Ayurveda explains that there are six tastes in Ayurveda and astringent taste is an important one among them. It is called as Kashaya rasa in Sanskrit language. This article discusses all that you need to know about Astringent Foods and their effect on different doshas.
Origin of the word Kashaya
The primary local effect of astringent taste is that, it causes dryness and chocking sensation in the throat, when you take it. This can be easily understood with chewing of betel nut. Betel nut, having astringent taste is consumed at the end of the meals. It helps to dry up the extra secretions from the digestive system. When one chews a piece of betel nut, the first observation made is of having slightly chocking and drying effect in the throat.
Ayurveda explains that each taste is made up of two basic elements.
Astringent taste is made up of earth and air elements. Because both earth and air elements are naturally cold, Astringent herbs are also coolant.
Earth and air together can be understood as dry charcoal. Porous inside, dry and ready to absorb water or fluids.
Because of earth and air element dominance astringent substances are coolant. All cold herbs balance Pitta Dosha, which has the opposite fire element.
Because of earth and air combination, lightness is also an important quality. Imagine charcoal, porous inside, solid in appearance but very light in weight. Because of lightness quality, Astringent herbs are opposite to Kapha and hence they balance down Kapha Dosha.
Vata Dosha has lightness and dryness qualities, which is similar to astringent taste. Hence, astringent taste increases Vata Dosha.
In summary, astringent tasting herbs balance down Pitta and Kapha and aggravate Vata Dosha.
Being hot or being cold is one way in which substances affect Doshas. There is another thing called Maha Bhutas – basic elements.
If you analyse, Astringent taste is made of air and earth elements – If you think about earth and air element, it causes dryness, harshness, roughness etc. – These qualities are opposite to Kapha Dosha. Hence, astringent taste decreases Kapha Dosha.
If, for example, earth was associated with water element (as in case of sweet taste), there is moistness, there is cushioning, there is coolant effects – which are qualities of Kapha Dosha. Hence sweet increases Kapha Dosha.
When used orally or applied externally, astringent herbs stop bleeding and accelerate the wound healing process. For the same reason, many gum care liquids are prepared with astringent substances as astringent helps to reduce the gum swelling and bleeding effectively.
Astringent herbs, being coolants, reduce the sweating.
Astringent herbs are good in blood detoxification. They can dry up the extra fluid and fat content that the blood is possessing.
Due to drying property, Astringent foods and herbs dry the stool and help in formation of stools with proper size and shape. But excess astringent foods can cause excessive dryness that leads to severely dry fecal matter which can lead to constipation.
If consumed in excess, astringent foods can cause blockage of food and fecal matter in the digestive system, extreme dryness of throat, skin and digestive system, gas buildup in the gut due to constipation, dryness and pain in the region of heart, loss of vigor, virility, obstruction to body channels and depletion of quality and quantities of body tissues.
Astringents are usually cold (in potency) and obstructive – except Abhaya – Chebulic Myrobalan (fruit rind) – Terminalia chebula.
Excess of Astringent causes increase of Vata, leading to following symptoms
While taking food, Astringent taste should be consumed in the last part of the diet, after having consumed sweet, sour, salt, pungent and bitter tastes. This is because, soon after food intake, digestion process begins. In this early part of digestion, Kapha dosha will be high (that is why you feel heaviness, dizziness and laziness soon after food). Astringent food at the end leads to food satisfaction (due to heaviness) and balances the Kapha dosha.
Astringent taste is characterized by
Pathya – Chebulic Myrobalan (fruit rind) – Terminalia chebula,
Aksha – Terminalia bellirica,
Shireesha – Albizzia lebbeck
Khadira – Black catechu (heart wood extract) – Acacia catechu,Honey
Pearl and coral calx
Anjana – Aqueous extract of Berberis aristata (antimony),
Gairika – Purified Red Ochre
Bisa – lotus stalk,
Padma – Nelumbium speciosum,
Utpala – Nymphaea stellata etc.
Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 10th chapter
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