This is but a brief summary of the action of food, according to taste, on the elements. In addition to the basic taste, Ayurvedic medicine addresses secondary and tertiary stages of digestion. For example, a food that tastes sweet to the tongue is sour when combined with digestive juices and bitter when reaching the large intestine. Such detail is beyond the scope of this page, but interested persons can certainly study further to develop greater skill in applying the idea that there is an energetic aspect to food that is at least as important as the properties commonly considered by Western nutritionists.

 
Elements and Tastes
[ In Order]
Air
astringent, bitter
Fire
pungent, sour, salty
Water
sweet, salty, sour
Earth
sweet, astringent

It is my firm conviction that life today is so stressful, ecologically imbalanced, and socially complex that every individual is truly challenged to develop a strategy of living that obviates the risk of ill health simply due to oversights and neglects that can be rather easily remedied. For example, once we know that flying in the ozone is equivalent to about five chest x-rays and that it deranges the air element, we know that if we fly, we would also be well advised to do something "grounding" as well. Thus, we might take some ginseng to pour into hot water while in the air. Then, since we know that excess air can disturb fire and thereby affect digestion, we can take some ginger and/or cayenne capsules to help us get down the nearly universally awful food that we are served on planes. As for me, wherever possible, I order an Asian vegetarian meal, as these will have spices and no meat (which is very difficult to digest compared to most other foods). When traveling for any extended time period, it may be advisable to bring along a little "food emergency kit". Try not to let this kit go through the x-ray equipment at the airport. The kit can be hand inspected or checked through with the luggage. I have learned a few tricks I can share. Juiced ginger is a wonderful digestive stimulant. It refreshes the breath, feels energizing, and relieves most intestinal upsets caused by changes of schedules, food, etc. It keeps well and can even be doctored with a few drops of brandy or wine to make certain that it does not ferment. A few bottles of good quality seasonings can improve most any restaurant fare and make it more digestible. Though it is generally preferable to add food to spices, i.e. to start with the spices and oil and then add food instead of shaking on salt and pepper after cooking, this is impractical for travelers so a few bottles of hot and aromatic spices may mean the difference between the feeling of being clogged and vigor when eating in restaurants.

Photo by Barbara RaisbeckIn conclusion, it might be noted that though many have strong constitutions when they are born, it is not at all easy to maintain health and still be active in the world. Moreover, since some people are born without such health resources, they need to be doubly sensible. It ought to be recognized that the body is slow to adapt to anything new, including certain hybrid foods, antibiotics in meat, preservatives, radiation, etc. However, since we live in a time in which such foods are the norm rather than the exception, we ought to be certain that our bodies are equipped to deal with food stresses. It may therefore be necessary to devote time to preparing special foods which are particularly essential to your specific constitution. For some people, herbal foods may be used as supplements, especially when going through stressful episodes. For others, periodic eliminatory or tonification programs may be recommended. For example, every now and then, it may be useful to detoxify the liver and blood stream as a precaution against future trouble; or, it may be wise to develop more adrenal power to deal with stress. Some of the therapies that are organ specific will be covered later, but general balance is the issue for now, and everything discussed here can be applied with relative safety by simply employing a good measure of common sense and care to your well being.

 

Summary of the Tastes
Taste
Moisture
Temperature
Weight
Elements
Sweet
Wet
Cold
Heavy
Water and Earth
Salty
Wet
Hot
Heavy
Water and Fire
Sour
Wet
Hot
Light
Fire
Pungent
Dry
Hot
Light
Fire and Air
Bitter
Dry
Cold
Light
Air and Ether
Astringent
Dry
Cold
Heavy
Earth and Air

 

Indian Spices

 

Reprinted from The Elements: Constitutional Type and Temperament by Ingrid Naiman
Copyright 1989 and 1998 by Ingrid Naiman
 

 

 

 


Sacred Medicine Sanctuary
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2004


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