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The term agni stands for the biological fire. Agni, the biological fire is not only vital at physiological but at pathological levels, also. Just like food stuffs are required by the human body regularly for nutrition, the agni or the digestive fire need regular feeding in order to carry out physiological biochemical pathways in the human body body.
Majority of the health disorders are the outcome of improper functioning of the agni as it is central subject to the health. The role of agni is not limited to absorption of macronutrients as well as micronutrients, but is essential for destruction of microbes and pathogens. The food-stuffs which are not properly digested are referred to as "ama" in Ayurvedic system of medicine. Ama or toxic substance is responsible for origin of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Normal functioning of agni or the digestive fire is evident from normal function of the gastro-intestinal, heart, strong resistance or immunity against pathogens and diseases, proper health, and above all, the complexion of the face. Thus agni has great description physiological significance.
If agni or the digestive fire is not working in a proper fashion, there is poor digestion, sluggish blood-circulation, poor stool formation, infections, poor energy levels, and poor impaired immunity against pathogens and diseases. According to the Ayurvedic principles, improper functioning of the digestive fire is the root cause of the clinical diseases.
Being one of the five elements, agni or fire has one typical characteristic that it has no existance without the biological fire, pitta dosha.
Pitta, the biological fire, is one three biological humours of the human body. All the matter in the universe is composed of the five-elements or panchabhootas. The name is according to the predominance of either of the five-elements or panchabhootas. Accordingly, the Agni or fire represents the pitta. Since Agni is working continuously inside the human body, it is known as antaragni or internal fire. When pitta or biologica fire increases, the agni becomes tikshnagni, which has capacity to peform quick digestion of various food stuffs. According to Susrutha, pitta is vishad non-sticky, a characteristic due to whcih, pitta performs the process of aharapaka and dhatupaka.
For the carrying out metabolic processes in the body, there are three main groups of biological factors, probably exhibiting enzymatic functions (agnis).
Jatharagni is present in the form of the pachak pitta (a variety of pitta). Jatharagni is primarily responsible for the process of digestion and the absorption of nutritients during this whole process going in the gastro-intestinal tract.
The rasa is exposed to various changes during the different phase of digestion (this phase of digestion is known as avsthapaka). When the process of the digestion is complete, the digested food possess the original rasa which is similar to wthe rasa of the food ingested (this phase of digestion is known as Nistha paka. Nistha paka is popularly known as Vipaka.
Bhutagni is present in the one of the element, precisely known as, Panchmahabhutas.
All the seven dhatu (tissues) of the human body posses their own fir or agni in order to metabolize the macro and micronutrients supplied through the channels of circulation.