The ayurvedic rasas like the three doshas are combinations of the panchamahabhoota or the five universal elements — agni, vayu, prithvi, jal and aakash and help in balancing the doshas in the body while performing crucial functions for the organism. The six rasas or tastes are: Sweet, Pungent, Salty, Bitter and Astringent and have an effect not only on the tongue but on all parts of the organism.
Properties of Rasas or Tastes
Sweet edibles are life-promoting as these enhance physical strength, vitalize the mind, improve digestion, enhance immunity, soothe throat, make skin lustrous and have many health benefits. However, excessive sweet aggravates Kapha and induces congestion, obesity and other disorders. Sour edibles stimulate the digestive fire or agni, promote salivation, awaken mind and provide energy to body. But, excessive sour aggravates Pitta and Kapha and can cause indigestion, water retention and heartburn. Bitter edibles, such as, aloe vera, turmeric, fenugreek, dandelion etc. stimulate other tastes. These cut down fat, are antipyretic agents and tone pancreas. But, excessive bitterness aggravates Vata and makes one feel giddy. Astringent edibles, such as, unripe bananas, chickpea and pomegranate encourage absorption and act as binding agents. Excessive consumption aggravates Vata and promotes griping, blood coagulation and constipation. Salty foods stimulate digestive power and appetite, make tissues tender and loose, cleanse body and eliminate wastes. Excessive saltiness aggravates Kapha and Vata.
Properties of Common Edibles
The details of the properties of various common food items or types have been explained in Ayurveda. Some of the important examples are as follows:
Honey unites body organs/appendages whereas ghee lubricates them. Milk vitalises body whereas water moistens it. Meat is a promoter of the bulk of body whereas meat soup is a nourishing agent. Common curd used in day-to-day life causes shotha or swelling in body or in the bodily appendages. Alkalis are helpful in digestion but certain alkalis cause damage to eye vision and semen.
Salt causes oozing in body. It is oily and heavy. Moderate amount of salt is antispasmodic, helpful in maintenance of optimal water and electrolyte balance and energizes body. However, excessive salt encourages water retention and puking and increases blood pressure. Use of rock salt owing to its high mineral content is recommendable as per Ayurveda. Rock salt promotes digestion, absorption, circulation, elimination and cleansing of sinuses. As a vitalizing agent, it functions as a blood thinner although its excessive consumption encourages thirst, enervation and sterility.
Similarly, sour substances have been noted to be mostly pitta-aggravating except pomegranates and amla whereas sweet substances are mostly kapha-aggravating except honey, old rice, barley and wheat. On the other hand, bitter and pungent substances are mostly vata-aggravating except guduchi, pepper and ginger.
Therapeutic Value of Alkalis
Alkalis aka kshar are used as independent medicines and as ingredients in other medications. In Ayurvedic therapeutic treatments, it is used for its remedial and curative properties.
Oral administration of the extract is recommended for its medicinal activities, such as, digestive, appetizer, laxative (cleanser), Kapha-subsider etc. It can also repair wounds and cause boils to mature and open as a healing action.
Alkalis have demonstrated remarkable results, specifically, in Ayurvedic para surgical procedures such as 'Khar Karma.’ Likewise, alkalis are significantly used in the development of 'Kshar Sutra', a special procedure globally recognized for the treatment of fistula and piles, with almost 100% success rate.
However, it is strongly recommended that the intake of alkali-infused substances be in requisite quantities as excessive consumption can cause inflammation and increase proneness to hemorrhage.