Ayurveda wisdom reminds us that the sense of taste is a natural guide map towards proper nutrition. While rasa has many meanings in sanskrit, it is the mother essence of healing. It normally is translated to mean taste but it also means sap, juice, elixir, essence, love, and feeling. Bri Maya Tiwari says: "appetite is the total intelligence of the body acting in accordance with its external surroundings. Appetite is not simply the initial hunger for food - it is the total intelligence of the body acting in harmony with the external environment. The correct response to the prompting of appetite begins with making informed choices from an array of healthy foods. Thus food is desired, ingested, digested and returned to earth in a natural, harmonious cycle."
Madhura - the sweet taste in life. Sweet is the dominant taste of all nourishment & sustenance. Created from the water + earth elements, this rasa includes all carbs, sugars, fats & amino acids. The qualities of the sweet taste are usually oily, cooling and heavy. The primary element of life - water - is considered sweet.
This rasa is wholesome to the whole body and promotes growth of all seven dhatus (plasma, blood, muscles, fat, bones, marrow and nerve tissue, and reproductive fluids), nourishes & comforts the body and relieves hunger, which is why our diets should be proportionally high in good quality “sweet” foods, including some in the picture: root vegetables, whole grains, legumes/beans, fruits.
Too much of this taste or the indulgence in sweet tastes from foods that aren't good for us (processed sugars, sweet taste from candy, etc.) can produce many disorders. Sweet aggravates kapha and cause colds, cough, congestion, heaviness, loss of appetite, laziness and obesity. It can also provoke lymphatic congestions, tumors, edema, diabetes and other stuff that we just don't want to invite into our lives!
Alma - the sour taste in Ayurveda wisdom is composed from the earth and fire elements making it hot, light & moist. Most commonly found in citrus fruits, sour milk products (yogurt, cheese, etc) and fermented stuff like wine, vinegar, soy sauce, pickles etc.
It's refreshing and delicious, nourishes the heart and enlightens the mind. The sour taste also stimulates acid secretions, kindles hunger, aids digestion, reduces gas, increases circulation & so much more! See why we need just a tad of sour in each meal?
Don’t over do it though or you may up overheating & it’ll show up like heartburn, ulcers, acid indigestion, sensitive teeth! As it also has a fermenting action, it may be toxic to the blood (remember this is when taken in excess) and can cause skin conditions like acne, eczema, boils, psoriasis and rashes. All not fun things!
The pungent taste in Ayurveda forms from the elements of air and fire. It helps to stimulate appetite and digestion, maintain metabolism, promotes sweating and balances secretions of the body! The hottest of all tastes, you’ll find it in things like garlic, asafoetida/hing, cinnamon, ginger, mustard/mustard seeds, heating spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, tumeric, black pepper & bay leaves. ✨✨ YUM!✨✨
For my people who are already hot & spicy by nature (my pitta types) this taste should be taken in moderation as it’s like throwing gasoline on a fire and it leads to things like ulcers, hyperacidity, depletion of reproductive fluids & other things. For mi gente who tend to run more air/spacey (my Vata folks) this taste can aggravate your life in ways like insomnia, bodily dryness, excessive thirst y mas! But remember what is considered excessive is relative. Some of us were raised with a certain level of spiciness in our diets, so everyone’s spice meter isn’t the same.
Lavana - the salty taste is formed from the earth & fire elements and it is considered hot, heavy & moist by nature. It activates digestion, cleanses bodily tissues, aids in the elimination of wastes from the body, liquefies mucous & even calms the nerves and improves the radiance of the skin- eeeey get yo glow on!
We find this taste in any salt (duh!) like sea salts, pink Himalayan salt, in sea vegetables like kelp & seaweed (and anything really from salt water), and here’s probably a surprise for y’all - it’s found in most watery vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini & tomatoes.
Because salt tends to dry our mouths it’s hard to believe that the salt taste is moistening but believe me it is cause of its elemental composition. And while salt doesn’t retain as much water as the sweet tastes does, it will if eaten in excess. How many of y’all had swollen feet after too much salt intake? hmm mm. exactly. Too much salt can also lead to high blood pressure, loss of hair, hyperacidity, edema & a host of other things we don’t need in our life if we just sprinkle a little bit of salt in our lives, just like the salt man meme - I know y’all know what I’m talking about!
mmmmm that tikta taste.... composed from air + ether, it’s light, cooling & dry by nature. you find it in foods like green leafy veggies (kale, arugula, spinach), aloe, tumeric, coffee, chocolate, eggplants, dandelion root & in herbs like thistle, passion flower and chicory. it exists in all medicines, alkaloids & glycosides.
The bitter rasa detoxifies the blood, has antibiotic, anti-parasitic & antiseptic qualities. it also tones the organs, cleanses the liver and controls skin ailments. So ya tú sabes everybody needs a little bitter taste in their lives BUT my airy, spacy people (aka Vata) need to use this very very minimally. Since it’s composed of the same elements it can be depleting and have you all constipated or not able to sleep. Mi gente con fuego can really benefit from this taste & my earthy folks, también. .
Astringent, Kashaya, is formed from the elements of earth and air, this taste is to be used medicinally by everybody. Think of astringent more like it’s effect on the tongue versus a taste. It creates a puckering sensation like when you drink that good good fresh farmers market pomegranate juice. Or the dry, chalky feeling when you eat beans or an unripe banana. And you find it in foods high in tannins like dried legumes & beans and bark teas like green tea, herbs like hibiscus, in leafy green vegetables, tumeric, the peel of a fruit & most medicines.
The beauty of this rasa is its contracting & drying quality stops bleeding & flow, constricts blood vessels, absorbs water, tightens tissues, dries fat, heals skin wounds, ulcers & mucus membranes. It also has antibiotic & antibacterial effects. But if we eat too much, especially my airy/spacey peeps (Vata types) we'll experience slow digestion, constipation, heart problems, excessive thirst, obstruction of tissue pores & ain’t nobody trying to deal with all of that!