The 10th chapter of Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana is called as Rasabhediya adhyaya. Rasa means taste and bheda means types. This chapter discusses in detail regarding the types of tastes and their properties.
Tastes – Types and introduction
Origin of taste – Rasa utpatti
The tastes are formed due to the combination of two Bhutas (primary elements).
Madhura (sweet) – Prithvi + Ap (earth + water)
Amla (sour) – Tejas + Ap (fire + water)
Lavana (salt) – Ap + Tejas (water + fire)
Tikta (bitter) – Akasa + Vayu (ether + air)
Katu (pungent) – Tejas + Vayu (Fire and air)
Kashaya (astringent) – Prithvi + Vayu (earth + air) – 1.
Characteristics of tastes – Rasa Lakshana
Swadu / Madhura (sweet) is understood by its sticking in the oral cavity, providing a feeling of contentment and pleasure to the body and comfort to the sense organs. It is liked even by ants 2.
Amla (sour) makes the mouth watery, causes horripilation, tingling of the teeth and leads to closing of the eyes and brows. 3.
Lavana (salt) causes more moisture in the mouth (increase salivation) and burning sensation in the cheeks and throat. 3½.
Tikta (bitter) cleanses the mouth and destroys the organs of taste (makes perception of other tastes impossible). 4.
Katu (pungent) stimulates the tip of the tongue, causes irritation, brings out secretions from the eyes, nose and mouth and causes burning sensation of the cheeks. 5
Kashaya (astringent) inactivates the tongue (diminishes capacity of taste perception) and causes obstructions of the passage in the throat. 5½.
Action of tastes – Rasa Karma
Sweet taste – Madhura Rasa (taste)
Sweet taste being accustomed since birth, produces greater strength in the body tissues. It is very good for children, the aged, the wounded, the emaciated, improves skin complexion, hairs, strength of sense organs and Ojas (essence of the tissues, immunity).
Sweet taste causes stoutness of the body, good for the throat, increases breast milk, unites fractured bones.
Sweet taste is not easily digestible, prolongs life, helps life activities;
It is unctuous, mitigates Pitta, Vata and poison.
By excess use it produces diseases arising from fat and Kapha, obesity, Asthma, unconsciousness, diabetes, enlargement of glands of the neck, malignant tumor (cancer) and such others. 7-9
Sour and Salt tastes
Amla (sour) taste
stimulates the Agni – (digestive activity), is unctuous, good for the heart, digestive, appetizer, hot in potency, cold on touch (coolant on external applications, relieves burning sensation),
Sour taste satiates, causes moistening, it is easy for digestion, causes aggravation of Kapha, Pitta and Asra (blood) and makes the inactive Vata move downwards. Sour taste if used in excess, causes looseness of the body, loss of strength, blindness, giddiness, itching (irritation), pallor (whitish yellow discoloration as in anemia), Visarpa – Herpes, spreading skin disease, swellings, Visphota (small pox), thirst and fevers. 10 – 11½.
Salt taste – Lavana rasa
Lavana (salt) relieves rigidity, clears the obstructions of the channels and pores, increases digestive activity, lubricates, causes sweating, penetrates deep into the tissues, improves taste, new growth, abscess etc.).
Used in excess, it causes vitiation of Asra (blood) and Vata, causes baldness, graying of hair, wrinkles of the skin, thirst, skin diseases, effect of poison, Visarpa – Herpes, spreading skin disease and decrease of strength of the body. 12 – 13.
Bitter, Pungent and Astringent tastes
Bitter taste: Tikta by itself is not tasty, but it cures anorexia, worms, thirst, poison, skin diseases, loss of consciousness, fever, nausea, burning sensations;
Bitter mitigates Pitta and Kapha, dries up moisture, fat, muscle-fat marrow, feces and urine;
Bitter taste is easily digestible, increases intelligence, cold in potency, dry (causes dryness), cleanses breast milk, and throat.
Used in excess, it causes depletion of Dhatus (tissues) and diseases of Vata origin. 14 – 16.
Actions of pungent taste
Pungent cures diseases of throat, allergic rashes, leprosy and other skin diseases, Alasaka (a kind of indigestion), swelling (odema); reduces the swelling of the ulcers, dries up the unctuousness (greasiness), fat, and moisture (water); Pungent taste increases hunger, it is digestive, improves taste, Shodhana (cleansing, eliminates the Dosas), dries up moisture of the food, breaks up hard masses, dilates (expands) the channels and balances Kapha.
By over use, it causes thirst, depletion of Sukra (reproductive element, sperm) and strength, fainting (loss of consciousness) contractions, tremors and pain in the waist, back etc. 17 – 19.
Actions of astringent taste
Kashaya (astringent) balances Pitta and Kapha, it is not easily digestible; cleanses the blood, causes squeezing and healing of ulcers (wounds), has cold potency, dries up the moisture and fat, hinders the digestion of undigested food.
Astringent taste is water absorbent, thereby causing constipation, dryness and cleanses the skin too much.
Used in excess, it causes stasis of food without digestion, flatulence, pain in the heart region, thirst, emaciation, loss of virility, obstruction of the channels and constipation. 20 – 21½.
