The Six Tastes of Ayurveda

December 05, 2018

The Six Tastes of Ayurveda

As with all things Ayurveda, each of the Six Tastes (Rasas) have specific qualities (Gunas). The Six Tastes are a guiding principle in Ayurveda, which states that like qualities increase each other, whereas opposites promote balance. Each of the Six Tastes are integral to our diet and physiologic needs.  Knowing which Dosha (or Doshas) are prominent within you helps to determine the proper combination of tastes (Rasas) that you need. Ideally, each of the tastes are present at every meal – or at least every day – to ensure proper digestion and thwart future cravings.

All the tastes are important and have different functions in the mind and body, therefore one is not seen as “better” or “worse” than another. Your current Doshic balance (Vikruti), environment, lifestyle, age, and other qualities will guide you in choosing foods with particular properties to eat in larger or smaller quantities to promote or maintain balance, thereby reducing the chance of illness.

Samana: Foods that increase Dosha

Kopana: Foods that decrease Dosha

Swasthahita: Foods that maintain balance of unique Tridosha and health of individual

Rasa = Taste

Virya = Temperature of food (in terms of spiciness); ie hot = pepper; cold = milk. Generally astringent, bitter, and sweet are cooling; sour, pungent, and salty are heating

Vipaka = Post-digestive effect of a substance; conversion of taste after digestion:

Amla (sour); Madhura (sweet and salt); Katu (bitter, astringent, and pungent)

“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.  When diet is right, medicine is of no need.”
- Ayurvedic Proverb

The Sweet Taste

  • Balances: Vata, Pitta
  • Aggravates: Kapha
  • Elements: Earth, Water
  • Virya (temperature): cooling
  • Vipaka (post-digestive effect): sweet
  • Gunas: heavy, cold, oily, soft, grounding, building (anabolic), nourishing
  • Positive Emotions: compassion, joy, bliss
  • Emotions of Excess: attachment, greed, jealousy
  • Affected Tissues: all 7 Dhatus
  • Directions of Movement: descending; stabilizes Apana Vayu
  • Additional Actions: emollient, diuretic, laxative, anti-inflammatory

Benefits:

  • Soothes burning sensations
  • Increases Ojas, improves longevity and strength

Contraindications:

  • Increases fat deposition; exacerbates Kapha

In Excess:

  • Increases ama (toxins)
  • Excess moisture (water) smothers digestive fire
  • Increases heaviness, laziness, edema, greed, obesity, diabetes

Sweet Foods:

  • Fruits:
    • Cantaloupes, dates, prunes, mangos, bananas
  • Vegetables:
    • Beets, cooked carrots, root vegetables
  • Grains:
    • Corn, rice, wheat
  • Legumes:
    • Chickpeas, red lentils, mung beans, navy beans
  • Nuts/Seeds:
    • Almonds, cashews, coconut, pumpkin seeds
  • Dairy & Eggs
    • Ghee, milk, eggs
  • Meat:
    • Beef, pork, salmon
  • Sweeteners:
    • All
  • Spices:
    • Basil, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, fennel, vanilla

The Sour Taste

  • Balances: Vata
  • Aggravates: Kapha, Pitta
  • Elements: Earth, Fire
  • Virya: heating
  • Vipaka: sour
  • Gunas: liquid, light, oily, hot
  • Positive Emotions: comprehension, appreciation
  • Emotions of Excess: jealousy, rejection, hate, criticism
  • Affected Tissues: all (except Artava – reproductive)
  • Directions of Movement: Downward (activates Apana Vayu)
  • Additional Actions: emollient, laxative, holds heat

Benefits:

  • Digestive: stimulates appetite, enhances digestive enzymes
  • Cleanses liver
  • Anti-flatulent
  • High in antioxidants

Contraindications:

  • Exacerbates Pitta – itching, excess heat, any skin conditions
  • In damp/hot conditions, the sour taste is not recommended in excess

In Excess:

  • Causes excessive dryness
  • Hyperacidity, heartburn, ulcers, diarrhea
  • Exacerbates skin conditions: psoriasis, eczema, acne, dermatitis, rashes

Sour Foods:

  • Fruits:
    • Citrus (Grapefruits, lemons, limes)
  • Vegetables:
    • Pickles, tomatoes
  • Grains:
    • Dough breads (sourdough)
  • Legumes:
    • None
  • Nuts/Seeds:
    • None
  • Dairy & Eggs
    • Butter, cheese, sour cream, yogurt
  • Meat:
    • None
  • Sweeteners:
    • None
  • Spices:
    • Lemon, lime, garlic
  • Other:
    • Vinegar, most fermented foods, alcohol

