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Ayurvedic Medicine


Ayurvedic Medicine


The particular sense object that is perceived by the tongue is called rasa. It can also be defined as that Guna which can be perceived only by the Rasna - Indriyas. According to each and every individual the rasas can be evaluated by classifying them into six different types.

  • Madhur (Sweet)
    sugar, banana, jackfruit, sugarcane, honey, jaggery, fruits etc,. Generally food is sweet in taste, neutral in energy, and sweet in its post-digestive effect. It nourishes and maintains humors, dhatus, and malas (wastes).
  • Amla (Sour)
    amla, tamarind, buttermilk, curds, mango (unripe), sour fruits and pickled vegetables etc. All tissues are nourished by sour tastes except reproductive tissues.
  • Lavana (Salty)
     All salts and sea food. Salts help in strengthening all tissues but when used in excess it depletes the tissues.
  • Katu (Pungent)
     Sunthi (dried ginger), maricha (black pepper), pippali (long pepper), hing (asafoetida) etc. Spices and spicy vegetables do not offer much nutrition but they stimulate digestion.
  • Tikta (Bitter)
    Neem, karela (bitter gourd), chandan (sandalwood), manjistha (Indian meddar), marigold, Adulsa (Malabar nut), Vekhanda etc. Such vegetables offer little nourishment but they are useful in cleansing the digestive organs, and help in digestion, if taken before meals.
  • Kashaya (Astringent)
    Kulath (horse gram), Harda, ashoka, babbul (acacia tree), teak, jambul (black berry), etc. They help in providing minerals but do not build tissue.

Each of the six tastes also produce effects on each of the internal organs. They have the capacity to adversely affect certain organs in the body, when found in excess.

The preferential use of rasa in diet

Rasas are extremely important in our diet and the diet should primarily consist of all the six rasas. In medicine, the Veerya (potency) is predominant whereas in diet, rasa is predominant. Consumption of a particular rasa in large quantities in particular seasons has also been advised. 
It has been instructed that madhur rasa (madhur dravyam not only constitutes sweet items like sugar, jaggery but also other food items like wheat, rice, maize etc.) should be consumed first,
Amla and lavana rasa should be consumed in the middle of the meal and tikta, katu and kashaya rasa should be consumed at the end. There is some ideological basis for this.

  • When a person is hungry, the stomach is empty. Empty stomach causes an increase in vata dosha. To pacify this vata dosha, madhur rasa should be eaten first.
  • Apart from this, kaphavruddhi is required to moisten the ingested food. This is accomplished by the madhur rasa.
  • Since dravyas, having madhur rasa are difficult to digest, it is advisable to eat these dravyas first.
  • After this, it is correct to use Amla and lavana rasa. The reason for this is not to pacify the remaining vata but also to aid digestion by improving the agni.
  • Lastly, katu, tikta and kashaya rasa should be taken as these rasa increase the agni along with reducing the kapha which increase after ingestion of food.

This rule applies in relation to health. But in pathological conditions this idea has to be modified accordingly. For example,

  • In anorexia and similar kapha disorders, initially ginger and salt i.e. katu and lavana rasa should be used.
  • Of these, katu rasa pacifies the kapha while the lavana rasa moistens food and pacifies vata.
  • Similarly, the order of using these rasa can be suitably altered taking into consideration the prakruti (nature of the person), individual preferences and the condition of the doshas.
  • At times, when rasa like lavana, Amla and katu, which produce burning sensation, are used first, madhur rasa has to be used in the end in order to reduce the offending pitta.

Like for instance, in tropical countries, there is a custom to eat sweet preparations before starting the meal. This is useful in moistening the annavanha srotas (alimentary canal) before ingestion of food. Contrary to this, in cold countries, there is a custom of taking soups of Amla and katu rasa. 

There is a definite order even in arranging food items in the dish:

  • Staple food like rice and chapatti are kept in the center of the dish.
  • On the left side sweet dishes are kept, then sour pickle and lemon.

Lavana rasa is kept in the center (right in front of the eyes) and tikta or katu rasa are placed on the right side of the plate.

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Last Modified : 03/14/08 06:29 PM