‘One man’s medicine can be another man’s poison’.
This is a phrase that you may have heard before, however you are likely to think of it in terms of the types of food and beverage you consume.
This article shows how Ayurveda takes this concept further and breaks it down to the type of tastes, or Shad rasa’s, that you put it into your mouth.
Shad rasas are the six different tastes that are known to your taste buds viz. sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. In Ayurveda text, these are mentioned as Madhur, Amal, Lavana, Tikta, Katu and Kshaya Rasas respectively.
But it is a lesser known fact that these 6 Rasas not only render the differentiation of tastes but also provide a good contribution to your basic health. Therefore for having sound health, it is also equally important that your daily diet contains all the six tastes or the Shad Rasas.
Ayurveda believes that when we put food in our mouth, we can immediately sense the taste or the Rasa. This is the working of a type of Kapha dosha ie. Bodhaka Kapha by the virtue of which we are instantly able to differentiate between the six different tastes.
Eventually, the sense of taste is perceived by Vata dosha, mainly the Prana Vayu which on its part sends signals to the brain. This signal is then passed on from the brain to the stomach and alimentary canal which stimulates the release of digestive enzymes so as to commence the process of digestion.
Thus, in the Science of Ayurveda, mindful eating with consciousness to taste every single morsel is regarded to be the vital component of healthy eating.
Significance of the 6 Tastes or Shad Rasas In Ayurveda
The 6 different tastes show varied processes of digestion. Food items that are sweet, sour and salty in taste have the property of being heavy, slimy and oily. Therefore the same are also believed to be mildly laxative by nature. Whereas, the other three tastes i.e. bitter, pungent and astringent are light and dry by nature and tend to cause constipation.
All the six types of tastes, according to their mode of action, can be divided into two categories – Cold and Hot. The tastes sweet, pungent and astringent are considered to be cold in nature and thus provide a cool effect to the body system by reducing the body heat.
Therapeutically, these are used in heat-related disorders like fainting and burning inside the body. Whereas, the other three tastes i.e. sour, salty and bitter are generally hot in nature and, therefore, act in increasing the body heat.
Effect of Shad Rasas on Health
Madhur Rasa or Sweet Taste
The sweet taste is believed to increase the general body resistance against disease. As per Ayurvedic text, this specific taste helps to increase the body tissues and as a consequence, it enhances the ‘Ojas’ or the vital energy reserve of the body and mind. This taste, therefore, aids in increasing not only immunity, but also the general health of an individual and keeps aging at bay.
Amala Rasa or the Sour Taste
Sour taste is believed to enhance the strength of the body by providing nutrition to the body tissues. It also increases the taste for food and promotes salivation.
Lavana Rasa or the Salty Taste
Salty taste imparts a relish for the food and provides softness to the body parts. At the same time, it also causes a decrease in the body strength of an individual and increases weakness and lethargy.
Katu Rasa or the Pungent Taste
Pungent taste is believed to cause the demolition of body tissues and obesity. It is also anti-toxic in nature, and thus destroys intestinal parasites and aids in curing skin ailments.
Tikta Rasa or the Bitter Taste
Bitter taste is a blood purifier and helps in creating a good appetite. It also has a nature of drying the body tissue mainly mucous, fat and pus.
Kshaya Rasa or the Astringent Taste
Astringent taste causes dryness of the body tissues and lessens the secretion from mucous membranes.
Excessive Intake of Shad Rasas
Shad Rasas or the 6 tastes are though beneficial for the body, yet excess intake can cause more harm than good.
Excess of Sweet taste
This can lead to obesity, lethargy, and anorexia and over-sleep. Due to an increase in the ‘Kapha’ or phlegm body humor, the ailments like cough, cold, asthma and other respiratory disorders are common. It can even lead to indigestion, goitre and diabetes.
Excess of Sour taste
This causes blood disorders, oedema, inflammations, anaemia, vertigo etc. An increase in ‘Pitta’ or heat may cause skin diseases, heartburn and defects in vision.
Excess of Salt taste
Excessive intake of the salty taste leads to increase in the body heat, which further cause ailments like fainting, burning sensation, untimely loss and greying of hair, excessive thirst, impotence and various skin and gastric disorders.
Excess of Pungent taste
This increases the ‘Vata’ or the air, which further causes dryness of various tissues inside the body. This results into diseases like vertigo, emaciation, debility, and dryness of mouth, mental and neurological diseases.
Excess of Bitter taste
This results in an increase in both air and heat body humors. Therefore, ailments like impotence, fainting, weakness and increased burning sensation occur inside the body. There may be pain and shivering within the body parts, and even mental diseases can crop up.
Excess of Astringent taste
‘Vata’ or air body humor is aggravated in excess of astringent taste. This leads to diseases like impotency, dryness of mouth, stammering, and pain in the heart region, paralysis and neurological disorders. Aggravation of Vata also leads to obstruction in the eradication of flatus, urine and stools.
Dr Sonica Krishan is Author and Speaker in the areas of Healthy and Joyous Living through Ayurveda, Meditation, Yoga and other Contemplative practices.