The Salty Taste

  • Balances: Vata
  • Aggravates: Kapha and Pitta
  • Elements: Water and Fire
  • Virya: mild heating
  • Vipaka: sweet
  • Gunas: heavy, oily, hot
  • Positive Emotions: courage, confidence, enthusiasm
  • Emotions of Excess: temptation, addiction, attachment, greed, irritability
  • Affected Tissues: Rasa (plasma), Rakta (blood), Mamsa (muscle), Medda (fat), and Mejja (nerve)
  • Directions of Movement: Downward (activates Apana Vayu)
  • Additional Actions: increases appetite, laxative, expectorant

Benefits:

  • Increases salivation, digestion, absorption, nourishment
  • Strengthens muscle; provides moisture (maintains fluid balance)
  • Softens tissues

Contraindications:

  • Exacerbates Pitta – ulcer formation, aggravation; high blood pressure

In Excess:

  • Water retention, edema, high blood pressure
  • Increases burning sensations, inflammation, bleeding disorders, wrinkles, dry hair/skin
  • Depletes bone tissue

Foods:

  • Vegetables:
    • Celery, seaweed
  • Dairy & Eggs
    • Cottage cheese
  • Meat:
    • Tuna
  • Spices:
    • Table salt, rock salt, sea salt, soy sauce, tamarind

The Astringent Taste

  • Balances: Pitta and Kapha
  • Aggravates: Vata
  • Elements: Air and Earth
  • Virya: mild cooling
  • Vipaka: pungent
  • Gunas: dry, cold, heavy
  • Positive Emotions: stable, grounded
  • Emotions of Excess: depression, anxiety, rigidity, fear
  • Affected Tissues: Rasa (plasma); Rakta (blood); Mamsa (muscle); Artava (reproductive);
  • Directions of Movement: draws inward
  • Additional Actions: cools excess heat, hemostatic (reduces bleeding), vasoconstrictor

Benefits:

  • Absorbs excess moisture: reduces moisture in sweat, blood, stool, etc
  • Lekhana (scrapes fat in digestive tract)

Contraindications:

  • Dehydration; exacerbates Vata

In Excess:

  • Increases gas, bloating, constipation
  • Can smother digestive capacity

Foods:

  • Fruits:
    • Apples, green bananas, cranberries, pomegranates
  • Vegetables:
    • Sprouts, avocado, broccoli, cabbage, raw carrots, cauliflower, green beans, almost all raw vegetables
  • Grains:
    • Wheat pasta, rye
  • Legumes:
    • Almost all
  • Nuts/Seeds:
    • Popcorn
  • Meat:
    • Chicken (white), venison
  • Spices:
    • Basil, coriander, fennel, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, turmeric

The Pungent Taste

  • Balances: Kapha
  • Aggravates: Vata and Pitta
  • Elements: Fire and Air
  • Virya: heating
  • Vipaka: pungent
  • Gunas: hot, dry, light,
  • Positive Emotions: enthusiasm, concentration, creativity
  • Emotions of Excess: irritability, envy, anger
  • Affected Tissues: Rakta, Artava/Shukra
  • Directions of Movement: upward (Upana Vayu)
  • Additional Actions: vasodilator, diaphoretic, blood thinner

Benefits:

Essential at removing excess Kapha and ama from the body through it’s dry, hot, sharp properties.  Cleanses and clarifies blood and organs; removes excess congestion, toxins.

Contraindications:

If excess heat/Pitta is already present, pungent foods will exacerbate it. Avoid in high acid, ulcer, high Pitta, infertility

In Excess:

While some pungent flavors help heat a cool Vata, in excess it will lead to dehydration and depletion.

Foods:

  • Vegetables:
    • Chilies, garlic, onion, mustard greens, radishes, raw spinach
  • Grains:
    • Buckwheat, spelt
  • Nuts/Seeds:
    • Mustard Seeds
  • Spices:
    • Almost all unless cooling - pepper, cayenne, dry ginger, hing, mustard seed, cloves

The Bitter Taste

  • Balances: Pitta and Kapha
  • Aggravates: Vata
  • Elements: Air and Ether
  • Virya: cooling
  • Vipaka: pungent
  • Gunas: cool, light, dry
  • Positive Emotions: intuitiveness, self-awareness
  • Emotions of Excess: rejection, loneliness, boredom
  • Affected Tissues: Rasa (plasma); Rakta (blood); Medda (fat); Mejja (nervous); Artava/Shukra (reproductive)
  • Directions of Movement: downward (activates Apana Vayu)
  • Additional Actions: catabolic; diuretic; alterative; anti-inflammatory; reduces fat

Benefits:

  • Lekhana – scrapes fat; cleansing and reducing; purifies body fluids; digestive – enhances release of digestive enzymes

Contraindications:

  • Exacerbates high Vata state or cold, dry, light qualities, pregnancy (use limited amounts)

In Excess:

  • Low appetite, constipation, high Vata condition, reduces reproductive qualities

Foods:

  • Vegetables:
    • Bitter melon, burdock, leafy greens, collards, artichoke
  • Other
    • Sesame seeds, sesame oil, coffee, dark chocolate
  • Spices:
    • Cumin, dill, turmeric, fenugreek




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