Dosha Balance
sweet taste

The sweet taste is nourishing and growth producing. It is the predominant energy in most foods, especially the staples in our diet. The taste is comprised mainly of the water element and secondarily the earth element. It is found in carbohydrates, sugars, fats, and amino acids and is, to no one's surprise, anabolic, meaning it helps to build and repair tissue. Its nature is heavy, cold, and viscous (oily and gelatinous). The sweet taste acts quickly on the taste buds and saliva. In moderation, it is medicinal for fire types and some air types; but it causes kapha derangements when consumed in excess, regardless of the constitutional type.





Water and Earth

Nearly all staple foods, vegetable oils, nuts, sugars and syrups, dairy products, and meat are classified as sweet tasting. Provided such foods are not consumed in excess, they are nourishing, but they can also be fattening and congesting. Sweet foods contribute to mucus formation and eventually to phlegm and coughs.

Though such foods may be soothing when the nerves are frayed or where is dryness, brittleness, and/or burning, sweets can be harmful for those with a weak fire element, i.e low gastric secretions and not enough insulin production.

For instance, while we know many people who consume sweets for a pick up, we also realize that the sudden rise in blood sugar is followed by a drop in the insulin that is necessary to carry blood glucose to the cells that can utilize energy. The perk up is therefore very brief and is followed by drowsiness—and in severe cases black out or coma. We have all seen this with people whose blood alcohol level exceeds safe limits, but candy and ice cream and even starchy foods can often cause similar swings in blood sugar.

For those seeking a boost in energy, it is often more effective to eat something very spicy that liberates stored sugars than to wolf down a chocolate bar. There is an Ayurvedic snack food called dal moth that is nourishing (so long as it is not rancid) — it can perhaps be compared to a spicy trail mix or nuts with Cajun or Mexican seasoning. There are also Ayurvedic herbal formulas that help to regulate blood sugar; the ingredients usually include gymnema and sometimes tulsi and cinnamon along with other herbs and spices.

In addition, there are herbal and spice combinations that rely on the pungent taste to balance the intake of sweets. One of the traditional formulas of this type is a blend of three peppers called Trikatu (Kapha Digest).



The critical issue is balance. The sweet and pungent tastes are energetic opposites. This means is that they can be used to balance each other.

Sweet Taste
Pungent Taste

Ice cream is one of the most kapha deranging foods. It is sweet and cold. Dairy is hard to digest, especially when pasteurized and refrigerated—so frozen dairy products are even harder to digest. On top of this, many dairy products contain estrogenic compounds that are kaphagenic.

Imagine for a moment that you can reduce some of the risk of producing excess kapha by substitutuing yoghurt or cottage cheese for milk or conventional cheese. The sourness makes the dairy products easier to digest. You can also try making ice cream with ginger and/or cardamom and using carrot juice to replace part of the milk or cream. In this way, you have a delicious desert that is less mucus forming than the typical ice cream bought in a supermarket. Once one understands these simple concepts, it is easy to see how foods can be used as medicine.

Just as water and fire are opposites, so the sweet taste and the pungent taste neutralize each other. In fact, water has the same energetics as the sweet taste and fire has the same qualities as the pungent taste.

So, while sweet tasting foods are stabilizing, tonifying, and calming—and absolutely necessary—they are contraindicated once the optimum level of consumption is reached. Of course, this is true for all foods and herbs, but excess consumption of sweet foods contributes to lethargy and drowsiness and other symptoms of water and earth excesses, including poor digestion, sweetness of breath, intestinal worms, vomiting, difficulty breathing, eye diseases, urinary disorders, and in extreme cases headaches, diabetes, elephantiasis, and tumors.

The problem is that, according to Ayurveda, 93% of foods we eat are sweet, not because our diets are imbalanced and based on excess consumption of carbohydrates but because food is intended to be nutritious, and the sweet taste is the most nourishing of the six tastes. This means that foods in which the sweet taste predominates can be used to correct deficiency conditions, everything from malnutrition to emaciation and degeneration; and they can be used to restore ravaged tissue and regenerate tissues that are dry, such as myelin sheaths. However, this does not mean that sugar is restorative, not even that honey is ideal because it is a little astringent after a few months of aging. It means that a high quality oil can repair nerve sheaths and reproductive fluids and even ease the creaking in joints.

Spices and Bitters

It is important to recognize two more points. First, while spices may relieve some of the congestion of excess consumption of sweets, sometimes, bitter foods are more helpful.

Where the metabolism is slow, the volatile oils that give spices their kick serve to stimulate the secretion of saliva and gastric juices. This improves digestion and metabolism and helps to reduce cholesterol and certain types of overweight. However, bitter foods and herbs are more detoxifying. They also promote the flow of bile so depending on the specific type of excess water, one may get better results using bitters than spices. Basically, the colder the condition, the more that the pungent taste is needed whereas the heavier the condition, the more there is an indication for bitter foods.

The Sweet Taste
Balancing Energy
Balancing Taste
Air and Fire
Air and Fire

As we have seen, the other tastes are not only less abundant but they are found generally as condiments, seasoning, or supplements. For instance, one may add chutney or pickles or cayenne to a dish, but it is not the main food, just an addition to the food. Likewise, one may put the spices or herbs into capsules or tablets and consume them as medicine rather than as food. Although this has benefits, it is still better to eat a balanced diet.

Nearly every kind of food, spice, and herb has a potential medicinal use, but sweet tasting foods are only medicinal for people suffering from deficiency conditions or excess heat and dryness. Beyond maintenance amounts, they are contraindicated for those who are constantly cold, congested, and clogged. For example, the fine line between foggy and forgetful is important when seeking balance. People whose acuity is affected by congestion will suffer from eating sweets, but when the memory is more sporadic, especially where short-term memory is affected, the stickiness of the sweet taste may produce longer periods of retention. Sweet foods simply will not have the same benefit if the cause is blockage due to heaviness and drowsiness, two of the worst consequences of a diet high in this calming but sometimes sedating taste.

To summarize the sweet taste, it may be noted that it is obviously the taste that will add weight the fastest; however, it is can also be helpful for deeper regeneration and restoration of tissue. For this purpose, it is normally the good quality oils and complex carbohydrates are are useful. In some situations, these foods will not only repair nerve sheaths but also relieve dryness of skin, hair, and joints. Such foods will also help to correct hormonal deficiencies, assist healing after injury or surgery, and boost immunity. They may also improve fertility and memory, but the quality of the food must be good—and like anything else, the food must be assimilated in order to be beneficial.


The Sour Taste





Sacred Medicine Sanctuary
Suquamish, Washington

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