Understanding Shukra Dhatu
Shukra is the term used to denote male gamete. It is the male factor responsible for the formation of embryo. When the sperm gets united with the ovum in which soul descends and gets implanted in the uterus, embryo is formed. It is the last and seventh tissue, hence constitutes the essence of all the previous six tissues. It is located at the Basti Dvara or opening of the urinary bladder and gets ejaculated through the Mutravaha Srotas or urethra.
Physical properties of Shukra are liquidity, abundant, sweet, unctuous, heavy, viscous, white like rock crystal and without any putrid smell (Ref Sloka 1). It gets ejaculated during coitus because of the fluidity, sliminess, heaviness, atomicity and tendency to flow out. Shukra Dhatu is ejaculated into the vagina during coitus because of the function of Vata Dosha, mainly Apana Vata in association with Tejas or heat generated during the sexual act. Passionate attachment, excitement, desire and physical pressure are also responsible for ejaculation of semen.
Role of Shukra in Fertilization
Two main functions of paternal factor, that is male partner for the process of fertilization are –
Production of healthy sperms
Deposition of sperm in the female genital tract through the act of coitus.
Defects in either of these functions may lead to male infertility.
Ayurveda explains two pathological conditions, namely Shukrakshaya and Shukradushti.
Shukra means Sperm and Kshaya means deficiency. Thus, Shukrakshaya means deficiency of one or more functions of the testes which are synthesis of testosterone and spermatogenesis. It may cause male infertility as well as sexual dysfunction too. Acharya Susrutha has classified Shukrakshaya into three types – Alpa Retas, Kshina Retas and Visushka Retas.
Alpa Retas means low levels of sperm from birth or below the age of 25 years resulting from chromosomal or congenital defects like in Klinefelter’s syndrome. Although low levels of sperm are from birth, diagnosis can be made only during or after puberty.
Kshina Retas indicated moderately low level of sperm in middle age. There is proper growth and development and normal level of sperm, however deficiency occurs later during life because of indulgence in causative factors such as unhealthy diet and lifestyle or affliction with chronic debilitating illness or infections, side effects of treatment such as chemotherapy.
Visushka Retas is extremely low level of sperm during old age, that is after 70 years of age. There is proper growth and development and normal levels of sperm, however sperm levels become greatly decreased in old age.
There are several causes, which may cause Shukra dosas. For the sake of easy explanation, all these causes can be broadly classified under four main headings:
Disorders in efferent duct system
Flaccid penis leading to non-deposition of sperm high in the vagina
Errors in seminal fluid.
Different causes which interfere with spermatogenesis are as below.
Bija Dosha – Chromosomal defects caused due to the defects in sperm or ovum of the parents results in production of offspring with defective genital organs.
Dvireta are the disorders of sexual development resulting from disordered sex chromosomes due to vitiation of the sperm and ovum of the parents responsible for creation of sexual characters in the foetus.
Janmabala Pravrtta – Congenital disorders such as hypospadias, epispadias, etc. where there are developmental defects of the male genitalia.
Kalabala Pravrtta – Metabolic or Pubertal defects &
Sanghatabala Pravrtta – Accidental trauma to the testes - If the testes of the foetus are affected by vitiated Vata Dosha and Agni (Pitta Dosha) then there is eviration in the offspring and the person will have problems with ejaculation.
Any defect in efferent duct system (Shukravaha srotas) either, structural or functional may lead to infertility.
Structural Defects of Shukravaha Srotas: Anomalies such as congenital absence of one or more parts of Shukravaha srotas such as total absence of cauda epididymis, the loop of the vas, and the vas deferens itself, also known as vas aplasia, although the caput epididymis is kept intact.
Functional Defects of Shukravaha Srotas: Functional defects in Shukravaha srotas is caused by Srotodushti, that is the patency of Shukravaha srotas (channels/ efferent duct system) is affected by various unhealthy life practices or by injury.
Causes of Shukravaha Srotodushti
Untimely coitus, intercourse under stressful conditions and with a lady having vaginal infectious diseases.
