The Impact of Taste on Health: How to Live a Healthier Life
The taste in Ayurveda is called Rasa. The word rasa has various meanings in different contexts. It is the mineral Parada (Mercury), which means juice that is extracted from medicinal plants, it is one among the dhatu (tissue) of the body, and it also refers to Mamsa rasa (meat soup). The taste that is perceived after we eat the food is Rasa. That which is perceived through the Rasanendriya (tongue) immediately and completely when some food is ingested is called Rasa. The rasa is perceived in a dry state and is stable.
Perception of rasa
The Rasanendriya (tongue) is the organ for the perception of taste. According to Ayurveda, taste can be perceived in three ways and those are Pratyaksha Pramana (direct perception), Anumana Pramana (Inference), and Aptopadesha Pramana (which can be perceived by experiential knowledge).
Pratyaksha Pramana: The taste that is perceived by the tongue directly.
Anumana Pramana: The taste that cannot be perceived by the organ of taste but can be inferred. For instance, poisonous drugs cannot be tasted, but the taste can be known by inference.
Aptopadesha Pramana: The experiential knowledge of tastes can be understood by the experience of the experts. For example, the taste of metals is known through experiential knowledge.
Types of Rasas
There are a lot of theories put forth by many pioneers of Ayurveda with respect to the rasas and the number of rasas. Shadrasa (six tastes) is the accepted number of rasas in the classics of Ayurveda. The six rasas are Madhura (sweet), Amla (sour), Lavana (salt), Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter), and Kashaya (astringent).
Bhautika composition of Shadrasa
- Madhura rasa – Prithvi and Jala
- Amla rasa – Prithvi and Agni (According to Charaka and Vagbhata) and Jala and Agni (As per Sushrutha)
- Lavana rasa – Jala and Agni (According to Charaka and Vagbhata) and Prithvi and Agni (As per Sushrutha)
- Katu rasa – Vayu and Agni
- Tikta rasa – Vayu and Akash
- Kashaya rasa – Vayu and Prithvi
The growth and nourishment of the body occur at the maximum with the Madhura rasa and at the least with the Kashaya rasa.
Classification of Shadrasa
Soumya and Agneya rasa – Depending on the characteristics of sheeta (cold) and ushna (hot) the rasa is classified as Soumya and Agneya Rasa respectively.
- Soumya Rasa – Madhura, Tikta and Kashaya Rasa
- Agneya Rasa – Amla, Lavana and Katu Rasa
Relation of Shadrasa with Rutu
- Shishira rutu – During the winter season, Tikta rasa (bitter)is formed.
- Vasanta rutu – During the spring season, Kashaya rasa (astringent) is formed.
- Greeshma rutu – In the summer season, Katu rasa (pungent) is formed.
- Varsha rutu – In the rainy season, Amla rasa (sour) is formed.
- Sharad rutu – In the autumn season, Lavana rasa (salt) is formed.
- Hemant rutu – During the pre-winter season, Madhura rasa (sweet) is formed.
Relation of Shadrasa with Guna
The qualities present in the six tastes have their effect on health as these will either decrease or increase the dosha, dhatu, and mala.
- Madhura rasa – The gunas present in the rasa are snigdha (unctuous), sheeta (cold), and guru (heavy).
- Amla rasa – snigdha (unctuous), ushna (hot), and guru (heavy) are the qualities of Amla rasa.
- Lavana rasa – snigdha (unctuous), ushna (hot), and guru (heavy).
- Katu rasa– ruksha (dry), ushna (hot), and guru (heavy).
- Tikta rasa – ruksha (dry), sheeta (cold), and laghu (light).
- Kashaya rasa – ruksha (dry), sheeta (cold), and laghu (light).
Impact of Taste on Health
Effect on dosha
The six tastes have their effect on three doshas by either aggravating or subsiding them.
- Dosha kopana rasa
- Madhura, Amla, and Lavana rasa aggravate kapha dosha.
- Katu, Tikta, and Kashaya aggravate vata dosha.
- Amla, Lavana, Katu rasa aggravate pitta dosha.
- Dosha shamaka rasa
- Madhura, Amla, Lavana rasa subside vata dosha.
- Katu, Tikta, and Kashaya subside kapha dosha.
