Sour Taste

sour foods

The sour taste tends to be fairly familiar to us. It is primarily the result of acids such as citric acid, lactic acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, and ascorbic acid in our foods. We often “pucker” when we encounter the sour taste and it immediately moistens the mouth and increases the flow of saliva.

The Sour Taste—at a Glance

Balances: Vata
Aggravates: Pitta and kapha
Primary Elements: Earth and fire
Virya (temperature): Heating
Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Sour
Gunas (associated qualities): Liquid, light, oily, hot
Associated Positive Emotions: Appreciation, understanding, discrimination, comprehension
Emotions of Excess: Criticism, jealousy, rejection, hate, agitation, selfishness, hyperactivity
Location on the Tongue: Front edges, along the tapered curve
Affinity for Organs: Lungs
Most Affected Tissues: All tissues (dhatus), except reproductive
Direction of Movement: Downward moving (activates apana vayu)
Additional Actions: Moistens, promotes bulk, holds fluid in the tissues, demulcent, cholagogue (promotes the healthy flow of bile)


vasant land tongue illustration

© Vasant Lad2

Examples—Substances that Illustrate the Sour Taste

Fruits Grapefruit, lemon, lime, raisins, tamarind
Vegetables Pickles, tomatoes
Grains Dough breads
Dairy & Eggs Butter, cheese, sour cream, yogurt
Other Alcohol, vinegar, most fermented foods
Spices & Flavorings Lemon juice, lime juice, garlic, savory


The sour taste is digestive, so it fuels the appetite, increases salivary secretions, enhances the secretion of digestive enzymes, and stimulates metabolism overall.1

It also expels excess vata, moves stagnation in the liver, encourages the flow of bile, and promotes proper liver function.2

The sour taste awakens the mind and helps to coalesce scattered energy. It is energizing, refreshing, satisfying, nourishing to the heart, and can clear dryness.1, 2

Sour fruits are usually high in vitamin C and are often considered to be rejuvenating.2

In Excess

If overused, the sour taste can lead to sensitivity in the teeth, ears, and eyes.1 It can dry out mucus membranes, draw the tissues inwards, disturb the blood, and cause congestion, itching, excessive thirst, and digestive discomfort.1, 2 


The sour taste can exacerbate the situation if there is itching, excess heat, excess congestion, or if there is too much pitta in the blood (rakta dhatu).2 It is best avoided in hot and damp conditions or with skin conditions of any kind.2


Amalaki, pomegranate, and limes do not aggravate pitta because they are cooling and tend to reduce heat.2



1 Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda Vol I: Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2002. Print. 241-242, 244-245.

2 Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. London: Churchill Livingston, 2006. Print. 63-64.

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