Celibacy: Forced abstinence due to traditional problems or prolonged abstinence due to relationship problems with partner or due to occupational problems etc.
Injury to Shukravaha srotas or its mula (testes) may be caused by sastra (sharp instrument), ksara (alkali) and agni (fire). Injuries with the above said factors may lead to haemorrhage, neurological deficits, inflammations and wounds. Further the wounds may get infected and affect the normal function of efferent duct system.
Symptoms of Shukravaha Srotodushti
Excessive or Premature ejaculation
Retrograde ejaculation (Vimargagamana of Shukra)
Obstruction of the efferent duct (Shukravaha Sroto Sanga)
Varicocele (Shukravaha Siragranthi)
Flaccid penis leading to non-deposition of sperm high in the vagina
Proper ejaculation of semen, high in the vagina is essential for the survival and migration of sperm into the cervical mucus. Erectile dysfunction and ejaculatory disturbances may lead to infertility due to failure to deposit sperm in the vagina.
Erectile dysfunction, irrespective of its cause and variety leads to infertility because of Stabda Medra i.e. flaccid penis which fails to intromit during sex act and thus failing in ejaculation of semen in the vagina. The addition five varieties of viz. Asekya, Saugandhika, Kumbhika, Irsyaka and Sandha may also lead to infertility. Amongst five, Sandha type does not possess Shukra and so is infertile; however, the former four varieties even though possessing Shukra may become infertile due to impotency. Erectile dysfunction is caused due to psychological factors, under nourished or weak Shukra Dhatu, excess coitus, accidental trauma, congenital problems, due to old age or suppression of natural urges.
Ejaculatory disturbances such as early ejaculation or ejaculation before penetration and premature ejaculation may lead to infertility. The causes of premature ejaculation are said to be anxiety, prolonged abstinence, hurried sexual experience, fear of losing erection, rapid ejaculatory reflex, excessive sensitivity. Aspermia or absence of ejaculation is another condition seen in patients of psychological anorgasmia.
Errors in seminal fluid (Shukra Dushti)
Provoked Dosas due to their respective causative factors vitiate Shukra and produce several types of Shukra Dushti.
Shukra means Sperm and Dushti means vitiation, thus Shukradushti refers to vitiation of seminal fluid. The sexual function is not necessarily affected in Shukradushti.
Causative factors of Shukra Dushti
The three fold causative factors for the vitiation of semen are improper diet, unhealthy lifestyle and psychological factors.
Ahara (Dietetic factors)
Ahita Ahara: Excess consumption of unsuitable food
Ati Ruksha Anna: Excess intake of dry food items such as crackers
Tikta Kashaya Lavana Amla Rasa Atisevana: Use of bitter, astringent, salty and sour tastes excessively in diet
Ati Ushna Ahara: Consumption of excess hot food and drinks
Vihara (Lifestyle factors)
Intercourse with unaroused partner
Coitus in old age
Suppression of ejaculation and other natural urges such as urination, defaecation, flatus, etc
Manasika (Psychological factors)
Family & Work Related stress
Pathophysiology of Shukra Dushti
One or more Doshas get vitiated and reach the Shukravaha Srotas (Efferent ducts) causing defects in semen. In addition aggravation of Apana Vata may also cause Shukra Dushti as ejaculation of Shukra is the function of Apana Vata.
Significance and Types of Shukradushti
Doshas vitiate the semen leading to infertility. In case conception occurs, either miscarriage or abortion occurs or the progeny will be sick, sterile, short-lived and disfigured. Vitiated semen shows changes in physical characters based on the Dosha vitiation. There are eight types of vitiation of semen.
Vataja Retas: Semen vitiated by Vata Dosha will have the following features.
Different haemorrhagic injuries, oligospermia, azoospermia, obstruction in efferent ducts come under Vataja Retas.
Pittaja Retas: Semen which is vitiated by Pitta Dosha will have the following features.
Acute inflammatory conditions of the testes fall under this type of Shukra Dushti. Foetid smell and yellowish coloration could be because of presence of pus cells whereas hotness and burning sensation could be because of acute inflammation.
Kaphaja Retas: Vitiated Kapha Dosha obstructs the normal flow of semen and causes the following features.
