Ayurveda distinguishes six different tastes: sweet, sour, salty, hot, bitter and astringent. What the tongue tastes has thus already an effect on the body!
All six tastes should be present in a meal. Then one leaves the table satisfied and balanced, more food is not needed, even though you havn´t eaten so much. Is there a lack of one of those tastes, the person might feel a strong desire towards the lacking taste and gets unbalanced. That being present of all six tastes though means balance and equilibrium for all doshas.
The six tastes are combinations of the 5 natural elements (water, earth, fire, space, air). Here follows a short description where we can find the six tastes in our daily food and which effect they have on our body and our doshas:
Important: Ayurveda distinguishes three different effect of tastes – rasa, virya and vipaka.
Rasa is the direct effect of the taste, when it´s perceptible on out tongue and in our mouth. Before the digestion starts.
Virya means the energie, that a specific food produces during digestion. Virya regulates the ana- and catabolic processes. There are two viryas: heating and cooling. The cooling energy has an anabolic effect and preserves energy. A cooling virya generates stability and substance. A heating virya has a catabolic effect an the metabolism and frees energy. It activates agni and promotes the reduction of body tissues. A carrot has a sweet taste (rasa and vipaka) but it´s heating virya stimulates agni and increases Pitta.
Vipaka describes the taste after the digestion, when the nutritions are being absorbed by the organs and tissues (dhatus). It is the last reaction of food on the body, so the result of the digestion process. Vipaka determines the composing of the doshas, the quantity of waste products (urin, sweat, stool), the ana- and catabolism of our reproduction tissues and our immune system (ojas). There are three different vipakas:
sweet – increases Kapha
sauer – increases Pitta
scharf – increases Vata
The six tastes:
Sweet consists out of water and earth and is enclosed in: all cereals, nuts, honey*, sugar, rice, milk, fennel, licorice, a.s.o. Sweet is the most important taste of all! * honey reduces Kapha and has an stringent quality.
Effect: sweet is very similar to our body tissues, builds our tissue, strengthens and stabilizes it. Sweet has a calming, cooling, nurtering and moisturizing effect.
Too much sweet leads to obesity, lethargy, obstruction and other Kapha related deseases.
Doshas: cools strongly Pitta down, calms Vata and increases strongly Kapha
Sour is a combination of earth and fire and is enclosed in: lemons, cured cheese, joghurt, vinegar, fruit acids, rose hip a.s.o. Pomegranate and amla are exceptions! Sour can be increased by fermentation (Aristhas).
Effect: sour stimulates the appetitand the salivation, stimulates also the digestion and sharpens the senses. Sour helps to move the food in the gastrointestinal tract down. To much sour increases Pitta and Kapha, thurst and leads to flag muscles.
Doshas: increases Kapha and Pitta, reduces Vata
Salty is a combination of fire and water and is enclosed in: salt, alga
Effect: stimulates the digestion and the appetit, bind water and makes the body more flexibel. Salty increases the taste of the meal.
Too much salt in the dishes increases Pitta, makes thursty, generate early wrinkles, hair turns grey or hair lost and increases blood pressure.
Doshas: increases Pitta and Kapha, calms down Vata strongly
Hot is a combination of fire and air and is enclosed in Chilli, cayenne pepper, ginger, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, horseraddish and other hot spices,
Effect: stimulates agni and the metabolism, cleanses, sharpens the awareness, is antibiotic, supports the reduction of exessive fats, solves obstructions, stimulates sweat and helps to burn toxine.
To many hot dishes can produce dizzyness, heat and a sensation of burning in the body
Doshas: increases strongly Pitta, increases Vata, reduces Kapha
Bitter is a combination of air and ethera and is enclosed in chlorophyll, hop, dandelion, fenugreek, kurkuma, salads, chicory, artichoke a.s.o
Effect: calms down fever, purifying, stimulates the appetite, cleanses the blood, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, facilitates digestion
Doshas: cools strongly Pitta and Kapha, increases strongly Vata
Astringent is a combination of air and earth and is enclosed in pomegranates, sage, beans, lentils, rhubarb, aloe vera a.s.o.
Effect: styptic, drying out, wound-healing, stops diarrhea, strengthens muscles and tissues
Too much astringent food dries Vata out (dry skin, dry mouth)
Doshas: reduces Pitta and Kapha, increases Vata
Agni: less strong
There are some exceptions. For example Pippali pepper. It´s hot, but its vipaka is sweet, so Pitta can use this instead of black pepper who´s vipaka is hot.