Ayurvedic Nutrition 101: Taste and the 5 Elements

woman eating strawberry

“The word “rasa” is the Sanskrit word meaning taste. There are six distinct tastes and each, as with all of nature, is composed of elements. Understanding the elemental make up of each taste is the key to understanding the attributes of each taste. The six tastes are the fundamental basis of Ayurvedic dietary and herbal therapies. Based on the intake of the six tastes, doshas will be increased or decreased within the body.

In order for the human being to experience taste, there must always be two elements present. These are water and earth. Water activates the taste buds. If the mouth is dry, there is no taste. The second is earth. Earth is substance. All substances have taste. The specific taste of a substance is based on its unique elemental makeup. According to the Caraka Samhita, “water and earth constitute the substratum for the manifestation of taste which is the object of the gustatory sense organ. As for the specific qualities of taste, the remaining three (elements) are responsible for their manifestation.”

The six tastes are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter. When a person consumes the proper amount (for their prakruti and vikruti) of each taste, the body responds with the production of healthy tissues and normal physiology. When too much or too little of a specific taste is taken, the body responds with faulty function. The result is disease.”

Excerpt from Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine, by Dr. Marc Halpern, Founder of the California College of Ayurveda