SOUR – The Rasas of Ayurveda -A Learning Experience
There are 6 tastes or RASAS recognized in the Ayurvedic diet. They are Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter and Astringent. They all have a relationship to the FIVE ELEMENTS and transmit the properties of the elements. We need a balanced diet containing all of the tastes in every meal, adjusted for personal requirements and seasonal concerns of course. It is a very satisfying and nutritionally sound way of eating as all of the major food groups and nutrients are present and each of the tastes has its own therapeutic benefit when absorbed. You can feel the level of satisfaction when eating like this.
Today I am just going to share a little about my personal experience with the SOUR taste as we have been talking about it in class this week. Sour soothes Vata and can aggravate both Pitta and Kapha. It acts as an appetizer when taken in moderation and will kindle the digestive fire. It strengthens the heart and stimulates digestion. We all need a little sour taste this season (FALL) even if we do not like it! This is Vata season and it will help to sooth and calm Vata imbalances. Sour contains both Earth and Fire Elements, it is light, hot and unctuous.
Watch out though when taken in excess! I had this experience in India last winter while living in Tamil Nadu which is in south India. The weather was beautiful, warm, just a little humid but not unpleasant at all and I had no idea why my legs were so swollen. I thought it was because I was sitting in class for 8-10 hours a day. Every day I had this edema, swelling in the ankles, that I had never experienced before. Even growing up in Montreal where the summers can be quite humid I did not recall ever having this experience. So I walked more, kept my legs elevated when in class and never did figure it out.
Until now, I finally put it together – look at the picture above for the answer. That is the fruit AMLA, Indian Gooseberry, growing abundantly on a tree in my neighbor’s yard. Everyday I passed it and took a little handful of these very potent, very sour little fruits to class. It was such a novelty for me to see Amla growing like this. I have been studying Ayurveda for close to 20 years but had never seen the live fruit before. I overindulged daily for a month. Amla is one of the three ingredients of Triphala, a commonly prescribed herbal compound, it is considered to be an excellent source of vitamin C.
However, in excess, what the sour taste does is cause sensitive teeth, involuntary closure of the eyelids, hyperacidity, heartburn and ,yes edema or swelling. Mystery solved. I was eating way too much. It was not the Amla causing the swelling but rather my excessive consumption of it. More is not better, anything in excess will cause an imbalance. Sour can also aggravate Pitta and the blood, causing skin disorders. We need to notice these things, it can be something as simple as over consuming a taste that is either not appropriate for your constitution or not needed in the season you are in.
Some other examples of sour taste are citris fuits, vinegar, sour cream, yogurt, grapes.
Everyday there is something new to learn. It took me hearing all week from my students about how they experience edema when having too much vinegar to put that little puzzle together and now I will never forget it. Food is powerful medicine. Still learning. S
(Amla in fact has all of the rasas except for salty but it’s predominate taste is sour)