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The Six Tastes Of Ayurveda: Why They Are Vital For HSPs

Have you ever wondered why some people may have an easier time being healthy than others? There are many factors that go into good health from genetic factors to a variety of life conditions.

One important reason is food. Some foods are healthier than others depending on your physical constitution. Ayurveda has identified the positive and negative impact of foods for each biological constitution by studying the six tastes. Today we will explore what that means.

Food is more important than just throwing something into our mouths to alleviate hunger. Even when we try to “eat heathy”, we often do not because we may have been taught a simplistic understanding of the health-giving qualities of foods. If it is a vegetable it must be good for us.  Right?

Actually, not necessarily.

The Subtle Energy Of The Six Tastes

Food is more than the category that it belongs to. A category of may help us organize our perceptions, but it does not automatically decide what is right for us. There is more to selecting healthy foods that the food pyramid and its food categories.

Each food had subtle energies it gives to us. When those energies are what we need, we are nourished and thrive; when they are not, we are creating disease in ourselves. The best way to know which foods work for us is to learn about our biological constitution or dosha in Ayurveda and which of the six tastes support our constitution. Then selecting healthy food according to the six tastes is a piece of cake.

Ayurveda And The Six Tastes

Ayurveda has a complex understanding of the health value of foods. Ayurvedic healers have gathered and evaluated all foods and herbs for their health effects for thousands of years. Their knowledge base about food is exceptional.

In Ayurveda, the health of foods is determined through the six tastes, how they manifest in each food and how those six tastes relate to and support the health of the doshas. Their knowledge recognizes the subtle energies of food and herbs how they impact  each person’s bioenergy or dosha. Ayurveda is as customized an approach to health as exists in the world. By understanding the subtle energies of the six tastes, Ayurveda knows how to help an individual create optimum health.

According to Dr, Vasant Lad, an eminent Ayurvedic physician and teacher, the first way a food is defined comes from the qualities that each food has. There are 20 or 10 pairs of opposite qualities in food that are combined into what are callede the six tastes:

  1. heavy or light
  2. oily or dry
  3. stable or mobile
  4. slimy or rough
  5. gross or subtle
  6. cold or hot
  7. slow or sharp
  8. soft or hard
  9. dense or liquid
  10. cloudy or clear

These qualities have an affect on the doshas or bioenergies. That means that each food affects not only the body but also the mind and emotions since the doshas are holistic and include the mind and emotions as well as our physical constitutions. These attributes and qualities of food determine its taste category in the Ayurvedic system and how the tastes can have a balancing or disturbing effect on an individual.

What Are The Six Tastes?

The six tastes are:

  1. sweet:  has the qualities of being oily, cooling and heavy. In moderation, it promotes a strong body and good health. In excess, it increases congestion including colds, diabetes, obesity, and tumors.
  2. sour: has the qualities of being liquid, light, heating, and oily. In moderation, it is invigorating and good for the digestive system. In excess, it creates excessive acidity, heartburn, ulcers and various skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema.
  3. salty: has oily, heavy and heating qualities. In moderation, it promotes growth and maintains water-electrolyte balance. It improves digestion and elimination and is so strong that it can overwhelm the other tastes. In excess, it thickens the blood, and causes hypertension and aggravates skin conditions.
  4. pungent: has the qualities light, drying, and heating. In moderation, it helps digestion and clears the mouth and sinuses. It improves circulation and breaks up clots. It removes obstructions and helps perception. In excess, it causes sexual debility, overheating, diarrhea, heartburn, and nausea. In Vata dosha, it causes giddiness, tremors, and insomnia .
  5. bitter: has the qualities of cool, light and dry. In moderation, it is anti-toxic, so it relieves heating conditions, skin diseases, and reduces fat. In excess, depletes the various elements of the body including muscles, bones, and marrow and creates weariness.
  6. astringent: has the qualities of cooling, drying, and heaviness. In moderation, it absorbs water, heals ulcers and causes clotting. In excess it can lead to neuromuscular disorders which HSPs need to be concerned with, increases constipation, and circulatory issues.
This is a short overview of the qualities in food and how they affect the body. HSPs can benefit from the Ayurvedic approach to food since it enables them to be more precise in their food choices and minimize inadvertent health problems caused by eating the wrong food.  Eating the wrong food is a source of stress  for the body and emotional/mental system which will make it harder for an HSP to manage other stressors and overstimulation.  HSPs can only benefit from making recommended Ayurvedic food choices.
Note:  Although some of the information comes from my own knowledge, many of the details were taken from the work of Usha Lad and Dr. Vasant Lad: Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, The Ayurvedic Press, Albuquerque, 1994, 2002, p. 31-37. His work provides even more detail about the Ayurvedic understanding of food and the elements and is an important book for individuals interested in Ayurveda.

Additional Information: Ayurvedic Institute

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution and Sensitive Evolution Radio. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World as well as numerous courses for sensitives including The Emerging Sensitive Course using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. They can be found here. She is a long time meditator, reiki master, a student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.