In Ayurveda, Food items are classified in terms of taste (rasa), and there are six different tastes recognized. They are
--> Sweet (Madhura)
--> Salty (Lavana)
--> Bitter (Tikta)
--> Sour (Amla)
--> Pungency (Katu)
--> Astringent (Kashaya)
Food items may contain all kinds of tastes (rasa) but have one dominant taste. For example, Consider grapes that have both sweet and astringent taste, but the dominant taste is sweet. In modern science, there are five tastes (omitted astringent). But, Astringent is mentioned, especially in Ayurveda. The most commonly used ingredient in Indian dishes with an astringency taste is coriander seeds. Two properties of the astringent taste (Kashaya Rasa) make it quite interesting.
Astringency is not sensed by the taste receptor cells, but it can be felt directly by the trigeminal nerve (fifth cranial nerve).
Secondly, how astringency is recognized. Naturally, the intensity of tastes (Rasa) reduces with repetitive consumption of various taste foods. i.e., after eating sweet items, milk doesn’t taste sweet. But in astringency taste, its recognition increases with repetitive consumption.
Astringent has a taste (Rasa) with a flavor of dryness that is generally produced by tannins- polyphenolic biomolecules in the bark, leaves, and the outer layer of fruits and trees. This causes the membranes of the mouth to contract and result in an immediate dry, which can be experienced by eating powdery products (sometimes the sensation of choking). The taste of the astringent is said to be either sweet or sour.
The astringent taste foods (Kashaya Rasa) purifies the blood by removing toxic substances and thus aids in balancing Pitta and Kapha. In excess, it produces gas and constipation issues.
Taste not only indicates the perception of taste buds in the tongue but also indicates the final reaction of food with the acid found in the stomach. In Ayurveda, the taste in the mouth is mentioned as “Svadu,” and the taste in the stomach is known as ‘Paka.’ i.e., Wheat bread has not given a sweet taste in the mouth, but in the stomach, its reaction with acid makes it sweet.
How Does our Brain Identify Each Taste?
The tastes are identified by the group of taste receptor cells, which are pot-like structures. Researchers found that a particular area in the tongue resembles one specific taste. For example; the back center of the tongue experiences astringent taste, the tip of the tongue recognizes sweet, etc. Here, the ratio of receptors can modify between taste buds so that some tastes are experienced more intensely in a particular area. While eating foods, taste buds get activated by a specified taste. Then, the taste receptor cells convey the message through the cranial nerves to the brain. The signal from the tongue to the brain moves through the nerve cells with the release of neurotransmitters.
Benefits of Astringent
The taste of astringent absorbs excess moisture, stops spilling of fluid, inhibits bleeding by rapidly clotting the openings, cleanses the mucus membranes, decongests, removes fat, improves absorption, and helps to regulate stool by binding. The tendency of the liquid or cohesiveness towards the liquid promotes the tissue to hold together, and other bodily cohesiveness is also enhanced. These properties make astringent a useful tool in combating excessive bleeding, sweat, diarrhea, leucorrhea, etc. The binding nature of the astringent taste tones the loose and flaccid tissues and correct skin or muscular imbalances like prolapse. And this taste also helps to heal the wound and avert cough.
Excess Usage of Astringent
If the astringent taste of food is over consumed, it leads to dry mouth condition, difficulty in speaking, choking, spasms, gripping sensations in the intestines, gas, bloating, distention, and constipation. It can also lead to conditions like emaciation, convulsions, Bell’s palsy, and stroke paralysis.
Further, it increases thirst, stiffness, coagulation and clotting in the blood, stagnation in circulation, cardiac spasms, insomnia, emotional stagnation, malaise, and depression. It also causes low libido and low sperm count.
ASTRINGENT TASTE FOODS
Leafy greens, green bananas, and cranberries are some sources with an astringent taste. The astringent taste makes apple crunchy or crispy. This flavor makes lentils, and peeled potatoes stick to one another. Externally used astringent herbs can stop bleeding and bind back perforated tissues together. When consumed internally, they make you feel dry and therefore, it is very useful in case of diarrhea or excess sweating.
Minerals and Astringency
In other words, food that has high minerals is generally astringent in taste, and this high mineral food gives a rough mouthfeel. Salt and food with potassium and magnesium-rich properties have an astringent taste. Pica is a medical disorder caused in people eating non-foods such as clay, soil, paint, or wood. These unusual problems can be satisfied with vitamin and mineral substances, which supply the non-available body nutrient.
