Welcome to my series covering the five senses. The sense that I am going to look at with you today is the sense of taste.
The sense of taste is governed in Ayurveda by water. There is always some moistness present on the tongue when it comes into contact with taste presenting molecules. When these molecules comes into contact with the taste receptors on the tongue via the medium of liquid, we can then perceive the sense of taste.
You may be familiar with diagrams that explain where on the tongue we perceive different tastes. From the classic viewpoint, we consider the bitter taste to be right at the back at the tongue, the sour taste to be on the side, the salty taste to be further down the side, and the sweet taste to be right at the tip of the tongue. Finally, in the centre, we have this umami taste (or ‘deliciousness’ as it can be translated).
The Ayurvedic version, however, is labelled a little bit differently. We add in astringent taste right at the back of the tongue, but in modern terms, that is more an action rather than a physical taste. We also put pungent in the middle and switch around sour and salty, keeping sweet at the bottom of the tongue.
In reality, our tongues comprise of 8000 different taste receptors!
While there might be minute differences to actually being able to solidly perceive these senses of taste, research has found that most areas of the tongue are generally covered by different taste receptors. Therefore, the taste is not usually specific to a specific area of the tongue.
What this basically all means is, if we want to keep our taste buds really lively and fully able to perceive this sense of taste, we need a really nice, bright and clear tongue. Ayurveda gives us lots of tips on how to do this. I have covered one such tip in one of my previous blogs where I talked about how to use a tongue scraper (please click here to read).
How do you use a tongue scraper?
You only need to use a tongue scraper once a day, first thing in the morning. Stick your tongue all the way out and clear it from the back to the front by gently pulling across the tongue scraper. By doing this, you are covering all 8000 taste receptors, from the back to the front!
Now I say 8000 in the tongue, but there are actually taste receptors in the back of the throat and in the cheeks too. So to take it one step further, what we actually need to do is to oil the mouth and the tongue. If we use certain toothpastes that have some bitter components in them (such as Neem), then we use a little bit oil afterwards to swish around the mouth to clean it. Again, I covered that in my tongue scraping blog, which you can read here.
By oiling and scraping the mouth, we are nourishing and nurturing all of the taste receptors in the tongue and in the mouth. This means that we can get good conduction from those receptors, all the way down through the nerves, which then send the message to our brain so we can get a full perception of this taste.
We can ask: why is this important?
Well, it makes life much more pleasurable! If we can taste things, this brings a huge sense of joy and fulfilment to our lives. We can get a lot of pleasure from eating, so the more we can perceive our sense of taste, that’s a wonderful thing!
But also, in Ayurveda, we understand that all these different tastes have special actions in the body. Therefore, we want these receptors to be open and ready to receive all of these different little molecules that come into contact with them because this is when we get other benefits.
They give us warning signs as well! We are all in conjunction and symbiosis with the nature surrounding us, and they give us warning signals when something doesn’t taste quite right. Then there is the natural rejection of it.
How do you keep the sense of taste balanced?
In order to keep the sense of taste really well activated and balanced, we need to really experience the six tastes in our meals. According to Ayurveda, we label the six tastes as sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.
These six tastes are what we need in each and every meal.
The six tastes stimulate each and every area of our tongues. However, we don’t want an overload of any of these one tastes. There is already a prominence in our diet of the astringent taste along with the sweet taste. So we are always going to get a bit more of these tastes involved, but we also need the other tastes to come through and not to over-burden the system. For example, with the sweet taste. If we are eating a lot of sweet stuff all the time, we know that this is not conducive to great health.
So what we are looking for, really, is these six full tastes. We should explore and find them in life in fruits and vegetables and grains and pulses, even meats and fish! All of these different things can provide this full range of taste profiling and keep our sense of taste in check.
I hope you found this blog interesting. I’m going to be covering the different senses in the course of time, so look out for these upcoming blogs! Let me know any feedback that you may have: you can find me on Instagram @anneheigham and on YouTube.