As per Ayurveda rasas (tastes) are six- sweet, sour, salty, bitter and astringent. Their actions are based on Dravyas (matter) and their potency increases in the preceding order. Potency means ability to increase body strength. Each of the six tastes identified in Ayurveda has its own qualities or attributes called as guna.
Bitter taste is made up of the elements air and space. It is the coldest and lightest of all the tastes. It is not tasty but cures loss of appetite, intestinal worms, thirst, toxicity, skin ailments, fainting, fever, over secretion of mucous and burning sensation. It pacifies pitta and kapha and causes drying up of mucous, adiposity, subcutaneous fat, bone marrow, feaces and urine. It is light, cold, dry, promotes intellect, purifies the breast milk and clears the throat. In excess, it causes wasting of tissue and vata rogas (diseases caused by vata).
A bitter taste provides an excellent balance for heavy moistening qualities of salty, sour, and sweet tastes. Dark leafy green vegetables are an excellent example of a bitter food. They can lighten and enliven a meal, as well as providing generous amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. Many herbs have a bitter effect on the body.
A bitter taste’s effect on consciousness, in small quantities, is one of assisting a person to see and think clearly. Interestingly, bitter herbs have been used in many cultures during vision quests, or spiritual journeys. Bitter can stimulate a sense of slight dissatisfaction, which helps us to push on and see things as they really are. It is a taste which can be difficult at first to enjoy, yet one, which balances the other tastes well.
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