Our body is made of five elements each have its own taste, and there are total six tastes of the universe. Few elements are friendly and few are enemy of each other. As such they these tastes depending upon, friendly or non-friendly, heal or increase diseases. Astanga Hrdayam clearly describes the characteristics of each of the six tastes and problems that might be experienced from its habitual over-consumption. Most foods being a combination of two or more of these tastes e.g. tea is bitter and pungent. It is as important to realize that every food is unique combination of attributes will influence its taste and the action, it causes in the body. With every taste having a different action – as detailed below.
Comprised of the elements earth & fire, it is cold in nature; it increases pittaand kapha and is good for heart and digestion. Stimulates Agni, moves inactiveVata energy down the pelvic cavity, sets the teeth on edge and increases salivation. Excess use may cause looseness and flabbiness, loss of strength, giddiness, itching, irritation, a whitish yellow pallor, herpetiform lesions, swelling thirsts and fever, and diseases arising from excess pitta and kapha.
Related to earth & water, it mitigates pitta and vata, producing greater strength in the tissues and of value to the aged, wounded, emaciated and children. Universally liked, it often adheres to the inside of the mouth, giving a feeling of pleasure, contentment and comfort. Good for the complexion, hair, senses and Ojas, it also increases breast milk and helps unite broke parts like bones. By its virtue it prolongs life and helps life activities. In excess however it may cause diseases arising from fat and excess kapha e.g. obesity, asthma, dyspepsia, unconsciousness, diabetes, enlargement of neck glands or malignant tumors.
The water & fire in salty taste increases pitta and kapha. It clears obstruction of channels and pores and increases the digestive activity and salivation. Also responsible for lubrication and sweating, it penetrates the tissues. An excess of it may cause baldness and graying of the hair, wrinkles, thirst, skin diseases, blood disorders, burning in chest, throat and neck, impotency, hyper acidity, herpetiform leisons and loss of body strength.
Fire & air in pungent increases vata and pitta and mitigates kapha. Increases hunger, is digestive, causes irritation, brings secretion from the eyes, nose & mouth, and gives a burning sensation to the mouth. It dilates the channels and break up the hard masses. But an excess use of it may cause thirst, depletion of reproductive tissue and strength, fainting, contracture, tremors, pain in the waist and back, and other disorders related to excess of pitta and kapha.
Air & space being its elements, cold, it mitigates pitta and kapha. Drying up moisture from fat, muscles, faeces and urine. It cleans the mouth and destroys the perception of taste. It is said to treat anorexia, worms, bacteria, parasites, thirst, skin diseases, loss of consciousness, fever, nausea, burning sensation. But in excess, it increases vata, causing diseases of vata origin and depletion of tissues.
Air & earth increases vata, cold and mitigates pitta and kapha. It cleans the blood and causes healing of ulcers. Like bitter, it too dries up moisture from fat. It absorbs water, causing constipation and hindering digestion of undigested food. Its excess use causes stasis of food without digestion, flatulence, pain in the cardiac region, emaciation, loss of virility, obstruction of channels and constipation.