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Home sjmtoc 6 Therapeutic Action of Taste in Ayurveda

6.3 Qualities of Taste in Ayurvedic Healing



The six tastes are the key to understanding the food and herb therapies of Ayurveda. Their system of tastes gives us a method of choose our food and our medicines systematically for our personal constitution. If we use the right balance of tastes for our constitution, then we will seldom, if ever, fall six, because by using the tastes correctly we keep the three humors in balance. This is not a simplistic method of classifying foods and plants; taste has a very definite biochemical effect on the body.

The taste balance the humors because they are made from the five states of matter - the five elements - just like the humors. Each taste is made of two of the states of matties - the taste on your tongue, the immediate action, and the long-term action in your body. Three of the tastes have different long-term effects on the body. The long-term effect is very important when using herbs or food as medicine. Why? Because over a long period of use, you may start to obtain the opposite effect than when you started.

Some plants have a fourth effect that is the “Catch 22” effect. In Ayurveda, this fourth effect is referred to as he “special action” of an individual plant. It can be seen that there are many musicians but only one Beethoven or only one Mozart. These composers had a very special gift to give humanity; so too, certain plants have special action. There is no systematic way to know what the fourth effect is, one must just learn them .

Qualities of the Six Tastes.

TASTEELEMENTSPOTENCYEFFECTS (long term)
SweetEarth + Watercold / damp / heavySweet
SourEarth + Firehot / damp / heavySour
SaltyWater + Firehot / moist / heavySweet
PungentFire + Airhot / dry / lightPungent
BitterAir + Ethercold / dry / lightPungent
AstringentAir + Earthcold / dry / lightPungent

Under potency and attributes there are three possibilities:

Heat: hot versus cold
- refers to the action in digestion. For example, if you eat hot salsa or Tabasco sauce, you will feel a burning in your stomach and may even sweat. This degree of hot varies according to the food and how much fire it has in its nature.

Moisture: Moist-damp-dry
- means it has a lubrication effect or a drying effect. Black pepper is drying and milk is moist.

Weight: light versus heavy
- refers to how your stomach feels after a meal, or how hard a food is to digest. Some foods are obvious and other are not; steak is heavy and salad is light. Common sense isn’t it? Who said this was complicated?






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