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The Qualities of Flavour – Introducing the Five Tastes

Hello there.  I hope that you are all enjoying the weather.  Over the last few weeks I have been introducing you to several different methods of preparing herbal medicines.  This is something which I enjoy, there is nothing more satisfying than making medicines for those who come to me for support with their health and wellbeing.  I often prescribe herbal tinctures in synergistic formulations which have been created with the person in mind which I am treating.  This can be blending relevant tinctures together or creating a herbal cream with herbs to suit the patient.  I have also made teas, toners, capsules, hair conditioners, lotions, facial scrubs, syrups and even elixirs using quality natural and benefiting ingredients.

Cleethorpes Beach

Cleethorpes Beach

The preparations which I have shared with you in previous blogs include, teas (infusions or tisanes), decoctions, tinctures and creams.  The first three are remedies which are taken internally.  When deciding what to use when making medicine for internal use the qualities of flavour is a factor which should be considered.

Therapeutically I have been taught to understand the five tastes.  The different nutrients in the food and drinks which we consume have different tastes to us which are easily recognisable using our sense of taste and smell.

What categories spring to mind when you think about what you have eaten or drunk?

Can you come up with five?  I can imagine that you can come up with more.

Love your food

Love your food

Did you get any of these: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent salty, bland, aromatic, hot and cold?  (I bet you got spicy, creamy and many more too!)

The five tastes which have been used therapeutically are Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Pungent and Salty.  There are many layers Рdifferent combinations which produce different tastes.  Next time you eat or drink something consider which of the five tastes it can be classified in.  Sugar and honey are obvious sweet tasting foods.  Fruits also have a natural and nutritious sweetness, vinegars are sour, coffee (without sugar) is bitter, chilli and ginger are examples of pungent herbs and celery, seaweed and salt are obviously salty.

Chopped fresh vegetables

Chopped fresh vegetables

Reflection on the food that you are eating helps to develop your mindfulness and enables you to live in the present.¬† This is beneficial for your digestion as well as giving you an ability to relax, lower tension and stress.¬† Try eating without any distractions such as the TV or music.¬† Sit down without your phone, tablet or computer.¬† Focus on how you are feeling, start from the toes and work up making a note of how you feel.¬† Enjoy your food or your drink.¬† How does it taste?¬†Which category (or categories) do you think it fits into? How does it make you feel?¬† What we consume is our nourishment, a necessity so that we can have the energy to do what we do.¬† By developing this activity you can understand yourself and your body better as well as understand what you eat better.¬†Our relationship with our food would also change – generally for the better (without substituting happiness, healthy food isn’t all boring).¬† It you found this beneficial you can also extend the practice of mindfulness to your cooking too.

Herbs, food and drink all have an action on our body – our body digests them, breaking them down to access nutrients.¬† They have an action on our body – have a function to play in our health and wellbeing.¬† Everything is moderation is an important factor in our wellbeing, anything in excess can have a negative effect on us.¬† Certain tastes, because of the active constituents it contains have an affinity with different organs in our bodies too.¬† I would like to share my understanding of these with you.¬† Many people say that “You know if it is good for you if it tastes horrible!”.¬† When you look at our diets today compared to what they were when we were hunter-gatherers or even lived off the land (farming) there is a steep increase in the amount of sugar and carbohydrates that we were consuming.¬† And although it has been a long time (thousands and thousands of years) this is only a blink in the evolutionary scale of things.

Which foods would class as healthy? Which ones an unhealthy?¬†Are there any which you think are neither?¬† Are there foods which are healthy up to a point?¬† Is this because of eating them in excess?¬† I thought of brain freeze (lol – it’s a hot day) but it is proven that excess salt has a negative effect on our health.¬† That too much sweet is bad for us.¬† In my next blog I will discuss the therapeutics of taste and how you can use it when deciding what herbal medicine to use or make.¬† Until then, try to think about your food.¬† You learn about your self in doing so, are you sat at your desk working? Or whilst travelling? Do you watch TV or listen to music whilst eating?¬† Do you sit around a table? Do you eat with your family? It is lovely to get the family sat around the dinner table with no distractions.¬† You get to enjoy your food and also catch up with those who you love most.¬† Sometimes people live together but be distant.¬† Eating together is a great way to bond (children or teens¬†get used to it once it becomes routine), research found that in families who eat together at a table had children who were less likely to get into trouble or commit a crime.


Till then.  Have a happy and enlightening week.