Pungent Taste, Spices: Qualities, Health Benefits, Side Effects

Pungent taste is called as Katu Rasa in Sanskrit. Let us learn in detail about pungent taste, what are the general qualities of substances having Pungent taste, how it affects health, mind, Tridosha and diseases, adverse effects on excessive intake etc.

Effect on Tridosha

Pungent taste decreases Kapha. It increases Pitta and Vata Dosha.


Laghu, Ushna, Rooksha – light, hot and dry in nature


Pungent taste is composed of Vayu (air) and Agni (Fire) elements.
When you think of air and fire together, you could imagine lightness, hotness and dryness. These three are the qualities of food having pungent taste. Hence it increases Pitta. Because of its air element, it increases Vata dosha. When air is heated by fire, its volume increases, hence fire also contributes to Vata dosha increase.
Because hotness and lightness are against the Kapha qualities – cold and heaviness, pungent taste pacifies Kapha Dosha. Kapha can be compared to ice. So, if you expose ice to hot quality, it will melt, boil and evaporate.

Effect on body and mind

Rasana Udvejaka – Stimulates tongue
Todaka – causes / worsens pain
Vidaha – causes / worsens burning sensation
Mukha, Nasa, Netra Sravakara – induces lacrimation and secretions from nose and mouth.
Mukhashodhana – cleanses oral cavity
Sphutikaroti indriyani – sharpens sense organs
Deepana – increases digestion strength
Pachana – carminative
Krimighna – helps to relieve intestinal worms
Grahi – absorbs liquid
Hrudayottejaka – stimulates heart
Raktasravakara – induces / worsens bleeding
Avrushya – decreases sexual interest and performance
Karshana – causes weight loss
Lekhana – has scraping effect over the body channels
Vishaghna – detoxifying
Vranan avasadayati – allay excessive growth of ulcers
Krimeen Hinasti – kills germs and worms
Mamsam vilikhati – scrapes down muscle tissue
Bandhan chinatti – breaks down bonding
Sneha Sveda Kleda malan upahanti – helps in oleation, sweating, helps in elimination of sticky waste products
Kushtaghna – useful in some skin diseases
Cure diseases like Alasaka (indigestion), Shvayathu (inflammation), Upachaya (obesity), Udarda (urticaria), Abhishyanda (chronic conjunctivitis),
Kandughna – relieves itching. (Itching is a Kapha symptom. Since Katu rasa decreases Kapha, it helps to relieve itching.)

Pungent taste cures diseases of throat, allergic rashes,  skin diseases, Alasaka (indigestion) and edema; 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 Doshas), 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) contractures, tremors and pain in the waist, back etc.

Generally pungent tasting substances are non-aphrodisiacs and increase Vata except for Amrita (Giloy), Patola, Shunti (ginger), Krishna (long pepper) and Garlic.

Example of pungent substances

Asa foetida, Black pepper, Vidanga, ginger, bile and urine of animals, Marking nut etc.

Excessive pungent taste consumption symptoms

Excess of Pungent causes increase of Pitta and Vata, leading to following symptoms –
Napumsakata – impotency
Glapayati, Sadayati, Karshayati – cause unconsciousness, weariness, leanness
Vishtambha – constipation
Vata, Mutra, Pureesha avarodha – constipation, urine flow obstruction / lack of obstruction,
Shukra Rodha – depleted sperm, semen production and deficient ejaculation.
Murcha – fainting
Glani – Tiredness
Krushata – Makes the body lean
Bhrama – Dizziness
Daha – burning sensation
Trushna – Excessive thirst
Vatarogas – diseases of Vata imbalance.
Because of the dominance of Vayu and Agnimahabhutas(air and fire elements) they also cause giddiness (bhrama), burning sensation (Davatu), tremor (kampa) piercing (toda) and stabbing pain (bheda) in legs, hands, back etc.

While taking food,Pungent taste should be consumed in the last half part of the diet, after having consumed sweet, sour and salt tastes.


bleeding disorders, Pitta disorders like burning sensation, high fever, gastritis, excessive thirst, very lean person, sexual disorders.

Characteristic features

Pungent taste is ascertained by
irritation and pain in tongue, burning and watering in the mouth, nose and eyes.

Herbs with pungent taste

Hingu – Asa foetida,
Maricha – Black pepper,
Krimijit – Vidanga,
Panchakola – Chitraka, Pippalmoola, Pippali, Chitraka and ginger,

Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 10th chapter

Spices to improve blood circulation

How to improve blood circulation using spices? 
Dr JV Hebbar 
To improve blood circulation, the blood vessels need to widen up. Of all the herbs that can widen blood vessels or any channels of the body, spices are the best. 
Simple herb combination of ginger, black pepper and long pepper, called Trikatu, is very useful. 

Oral use of Trikatu helps to widen up the respiratory channels, hence used in the treatment of cough, cold, bronchitis and asthma. 
Read more: Trikatu Churna Benefits, Dose, Remedies, Side Effects
Spices improve breathing by widening the tiny wind pipes in the lungs. This is why, while visiting high altitude, low oxygen pilgrimage centers such as Kedarnath, you are asked to smell camphor or rub it on your chest to improve breathing. 

Spices, when taken internally also widen up the blood vessels, decrease cholesterol and clotting and improve blood circulation. 

Sometimes we need to improve blood circulation in the joints by external application. This is needed when there is joint stiffness due to extreme cold, in Raynaud’s disease, deep vein thrombosis etc. 
In these conditions, to use spices externally, Sesame oil 100 ml is heated gently with 10-15 grams of ginger or the Trikatu powder for 10 minutes, filtered and used. 

There are herbal oils like Marichadi taila, Brihat Marichadi taila, Kottamchukkadi taila etc. which already contain good amount of spices. 

Use this for oil massage locally, improves blood circulation locally, relieves joint stiffness and improves joint flexibility and movement. 

Another advantage of using spices externally is, they help to reduce the pain sensation by acting as a counter-irritant. This means, the spices cause local irritation and heat sensation which makes you forget the pain, for example, in case of Osteo-arthritisor frozen shoulder

One major precaution that we have to consider before using spices for external application is, these should not be used on wounds. It will cause increased bleeding. 
There should also not be an active inflammation. Inflammation is a high Pitta phenomenon and spices increase Pitta Dosha. 
Learn more about spices in my udemy video course 
Tastes and Ayurvedic Herbology 



2 comments on “Pungent Taste, Spices: Qualities, Health Benefits, Side Effects

  • Archana

    24/06/2013 - 12:48 pm

    Hi Doc! If Black Pepper is consumed in less quantity say just a spoon on one day in a month then does it affect the chances of conception.

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      24/06/2013 - 4:28 pm

      No not at all. Black pepper is commonly used in diet. Even in hotels, you can see that salt and black pepper powders are kept for serving. It does not harm the chances of conception.

      Reply to comment

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