The astringent taste is a flavor of dryness that is generally produced by tannins in the bark, leaves and outer rinds of fruits and trees.1 It causes the mucus membranes in the mouth to contract and results in an immediate dry, chalky (sometimes even choking) sensation in the mouth. The astringent taste is frequently complimented by the sweet or sour tastes.
The Astringent Taste – At A Glance
|Balances:||pitta and kapha|
|Primary Elements:||air and earth|
|Virya (temperature):||cooling (though the mildest of the cooling tastes)|
|Vipaka (post-digestive effect):||pungent|
|Gunas (associated qualities):||dry, cold, heavy|
|Associated Positive Emotions:||stable, unified, collected, grounded|
|Emotions of Excess:||fear, anxiety, nervousness, depression, fixation, rigidity, resentment, harshness|
|Location on the Tongue:||central region at the back of the tongue|
|Affinity for Organs:||colon|
|Most Affected Tissues:||plasma, blood, muscle, and reproductive tissues|
|Direction of Movement:||draws inward|
|Additional Actions:||tones tissues, reduces sweating, cools excess heat, anti-inflammatory, hemostatic (stops bleeding), astringent, vasoconstrictor|
Examples – Substances that Illustrate the Astringent Taste
|Fruits||apples, bananas (green), cranberries, pomegranate|
|Vegetables||alfalfa sprouts, avocado, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots (raw), cauliflower, green beans, lettuce, peas, potatoes, most raw vegetables|
|Grains||pasta (wheat), rye|
|Legumes||most beans are astringent|
|Nuts & Seeds||popcorn|
|Meat||chicken (light meat), venison|
|Spices & Flavorings||basil, bay leaf, caraway, coriander, dill, fennel, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, turmeric, vanilla|
The astringent taste absorbs excess moisture, stops leakage of fluid, inhibits bleeding by promoting clotting, cleanses the mucus membranes, decongests, scrapes fat, improves absorption, and helps to bind the stool.2 Its tendency to draw inward helps to compress and hold the tissues together, which promotes bodily cohesiveness.1 This same quality makes the astringent taste a very effective tool in combating excess bleeding, sweat, diarrhea, leucorrhea, etc.1 Similarly, its binding effect lends tone to loose and flaccid tissues and can correct sinking imbalances such as prolapse.1 The astringent taste also helps to heal wounds, and averts coughs.2
If overused, the astringent taste can create dry mouth, difficulty speaking, choking, spasms, griping sensations in the intestines, gas, bloating, distention, and constipation. It can cause emaciation, convulsions, Bell’s palsy, and stroke paralysis.2 Excess astringent taste can also smother the digestive fire, cause thirst, stiffness, coagulation and clotting in the blood, stagnation in circulation, cardiac spasms, insomnia, emotional stagnation, malaise, and depression.2 Further, it can reduce libido and lower sperm counts.2
The astringent taste can exacerbate the situation if there is elevated vata in the system, constipation, or blockages of any kind in the body.
Haritaki, though very astringent, is heating and has a sweet post-digestive effect. It supports healthy bowel movement and is an important tonic for vata.
1 Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. London: Churchill Livingston, 2006. Print. 66-67.
2 Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda Vol I: Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2002. Print. 241, 248-249.
3 Lad, Usha and Dr. Vasant Lad. Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing. 2nd ed. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2006. Print. 232-238.