Taste as Medicine - The Six Tastes of Maharishi Ayurveda

Maharishi Ayurveda recommends getting all six tastes in every meal: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. That's because each taste has an intimate relationship with the doshas and personal balance.

Sweet, or madhura, taste is a builder of those tissues that are formed from earth and water. Hence, sweet substances strengthen Kapha. An overload of sweets, on the other hand, can create a Kapha imbalance, which needs to be corrected with pungent, bitter and astringent tastes and warming foods.

Salty, sour and pungent tastes strengthen Pitta. That is, they strengthen all those functions associated with a rise in temperature: metabolic processes, for example. An excess of these tastes, however, aggravates Pitta and needs balancing out with sweet, cooling foods.

Pungent, bitter and astringent tastes increase Vata and all phenomena to do with movement, penetration and cleansing of channels. If you need to pacify Vata, therefore, you need to focus on the sweet, sour and salty tastes and eat more warm foods.

This analysis of taste and its properties was made over centuries of observation by ancient ayurvedic healers many millennia ago, but they make as much sense today.

Each taste is associated with certain chemicals your body needs:

  • Sweet: carbohydrates, sugars, fats, amino acids
  • Sour: organic acids
  • Salty: salts
  • Pungent: volatile oils
  • Bitter: alkaloids, glycosides
  • Astringent: tannin

In the rush of daily life, however, most of us tend to eat on the run, grabbing a sandwich here or a beverage there. How, then, can you make sure you get all six tastes on your plate every day?

Churnas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha), or precise blends of spices and seasonings that have been prepared to balance Vata, Pitta or Kapha, can help. Sprinkle them on your soups, salads and other cooked foods at the table. Or fry them in a small amount of organic ghee and then add to steamed vegetables or soups.


The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.