In this type of vitiation, there is increased viscosity of semen which is mostly seen in chronic infections and is associated with increased morphologically abnormal forms.
Anya Dhatu Samsrsta: Anya Dhatu means other materials apart from spermatozoa such as pus cells, mucus, bacteria, RBC, etc. Thus a semen containing these substances may be called as Anya Dhatu Samsrsta. Due to injury to the Shukravaha Srotas, blood mixed with semen can be seen.
Kapha Vataja Retas (Granthibhuta/Avasadi): Semen being vitiated by Kapha and Vata Doshas looks coagulated because of non-liquefaction as seen in prostate dysfunctions. The normal time for liquefication of semen is within 40 minutes after ejaculation. When the semen fails to liquify spontaneously it may result in sub-fertility.
Pitta Kaphaja Retas (Putipuyanibha): When the semen is vitiated by Pitta and Kapha, it becomes infected and contains pus cells (Puya). When semen contains excess pus cells it is known as pyospermia which is a chronic suppurative infection of semen.
Pitta Vataja Retas (Ksina Retas): When the semen is vitiated by Pitta and Vata, it is scanty or less in quantity or with subnormal parameters. It is also a variety under main classification of Shukra Kshaya resulting from specific causes as explained above. In this context, the semen parameters decreased due to vitiated Vata and Pitta are only considered. If Shukra Kshaya occurs due to any other cause or Dosha vitiation, it should not be considered under this category.
Sannipataja Retas (Mutra Purisha Gandhi): Semen which is vitiated by all the three Doshas will have the smell of urine or faeces and is known as Sannipataja Retas.
Samanya Chikitsa (General Treatment)
Visesha Chikitsa (Specific Treatment)
Samanya Chikitsa includes Snehana (Oleation), Swedana (Fomentation) and Uttarabasti (Trans-urethral enema)
Medicated enema is administered through the urethral route in men. Uttarabasti is a Panchakarma which performs detoxification, strength promoting, Dosha pacification actions and possess superior qualities by virtue of the herbs used in treatment. As Basti is the best treatment to pacify Vata Dosha, Uttara Basti normalizes the functions of Vata Dosha, mainly Apana Vata the vitiation of which causes infertility issues. The detoxifying action of Uttarabasti in the genital passages helps to restore the normal sexual functions. Also, inflammation, irritation, discomfort will be reduced. The oil or ghee used in treatment has nutritive functions and will improve blood circulation, nerve conduction and nourish the genital organs.
Medicated oils used for Uttarabasti
Different medicated oils or ghee are used for different purposes. In erectile dysfunction, Ashwagandha oil is beneficial whereas in premature ejaculation, Ashwagandha ghrita is useful. Kshirabala oil is good for Azoospermia whereas Mahamasha oil is beneficial in Oligospermia. Pippalyadi oil is useful in Asthenospermia.
Method of Administration
To cleanse the alimentary tract, Niruha Basti (Cleansing enema) is administered first using Triphala Decoction before Uttarabasti procedure. Following local massage and steam over the low back region, abdomen and groin, Uttarabasti is administered. About 20 to 30 ml of lukewarm medicated oil or ghee is taken in the Uttarabasti syringe and the nozzle is greased with oil. The nozzle is carefully introduced into the urethra by holding the penis erect and the medicine is injected slowly and steadily (uniformly). The patient is made to rest for 30 minutes. This procedure is done for 6 days every month, every day or every alternate day for upto 3 to 6 months.
Visesha Chikitsa includes administration of specific Vajikarana herbs according to the type of vitiation of sperm.
Vajikarana is one of the eight branches of Ayurveda which helps to enhance the status of Shukra Dhatu, improve sexual health and male fertility. Vaji means Stallion. As stallion cohabits vigorously, uninterruptedly and for long duration, also produces abundant sperm, it is used to denote sexual potency, hence the term Vajikarana (Ref Sloka 2). Herbs used in Vajikarana therapy are known as Vrishya Dravyas. These herbs improve sexual vigor and promote sperm quantity and quality.
