The Nature of Material Substances

(I)   Madhura rasa (Sweet taste)

Madhura Rasa (Sweet Taste)

Increases – Kapha (except honey)

Decreases – Pitta Vata

Yet, despite its beneficial and favourable qualities, an excess of sweet taste causes an increase in the Kapha dosa. As a result Kapha dominant problems such as obesity, drowsiness, lethargy, excessive sleep, heaviness, lack of appetite, weak digestion, accumulation of fat around the neck and face, sweetish taste in the mouth, lack of sensation, weak voice and ailments such as diabetes, urinary disorders, dysuria, cough, cold, influenza, goitre, scrofula (enlarged cervical glands), swelling and stickiness in the throat and conjunctivitis are easily contracted. Therefore obese and overweight people, diabetics and those having abdominal worm infestation must refrain from consuming sweet products.

Sweet substances: Ghee (clarified butter), milk, sugarcane, jaggery, honey, grapes, walnuts, bananas, coconuts, phalsa, jack fruit, asparagus (satavari), roscoea’s lily (kakoli), country mallow (bald), Indian mallow (atibala), veronicalolia (nagabala), King Solomon’s seal (mahameda), whorled Solomon’s seal (meda), ticktree (salaparni), dabra (prsniparm), African gram (mudgaparm), blue wiss (masaparni), leptadave (jivanti), malaxis (Jivaka), honey tree (mahuva), liquorice root (mulethi), Indian kudzu (vidari), bamboo (vamsalocana), coomb teak (gambhari), caltrope (gokharu) and gold are all sweet substances.
Exceptions: Old unpolished rice, old barley, wheat, green gram and honey though sweet, do not cause Kapha vitiation. Hence it is prescribed in Ayurveda to consume old grains and new (fresh) ghee.
(II) Amla rasa (Sour taste)

The taste that causes salivation, the eyes and eyebrows to pucker and the teeth and gums to tingle is the sour taste(4). It adds taste to the food and makes food interesting. It stimulates appetite and is cool to feel. Sour foods nourish the body, strengthen and make it sturdy, make the brain more active, fortify and strengthen the heart, strengthen the sensory organs and energize the body. The juices of sour food substances boost digestion by chymification, helps one to swallow food, soften it and hasten the downward movement towards the intestine for further assimilation. Sour foods are smooth, hot in potency, refreshing, light (easy to digest), helps in cleaning of bladder and colon and hastens waste elimination. Unripe fruits generally have a sour taste.

Amla Rasa (Sour Taste)

Increases – Pitta and Kapha

Decreases – Vata

The excess consumption of amla rasa (sour taste) increases Pitta in the body with symptoms like excessive thirst, horripilation, sensitivity in teeth, loosening of Kapha, damaged muscles, body-swelling in weak persons, weakness, feebleness, emaciation, laxity, itching, darkness before the eyes (blackouts), dizziness (vertigo), fever, burning sensation in the throat, heart and chest. It also results in dermatological diseases (erysipelas, eruptions and such other diseases), pus formation in cuts and wounds, trauma and fractures or dislocation of bones and other related disorders. Therefore, people suffering from skin diseases, trauma, bronchial asthma, cough, sore throat (pharyngitis) and joint pain should avoid sour foods. Feeble and emaciated persons and those whose diet lacks oily products should also consume sour foods in restricted amounts.

Substances with a sour taste: Indian gooseberry, vinegar, tamarind, lemon, star fruit (carambola), cranberry, mango, pomegranate, yogurt, buttermilk, wood apple, garcinia, Indian hog plum and silver.
Exceptions: Pomegranate or dried pomegranate seeds and Indian gooseberry though sour, arc not harmful.
(III) Lavana rasa (Salty taste)

The taste that causes salivation and a burning sensation in the throat and cheeks is the salty taste. Saline foods are carminative (carry Vata downward), digestive, enhances taste, causes stickiness, helps to develop an interest in food, are pungent and scarifying. They reduce stiffness in the organs, accumulation of fat and excretory products and blockages in the srota. Saline foods are neither very oily nor very hot or heavy. Salty taste dominates other tastes and tends to overpower them.

Ayurveda-The Body and its Vital Forces
 Lavana Rasa (Salty Taste)

Increases – Pitta and Kapha

Decreases – Vata

Excessive salinity or overuse of this rasa vitiates both Pitta dosa and the blood, leading to increased thirst and heat sensitivity. It also causes a burning sensation, syncope, decrease in rakta and other dhatus, suppuration of the eyes, edema, discoloration of the skin, hemorrhage (bleeding) from different body parts, weakening of gums and loosening of teeth, increased toxicity, decreased virility, baldness, graying of hair, wrinkles, hyperacidity, delayed wound healing and reduction of strength and ojas. It may also cause stomatitis (mouth ulcers), gout, erysipelas, ringworm and diseases of infected skin (leprosy and other severe dermatological diseases). Salt is considered incompatible for the eyes. Salt should not be taken by hypertensive patients and one suffering from dermatological diseases.

Salty substances: Rock salt (sea salt), common salt (table salt), sancala salt, sauvarcala salt (black salt), audbhida salt (salt derived from the earth), parhsu salt, bida salt, lead salt (.viva), romaka salt and other alkalies.
Exception: Rock salt does not cause much harm.
(iv) Katu rasa (Pungent taste)

This taste causes a stinging pain in the mouth, stimulates the front of the tongue, causes burning in the cheeks and watering of the eyes, nose and mouth. Pungent substances cleanse the mouth, aid absorption of food, boost hunger and promote digestion. They clean and improve the efficiency of sense organs, dispose of sticky waste products from the eyes, nose and xrota more effectively and promote sweating. Hence, pungent foods and herbs help to keep the srotas of anna, rasa and blood vessels clear and open.

Katu Rasa (Pungent Taste)

Increases – Vata and Pitta

Decreases – Kapha

The pungent taste helps to manage obesity, urticaria, hives, conjunctivitis, eye fatigue, itching, wounds, sores, abdominal worm infestation, alasaka (retention of undigested food in the abdomen), stiffness in joints, throat infection, dermatitis and bronchial asthma. It dries and putrefies oil, fat, muscles and moisture. It pacifies Kapha and helps circulate sluggish (viscous) blood. It improves the taste of food.

Excess of such substances with pungent taste leads to dizziness, anxiety, syncope, dryness of lips and palate, fatigue, debility, reduced virility, decrease in sperm count and strength. Being dominated by air and fire elements, excessive intake leads to burning in limbs and back, increased body temperature, body aches, stinging and smarting pain, shivering and other debilities.

Substances with a pungent taste: Asafoetida, black pepper, false pepper, Pancakola (long pepper and its root, Java long pepper, white leadwort and dry ginger), green leafy vegetables, marking nut, all kinds of bile and urine as prescribed in Ayurveda.
Exceptions: Dry ginger, long pepper and garlic are safe foods with pungent taste and do not cause much harm.
(Excerpted from the book: ‘A Practical Approach To The Science of Ayurveda: A Comprehensive Guide For Healthy Living’authored by Acharya Balkrishna)