It’s hard to be sexy when you’re sick. Though our noses are not nearly as sensitive as those of many animals, humans are still wired to sniff out when people are not well… and to avoid them. But the reverse is also true: radiant health is very attractive, to both men and women, and it make sense to cultivate it if for nothing else but to attract a quality partner. There is an aphorism that says:

            dharma artha kāma mokāām ārogyam mūlam uttamam

            rogāstasya apahartāra śreyaso jīvitasya ca ||

            “The root of dharma, prosperity, enjoyment, and freedom is good health. Diseases take this away, as well as goodness and life itself.”

 This reminder of how important health is not only to love and romance, but practically every area of life comes from the āyurvedic author Charaka. Health stands as an asset and disease is a liability to achieving our goals, which is why even in a book on sex, love and dharma, we must consider health one of the greatest aphrodisiacs. Lucky for you, the most important step to achieving it is summed up in two words: eliminate āma.

If humans are wired to find health attractive, then āma is the destroyer of attraction. There is no equivalent for this Sanskrit term in English, but it amounts to “toxic sludge,” or “morbid mucoid plaque.” Āma can be gross, like the whitish mucus you see if you stick out your tongue in the morning, or it can be subtle, circulating systemically, causing inflammation, cell toxicity and congestion. You can bet that if you have it on your tongue, it’s also in your body spawning all kinds of mischief! In fact, according to Āyurveda, āma is the root cause of all disease. Modern research is catching up to Āyurveda’s wisdom in recognizing the deadly effects of āma, though it is still a long ways from knowing what to do about it.

Āma creates tolerable problems like bad breath and flatulence, but also serious issues like heart disease, auto –immune disorders, alzheimers, and even cancer. Needless to say, romance is dampened when your body is full of sludge, and real delectable lovemaking becomes impossible. So how do you know if you have it?


If you wake up in the morning with foul-smelling breath, it is a sign of putrefication, which means you have āma in your system. More than likely, you will also have a whitish coating on part or all of your tongue, which you should scrape off immediately using a tongue scraper. Āma on the tongue means there is āma in the body. But if you wake up with fresh smelling breath and no āma on your tongue, then you are nirāma– without excessive toxic sludge, and your body is better prepared to respond to stress. Āma is the reason some people get sick when exposed to a stimulus like stress or a cold virus, while others do not. Āma is inflammatory, compromising your immunity and the body’s ability to resist external and internal threats. And, as we shall learn later, it is a key factor in aging.

If when you wake up you can burp and taste last night’s dinner, then your digestion is sluggish, and āma is probably present. If this is the case, skip breakfast and allow the body to finish digesting your last meal before giving it a new challenge. In fact, this is a simple way to know if you are ready to eat- if you can still taste and burp your last meal, then wait a little while, or try some of the herbal remedies outlined below.

The poop test is simple: if your bowel movement floats, it is a sign that you are relatively āma free and getting enough fiber. Because āma is sticky, cold, and heavy, it makes fecal matter sink. On the other hand, healthy digestion will promote the float. Other signs of low āma are: almost no smell to the feces, they come out easily shaped like bananas, and very little toilet paper is needed afterwards. All of these indicate good flora in the gut and adequate fiber intake. Research now tells us that our prehistoric ancestors ate up to 100 grams of fiber per day. We are lucky to get twenty grams in our Standard American Diet. Get your fiber and promote the float!

Dr. Lad is fond of saying that the greatest happiness is waking up to the call of number two. If you easily go every morning without need for coffee, food, or laxatives, it generally means your GI tract is functioning well.  If you’re not quite ready for a movement first thing in the morning, make it a point to drink a tall glass of room temperature water (16 oz) after scraping your tongue. That serves two functions. First, it hydrates your body since you’ve been waterless for at least the past eight hours. Second, it encourages peristalsis and the flushing of remaining toxins from your system. This first glass of water in the morning is the most important drink of the day. Even if you forget to drink the rest of the time, at least you’ve started well by hydrating your body and brain to function optimally at work, school, or at play.

The next test is most interesting. To do it, weigh yourself before eating, then thirty to sixty minutes after food weigh yourself again. You will need a precise scale for this. If your weight goes up after having food then your body is not making the most of its nutrition. If your weight stays the same, then you are metabolizing and burning your meals properly. If your weight goes down, that might be a sign of hyperthyroidism or an overactive metabolism…or it’s time to get a new scale.


Preview: Have you noticed how often soap opera and silver-screen lovers wake up in the morning and start making out? They must have very little āma and perfect agni to pull that off!  Giving that first morning smooch with sweet-smelling breath is a great sign of health, and something we can work up to.   .. more next week