The ayurvedic rasas like the three doshas are combinations of the panchamahabhoota or the five universal elements — agni, vayu, prithvi, jal and aakash and help in balancing the doshas in the body while performing crucial functions for the organism. The six rasas or tastes are: Sweet, Pungent, Salty, Bitter and Astringent and have an effect not only on the tongue but on all parts of the organism.
Properties of Rasas or Tastes
Sweet edibles are life-promoting as these enhance physical strength, vitalize the mind, improve digestion, enhance immunity, soothe throat, make skin lustrous and have many health benefits. However, excessive sweet aggravates Kapha and induces congestion, obesity and other disorders. Sour edibles stimulate the digestive fire or agni, promote salivation, awaken mind and provide energy to body. But, excessive sour aggravates Pitta and Kapha and can cause indigestion, water retention and heartburn. Bitter edibles, such as, aloe vera, turmeric, fenugreek, dandelion etc. stimulate other tastes. These cut down fat, are antipyretic agents and tone pancreas. But, excessive bitterness aggravates Vata and makes one feel giddy. Astringent edibles, such as, unripe bananas, chickpea and pomegranate encourage absorption and act as binding agents. Excessive consumption aggravates Vata and promotes griping, blood coagulation and constipation. Salty foods stimulate digestive power and appetite, make tissues tender and loose, cleanse body and eliminate wastes. Excessive saltiness aggravates Kapha and Vata.
Properties of Common Edibles
The details of the properties of various common food items or types have been explained in Ayurveda. Some of the important examples are as follows:
Honey unites body organs/appendages whereas ghee lubricates them. Milk vitalises body whereas water moistens it. Meat is a promoter of the bulk of body whereas meat soup is a nourishing agent. Common curd used in day-to-day life causes shotha or swelling in body or in the bodily appendages. Alkalis are helpful in digestion but certain alkalis cause damage to eye vision and semen.
Salt causes oozing in body. It is oily and heavy. Moderate amount of salt is antispasmodic, helpful in maintenance of optimal water and electrolyte balance and energizes body. However, excessive salt encourages water retention and puking and increases blood pressure. Use of rock salt owing to its high mineral content is recommendable as per Ayurveda. Rock salt promotes digestion, absorption, circulation, elimination and cleansing of sinuses. As a vitalizing agent, it functions as a blood thinner although its excessive consumption encourages thirst, enervation and sterility.
Similarly, sour substances have been noted to be mostly pitta-aggravating except pomegranates and amla whereas sweet substances are mostly kapha-aggravating except honey, old rice, barley and wheat. On the other hand, bitter and pungent substances are mostly vata-aggravating except guduchi, pepper and ginger.
Therapeutic Value of Alkalis
Alkalis aka kshar are used as independent medicines and as ingredients in other medications. In Ayurvedic therapeutic treatments, it is used for its remedial and curative properties.
Oral administration of the extract is recommended for its medicinal activities, such as, digestive, appetizer, laxative (cleanser), Kapha-subsider etc. It can also repair wounds and cause boils to mature and open as a healing action.
Alkalis have demonstrated remarkable results, specifically, in Ayurvedic para surgical procedures such as ‘Khar Karma.’ Likewise, alkalis are significantly used in the development of ‘Kshar Sutra’, a special procedure globally recognized for the treatment of fistula and piles, with almost 100% success rate.
However, it is strongly recommended that the intake of alkali-infused substances be in requisite quantities as excessive consumption can cause inflammation and increase proneness to hemorrhage.
Why Ayurveda Recommends Cow Ghee?
Cow ghee boosts digestive strength by stimulating secretion of enzymes. It enhances bone power, stamina and immunity and is good for tissue development and proper functioning of sense organs. Ghee enhances capabilities of the brain like memory, wisdom, genius and intellect. It is also an excellent agent in improving metabolism and detoxification of body. It promotes lubrication of joints. You can cure insomnia and constipation with ghee and when taken in moderate quantities, it also mobilizes and reduces fat from fatty body areas.
As a moisturizer, ghee can cure dryness of skin, hair & voice and cracked lips and heels during winter. It improves complexion and skin tone making skin clearer, smoother, gentler and more lustrous. It also contributes to voice clarity and curbs hair fall.
Ghee is favorable for Rasadhatu (essence of digested food), Ojas (immunity), semen production and Shukradhatu (reproductive system). Perfect for people of all age groups, it helps in sustaining youth and provides longevity.
People convalescing after surgeries must consume ghee daily to recover better. It helps to relieve burning sensation after recent recovery from fever. Ghee is good for those desiring weight gain as it arouses appetite and helps alleviate emaciation and leanness. It is also beneficial for those who exercise or drink alcohol regularly.
Effects on Doshas
In moderate quantities, ghee helps to balance doshas. Specifically, individuals with Vata or Pitta related disorders and those with Vata-Pitta body constitution must make it an essential part of their diets. Ghee subsides Vata and Pitta and helps to alleviate the symptoms associated with their imbalances.
However, its unctuousness promotes Kapha and people with K body type should take ghee after seasoning it with a little bit of trikatu churna that lowers the excessive Kapha. Yet, ghee is also useful in treating Kapha’s hardness, Kapha-kshaya (deficiency of Kapha) and Kapha-related disorders.
Sugar as a Vitalizer
Glucose as opposed to fructose provides energy to body and is essential for each cell. Every time there is an intake of glucose, muscles, liver and fat tissues store it in its non-toxic form for use at a later stage. The hunger hormone pacifies with glucose consumption which sends signals to the brain about our satiety.
Sweet edibles nourish the mind and enhance body immunity. A total abstinence from sugar can cause many physical deficiencies. Ayurveda recommends naturally sweet foods like grains, milk, legumes, sweet fruits, honey, jaggery, dates, ghee, sugar etc. Honey helps reduce body fat while jaggery provides physical strengthen. Both the edibles also have a soothing effect on the mind. Jaggery is a rich source of iron (useful for those with anaemia), potassium, calcium, antioxidants and nutrients. Its natural cleansing properties make it a blood purifier and a cleanser of the respiratory and the digestive tracts. Therefore, it is recommendable for cold, cough, asthma, acidity and chest congestion. Jaggery with milk curbs joint ache, treats dry cough and cold and is good for skin and hair. A mixture of jaggery and black pepper also treats cough. With water, jaggery relieves fatigue very quickly.
The sweet taste has a counteractive effect on imbalanced Vata dosha and helps treat problems related to indigestion.
A cup of thick curd with a little bit of sugar and a pinch of cardamom powder is beneficial for health. It invigorates body and helps compensate for the water and minerals we lose through sweating during summers. However, sugar is good for its energizing effects in all seasons. As an edible that cools stomach, it combats burning sensation, acidity and intestinal disorders. The combination is great for balancing Pitta and should be taken at the end of a lunch. Curd seasoned with sugar also cools urinary bladder, effectively checking bladder irritation commonly faced during summers.