Classification of Vajikarana Dravyas
Vajikarana dravyas are broadly classified into 3 types -
Shukrajanaka or Shukravrddhikara
Shukrapravartaka or Shukra srutikara
Shukrajanaka pravartaka or Shukra srutivrddhikara
Shukra Vriddhikara Dravyas: They nourish the tissues in sequential pattern right from Rasa Dhatu to the Shukra Dhatu thus initiate or increase semen. Herbs possess properties similar to that of sperm and enhance the sperm production qualitatively and quantitatively come under this category. These herbs enhance spermatogenesis ir androgen synthesis or both. Example, Mamsa (meat), Ghrta (ghee), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Sarkara (jaggery), Musali (Chlorophytum borivilianum).
Sadhya Shukra Vriddhikara: These herbs possess specific action of enhancing the transformation of nutrient portion of food into tissues bypassing the normal metabolic process, thereby increasing the production of sperm in a short period. Milk and Sugarcane juice possess this property.
Kramasha Shukra Vriddhikara: These herbs increase the sperm production after passing through the normal metabolic process, hence the effect is gradual as Shukra dhatu being the last among the seven tissues, greater time period is required for its production by these herbs.
Shukra Srutikara: These herbs have hot and penetrating properties which initiate the ejaculation of semen. The effect of these herbs is at the psychic level as they stimulate the sex center of the brain leading to excitation of sexual organs and discharge of sperm. These herbs either improve ejaculation or improve the action of androgens. Herbs like Akarkarabha (Anacyclus pyrethrum), Kasturi (musk), Gunja (Abrusprecatorius) etc. possess this property.
Shukra Sruti Vriddhikara: Herbs having both the above qualities (Spermatogenesis and ejaculation) come under this category. Some diet articles and herbs having this property are Kshira (Milk), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Bhallataka (Semicarpus anacardium), Kapikacchu (Mucuna pruriens), Ghrta (Ghee), Godhuma (Wheat), Masha (black gram) and Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus).
On the basis of this, it can be said that Shukra Vriddhikara Dravyas drugs are useful to improve semen qualities and Shukra Srutikara drugs are beneficial for the treatment of sexual dysfunctions, whereas Shukra Sruti Vriddhikara drugs are useful in both of these conditions and in cases where both of these dysfunctions are existing together.
Acharya Sharangadhara included Shukra Stambhaka and Shukra Shoshaka in the Vajikarana Dravya classification.
Shukra Stambhaka: Herbs which helps in promotes the retention power of a male partner during the sexual act. e.g. Jatiphala (Myristica fragrans ), Ahiphena (Papaver somniferum)
Shukra Shoshaka: The herbs which dry up the semen come under this category. E.g. Haritaki (Terminalia chebula).
In general, the Vajikarana therapy can be broadly classified into two groups on the basis of their pharmacological action.
Those acting at Psychic level
Those acting at Somatic level
Those acting on Psychic Level
Acharya Charaka has quoted 'Sankalpa' (Determination) and ‘Stri’ (Female) as the best aphrodisiac. These two agents stimulate the mind and act at the psychic level. Proper mental excitement is necessary for a satisfactory sexual act. Pleasant music and romantic place also come under this category.
Those acting at the somatic level
The effect of Vajikarana therapy on body may be divided into three groups as follows:
Dravya Samanya: Acharya Charaka states that diet articles and herbs having same properties as that of the Dhatu which increase the particular Dhatu in the body qualitatively and quantitatively. E.g. Eggs, Meat
Guna Samanya: Some herbs have properties similar to that of Shukra Dhatu such as sweet taste, unctuous and slimy properties, nourishing and strengthening qualities, etc. These are subclassified into herbs and diet. E.g. Milk, ghee, meat, Vidarikanda (Pureria tuberosa), Musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum).
Karma Samanya: The action performed by a person which increases Shukra comes under this category. E.g. Body massage, foot massage, exercise.
Method of Administration of Vajikarana
Depending upon one’s body strength, status of Doshas, Prakriti (Constitution), Agni (Digestive & Metabolic fire), one should administer Panchakarma first to detoxify the body after which Vajikarana herbs, suitable diet and lifestyle are suggested.
