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The Six Tastes

Written by Sebastian Pole

Taste impacts what we eat, when we eat and how much we eat. Each plant has a unique taste profile which, when unlocked and understood, will reflect its medicinal capabilities.

The six tastes of Ayurveda

The Sanskrit word for taste is rasa, and it is a very pregnant word: as well as meaning taste, it can mean ‘essence’, ‘juice’, ‘sap’, ‘lymphatic fluid’, ‘flavour’ and ‘delicious’. Just saying the word sounds ‘juicy’ … raa-ssa, rasa, RASA. Flavour is the essence of life – it affects everything. Pukka is a word that as well as meaning ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’ also means juicy, ripe and ready to eat.

Ayurveda identifies six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent (spicy), bitter and astringent, which we will discuss later. Remarkably, how we ‘taste’ life affects our health and mood. If your experience of life is ‘sweet’ you are usually happy, whilst ‘bitter’ episodes are less savoury. Because our taste of life becomes our rasa, our essence, it is helpful to learn how taste affects us.

TASTE (rasa)
ELEMENT (tattva)
QUALITY (guna)
Effect on Dosha
Sweet (madhura)Earth, WaterHeavy, Wet, ColdK+, P-, V-
Sour (amla)Earth, FireHeavy, Wet, WarmK+, P+, V-
Salty (lavana) Water, FireHeavy, Wet, WarmK+, P+, V-
Pungent(katuka)Fire, AirLight, Dry, WarmK-, P+, V+
Bitter (tikta)Space, AirLight, Dry, ColdK-, P-, V+
Astringent (kasaya)Air, EarthDry, ColdK-, P-, V+

Sebastian Pole
I am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Professionals Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and a Fellow of the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I qualified as a herbalist with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) and the Herbal tradition to help transform health. I have been in clinical practice since 1998.

Having co-founded Pukka Herbs in 2001 I have become experienced in organic herb growing, practitioner grade quality and sustainable value chains. I am a Trustee of the FairWild Foundation, a Director of The Betonica School of Herbal Medicine and an Advisor to The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and The Sustainable Herbs Project. Fluent in Hindi, a qualified Yoga therapist and passionate about projects with a higher purpose, I am on a mission to bring the incredible power of plants into people’s life. And that is why I started Herbal Reality and what it is all about.

I live in a forest garden farm in Somerset growing over 100 species of medicinal plants and trees. And a lot of weeds!

Author of Ayurvedic Medicine, The Principles of Traditional Practice (Elsevier 2006), A Pukka Life (Quadrille 2011), Celebrating 10 Pukka years (2012) and Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea (Frances Lincoln 2016).

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