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  Articles » Ayurveda & Health » Article Description :
Posted on: Sunday,July 5th 2009 By  India Abundance

1. Sweet

The sweet taste (as it is of the same nature as the human body, whose tissues taste sweet), promotes the growth of all bodily tissues and Ojas. Aiding in longevity, it is soothing to the five sense organs and the mind, and gives strength and good complexion. Sweet taste alleviates Pitta, Vata and the effects of poison. It also relieves thirst and burning sensation and it promotes the health and growth of skin and hair; it is good for the voice and energy.

Sweet taste is nourishing, vitalizing, gives contentment, adds bulk to the body, creates firmness. It rebuilds weakness, emaciation, and helps those damaged by disease. It is refreshing to the nose, mouth, throat, lips and tongue, and relieves fits and fainting. The favorite of insects, particularly bees and ants, sweet taste is wet, cooling and heavy.    

Yet when used too much by itself or in excess, sweet taste creates obesity, flaccidity, laziness, excessive sleep, heaviness, loss of appetite, weak digestion, abnormal growth of the muscles of the mouth and throat, difficult breathing, cough, difficult urination, intestinal torpor, fever due to cold, abdominal distention, excessive salivation, loss of feelings, loss of voice, goiter, swelling of the lymph glands, legs and neck, accumulations in the bladder and blood vessels, mucoid accretions in the throat and eyes, and other such Kapha- caused diseases.

Sweet taste in terms of western herbalism is nutritive, tonic and rejuvenative. It increases semen, milk and nerve tissue, and promotes tissue regeneration internally or externally. It is demulcent and emollient, moistening, softening and soothing.

Sweet Herbs: Sweet taste is found in herbs that contain sugars, starches or mucilage. It includes bland, starchy and pleasant tastes, and may be mixed with less agreeable secondary tastes. It is relatively uncommon. Typical sweet herbs include almonds, comfrey root, dates, fennel, flaxseed, licorice, maidenhair fern, marshmallow, psyllium, raisins, sesame seeds, slippery elm, and Solomons seal. Sweet taste in herbs can be increased by processing herbs with various forms of raw sugar, honey, or cooking them in milk.

2. Sour

Sour taste improves the taste of food, enkindles the digestive fire. Adds bulk to the body, invigorates, awakens the mind, gives firmness to the senses, increases strength, dispels intestinal gas and flatus, gives contentment to the heart, promotes salivation, aids swallowing, moistening and digestion of food, gives nourishment. It is light, hot and wet.

Yet when used too much by itself or in excess, sour taste makes the teeth sensitive, causes thirst, blinking of the eyes, goose bumps, liquifies  Kapha, aggravates Pitta and causes looseness of the body, creates edema in those weak, injured or in convalescence. From its heating property it promotes the maturation and suppuration of sores, wounds, burns, fractures and other injuries. It causes a burning sensation in the throat, chest and heart.

Sour taste in terms of western herbalism is stimulant, promotes digestion, increases appetite and is carminative (help dispel flatus). It is nourishing to all tissue-elements except reproductive tissue (shukra dhatu). It promotes metabolism, circulation, along with sensory and brain functioning.

Sour Herbs: sour taste occurs largely from the presence of various acids in plants, like acid fruit. Sour taste is rarer than sweet. Typical sour herbs include hawthorn berries, lemon, lime, raspberries and rose hips. Sour taste in herbs can be increased by preparing herbs in fermentation as herbal wines or as tinctures in alcohol (whose taste is sour).

3. Salty

Salty taste promotes digestion, is moistening, enkindles digestive fire; it is cutting, biting, sharp, fluid. It works as a sedative, laxative, deobstruent. Salty taste alleviates Vata, relieves stiffness, contractions, softens accumulations, and nullifies all other tastes. It promotes salivation, liquifies Kapha, cleanses the vessels, softens all the organs of the body, gives taste to food. It is heavy, oily and hot.

Yet when used too much by itself or in excess it aggravates Pitta, causes stagnation of blood, creates thirst, fainting and the sensation of burning, erosion and wasting of muscles. It aggravates infectious skin conditions, causes symptoms of poisoning, causes tumors to break open, makes the teeth fall, decreases virility, obstructs the functioning of the senses, causes wrinkling of the skin, greying and falling of the hair. Salty taste promotes bleeding diseases, hyperacidity of digestion, inflammatory skin diseases, gout and other mainly Pitta diseases.

Salty taste in small doses promotes digestion and increases appetite; in moderate doses functions as a laxative or purgative; and in large doses is an emetic, promotes, vomiting. It is demulcent, softening bodily tissues and it is calming, mildly sedative. It aids in tissue growth throughout the body and promotes water retention.

Salty Herbs: Salty taste is really not a plant but a mineral taste, so it Epsom salt, Irish moss, kelp, rock salt, sea salt and seaweed. Salty taste in herbs can be increased by adding salt to herbal preparations.

4. Pungent

The pungent taste is cleansing to the mouth, enkindles digestive fire, purifies food, promotes nasal secretions, causes tears and gives clarity to the senses. It helps cure diseases of intestinal torpor, obesity, abdominal swelling and excessive liquid in the body. It helps discharge oily, sweaty and sticky waste products. It gives taste to food, stops itching, helps the resolution of skin growths, kills worms, is germicidal, corrodes the muscle tissues, moves blood clots and blood stagnation, breaks up obstructions, opens the vessels, alleviates Kapha. It is light, hot and dry.

Yet when used too much by itself or in excess causes a weakening of virility by its post-digestive effect. By its taste and hot potency, it causes delusion, weariness, languor, emaciation. Pungent taste causes fainting, prostration, loss of consciousness and dizziness. It burns the throat, generates a burning sensation in the body, diminishes strength and causes thirst. By its predominance of fire and air, pungent taste creates various burning sensations, tremors, and piercing and stabbing pains throughout the body.