Astringent and Waste Products
Astringent taste leads to a tightening of body tissues, blocking the flow of lymph and eliminating toxins present in the body. Sometimes, it may cause constipation problems. But in case of diarrhea, good astringent fruits such as pomegranate juice is useful in blocking the excretions immediately. Since Astringent taste has a dry property, it can quickly dry any secretions, i.e., it absorbs excess mucus (Kapha).
Qualities of Astringent
Astringents have a quality(guna) of cooling and drying. These properties make them suitable for Pitta-related issues such as inflammation on the skin surface and gastro-intestinal tract. But consume astringent food, only if the inflammation is due to dryness. This is related to Vata.
Astringent and Emotions
Astringent taste aids to cool or calm down, and helps to receive scattered thoughts. Astringency leads the cells to withdraw, and the body tissues tense up to form a barrier.
Consider While Eating Astringent Food
This taste will only make the condition worse in case of increased Vata in the system, constipation, or blockages of any kind in the body.
|Primary Elements||Air and Earth|
|Balances||Pitta and Kapha|
|Potent energy (Virya)||Cooling - mildest of the cooling tastes (Shita)|
|Vipaka (property after digestive)||Pungent (Katu)|
|Qualities (Gunas)||Dry (Ruksha), Cold (Shita), Heavy (Guru)|
|The taste which Balanced Astringent||Salty (Lavana), Sour (Amla), Sweet (Madhura)|
|Related Positive Emotions||Stable, Collected, Grounded, Unified|
|Emotions of Excess||Anxiousness, Fear, Fixation, Harshness, Nervousness, Resentment, Rigidity, Sadness|
|Taste Location||At the back central region of the tongue|
|Most Affected Cells||Plasma, Blood, Muscle, and Reproductive tissues|
|Direction of Movement||Move inward|
|Additional Effects||Anti-inflammatory, Cools down overheat, Hemostatic (stops bleeding), Tones tissues, Reduces sweating, Vasoconstrictor|
Foods with Astringent Rasa (Taste)
- Astringent Herbs: Aloe Vera, Triphala, Amalaki, Ginger, Haritaki, Arjuna, and Rubia cordifolia.
- Beans-Legumes: Adzuki Beans, Black Beans, Black-eyed Peas, Brown Lentil, Butter Bean, Lima Beans, Chick Pea, Fava Beans, Green Beans, Kidney Beans, Mung Bean, Pinto Beans, Red Lentils, Soy Beans, Split Peas, Urad Dal, White Navy Bean, Yellow Lentil.
- Dairy Products: Buttermilk, Whey.
- Ferments: Apple Cider Vinegar, Black Tea, Red Wine, Red Wine Vinegar, Tempeh, Tofu, White Vinegar, White Wine.
- Flowers: Hibiscus, Lavender, Rose Petals.
- Fruits: Raw Apple, Fresh Apricot, Blackberry, Cranberry, Green Mango, Green Banana, Green Plantain, Jackfruit, Lemon, Mulberry, Pears, Persimmons, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Strawberries, Tamarind.
- Grains: Amaranth, Buckwheat, Wheat pasta, Millet, Popped Amaranth, Sorghum Flour, Rye.
- Greens: Bean Sprouts, Beet Greens, Chicory Lettuce, Collard Greens, Dandelion Leaves, Grape Leaves, Kale, Lamb’s Quarters, Red Leaf Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Stinging Nettles, Watercress.
- Meats: Bone Broth, Chicken, Bone Marrow or Fat, Venison.
- Nuts-Seeds: Acorn, Chestnuts, Walnuts.
- Roots: Burdock Root (Gobo), Jicama, Potato, Turnip.
- Spices: Allspice, Basil, Bay Leaf, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Cloves, Green Tea, Nutmeg, Poppy Seed, Rosemary, Saffron, Sassafras Leaf, Caraway, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Oregano, Parsley, Turmeric, Vanilla.
- Sweeteners: Honey, Stevia.
- Vegetables: Artichoke, Artichoke Hearts, Asparagus, Okra, Rhubarb, Alfalfa sprouts, Avocado, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Raw carrots, Cauliflower, Lettuce.
Haritaki is an astringent taste food that is heating and has an excellent post-digestive effect. It acts as an important medicine for Vata, and maintains a healthy bowel movement.