Satmya and Traditional Foods

Satmya and Traditional Foods

For Practitioners and Doctors Recipe

Satmya is anything that offers a wholesome effect or comfort to a person. This is especially true for many cultural foods and practices found throughout the world. Satmya has a similar meaning to Upashaya, which means “pacifying factors”. Any food, lifestyle change or therapy that offers a favorable outcome is an upashaya. Both are observed by the signs and symptoms of improvement which signifies relief or alleviation of a disease. Understanding a person’s satmya is an integral part of preserving their health [Ca. Vi. 1/20].

Any substance which produces a wholesome effect is called satmya to that person.

Satmya is one of the important assessment parameters in examining a patient. It differs according to desha (geographical region), kala (season), vyadhi (disease), prakriti (natural constitution), svabhava (inherent nature) and abhyasa (repeated use) [Ch. Su. 15/5].

Okasatmya is habituation after spontaneous exposure. [Ch. Vi.  8/118]. This is the most important concept of satmya and has a wide range of therapeutic utility. It is an acquired type of satmya due to repeated or habitual use of a particular substance or following a particular regimen for a long time. By repeated use or spontaneous exposure in small quantities, the person has adapted to a substance or regimen. It may or may not be beneficial for health in general. But, for that person, it becomes suitable without causing any harmful effects [Su. Su. 35/40].

Okasatmya depends upon the upayokta (consumer). It is one of the important components of each person’s diet. What is considered Pathya (wholesome) and apathya (unwholesome) highly depends upon the okasatmya of each person [Ch. Vi. 1/22].

  • Adaptation
  • Suitable habitat
  • Wholesome diet and lifestyle
  • Habitual use

Satmya and Upashaya

Upashaya (alleviation of disease by treatment) is inferred by satmya. Likewise, satmya is also used as a tool to reveal diseases with unclear pathologies. For example, if the pain gets relieved by the application of oil massage, then oil is suitable for the person and the condition is caused due to aggravated vata dosha [Ch. Vi. 4/8].

Importance in Health

Satmya is one of the six factors along with maternal, paternal, psychological, spiritual and nutritional, which contribute to the origin and development of humans [Ch. Sh. 3/14]. During the process of embryogenesis, it is said that satmya leads to the state of arogya (free from diseases), analasya (free from laziness), alolupatva (free from greed), clarity of the senses, excellence of voice, fertility, and optimum libido [Ch. Sh. 3/11].

The Importance of Desha Satmya

Desha satmya refers to the suitability and adaptation in a particular geographical area. Desha is the geographic origin of a substance. The food items growing in a region inherently has specific properties. For example, those growing in arid areas are light to digest and those in marshy areas are heavy to digest. Likewise, the animals also possess qualities according to that region [Ch. Vi. 1/22]. Having a diet and lifestyle with the opposite qualities of the geographical region you are in has a balancing effect on the people living in that area [Ch. Su. 6/50].

Additional Types of Satmya to Consider

  • Prakriti Satmya refers to the diet and lifestyle agreeable to the persons constitution.
  • Ritu Satmya refers to diet and lifestyle according to season.
  • Vyadhi Satmya refers to wholesome or especially effective in a particular disease.
  • Swabhava Satmya refers to a regimen specific to the inherent nature of substance.
  • Jati Satmya refers to the suitability of a substance to a specific animal species.
  • Vaya Satmya refers to suitability according to age.

Satmya viruddha (antagonism of suitability) and its management

If a person consumes a diet they are not accustomed to, then it leads to incompatibility and causes disease. For example, consumption of sweet and cold substances by a person accustomed to pungent and hot is antagonism in terms of suitability. [Ch. Su. 26/91]

The diseases caused by incompatible foods can be managed by therapeutic purgation, emesis, and pacification. Then resuming to prior use of wholesome substance and rejuvenation therapy. The adverse effects can be neutralized by slow and spontaneous exposure of antagonistic substances in small quantities, enhancing digestive power, young age, unction therapy, physical exercise and enhancing strength [Ch. Su. 26/106].

Satmya is considered while planning the post-therapy regimen after panchakarma along with other factors like variations in dosha, medicinal drugs, place of residence, time, strength, body, diet, suitability, mind, constitution, and age. These should be factored in while administering this therapy [Ch. Su. 15/17].

Traditional Recipes of India

India has a very rich tradition of diverse food practices throughout the country. There is a treasure trove of recipes that have been passed down by Indian ancestors. This compilation of recipes is largely a comprehensive exploration of traditional systems of eating for health and nourishment, interpreted for use in our own time. This online book encompasses cooking methods of some selected traditional food items and their health benefits. However, it contains only indicative general guidelines and therefore the users of the book may make necessary modifications in the recipes as per their own choice and availability of the ingredients in their region.

Download here - Traditional Food Recipes from AYUSH System of Medicines

When working with a client that is not from India, have you considered their satmya? Our ancestral foods create our DNA and our family foods that are passed down generation to generation are key to understanding a person’s satmya.

Let us know if you have traditional recipes from other regions. We are starting a library of traditional foods from around the world, especially if it includes local plants with medicinal benefits.


Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Kottakkal Ayurveda products and this information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. If you have serious, acute, or chronic health problems, please consult a trained health professional. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor, call (800) 215-9934 or email us at and we will provide you with one of our affiliated Ayurvedic professionals. Check with your doctor before taking herbs when pregnant or nursing.
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