The Six Tastes in Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, there are six Rasās (tastes):

Svādu or madhura (sweet) Amla (sour) Lavana (salty) Tikta (bitter) Katu (acrid) Kashāya (astringent)

The pharmacological actions of these tastes are based on dravya (matter) and their potency increases in preceding order and diminishes in successive order. 

Here ‘potency’ means the ability to increase body strength (constructive, anabolic). Rasa is the object of gustatory sense organ. It indicates the elemental (panchabhautika) composition, properties (gunas) and professes the probable action of a drug. 

Following are the six tastes, their elemental predominance, properties and actions according to Ayurveda:

Madhura Rasa (sweet taste):

Composition: Prithvi (earth), Jala (water)

Properties: Snigdha (smooth or unctuous), Guru (heavy), Shita (cool)

Action on Dōsās (bio energy): Madhura Rasa increases Kapha and pacifies Vāta. 

Action on Dhātūs (tissues): Anabolic 

Action on Malās (wastes): Laxative, diuretic and carminative 

Action on Agni (digestive fire): Causes mandāgni (low digestive fire)

Action on Srōtas (channels): Precipitates srōtō rōdha. (obstruction in channels)

Amla Rasa (sour taste):

Composition: Prithvi (earth), Tejas (fire)

Properties: Snigdha (smooth or unctuous), laghu (light) , ushna (hot). 

Action on Dōsās (bio energy): Increases Kapha and Pitta. Pacifies vāta. 

Action on Dhātūs (tissues): Though it stimulates anabolism by influencing Agni (digestive fire), it is Shukrakhna; hence it is not a tonic. 

Action on Malās (wastes): Laxative, diuretic and carminative. 

Action on Agni (digestive fire):  Dipana (carminative) and Pāchana (digestive)

Action on Srōtas (channels): Precipitates srōtō rōdha (obstruction in channels)

Lavana Rasa (salty taste):

Composition: Jala (water), Tejas (fire)

Properties: Snigdha (smooth or unctuous), Guru (heavy), ushna (hot). 

Action on Dōsās (bio energy): Increases  Kapha and Pitta. Pacifies vāta. 

Action on Dhātūs (tissues): Catabolic 

Action on Malās (wastes) : Laxative, diuretic and carminative. 

Action on Agni (digestive fire):   Dipana (carminative) and Pāchana (digestive)

Action on Srōtas (channels) : srōtō shōdhana (clears the pathway in channels)

Katu Rasa (acrid taste):

Composition: Vāyu (air or wind), Tejas (fire)

Properties:  Rūksha (dry), laghu (light), ushna (hot). 

Action on Dōsās (bio energy): Increases Vāta and Pitta. Pacifies Kapha. 

Action on Dhātūs: Catabolic 

Action on Malās: Constipative, anti-diuretic and obstructs flatus. 

Action on Agni (digestive fire):   Dipana (carminative) and Pāchana (digestive)

Action on Srōtas (channels): srōtō shōdhana (clears the pathway in channels)

Tikta Rasa (bitter taste):

Composition: Vāyu (air or wind), Ākāśa (ether or space)

Properties:  Rūksha (dry), laghu (light), Shita (cool)

Action on Dōsās (bio energy) : Increases Vāta. Pacifies Kapha and Pitta. 

Action on Dhātūs (tissues): Catabolic 

Action on Malās (wastes): Constipative, anti-diuretic and obstructs flatus. 

Action on Agni (digestive fire):  Dipana (carminative) by promoting Samāna Vayu

Action on Srōtas (channels): srōtō shōdhana (clears the pathway in channels)

Kashāya Rasa (astringent taste):

Composition: Vāyu (air or wind), Prithvi (earth)

Properties: Rūksha (dry), laghu (light), Shita (cool)

Action on Dōsās (bio energy): Increases Vāta. Pacifies Kapha and Pitta. 

Action on Dhātūs (tissues): Catabolic 

Action on Malās (wastes): Constipative, anti-diuretic and obstructs flatus. 

Action on Agni (digestive fire): Causes mandāgni (low digestive fire)

Action on Srōtas (channels) : Precipitates srōtō rōdha (obstruction in channels)

According to modern science, there are only four basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty and bitter. A new taste is also now being projected by Japanese scientists called “eumami”. Tastes are considered by modern-scientists according to the nuero-sensory perception by the tongue and not by physiological action. Only Ayurveda attributes any physio-pathological activity to the tastes. This reflects in management prospects too. 

The first of the three Rasās (tastes), Madhura (sweet), Amla (sour), and Lavana (salty) controls Vāta. 

The last three Rasās (tastes); Tikta (bitter), Katu (acrid) and Kashāya (astringent) controls Kapha. 

Kashāya (astringent), Tikta (bitter) and Madhura Rasa (sweet taste) controls Pitta. The Rasās that do not control the respective Doshās increase them. 

Out of Tridoshā, Kapha is concerned with creation, Pitta with sustenance, and Vāta with destruction. Hence the Rasās promote and destroy and are respectively constructive and destructive in nature. Pitta is āgneya (hot or fire) and hence the Rasās (tastes), which increase it are naturally āgneya (hot) and those that pacify are Shita (cooling) in nature. Vāta is aggravated by the destructive Rasā; katutikta and kashāya and pacified by the constructive Rasās; madhuraamla and lavana.   Terminologies:  Dosās:  Bio energies of the body Dhātu: Body tissues  Malās: Waste products of the body (urine, stool and sweat) Agni: Digestive fire Srotas: minute channels throughout the body  Sroto rodha: obstruction in Srotas Stoto Shodhana: clears the pathway in Srotas

Reference: Ashtanga Hridaya Sutra Sthana part 1 by Dr T. Sreekumar

photo taken from: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/ayurvedic-six-tastes-help-eat-152624774.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAKZxwdn9l3c6dlA-r6awHK1Bw1CytjJWutR9nTzKL6Igaczy6IL4UuweBlbHZsIuEWAQPssfE4VYc5KxW__2BavZLU8T_HJE5xrDUt0sZPDqBo_IsF4av6Kf7xOQ8-8XWZ_8tJe58_HVpGIbD7-zmuZYAn3OxJodHwJnyGZ1yjxC

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