Tastes in Ayurveda - 1 (RASA)
The Ayurvedic science of medicine uses rasa (taste) as the basic tool to assess the pharmacological phenomenon in every substance. When a substance is placed on the tongue, the first experience is its taste or rasa. There are six rasas in Ayurveda: Sweet (madhura), salty (lavana), bitter (tikta), sour (amla), pungent (katu) and astringent (kashaya). All food items contain all the rasas, however may exhibit dominant rasa.
Sweet (Madhura): Sweet rasa is comprised of earth and water. It decreases Vata and Pitta and increases Kapha. It helps in promoting strength and reliving thirst. However excess of it can lead to obesity, causes excessive sleep and makes the person lethargic. Some of the examples of sweet foods are wheat, rice, milk, candy, sugar, peppermint, etc.
Salty (Lavana): It is comprised of water and fire. It decreases Vata and decreases Pita and Kapha. It controls pain in the muscles. It retains water and nullifies the effect of all other tastes. Excess of it can disturb blood flow and causes fainting and heating of body. It may cause ulcer, rashes on the skin also. Some of the salty foods are sea salt, rock salt, kelp, etc.
Bitter (Tikta): It is comprised of air and ether. It decreases Pitta and Kapha and increases Vata. It can improve agni. It helps in cleansing the liver and purifying the blood. Excess of it can increase roughness, dryness, reduces bone marrow and semen. Some of the bitter foods are dandelion root, turmeric root, fenugreek, neem, etc.
Sour (Amla): It is comprised of earth and fire. It decreases Vata and increases Pitta and Kapha. It adds deliciousness to food and stimulates appetite. However it can increase thirst and sensitiveness of teeth. Excess of it can lead to toxification of blood and ulceration. Some of the sour foods are yogurt, cheese, green grapes, lemon, tamarind, etc.
Pungent (Katu): It is comprised of fire and air. It decreases Kapha and increases Vata and Pitta. It helps in digestion and absorption of food. It cures skin diseases and eliminates blood clots. Excess of it can lead to burning sensations in throat, stomach and heart. It can also cause dizziness and unconsciousness. Some of the pungent foods are onion, radish, chilli, ginger, etc.
Astringent (Kashaya): Astringent rasa is uniquely mentioned in Ayurveda. Astringent rasa is experienced as a dryness or oral sensation. It is comprised of air and earth. It decreases Pitta and Kapha and increases Vata. Some of the astringent foods are unripe banana, pomegranate, myrrh, golden-seal, turmeric, etc.
Each of these rasas is required to balance doshas in our life. Imbalance in any of the doshas may lead to many ailments.