Jivanti (Leptadenia reticulata), Meda (Polygonatum verticillatum), Madhuka (Madhuca longifolia), Vata (Ficus bengalensis), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Rshabhaka (Malaxis acuminate), Pippali (Piper longum), Kakanasa (Matynia diandra), Satahva (Anethum sowa), Kapikacchu (Mucuna pruriens), Ksirakakoli (Lillium polyphyllum), Vacha (Acorus calamus), Bala (Sida cordifolia), Satavari (Asparagus racemosus), Iksu (Saccharum officinarum), Shalaparni (Desmodium gangeticum), Rasna (Alpinia galanga), Vidari (Pureria tuberosa), Madhu (honey), Kakoli (Roscoea purpurea), Mudgaparni (Vigna trilobata), Madhuyashti (Glycyrrhizza glabra), Srngataka (Trapabis pinosa), Amalaki (Embilica officinalis), Priyala (Buchnania lanzan), Ardraka (Zingiber officinale), Lasuna (Allium sativum), Patola (Trichosanthes diocia), Dadima (Punica granatum), Masha (Vigna mungo) and Eranda (Ricinus communis) are some of Vrshya Dravyas.
Shukra Kshaya Chikitsa
Acharya Sushruta has classified Vajikarana on the basis of its actions viz Apayayana Nimittam, Prasada Nimittam, Upachaya Nimittam, Janana Nimittam and Praharsha Jananartham which treat different conditions of the semen.
Apayayana Nimittam is the treatment for low sperm count from birth, that is Alpa Retas. It helps in sperm production.
Prasada Nimittan is indicated for Shukra Dushti (vitiation of Sperm tissue) due to Vata and other Doshas, that is in Dushta Retas.
Upachaya Nimittam is to be advocated in cases of moderately low sperm count especially during middle age, that is Kshina Retas caused due to various factors such as nutritional deficiencies or chronic illness. Upachaya Nimittam helps in restoring normal sperm count.
Janana Nimittam helps to treat excessively low levels of sperm especially in old age, that is Visushka Retas by compensating the loss by production of sperm.
Praharsha Jananartham acts at the mental level by stimulating the hypothalamus which triggers the pituitary gland to produce sperm.
Shukra Dushti Chikitsa
Shukra Shodhana (Purification of semen) by administering suitable Panchakarma and herbs according to the Doshas vitiated will help in the treatment of Shukra Dushti. Panchakarma mainly Vamana (Therapeutic emesis), Virechana (Therapeutic purgation), Niruha Basti (Decoction enema), Uttarabasti (Urethral enema) will help in purification of semen. Acharya Susrutha says that 18 Basti will help to eliminate Shukra Doshas.
Vataja Shukra Dushti: Anuvasana Basti (Oil enema) and Vata balancing, strength promoting herbs such as Ashwagandha, Kaunch are beneficial.
Pittaja Shukra Dushti: Virechana Panchakarma is beneficial. Rasayana or Rejuvenative formulations such as Brahmarasayana, Chyavanaprasha, Amalakyadi rasayana and Haritakyadi rasayana are suggested. Milk preparations, Draksha (grapes), Kasmarya (Gmelina arbora), Madhuka (Madhuka longifolia), Ushira (Vrtivera zizanoides), Sariva (Hemidescus indica), Candana (Santalum album), Mudgaparni (Vigna trilobata), Kapikacchu (Mucuna pruriens), Madhuyasti (Glyciriza glabra), Godhuma (wheat), Vidari (Pueraria tuberose), Ikshu (sugarcane) etc. is useful.
Kaphaja Shukra Dusti: Rasayana formulations of Pippali (Piper longum), Amrta (Tinospora cordifolia), Triphala (Fruits of Haritaki, Bibhitaki and Amalaki), Bhallataka (Semicarpus anacardium) etc.
Anya dhatu samsrsta: The presence of othe substances in semen should be examined through semen analysis and suitable treatment should be administered according to Dosha and Dhatu (tissue) involvement.
