Sour Taste in Ayurveda (Taste Series)
Updated: Jul 15, 2021
The Sour taste is called Amla in Sanskrit. The dominant elements are Earth and Fire providing the qualities of liquid, heating, oily, and are light in nature. As the Fire element enters the process, the body and mind are starting to feel a little warmer and stimulated, less heavy and dull.
The combination of these elements makes food sharp and acidic.
Too much sour can easily irritate Pitta dosha, causing one to become angry or overly critical. This is how we get the phrase “sour grapes” indicating a bad attitude.
In small quantities Sour:
Increases salivary secretions
Promotes the healthy flow of bile (cholagogue)
Stimulates digestion & appetite
Enhances secretion of digestive enzymes
Demulcent - Moistens by holding fluid in the tissues
Refreshes & energizes the body & mind
Nourishes the heart
Eliminates excess Kapha
In excess Sour:
Dries out the mucus membranes
Cause sensitive teeth, excessive thirst
Cause hyperacidity (heartburn, gastritis, ulcers)
Cause skin conditions (hives, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis)
Cause diarrhea & edema
The Sour taste also brings sharpness to the mind. The moment sour touches your tongue, your eyes snap shut in reaction. Sour awakens the senses and emotions. It brings comprehension, appreciation, and discrimination. It makes the mind alert and enhances your span of attention.
However, too much Sour can make the mind agitated and hyperactive bringing judgment, criticism, jealousy, and hate.
To reap the benefits of the Sour taste, use a small amount as a way to add a little fire to enhance your digestive power. Pitta and Kaphas will need less, Vatas can handle a little more.
The Sour Stage of Digestion ~
Within the 2nd hour of digestion, the Earth and Fire elements are most prominent, and as Fire has entered the process, we are starting to feel a little lighter here.
This stage is where hydrochloric acid gets secreted into the stomach, as well as other digestive. enzymes like Pepsin. This makes the food acidic. Protein and fat digestion begin here. Food continues to break down into smaller and smaller pieces.
If there is any excess Pitta in the body, you could start to experience heartburn or gastritis during this phase. Also, the extra sour qualities in our Rasa Dhatu at this time will aggravate any skin irritations like hives, rashes, itching, and eczema.
Remember, each of the 6 tastes relates to about a 1-hour stage of the digestive process, but everyone is unique, so the timing varies from person to person. Vata & Pittas will likely move through stages quicker, Kaphas will be slower.
Being a dominant Vata with a lot of Pitta, I feel my previous meal is fully digested within 4 hours. Really allowing yourself to honor your hunger cues, and not eating again (no snacking) until you are genuinely hungry, is the way to start aligning with your natural and unique circadian rhythms of digestion. That is where we find true balance.
For more, see my previous post on the Sweet taste, and my next post on the Salty taste.