Rasa is the taste of any substance, be it a food, liquid, or medicine as experienced by our tongue. It is one of the sensory experiences of our body and mind.
Naturally, different Rasa or tastes produce different effects on the functioning of our body systems, and hence their effect on our overall well being. In Ayurveda, six primary Rasa or tastes have been defined. These are:
- Sweet (Madhura)
- Sour (Amla)
- Salty (Lavana)
- Pungent (Katu)
- Bitter (Tikta)
- Astringent (Kashaya)
Relation between Rasa and The Panchamahabhuta (Five Elements)
Each Rasa or the taste is made up of one or a combination of the five basic elements. The predominant elements guide the properties of the Rasa and its effect on body organs, mind, and on our tongue!
|Pungent (Katu)||Air and Fire|
|Sweet (Madhura)||Earth and Water|
|Sour (Amla)||Earth and Fire|
|Salty (Lavana)||Water and Fire|
|Astringent (Kashaya)||Air and Earth|
|Bitter (Tikta)||Air and Ether|
The relation between Rasa and Body Organs
According to Ayurvedic Principles, Bodhaka Agni or digestive fire allows us to experience different tastes of the food via the taste buds on the tongue.
Different regions of the tongue have specific taste buds that become active for their respective Rasa or taste. For example, Sweet (Madhura) Rasa is felt at the tip of the tongue and Bitter (Tikta) at the very end of the tongue.
Here is how different Rasa activate their related body organs as they are sensed on our tongue. That is why there can be immediate reactions in the body after eating food.
- Sweet Taste is related to the Thyroid Gland, Pancreas, and Upper area of the lungs.
- Sour taste is related to the middle and lower lobes of the Lungs.
- Salty taste is related to the Kidneys.
- Pungent relates to the stomach, small intestines, and the heart.
- Bitter taste is related to the pancreas, spleen, and liver.
- Astringent taste is related to the colon.
When you eat pungent foods such as chili and spices, the taste buds on the tongue stimulate its related organs. As a result, heart starts to beat faster and your stomach starts to growl.
When you taste or anticipate the sour taste, a message is sent by the tongue receptors to the brain, which in turn activates the lungs, creating more mucosal secretions.
Rasa and Health – Importance of Balanced Meals
Ayurveda states that each and every meal of ours should be a balanced combination of all the Rasa. This will allow systematic nurturing and stimulation of the body organs.
A balanced intake of the six tastes is the first and foremost rule of an Ayurvedic Diet. It also takes into account the time of consumption and also the effects of the Rasa on the Doshas.
Here is a list of some of the common disorders that one can develop due to the excessive intake of one of the rasa in their diet and lifestyle.
- A person who eats a lot of sweet foods tends to have a sluggish, underactive thyroid, can easily put on weight, leading to obesity.
- Excessive intake of sour foods may lead to pulmonary congestion.
- Frequent use of salty taste can weaken the kidneys and cause water retention.
- People who are addicted to pungent foods and spices increase their circulation through the heart, become excessively hungry, and have burning sensations in the stomach. They are also prone to Gastritis.
- Excessive consumption of bitter taste can weaken the pancreas, liver, and the spleen.
- Excessive astringent taste affects colon functioning leading to constipation or hemorrhoids.
The six Tastes and the Doshas
Each of the six tastes carries different Gunas or attributes. These, in turn, have their respective effects on to aggravate or pacify certain Dosha.
An overall effect of any food item is considered in terms of how it impacts the Dosha. Here is the relationship of the six tastes with the Dosha.
|Rasa||Vata Dosha||Pitta Dosha||Kapha Dosha|
The six Tastes and the Agni – Digestive Fire
Ayurveda also defines how each of the six tastes impacts our digestive fire, the primary factor behind our well being and how our body interacts with the ingested food.
For example, Bitter and astringent tastes promote satiation while the sour taste promotes the digestive fire. This is the reason, why we should not consume fruits (primarily astringent in nature) along with our meal but keep a good gap of at least an hour before we consume food. Sweet taste slows it down, hence excessive consumption of sweet foods is prohibited because it will result in a build-up of toxins in the system.
Also, this is the reason, why we should not consume desserts after the food!
|Rasa||Effect on Digestive Fire (Agni)|
The six Tastes and their Virya – Effect on our Body
Each taste has its own effect in terms of whether it heats up or cools down our bodily systems. This is termed as the Virya or the potential of the rasa. The degree of heating effect and cooling effect varies as below.
|Rasa||Virya||Degree of Virya|
The six Tastes and the six Seasons
Each of the six tastes of Ayurveda becomes prominent in a specific season. The taste prevails in nature and its resources such as air and water. All the living beings survive to counter the effect of prominent taste in nature and keep their health and integrity intact.
Plants in specific counter the effect of this dominance of Dosha and taste in seasons. Hence, a combination of counter tastes is dominated in the plant produce through vegetables, fruits, grains, and any crop that the farmer grows in that season. This is the reason why Ayurveda greatly emphasizes seasonal and regional produce for health upkeep.
|Sweet (Madhura)||Early Winter|
|Sour (Amla)||Rainy Season|
|Bitter (Tikta)||Late Winter|
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- The Ayurveda Encyclopedia
- Textbook of Ayurveda – Fundamental Principles by Vasant Lad
- Ayurveda – Ancient Wisdom for a Modern Lifestyle by Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar
- Charak Samhita – PV Sharma