- Madhura, Tikta, Kashaya rasa subside pitta dosha.
Effect on dhatu
Following are the specific actions of the rasas on seven dhatus.
- Madhura rasa – It has actions on dhatu like balya (strength promoter), sarva dhatu vardhana (increase all the dhatu both quantitatively and qualitatively), stanyavardhana (galactagogue), ayushya (increases the life span).
- Amla rasa – Balya, Shukrala (increases the semen and sperm count).
- Lavana rasa – Dhatunashana (destroys the dhatu), avrushya (hampers the sexual activity), daurbalyakara (causes debility).
- Katu rasa – Dhatunashana (destroys the dhatu), avrushya (hampers the sexual activity)
- Tikta rasa – Dhatunashana (destroys the dhatu), avrushya (hampers the sexual activity), it does the malnourishment of meda, vasa, majja, lasika.
- Kashaya rasa – sarva dhatu shoshana (it causes the malnourishment of all the dhatu).
Effect on mala
- Madhura, Amla, and Lavana taste facilitate the evacuation of stools, urine, and the flatus.
- Katu, Tikta, and Kashaya taste cause the obstruction of stools, urine, and the flatus.
Generalized effects of Shadrasa on the health
- Madhura rasa – It provides strength and nourishment, it helps in the functioning of the sense organs, and the lips- mouth-tongue-nose-eyes become soft after eating Madhura rasa food.
- Amla rasa – It increases appetite and digestion, provides strength to the body, activates the brain and its functions, and stimulates the functioning of sense organs.
- Lavana rasa – It removes the stiffness of the limbs, clears the obstruction of the channels, and expels excess fat and fecal matter.
- Katu rasa – It cleanses the mouth, increases appetite, facilitates digestion and the absorption of food, proper functioning of the brain.
- Tikta rasa – It enhances the taste buds, clears the secretions from the throat, and is helpful in the treatment of worm infestation, toxic effects, obesity, diabetes, skin diseases, etc.
- Kashaya rasa – It helps heal wounds, cleanses the skin, reduces kapha and pitta dosha, etc.
Diseases caused due to excess consumption of Shadrasa
- Madhura rasa – Sthaulya (obesity), Prameha (diabetes), Agnimandya (reduced digestion power), Aruchi (loss of appetite), Atiswapna (excess sleep), Alasya (lethargy), Shwasa (breathing disorders), Kasa (cough), Sajnanasha (unconsciousness), Netra roga (eye disorders), Galaganda (goiter), Gandamala (cervical lymphadenopathy), Shleepada (filariasis), Krimi (worm infestation), etc.
- Amla rasa – Drishtimandya (impaired vision), Raktapittakara (bleeding disorders), Raktavikara (disorders of blood), Daha (burning sensation), Shotha (generalized edema), Trishna (thirst), Romanchana (horripilations), Pandu (anemia), Kandu (generalized itching), etc.
- Lavana rasa – Kushta (leprosy), Visarpa (herpes), Raktapitta (bleeding disorders), Vatarakta (gout), Amlapitta (hyperacidity), Palita (greying of hair), Khalitya (hair-fall), Napumsakata (impotency), etc.
- Katu rasa – Karshata (emaciation), Kampa (tremors), Angashula (body ache), Bhrama (vertigo), Daurbalya (debility), Daha (burning sensation), etc.
- Tikta rasa – Dhatushoshana (improper nourishment of dhatu), Vatavyadhi (disorders of vata dosha), Mukhashosha (dryness of the mouth), Daurbalya (debility), Bhrama (vertigo), etc.
- Kashaya rasa – Mukhashosha (dryness of the mouth), Hridayashoola (cardiac discomfort and pain), Ardita (facial paralysis), Pakshaghata (hemiplegia), Napumsakata (impotence), Karshata (emaciation), etc.
There are six tastes explained in Ayurveda. The six tastes have their effect on dosha where they either decrease or increase them. The effect on mala by Madhura, Amla, and Lavana rasa is to help in the expulsion of them while Katu, Tikta, and Kashaya obstruct the mala. The dhatu nourishment depends on the Shadrasa. The functioning of sense organs, central and peripheral nervous systems, gastrointestinal, excretory systems, and reproductive systems is carried out by the six Rasa described.