Pungent Taste

pungent foods

The pungent taste is one of dry heat and can be found in spicy foods and many herbs and spices. It is usually created by the presence of aromatic volatile oils, resins, and mustard glycosides that stimulate the tissues and nerve endings of the mouth with a sensation of heat.1

The Pungent Taste—At A Glance

Balances: kapha
Aggravates: pitta and vata
Primary Elements: fire and air
Virya (temperature): heating (the hottest of the heating tastes)
Vipaka (post-digestive effect): pungent
Gunas (associated qualities): hot, dry, light, sharp (penetrating), aromatic
Associated Positive Emotions: enthusiasm, excitement, curiosity, clarity, vitality, vigor, concentration, and expansiveness
Emotions of Excess: irritability, aggressiveness, anger, rage, competitiveness, envy
Location on the Tongue: central region of the tongue
Affinity for Organs: stomach, heart
Most Affected Tissues: blood and reproductive tissues
Direction of Movement: upward, lightening (activates udana vayu)
Additional Actions: blood-thinning, antispasmodic, antiparasitic, anthelminitic (deworming), carminative, diaphoretic, vasodilator


tastes and organs of the tongue

© Dr. Vasant Lad2

Examples—Substances that Illustrate the Pungent Taste

Vegetables chilies, garlic, leeks, onions, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, raw spinach
Grains buckwheat, spelt
Nuts & Seeds mustard seeds
Spices most spices, especially black pepper, cardamom, cayenne, cloves, ginger, hing, mustard seeds, and paprika


The pungent taste warms the body, cleanses the mouth, clarifies the sense organs, enhances other flavors, kindles the digestive fire, and improves digestion, absorption, and elimination.2 The pungent taste is critically important to balancing excess kapha because it is able to heat, dry and eliminate kapha from the body, eliminating ama and mucus, clearing the sinuses, breaking up clots, and supporting the elimination of excess fat.2 The pungent taste is stimulating, invigorating, penetrating, and it effectively clears moisture, stagnation, and congestion.1 It also increases circulation, encourages sweating, eliminates itching, clears toxins, cleanses the blood and the muscles, reduces cholesterol, opens the internal channels, and clears blockages.2

In Excess

While the warming nature of the pungent taste is initially good for vata, it’s longer term effects are extremely drying and therefore generally aggravating to vata and can lead to giddiness, tremors, insomnia, and muscle pain.2 Excess pungent taste can kill sperm and ova and can lead to sexual debility in both men and women.2 It can also cause burning, choking, dizziness, fainting, hiccups, skin conditions, bleeding, inflammation, excess thirst, fatigue, nausea, heartburn, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, and colitis.1, 2 Excesses in the pungent taste can also be carcinogenic and can cause mental confusion, malaise, depression, emaciation, and debility.2


The pungent taste can exacerbate the situation if there is excess heat, excess acidity, or a deficiency in the reproductive system (shukra dhatu).1


Though predominantly pungent in taste, ginger and cooked garlic do not tend to aggravate vata; in fact, they support vata because they improve digestion and help to eliminate intestinal gas.1 Similarly, cloves, coriander, cumin, and fennel—though pungent tasting herb—do not tend to aggravate pitta when used in moderation.1