Astringent Taste – Qualities, Health Benefits, Side Effects

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

Origin of the word Kashaya

Kantasya Kashanaat
When you taste any substance with astringent taste, such as a betel nut, it dries up the saliva and causes choking like feeling in the throat.

Effect on Tridosha

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

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Qualities

Rooksha, Sheeta, Laghu – dry, cold and light

honey Ayurveda

Composition

Astringent taste is composed of Vayu (air) and Pruthvi (solid) elements.
When you think of air and ether together, you could imagine heaviness (due to solidity), coldness and dryness (due to air). These three are the qualities of food having Kashaya Rasa.
Because it as air element, it increases Vata dosha.
Because it has air and solid elements, it causes roughness and dryness. Both these are against the qualities of Kapha dosha (which has smoothness and oiliness), hence it pacifies Kapha Dosha.
When you put sand (solid) or blow air forcibly to fire (Pitta), the fire extinguishes. Hence, astringent taste pacifies Pitta Dosha.

Effect on body and mind

Samshamana – calming, healing
Sangrahi – absorbing, constipative
Peedana – causes pressure on body parts
Shoshana – dries up moisture
Jihva Vaishadyakara – clarifies tongue. Relieves excess salivation.
Mukha, Kanta Shoshaka – causes dryness in oral cavity and throat
Hrut Shoolakara – may cause or worsen chest pain
Ropana – healing
Kaphanashaka – helps to relieve sputum
Gauravakara – imparts heaviness to the body
Stambhana – causes stoppage of blood flow in case of bleeding, causes constipation
Avrushya – decreases sexual interest and performance
Raktapitta prashamana – useful in bleeding disorders
Shareera Kleda Upayokta -uses up body moisture
Sandhaneeya – helps to heal fractured bones and wounds
Ahrudya – not good for heart.
Mutra sangrahaneeya – decreases urine production and flow
Dhatushoshaka – dries up the body tissue
Glapayti – weariness

Astringent taste inactivates the tongue (diminishes capacity of taste perception) and causes obstruction of the passage in the throat. Astringent taste 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.

When 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.

Astringents are usually cold (in potency) and obstructive – except Abhaya – Chebulic Myrobalan (fruit rind) – Terminalia chebula.

Example for astringent substances

Haritaki, BibhitakiKhadira – Black catechu (heart wood extract) – Acacia catechu,
Madhu (honey), Mukta Bhasma (pearls), Pravala (Coral),
dates, lotus stalk, lotus, mango seed kernel
Gambhari flower – Gmelina arborea

Ideal food to end meal

What are the ideal foods to end the meal? 
Dr Janardhana V Hebbar 
As per Ayurveda, for healthy people, the order of taking food is based on taste. 
Sweet tasting foods first, then sour, salt, spicy, bitter and astringent. 
As per this order, bitter and astringent foods should be taken at the end stage of having a meal. 
Once after we consume nutritious food, the agni – digestion strength should be satiated. The bitter and astringent tastes balance down Pitta dosha and also decrease hunger. Taking these foods at the end of meals gives the signal to the digestive system not to secrete further digestive juices. 
Soon after food intake is complete, the first stage of digestion sets in. In this stage, naturally Kapha Dosha is active. The active Kapha helps to mix the solid food particles with digestive juices and to break down the food into smaller particles in the stomach. Especially the Kledaka type of Kapha. 
Soon after a heavy meal, we usually feel drowsy. This is due to increased Kapha. 
Taking astringent food as the last part of diet ensures that the Kapha is not excessively aggravated, when the digestion process sets in and thus helps to keep us mentally active and to prevent drowsiness. 
Good choices for astringent foods are – 
Buttermilk Drink half a cup of buttermilk at the end of a meal or have it with rice. 
Dry dates, green tea, green gram, some varieties of brinjal, unripe pomegranate, unripe mango seeds (usually found in some pickles, taken with buttermilk rice in south India), persimmon fruit, nutmeg, unripe banana, green beans, okra, chickpeas, cranberry, honey, lotus stalk, blackthorn or sloe berries, chokecherry, bird cherry, rhubarb, quince, alfalfa, parsley, basil, coriander, fennel, marjoram, oregano, parsley, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, turmeric are a few choices of astringent foods to consume. 

