating.

However, it is a dosha with a tendency to go overboard with any imbalance in its properties.

Dosha Quiz | Discover My Ayurvedic Body Type

a group of women smiling and laughing together

Knowing your dosha can provide a window into your inner world. 

Whether Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, or a combination of all three, you'll receive tailored information on your unique dosha composition at the end of the quiz. 

Answer each question instinctively, try not to overthink! 

Photo of author
Dr. Kanika Verma is an Ayurveda physician from India, with 10 years of Ayurveda practice. She specializes in Ritucharya consultation (Ayurvedic Preventive seasonal therapy) and Satvavjay (Ayurvedic mental health management), with more than 10 years of experience.

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