What are the six tastes in Ayurveda?
The six tastes in Ayurveda has an effect on the three doshas of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. According to Ayurveda, every substance found in nature is made up of some combination of the 5 basic elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. The same elements make up the Ayurvedic Doshas as well.
The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda emphasizes that various factors influence food: its biological properties, origin, environmental factors, seasons, preparation, as well as level of freshness. It also provides a logical explanation of how to balance food according to one’s dosha and physical needs. Depending on the season and an individual’s doshic imbalances, the proportion of the tastes are altered. For instance, Pitta is characterized by sour, pungent, and salty tastes. Ayurveda teaches us that like increases like. So, in the summer season (especially if you are a Pitta-dominant person), out of the six Ayurvedic you will use more bitter, astringent, and sweet tastes in your cooking—the opposite tastes.
The Predominant Elements that Make Up the Six Tastes
Sweet (Madhura) Earth & Water
Sour (Amla) Earth & Fire
Salty (Lavana) Water & Fire
Pungent (Katu) Fire & Air
Bitter (Tikta) Air & Ether
Astringent (Kshaya) Air & Earth
Made up of the elements of earth and water, sweet taste imbalances Kapha Dosha but balances vata and pitta dosha in the body. Of the six types of tastes, this one is said to be the most nourishing. When consumed in moderation, sweet taste is known to provide with longevity, strength, and healthy body fluids; but don’t go overboard (No face down in pecan pie) as it can lead to health conditions like weight gain, obesity, and diabetes among others. Sweet taste is prominent in food items like wheat, rice, sweet potato, pumpkin, maple syrup etc.
Water and fire elements make up the sour taste. It’s known to aggravate pitta and kapha dosha and decrease vata dosha. Foods with sour taste increase the production of saliva as well as the appetite. Of the six different types of tastes that exist, sour taste is known to awaken thoughts and emotions and improve digestion. It needs to be consumed in moderation or else it can lead to increased aggression in no time. Some of the food items that are considered sour in taste would be lemon, vinegar, pickled vegetable, Kombucha, and tamarind amongst others.
Made up of the elements of earth and fore, salty taste increases pitta and kapha dosha and decreases vata dosha in the mind and body. Salty taste aids in digestion and tissue cleansing and is considered hydrating in nature. But excessive intake of salty taste can also lead to an increase in blood pressure and have impact on your skin and blood. So, eat it in moderation. Examples of salty tasting foods are sea vegetables, sea salt, kelp, and black olives among others.
Spicy (pungent taste):
Pungent taste consists of the elements of fire and air. Out of all the six tastes, this is the hottest. The dry, intense heat that can be found in spicy foods and many herbs and spices. Spicy taste is known to aid in digestion, improve appetite, and enhance blood circulation. It brings on enthusiasm, clarity, vigor, concentration, expansiveness. But when consumed in excess, it leads to irritability, aggressiveness, rage, envy, and competitiveness. Pungent taste balances Kapha, but it can aggravate Pitta and Vata. Some of the best examples of spicy foods are chilies, garlic, ginger, hot peppers, and onions etc.
Bitter taste is made up of the elements of air and ether and is considered to be the coolest of all the six Ayurvedic tastes. Naturally detoxifying in nature, it helps remove waste and toxic material from the body. Bitter taste balances Pitta and Kapha but aggravates Vata dosha. It offers clarity, self-awareness, healthy detachment from worldliness. When consumed in excess, it leads to the emotions of boredom, isolation, separation, and rejection. Some examples of foods that fall under the category of bitter tastes: Turmeric, green vegetables, bitter gourd, coffee, and herbal teas.
Made up of air and earth elements, astringent taste is said to be cool, firm, and dry. It reduces sweating, cools excess heat, cleanses mucus membranes, absorbs excess moisture, and tones tissues. It is also a vasoconstrictor. People with vata predominant prakruti are advised to consume less of astringent taste as it can be excessively drying leasing to an imbalanced digestion and difficult elimination. It benefits people with pitta dosha and also kapha dosha. Unripe bananas, cranberries, apples, chickpeas, pomegranate, parsley, most beans, and green beans etc., are said to have astringent taste. Too much of this taste can cause stagnation in the blood and lymph.
Doshas and the Tastes
Vata and the six Ayurvedic tastes:
Vata is primarily composed of the air and ether elements, which makes Vata light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear. Because of these characteristics, Vata is balanced by the sweet, sour, and salty tastes and aggravated by the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes.
Pitta and the six Ayurvedic tastes:
Pitta is primarily composed of the fire and water elements, which makes pitta light, sharp, hot, oily, liquid, spreading, and subtle. Because of these characteristics, pitta is balanced by the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes and aggravated by the sour, salty, and pungent tastes.
Kapha and the six Ayurvedic tastes:
Kapha is primarily composed of the earth and water elements, which makes Kapha heavy, slow, cool, oily, smooth, dense, soft, stable, gross, and cloudy. Because of these characteristics, Kapha is balanced by the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes and aggravated by the sweet, sour, and salty tastes.
Want to learn which of the Ayurvedic tastes are the best for your constitution? Subscribe to my mailing list!