Symptoms of excess astringent taste

Excess of Astringent causes increase of Vata, leading to following symptoms –
Asyam shoshayati – dries up mouth
Dhatushosha – emaciation and dryness of tissues
Mukhashosha – dryness of mouth.
Hrit Shoola – chest pain
Hrudayam Peedayati – causes pressure pain in chest, heart
Adhmana – bloating
Udaram adhmapayati – distension of abdomen
Swarabheda – altered voice
Vacham nigruhnati – obstruction of speech
Srotovibandha – obstruction to body channels
Vishtambha – constipation
Srotamsi avabadhnati – constriction of channels
Shyavatvam apadayati – imparts black complexion
Mutra avarodha – obstruction of urine flow, depleted urine production
Shukra avarodha – obstruction to ejaculation, depleted sperm and semen production
Karshya – weight loss
Trushna – excessive thirst
Pumstvam upahanti – causes infertility

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.

Contraindications

Vata imbalance (because, Astringent taste increases Vata and causes further imbalance), lean, emaciated person, constipation, excessive thirst and in hungry person.

Characteristic features

Astringent taste is characterized by
Vaishadya – non-sliminess,
Stambha – stiffness,
Jadya – inaction in the tongue and
Badhnateeva Kantham – obstruct the throat as it were; they are not good for heart.

Herbs with astringent taste

Pathya – Chebulic Myrobalan (fruit rind) – Terminalia chebula,
Aksha – Terminalia bellirica,
Shireesa,
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,
Bala kapittha,
Kharjura – dates,
Bisa – lotus stalk,
Padma – Nelumbium speciosum,
Utpala – Nymphaea stellata etc

References: 
Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 10th chapter

Astringent and Kapha

Q: Astringent has coldness. Kapha also has coldness. How astringent, being a coolant, can decrease Kapha Dosha?
A: 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.

Use in diseases

In astringent herbs, how are they supposed to be used for different ailments and how much? For example for ulcers how should it be used or other problems related with this herb, orally or application? 
The quantity of astringent herbs usage depends on the herb itself. 
Eg: Diarrhea – 
Required action – blocking, constricting and stopping the flow – astringent herb 
Kutaja – Bark of Holarrhena antidysenterica 
Kutaja kashaya   – (1 tablespoon powder + 2 cups of water -> ½ cup, filter) -> 25 ml, 2 times a day, after food till diarrhea is under control 
Kutaja bark powder   – 5 – 10 -> 5 grams (1 teaspoon) once or twice a day, along with cold water. 
Kutaja tablets / capsules   500 mg – 1000 mg once or twice a day. 

For ulcers and wounds, astringent herbs such as Tripahala, Panchavalkala etc. are used externally and also orally. 
For example, Triphala, being astringent dominant, is used orally in a dose of 1 teaspoon twice a day with lukewarm water  to heal wounds and ulcers faster, especially in diabetic patients. 
Panchavalkala is a group of bark of 5 herbs. It includes banyan tree. Its herbal tea or Kashaya is prepared and used for washing / dripping on wounds and ulcers. The astringency in it helps to cleanse the wounds, dry up secretions and quickly heals them. 

11 thoughts on “Astringent Taste – Qualities, Health Benefits, Side Effects”

  1. Amongst astringent taste example you have given madhu(honey) Khajura(dates), Is it true? since they are sweet, or their post digestive action is astringent. Kindly clarify. Thanks and kind regards.

    Reply
    • Hi, both honey and dates have astringent as a by-taste. This taste enables them to bring about wound healing action.

      Reply
    • It has not been measured. Lodhra and Ashoka would be there at highest level, along with Betel nut.

      Reply
  2. Uva ursi (Bearberry leaf) is also very astringent – you can hardly even chew it because your tongue catches on the gums and palate – and more common in the united states, but is available all around the world. They used it in ayurveda in the past surely. Some juniper berries are very astringent, and some needles and barks from conifer trees (like juniper). These are available to most people. On the coast, many varieties of sea vegetable (esp. kelp) are astringent enough to prepare leather – but edible if prepared right. But it’s not good to eat purely astringent things like food – that’s why the body will tell you that it’s unsuitable in the form of disgust and nausea. They are powerful medicines when used in the right way, by the right person!

    Reply
  3. Thanks for the info dr.
    But something is strange. You said that Kashaya is Laghu, but then you said air with earth has heavyness.so which one is it?

    Reply
    • Hi, compared to sweet (earth + water), Kashaya is light.
      compared to bitter and spicy, Kashaya is guru.

      Reply
  4. But another opinion on Qualities of Kashaya in general: Ruksha, Sheets, Guru (not Light). Is that correct?

    Reply

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