The Six Tastes of Ayurveda
The Six Tastes of Ayurveda
by Alejandra Quinonez
The world’s most ancient medicine system, Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga), uses its nutritional concepts as a basis for wellbeing. As an ancient Ayurvedic Proverb says, “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is right, medicine is of no need.”
Everything is medicine.
Ayurveda uses six culinary tastes to nourish the seven tissues of the body: plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow, and reproductive fluid. Each tissue must be nourished properly for the subsequent tissue to be nourished fully.
These six culinary tastes are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent.
Keep reading to learn the benefits and contraindications on each taste.
1. Sweet as Pie 💖
The sweet taste is nourishing to the soul, like apple pie, and grounding for the Vata Dosha like the hug of a warm golden milk latte. Sweet taste is cool, heavy and nourishing. It balances the mind, tissues, soothes the mucous membranes, eases burning and is a laxative and an expectorant. The sweet taste is ruled by the earth and water elements, thus the sweet taste invokes nourishing, grounding, and sweet feelings of love.
The sweet taste not only includes actual sweet foods like pie and honey, but also includes foods such as:
The sweet taste balances the Vata and Pitta Doshas and increases the Kapha Dosha. In much excess, the sweet taste can harness a lack of fulfillment, sadness, and damage the spleen and pancreas.
2. Pucker Up 😘
The sour taste is ruled by the earth and water elements, thus salivation occurs (similar to the bite of a warhead candy)! Sour taste is hot, heavy, and moist. It is a laxative, it softens tissues, and stimulates digestion. It dispels gas, relieves thirst, and increases tissues. The sour taste is energizing to the digestion, like lemon water, and warming for the Vata and Kapha Doshas like the zing of fire cider. “Sour is refreshing; it energizes the body, nourishes the heart, and enlivens the mind.” It creates feelings of energized calm, sedation and contentment.
The sour taste not only includes actual sour foods like citrus, but also includes foods like:
…and anything that is sour, acidic, and ferments easily.
The sour taste balances Vata and increases Pitta and Kapha. “Psychologically, sour taste brings comprehension, appreciation, recognition, and discernment. It makes the mind alert and enhances the span of attention. It balances cholesterol and eliminates congestion.” In excess, it can cause vomiting, judgement, envy, degradation of the delicate reproductive tissues, and create kidney and liver damage.
3. Feeling Salty
The salty taste is warming for the Vata like a nice warm bowl of pho. The salty taste is ruled by the earth and fire elements, and has the qualities of hot, heavy and moist, thus the salty taste is warming and grounding for Vata Dosha. The salty taste softens tissues, is a laxative and sedative, it stimulates digestion, and in large amounts it is purgative.
The salty taste not only includes actual salt, but also includes foods like:
The salty taste balances Vata Dosha and increases Pitta and Kapha Doshas. In excess it invokes the feelings of greed and damages the kidneys.
4. Hot and Spicy 💃🏾
The pungent taste is heating like the kick of a green chili and energizing like a hot cinnamon ginger tea. The pungent taste is ruled by the fire element thus perspiration occurs similar to the sweat of Sriracha! Pungent taste is hot, light, and dry. It is stimulating, invokes sweating, increases organ function, and metabolism, clarity and is an expectorant. The pungent taste is ruled by the fire element, thus the pungent taste invokes heating, uplifting, and energizing feelings.
The pungent taste not only includes actual spicy foods like chili, but also includes foods like:
The pungent taste balances Kapha Dosha and increases Vata and Pitta Doshas. In excess, the pungent taste can produce anger, rage, hatred and can be damaging to the lungs.
5. A Bit Bitter
The bitter taste is not delicious by itself, but improves the taste of all other foods. The bitter taste is ruled by the air and space elements, thus the bitter taste invokes uplifting, energizing, cooling and light feelings. Bitter taste is cool, light and dry. It cleanses the blood, is detoxifying, decreases tissues in the body, and increases lightness and subtlety in the mind. It can even make a person “celibate in the mind.”
The bitter taste not only includes actual bitter foods like under ripe banana, but also includes foods like:
The bitter taste balances the Pitta and Kapha Doshas and increases the Vata Dosha. In excess the bitter taste can produce feeling of grief, resentment and a hurt heart.
6. Cut and Dry 🔪
The astringent taste is cut and dry like and unripe banana. It can even create a coughing or choking sensation. Astringent taste is cool, heavy, and dry. It is a coagulant and binds the stool (which can be helpful if one is experiencing loose stool). It stops sweating and creates a sense of independence. The astringent taste is ruled by the air and earth elements, thus the astringent is grounding, and supporting for Pitta and Kapha.
The astringent taste not only includes actual astringent foods like vinegar, but also includes foods like:
The astringent taste balances the Pitta and Kapha Doshas and increases the Vata Dosha. In excess the astringent taste can produce an excess of fear, dryness, confusion, and hurt the colon.
To feel fully satisfied after a meal
include all 6 tastes, starting and ending with the sweet taste.
Author: Alejandra Ayurveda
Sources: Fundamentals of Ayurveda by Vasant Lad
Soma Mata Institute by Gananathamritananda Swamiji