Ayurveda advocates that everything in this world, including the human body is made up of five elements, popularly known as PanchMahaBhootas in Sanskrit (language of ancient India). The Panchamahabhutas are classified as:
- Akash (Space)
- Vayu (Air)
- Agni (Fire)
- Jal (Water)
- Prithvi (Earth)
Thses elements are omnipresent. They are mixed in an infinite variety of relative proportions such that each form of matter is distinctly unique. Although each element has a range of attributes, only some get evident in particular situations. Constantly changing and interacting with each other, they create a situation of dynamic flux that keeps the world going.
In the case of a human beings for instance, akash corresponds to spaces within the body (mouth, nostrils, abdomen etc.); vayu denotes the movement (essentially muscular); agni controls the functioning of enzymes (intelligence, digestive system, metabolism); jal is in all body fluids (as plasma, saliva, digestive juices); and prithvi manifests itself in the solid structure of the body (bones, teeth, flesh, hair et al).
The Panchmahabhutas therefore serves as the foundation of all diagnosis & treatment arguments in Ayurveda and has served as the most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat the three types of illnesse (physical body, mental, social).
There is a balanced condensation of these five elements in different proportions to suit the needs and requirements of different structures and functions of the body composition and its parts. The growth and development of the body composition depends on its nutrition, i.e. on food.
The food, in turn, is composed of the above five elements, which replenish or nourish the body composition and essential elements (tissues etc.) after the action of bio-fire (Agni). The tissues of the body are the structures whereas humours are physiological entities, derived from different combinations and permutations of Panchamahabhutas.