Bitter taste is called as Tikta Rasa in Sanskrit. Let us learn in detail about Bitter taste, what are the general qualities of substances having Bitter taste, how it affects health, mind, Tridosha and diseases, adverse effects on excessive intake etc.
Effect on Tridosha
Bitter taste decreases Kapha and Pitta. It increases Vata Dosha.
Rooksha, Sheeta Laghu – dry, cold and light
Bitter taste is composed of Vayu (air) and Akasha (ether) elements.
When you think of air and ether together, you could imagine lightness, hollowness, cold and dryness. These three are the qualities of food having Tikta Rasa.
Bitter has air and ether elements, so is Vata Dosha. Hence bitter increases Vata.
When you blow air forcibly on to fire (Pitta), the fire extinguishes. Hence, bitter pacifies Kapha Dosha.
Because it is opposite to heaviness (Kapha quality), it pacifies Kapha.
Effect on body and mind
Soon after tasting bitter substance, it destroys other tastes. But over a period of time, it helps to improve tasting capacity of tongue and helps to relieve related diseases like anorexia.
Mukhavaishadyakara – cleanses oral cavity
Kantha Shodhana – cleanses and detoxifies throat
Mukhashoshakara – causes dryness of mouth
Shaityakara – acts as coolant
Harshana – causes happiness, elevates mood.
Deepana – increases digestion strength
Pachana – carminative
Avrushya – decreases sexual interest and performance
Krumighna – helps to relieve intestinal worms
Rakta Prasadana – detoxifies blood
Ahrudya – not good for heart
Kaphaghna – useful to relieve sputum from respiratory tract
Vranaghna – relieves wound,
Puyaghna – heals wounds without pus formation, reduces pus formation
Lekhana – has scraping effect over the body channels
Kledahara – decreases moistness
Medahara – decreases cholesterol
Vishaghna – anti toxic
Dahahara – relieves burning sensation
Swedaghna – decreases sweating
Kandughna – relieves itching
Kushtaghna – useful in skin disorders. Most of the herbs that are used in skin diseases like Karanja, Neem, etc have bitter as one among their tastes.
Stanya Shodhana – cleanses breast milk
Lekhana – has scraping effect
Jwaraghna – useful in fever. Most of the bitter tasting herbs like neem, Giloy etc have anti microbial and antipyretic benefits. Hence, useful in fever.
Bitter taste cleanses the mouth and destroys the organs of taste (makes perception of other tastes impossible.
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, faeces and urine;
Tikta Rasa 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.
Generally bitters and pungent tasting herbs are non-aphrodisiacs and aggravate Vata except for Giloy, long pepper and Garlic.
Vetiver, neem, turmeric, Loha Bhasma (iron)
Symptoms of excessive bitter taste consumption
Excess of Bitter causes increase of Vata, leading to following symptoms –
Due to dryness, roughness, non sliminess, bitter depletes Rasa dhatu (essence part of digestion), blood (rudhira), Mamsa (muscle tissue), Meda (fat tissue), Asthi (bone), Majja (marrow), Shukra (semen, female reproductive system)
Dhatushosha – emaciation and dryness of tissues
Srotokharatva – dryness, roughness, brittle-ness of body channels
Daurbalya – debility, tiredness
Karshya – emaciation, weight loss
Murcha – fainting, unconsciousness. Excess of bitter tasting food / medicine leads to depletion of sugar levels in the blood leading to dizziness and fainting.
Mukhashosha – dryness of mouth.
While taking food,Bitter taste should be consumed in the last half part of the diet, after having consumed sweet, sour, salt and pungent tastes.
Vata imbalance (because, bitter taste increases Vata and causes further imbalance), lean, emaciated person.
Characteristc features of bitter taste
Bitter taste is ascertained by –
weakening of taste perception of the tongue.
Such substances by themselves are not tasteful ;
Causes non-sliminess, clarity (Vaishadya)
Shosha – dryness of tongue and
Prahlada – produces delight
Herbs with bitter taste
Trayanti – Gentiana kurroa,
Usira – Vetiveria zizanioides,
Chandana – Sandalwood,
Bhunimba – The creat (whole plant) – Andrographis paniculata,
Nimba – Neem – Azadirachta indica,
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,
Kamsya (bronze), Ayas (iron),
Guduchi – Tinospora cordifolia,
Mahat Pancamula – Bilva, Agnimantha, Shyonaka, Gambhari, Patala
the two Vyaghri – Brihati and Kantakari,
Visala, Ativisha, Vacha etc
Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 10th chapter
Bitter taste has coldness. Kapha also has coldness. How astringent, being a coolant, can decrease Kapha Dosha?
Being hot or being cold is one way in which substances affect Doshas. There is another thing called Maha Bhutas – basic elements.
Bitter taste has air and ether elements. So, clearly, there is lightness, there is dryness. Both these qualities are pro Vata and anti Kapha. Hence, bitter substances Increase Vata Dosha and decrease Kapha Dosha.