The concept of the 6 tastes
In order to be able to choose what kind of food is more beneficial to our health, we should understand the following concepts: Rasa, Virya y Vipaka.
Rasa – Taste
The taste starts in the mouth, thanks to the taste buds and the water. Without water, we could not perceive the flavors. In order to have a good digestion all the buds should be activated, this means that in more or less proportion all the tastes should be present per meal. Each taste is linked to some elements.
Ayurveda recognizes 6 types:
- Neutral – Sweet “Madhura”: Earth + water.
- Salty “Lavana”: Earth + fire.
- Sour “Amla”: Water + fire.
- Bitter “Tikta”: Space + air.
- Pungent “Katu”: Air + fire.
- Astringent “Kasaya”: Earth + air.
- Vata: bitter / pungent/ astringent
- Pitta: Sour / salty / pungent
- Kapha: Neutral – sweet / sour / salty
- Vata: Neutral – sweet / sour / salty
- Pitta: Neutral – sweet / bitter / astringent
- Kapha: Pungent / bitter / astringent
Virya – Heating or cooling action
Virya addresses the cold or hot experience produced by foods when they reach the stomach. The ability of food to stimulate or suppress the metabolism
- Cold Virya: sweet, bitter y astringent (increase Vata and Kapha, balance Pitta)
- Hot Virya: salty, sour, hot (increase Pitta, reducing Vata and Kapha)
Vipaka – Post digestive effect
The post-digested effect produced by ingested food in long term.
- Neutral – sweet and salty taste become neutral – sweet taste (anabolic, builds tissues)
- Sour taste remains sour in long-term (anabolic, builds tissues)
- Pungent, bitter and astringent become pungent in taste (catabolic, reduces tissues)
There are some exceptions which in Ayurveda are called Prabhav. As an example see the list below to mention a few:
- Honey, has a cold Virya but is warming in nature.
- Lemon, is sour and has a warming Virya but its effects to the body are cooling.
- Turmeric is bitter and cold but warms the body up.
- Pomegranate is astringent, cold and with a pungent Vipaka, but has a neutral effect to the body.