The human body is designed to experience six tastes or flavors in food: bitter, sweet, pungent, sour, astringent and sweet. Each taste is responsible for its own action and affects different organs of the body.
The flavor of sweet, for example, isn’t only refined sugar or fruit but grains, pasta, meat, dairy, nuts, oil and more. Sweet is anything that puts bulk on the body. Interestingly this taste of sweet is the first flavor a new baby experiences as it suckles the mother’s breast and is nurtured with mother’s milk. Society as a whole cannot seem to manage their sugar intake which is an interesting correlation between our desire to feel nurtured and loved.
The taste of sour like lemons, berries, pickles, tomatoes and condiments are responsible for an increase in bile, which is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. A taste believed to have originated in our human evolution to determine if food has gone bad by its sour taste.
Sour increases the fire element in the body and is responsible for much of the hyper acidity doctors prescribe antacids for. Decrease sour flavors and the nasty side effects go away. However, sour can be useful as well like in yogurts or buttermilk.
Salty is responsible for heating the body up internally fueling the concept of a heated body which creates a heated mind. Signs of this are anger, criticism and judgmental behaviors. Salt is found in just about all processed foods as well as fish, soy sauce and of course table salt.
The taste of pungent or spicy is generally found in spices like pepper, cayenne, ginger, garlic, radishes, salsa and basil. They have antibiotic properties as well as aid in digestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Aside from promoting digestion, pungent taste helps aid the ability to sweat, it clears channels and releases toxins from the body as well as acting as a natural expectorant.
Bitter is found in green and yellow vegetables, leafy greens and even bittersweet chocolate. Bitter herbs would be considered Echinacea and goldenseal and are considered light, airy and cold. Bitters are anti-inflammatory, aid in reducing fever and are detoxifying. They are generally cooling to the body but are known to be depleting if taken in excess.
Lastly, astringent, which is found in beans, peas, pomegranates, apples and aloe Vera. Astringent tastes reduce sweating. They are drying and firming to the body, stops diarrhea and helps close wounds. Astringent seems to be more of an effect than a flavor and promotes absorption of bodily fluids. It can be considered a sedative.
Ten Ayurvedic principles underlying a wholesome diet and intake according to Caraka Samhita.
This is the season of giving thanks. The harvest has begun. Give thanks to your tongue, this organ of the body allows you to speak and create from the power of language, song and conversation.
~Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. - Proverbs 16:24
Likewise give thanks to your taste buds for the joys of flavor this holiday season; sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. I’ve even heard of a newly discovered taste bud called umami which satisfies our love of broth and gravy.
This season of health and wellness keep in mind “You are what you eat and what we speak.” Let your food and your words be the medicine.
The true creation lives on the tongue. Whether outward with spoken words or inward toward the taste and texture of food. Examine your tongue and you will begin to understand what you are creating.
As this new paradigm falls upon you embrace the paradox of life. Multiple realities, multiple points of view! This is the season of diversity.
A time to listen with an “and” rather than a “but” in conversation toward self and others. Cultivate and harvest the ability to hold more pieces to the puzzle of life and allow for others points of view.
Lastly, let's give thanks to nature as she dictates evolution through natural law. A pandemic looming, climate change, the patriarch collapsing, currency redefined. It’s not hard to see the crumbling of a worldview inside and out. Allow for the discomfort to stretch and shape new ways of thinking and being. Be patient as the wings of transformation grow.
Black tears rain down my face
Black as night shedding colors from the day
Light dims and the shadow rises, like a foolish dreamer
Stars twinkle so far away
My reach is not long enough
Black tears rain on my cheeks
Reminding me of a lost way
Night takes over
Love is hard to hold
Black tears rise from the early morning mist
Grey takes over the land
Coarse contact preys on the body
Black tears run down my face asking to meet
Above the tree line where the sky touches the snow
Distraction has no room to dance
Space holds silence
Silence holds stillness
Stillness holds reconciliation
Love becomes one
By Karen Barbarick-Collins
Karen Barbarick-Collins is a Certified Ayurvedic Technician and Wellness Coach as well as a Registered Yoga Alliance Teacher. She is the founder of Bending Blade Healing Arts.