In this post, we’ll unpack all you need to know about the 6 tastes according to Ayurveda, defining exactly what they are, their characteristics and how we can use them to create optimal health and well-being.
The 6 Tastes According To Ayurveda
Our taste buds do much more than simply identify tastes. They unlock the nutritional value of foods and kick-start the digestion process.
Ayurveda identifies 6 tastes, referred to as rasas, by which all foods can be categorised. They are: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.
Ayurveda recognises that the 6 tastes are derived from the 5 natural elements of nature: ether, air, fire, water and earth. While all 5 elements are present in all foods, one or two tend to predominate. Each taste has an effect on each of the three Doshas: vata, pitta and kapha.
Understanding the 6 tastes also helps explain why some foods have so many therapeutic effects. The more tastes a food has, the more effects it has. For example, we can see why garlic (which embodies all but the sour taste) and Triphala (which embodies all but the salty taste) are such panaceas.
Characteristics Of The 6 Tastes
Below we’ll unpack each of the 6 Tastes taste in more detail.
The sweet taste is derived from the elements of both water and earth. It has a cooling energy. It’s heavy, oily and soft in its nature and is responsible for building tissues and calming nerves. It increases kapha dosha and decreases vata and decreases pitta.
The sour taste is derived from the elements of both fire and earth. It has a heating energy. It’s light, oily and soft in its nature and is responsible for cleansing tissues and increasing absorption of minerals. It increases pitta and increases kapha and decreases vata.
The salty taste is derived from the events of both fire and water. It has a heating energy. It’s heavy, oily and sharp in its nature and is responsible for lubricating tissues and stimulating digestion. It increases pitta and increases kapha and decreases vata.
The pungent taste is derived from the events of both air and fire. It has a heating energy. It’s light, dry and sharp in its nature and is responsible for stimulating digestion and metabolism. It increases vata and increases pitta and decreases kapha.
The bitter taste is derived from the elements of both ether and air. It has a cooling energy. It’s light, dry and sharp in its nature and is responsible for detoxifying and lightening tissues. It increases vata and decreases pitta and decreases kapha.
The astringent taste is derived from the elements of both ether and earth. It has a cooling energy. It’s heavy, dry and soft in its nature and is responsible for absorbing water and tightening tissues. It increases vata and decreases pitta and decreases kapha.
6 Tastes Table Summary
Below is a table summarising the characteristics for each of the 6 tastes.
|Sweet (Madhura)||Cooling||Water & Earth||Builds Tissues & Calms Nerves||Heavy, Oily & Soft|
|Sour (Amla)||Heating||Fire & Earth||Cleanses Tissues & Increases Absorption Of Minerals||Light, Oily & Soft|
|Salt (Lavana)||Heating||Fire & Water||Lubricates Tissues & Stimulates Digestion||Heavy, Oily & Sharp|
|Pungent (Katu)||Heating||Air & Fire||Stimulates Digestion & Metabolism||Light, Dry & Sharp|
|Bitter (Tikta)||Cooling||Ether & Air||Detoxifies & Lightens Tissues||Light, Dry & Sharp|
|Astringent (Kashaya)||Cooling||Ether & Earth||Absorbs Water & Tightens Tissues||Heavy, Dry & Soft|
Balancing The Doshas
When in a state of health, the body naturally desires tastes that balance its doshic makeup while avoiding tastes that aggravate it.
Healthy cravings are due to the response of cellular intelligence to an increased dosha without the formation or ama (toxins). When we attune to this, intuitive eating results.
Unhealthy cravings are due to weakening digestive fire (agni) resulting in the production of ama (toxic impurities). This clogs the cell membranes and thus disturbs cellular intelligence, generating perverted cravings.
Therefore, we must chose foods with tastes that balance our doshas.
Below is a table summarising how each of the 6 tastes impact each dosha.
The Key To Health
Ayurveda teaches that incorporating all 6 tastes in every meal and adjusting the amounts based on your personal body type helps maintain balanced nutrition, satisfaction and overall health and well-being.
From a modern nutritional perspective, the 6 tastes satisfy each of the major dietary building blocks, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Therefore, incorporating all 6 tastes ensures that the energy that the body requires is adequately met, thus reducing food cravings and over-consumption of certain foods which can lead to negative health conditions.
The knowledge of the 6 tastes is also key to self-healing because when we tune into the tastes desired by the body, we tap into its innate wisdom and self-healing mechanisms.
According to Ayurveda, there are 6 tastes, referred to as rasas, which all foods are categorised within; sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.
The key to harnessing the power of the 6 tastes is to incorporate all of them into your diet and adjusting the amounts based on your personal body type. In doing so, we maximise our overall health and well-being.