Astringent Taste in Ayurveda (Taste Series)
The Astringent Taste is called kashaya in Sanskrit. The dominant elements are Air and Earth bringing the qualities cool, dry, and heavy. The Air element is responsible for absorption and the return of the Earth element brings some weight and bulk which is necessary for elimination.
Astringent is drying as it draws the mucus membranes closer together ~ it’s what causes us to pucker! This drying is necessary to absorb the remaining vitamins, minerals, and water at this end stage of digestion.
If someone has diarrhea, use an astringent food or herb to dry up excess liquid & bind the stool ~ like an unripe banana.
Kaphas benefit the most from this taste due to its drying quality. Pittas will enjoy the cooling effect. Vatas need to be careful as this tastes cool and dry qualities will imbalance them. Use only small amounts to acquire the health benefits it brings.
In small quantities Astringent:
Supports wound healing, heals ulcers
Dries & scrapes fat
Is Styptic (stops bleeding) ~ promotes clotting & constriction of blood vessels
Is Anti-inflammatory, a decongestant
In excess Astringent:
Can cause constipation & spasms in the intestines
Clots & coagulates blood
Can stagnate circulation
Can cause neuromuscular disorders (emaciation, convulsions, Bell’s Palsy)
Decreases libido, depletes sperm
Due to its Earthy quality, the Astringent taste when eaten in appropriate amounts for your unique constitution can be grounding and supportive as it settles the mind. However too much can increase the Air element and do the opposite by making the mind scattered.
Ultimately, too much Astringent taste can lead to anxiety, nervousness, and emotional stagnation, which can then lead to depression.
The Astringent Stage of Digestion
Within the 6th hour of digesting, the Air and Earth elements are most prominent. This is the Astringent stage of digestion.
The return of the Earth element is responsible for forming feces here. As the body absorbs the remaining water and minerals at this stage, it causes the foodstuff to become thicker and thicker, forming feces. If your stool is watery, it’s a sign that you did not absorb the nutrients completely.
The Air element stimulates downward movement necessary for elimination. Digestion starts to slow down and will complete here. True hunger starts to return as your body indicates it’s time to eat again.
Allowing your body to fully complete all 6 stages is pivotal in supporting healthy digestion. We live in a culture and time where food is readily available all around us, yet we don’t have (or make) the time or space to cook balanced meals and tune into true hunger cues. Many graze throughout the day out of habit or necessity, disturbing the digestive process and constantly chase their energy and the next meal.
Eating the Ayurvedic way where you eat substantial meals 2-4x a day without snacks is a great way to stop letting food control your day. Eat well and balanced to satiate yourself just enough at each meal and you will have more time for everything else. Yes, it takes time and effort to make a good complete meal, but the energy spent there offers big rewards throughout the rest of your day - for the sake of your tummy, your energy, and your moods.
Vatas and Pittas typically need 3-4 meals, Kaphas do best with 2-3.
Make lunch the biggest meal of the day. See my Instagram post on why this is so important.