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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 is a registered member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. He qualified as a herbalist with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) to help transform health. He holds a Licentiate in Herbal Medicine, a Diploma in Oriental Herbal Medicine and is an Ayurvedic Health Counsellor.

Sebastian Pole runs his own herbal practice in Bath and has been in clinical practice since 1998. He is also an organic herb expert and is passionate about supporting the sustainable supply of organic herbs. Fluent in Hindi, a registered Yoga therapist and passionate about running a business that brings benefit to everyone it connects with, Sebastian is on a mission to bring the incredible power of plants into people’s life.

Sebastian lives on an amazing two acre forest garden farm in Somerset with his family, where he grows over 100 species of medicinal plants and trees. His favourites are licorice, chamomile, echinacea, motherwort, valerian, tulsi and marigolds.

Author of Ayurvedic Medicine, The Principles of Traditional Practice (Elsevier 2006).

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