Kunapagandhi: Ghrta prepared with dhataki puspa (Woodforida floribunda), khadira (Acacia katechu), dadima (Punica granatum), arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) or ghrta prepared out of salasaradi gana (group of medicines).
Granthibhuta: Ghrta prepared with sathi (Hedychium spicatum) or palasa kshara (ash of Butea monosperma).
Putipuya: Ghrta prepared with parusakadi gana (Grewia asiatica) or vatadi gana (Ficus bengalensis).
Malagandhi: Ghrta prepared with citraka (Plumbago zeylanica), usira , and hingu (asafoetida).
Other drugs which are mentioned as Shukrasodhana are: kusta (Sazuria lappa), elavaluka (Prunus cerasus), katphala (Myrica esculenta), kadamba (Neolamarckia cadamba), ikshu (Saccharum officinarum), kokilaksa (Hygrophila auriculata), usira (Vrtivera zizanoides) and decoction of badara (Ziziphus mauritiana).
Ayurveda Formulations in Shukra Dushti
Ghrita (Medicated Ghee) Preparations: Jivaniya Ghrita, Ashwagandha Ghrita, Brihat Shatavari Ghrita
Lehya (Linctus) Preparations: Chyavanaprash, Kaunch Pak, Musli Pak, Narasimha Rasayana, Ashwagandhadi Lehya
Taila (Oil) Preparations: Eranda taila, Sahachara taila, Bala taila
Vati (Tablet) Preparations: Shilajit vati, Chandraprabha vati, Gokshuradi Guggulu
Arishta (Fermented liquids): Ashwagandharishta, Balarishta
Role of Diet
For the management of depletion in the Shukra dhatu, a proper diet which are Brmhana (nourishing) to rebuild the Shukra dhatu is required. The food articles which are possessing Madhura (sweet), Snigdha (unctuous) Jivana (promotors of life), Brmhana (nourishing) properties and have Madhura vipaka (sweet post digestive effect) and those which can produce Harsha (pleasure) in mind are considered as Vrshya diet (Ref Sloka 3).
Narikelodaka (Tender Coconut Water)
Kshira (Milk), Dadhi (Yoghurt made from buffalo’s milk), Ghrita (Ghee), Navnita (Fresh butter)
Madhu (Honey), Guda (Jaggery)
Eranda Taila (Castor oil)
Vasa (muscle fat), Mamsa Rasa (Meat soup)
Raktashali (red variety rice – Oryza sativa), Shastika (rice variety-Oryza plena), Masa (black gram), Chanaka (Chikpea), Godhuma (wheat)
Among fruits Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), mango, banana, grapes are Vrshya.
Among vegetables, ginger, long pepper and Patola (Trichosanthes cucumerina) are said to be Vrshya.
Tubers, Vidarikanda (Ipomoea paniculatus), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Varahakanda (Drynana quercifolia) and tender tops of Tala (Borassus fiabellifer), Narikela (Cocos nucifera), Kharjura (Pheonix sylvestris) etc are said to be Vrsya.
Saindhava (Rock salt)
Preparations made from milk and ghee.
Sesame improves sperm count and motility.
Garlic is an aphrodisiac which has a beneficial effect on recovery of testicular functions.
Black gram is fired in ghee and cooked with milk, then added with cane sugar and given for improving sperm quality and quantity.
Excess use of salty, spicy and bitter tastes has a depleting action on the sperm count.
Tobacco and Narcotic drugs affect the Ojas (Immunity) and essence of all tissues, including Shukra Dhatu.
The normal functioning of Shukra Dhatu is affected because of excess intake of trans-fat, caffeine, carbonated drinks, junk food, alcohol and smoking.
Pleasing sounds, Soft music, Melodies
Flowers like jasmine
Enchanting sights, gardens
The above improve sexual vigor and fertility.
In contrast to this grief anger, anxiety fear, suspiciousness, non-simulative woman partners influence adversely.
Thus, Vajikarana is the best treatment for Male infertility.
Sloka 1 (C.S.Ch.S 2/50)
Sloka 2 (C.S.Ch.S 2/51)
Sloka 3 (C.S.Ch.S 2/36)
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