Pungent taste is stimulating, promotes digestion, increases appetite, is diaphoretic (causes sweating) and expectorant (removes phlegm) and is vermicidal (kills parasites). It promotes circulation and generally increases all bodily functions, while reducing all foreign accretions in the body.

Pungent Herbs: Pungent taste arises mainly from various aromatic oils. It is more common than sweet but not abundant. Still, many herbs belong to this category and they are very useful and often become spices and condiments. Pungent taste includes acrid, spicy and aromatic.

Typical pungent herbs include angelica, asafoetida, basil, bayberry, bay leaves, black pepper, camphor, cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ephedra, eucalyptus, garlic, ginger, horseradish, mustard, onions, oregano, peppermint, prickly ash, rosemary, sage, sassafras, spearmint, thyme, and valerian.

5. Bitter

Bitter taste, though it does not taste good in itself, restores the sense of taste. It is detoxifying, antibacterial, germicidal, and kills worms. It relieves fainting, burning sensation, itch, inflammatory skin conditions and thirst. Bitter taste creates tightness of the skin and muscles. It is antipyretic, febrifuge; it enkindles digestive fire, promotes digestion of toxins, purifies lactation, helps scrape away fat and remove toxic accumulations in fat, marrow, lymph, sweat, urine, excrement, Pitta and Kapha. It is dry, cold and light.

Yet when used by itself or in excess, owing to its natural properties of dryness, roughness and clearness, it causes a wasting away of all the tissue elements of the body. Bitter taste produces roughness in the vessels, takes away strength, causes emaciation, weariness, delusion, dizziness, dryness of the mouth and other diseases of Vata.

Bitter taste reduces fevers, is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, detoxifying and germicidal. It is cleansing to the blood and all tissues are general and helps reduce tumors. It has a reducing, depleting and sedating effect upon the body, although in small amounts it is stimulating, particularly to digestion.

Bitter Herbs: Bitter is a very common taste in herbs and plants. It arises from various bitter principles like berberine. Bitters may be simple, like gentian. They may be aromatic (pungent secondarily) like golden seal.

Typical bitter herbs include aloe, barberry, blessed thistle, blue flag, chapparal, chrysanthemum, dandelion, Echinacea, gentian, golden seal, pao darco, Peruvian bark, rhubarb, rue, tansy, white poplar, yarrow and yellow dock.

6. Astringent

Astringent taste is a sedative, stops diarrhoea, aids in healing of joints, promotes the closing and healing of sores and wounds. It is drying, firming, contracting. It alleviates Kapha, Pitta and stops bleeding. Astringent taste promotes absorption of bodily fluids; it is dry, cooling and light.

Yet when used too much by itself or in excess, it causes drying of the mouth, produces pain in the heart, causes constipation, weakens the voice, obstructs channels of circulation, makes the skin dark, weakens vitality, causes premature aging. Astringent taste causes the retention of gas, urine and feces, creates emaciation, weariness, thirst and stiffness. Owing to its natural properties of roughness, dryness and clearness, it causes Vata-disease like paralysis, spasm and convulsions.

Astringent taste is haemostatic (stop bleeding), stops sweating, stops diarrhoea, as it promotes absorption of fluids and inhibits their elimination. It is anti-inflammatory, vulnerary (closes wounds and promotes healing by knitting the membranes back together). It constricts the muscles and helps raise prolapsed organs.

Astringent Herbs: Astringent taste is also very common in herbs, but it is not of such therapeutic importance, as astringent action is used mainly symptomatically. Astringency derives mainly from the presence of various tannins.

Typical astringent herbs include cranesbill, lotus seeds, mullein, plantain, pomegranate, raspberry leaves, sumach, uva ursi, white pond lily, white oak bark and witch hazel.

Combined Tastes

Tastes of herbs are seldom single, though one usually predominates.

1. Sweet and pungent tastes sometimes combine, as with cinnamon, fennel, ginger and onion. Such herbs are particularly good for Vata.

2. Sweet and astringent often combine, as with comfrey, lotus, slippery elm and white pond lily. Such herbs are particularly good for Pitta but may be hard to digest.

3. Sweet and bitter sometimes combine, as with licorice. These herbs are also particularly good for Pitta.

4. Sweet and sour combine in various fruit like hawthorn and oranges. They are very good for Vata

5. Pungent and bitter sometimes combine as with mother word, mugwort, wormwood and yarrow. Such herbs have a strong effect on Kapha.

6. Pungent and astringent combine occasionally, as with bayberry, cinnamon or sage. They also work on Kapha.

7. Bitter and astringent often combine. As in many diuretics. Such herbs include golden seal, plantain and uva ursi. They work mainly on Pitta.

8. Some herbs possess three or more tastes. For herbs of multiple tastes the energy and post-digestive effect become important for determining their effect. Herbs of multiple tastes often possess powerful or broad spectrum healing action like garlic.

CHART OF THE SIX TASTES                                                                








                        POST-DIGESTIVE EFFECT








 Earth and Water


                Cooling  3




   Wet  1


                Heavy 1




   Water and Fire


                Heating  3




   Wet  2


                Heavy 2


     Sour (Acid)


    Earth and Fire


                Heating  2




  Wet  3


                Light 3




    Earth and Air


                Cooling  2




   Dry  3


                Heavy 3




    Air and Fire


                Heating  1




   Dry  1


                Light 2




   Air and Ether


                Cooling  1




  Dry  2


                Light  1



1- First degree, strongest action
2- Second degree, moderate action
3- Third degree, least action.

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