Madhura Gana – group of sweet substances
Ghrita (ghee, butter fat), Hema (gold), Guda (molasses),
Akshoda, Mocha, Chocha, Parushaka,
Abhiru, Vira, Panasa, Rajadana,
the three Bala (Bala, Atibala and Nagabala),
The two Medas – Meda and Mahameda,
The four Parni – Shalaparni, Prishnaparni, Mudgaparni, Mashaparni,
Jivanti – Leptadenia reticulata,
Jivaka – Malaxis acuminata D.Don / Microstylis wallichii Lindl. ,
Madhuka – Licorice – Glycyrrhiza glabra,
Madhuka – Madhuka longifolia,
Bimbi – Coccinia grandis / indica,
Vidari – Pueraria tuberosa,
the two Sravani – Mundi and Sravani,
the two Ksheerini, Gambhari,
the two Saha, milk, sugarcane,
Gokshura, Ksaudra, Draksa etc. form the group of sweet substances. 22 – 24.
Amla Gana – group of sour substances
Dhatriphala – Amla,
Amlika – tamarind,
Amlavetasa – Garcinia pedunculata Roxb. / Rheum emodi Wall.,
Pomegranate, silver, Buttermilk, Chukra, Palevata, curds, mango,
Bhavya – Dillenia indica,
Kapittha – Feronia limonia / Limonia acidissima, Karamardaka etc. form the sour group. 25 – 26.
Lavana Gana – group of salts
Varam (Saindhava – Rock Salt), Sauvarcala (sochal salt), Krishna (black salt) Bida salt, Samudra (table salt), Audbhida, Romaka, Pamshuja, Seesa (lead) and Kshara (Alkalies) form the salt group. 27.
Tikta Gana – group of bitters
Trayanti – Gentiana kurroa,
Usira – Vetiveria zizanioides,
Chandana – Sandalwood,
Bhunimba – The creat (whole plant) – Andrographis paniculata,
Katuka – Picrorhiza kurroa,
Tagara – Indian Valerian (root) – Valeriana wallichi,
Vatsaka – Holarrhena antidysentirica,
Turmeric and tree turmeric,
Musta – Nut grass (root) – Cyperus rotundus,
Atarushaka – Adhatoda vasica,
Patha – Cyclea peltata,
Apamarga – Prickly Chaff Flower – Achyranthes aspera,
Guduchi – Tinospora cordifolia,
Mahat Pancamula – Bilva, Agnimantha, Shyonaka, Gambhari, Patala
the two Vyaghri – Brihati and Kantakari,
Visala, Ativisha, Vacha etc. form the group of bitters. 28 – 29½.
Katu Gana – group of pungents
Hingu – Asa foetida,
Maricha – Black pepper,
Krimijit – Vidanga,
Panchakola – Chitraka, Chavya – Piper chaba, long pepper root and fruit and ginger,
Leafy vegetables such as Kutheraka and others (mentioned in verse 103 of chapter 6 earlier), Pitta (bile of animals), animal urines, Arushkara etc. form the pungent group. 30 -30½.
Kashaya Varga (Gana) – group of astringents
Group of astringents consists of
Pathya – Chebulic Myrobalan (fruit rind) – Terminalia chebula,
Aksha – Terminalia bellirica,
Khadira – Black catechu (heart wood extract) – Acacia catechu,
Madhu (honey), Kadamba, Udumbara,
Mukta (Pearls), Pravala (Coral),
Anjana – Aqueous extract of Berberis aristata (antimony),
Gairika – Purified Red Ochre,
Kharjura – dates,
Bisa – lotus stalk,
Padma – Nelumbium speciosum,
Utpala – Nymphaea stellata etc 31½ – 32.
General properties of tastes and exceptions
Generally, substances of sweet taste increase Kapha except old Shali (more than one year old rice) and Yava – Barley, green gram, wheat, honey, sugar, and meat of animals of desert – like lands.
Generally substances of sour taste aggravate Pitta, except pomegranate and amla fruit.
Generally salts are bad for the eyes (vision) except Saindhava – Rock Salt.
Generally bitters and pungent herbs are non-aphrodisiacs and aggravate (increase) Vata except for Amrita (Indian tinospora), Patoli, ginger, long pepper and garlic.
Astringents are usually cold (in potency) and obstructive – except Abhaya – Chebulic Myrobalan (fruit rind) – Terminalia chebula. 33 – 35½.
Tastes and potency
Katu (pungent), Amla (sour), Lavana (salt) are of hot potency (Ushna Veerya (potency), each one, more so in their succeeding order;
Similarly Tikta (bitter), Kashaya (astringent) and Madhura (sweet) are cold in potency, each one more in their succeeding order.
Bitter, pungent and astringent tastes are dry and cause constipation (each one more so in their succeeding order)
while salt, sour and sweet tastes are unctuous and help elimination of feces, urine and flatus, each one more so in their succeeding order.
Salt, astringent and sweet tastes are heavy to digest, each one more so in their succeeding order
While sour, pungent and biotter tastes are easy to digest, each one more so in their succeeding order. 36 – 38½.
Combination of tastes
Rasa Samyoga Samkhya – number of combination of tastes :-
The combination of tastes will be fifty seven, but their actual counting will be sixty three, on the basis of their usage (in daily routine of selection of drugs, planning of therapies etc.)
These Rasa (primary tastes) and Anurasas (secondary tastes) in their proportional (more, moderate and less) combinations become innumerable. These are to be selected and used after considering the conditions of the Dosas and drugs (and therapies). 44.
Thus ends the chapter entitled Rasabhediya, the tenth in Sutrasthana of Ashtangahurdayam.