Better Health through Digestion with an Ayurvedic Diet
Types of PungentsBlack pepper and chilies are quintessential pungents. Hard liquor is pungent and burning. Sour taste, which increases secretions, is sharp but not pungent. On Joyful Belly we've lumped together pungent taste and the sharp quality because they share many similarities. Acrid is a subtype of pungent, used for foods that aren't spicy but have a burning sensation, like tobacco. Aromatic is a subtype of pungent reserved for herbs that have a strong smell, like peppermint. Herbal resins like frankincense and myrrh has a distinct pungent taste as well.
Circulation & ImmunityThe body flushes pungent irritants by thinning the blood, dilating blood vessels and increasing the heart rate. Pungent taste thus improves circulation and liquefies, softens, secretes and flushes breaking up and dissolving thick or hardened masses such as mucus. Pungent taste warms the liver (which is responsible for blood thickness), and expels excess Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Pungent taste stimulates courage and valor because blood flow is movement of . The immune system exists mainly in the blood. Therefore good circulation, stimulated by ginger, black pepper or other pungents, helps improve immunity and resolve sore throats.
Pungent & KaphaPungent taste is the best taste for Kapha. Circulation increases heat, metabolism and agni (digestive strength). It burns off all Kapha tissues creating lightness. It helps the body sweat, clearing and flushing all secretions. It breaks up and dries mucus in the GI tract and in the lungs. It wakes up the sleepy Kapha mind and brings focus to mental activity.
Pungent & VataVata should be careful with excess use of pungent taste. A small amount of pungent taste warms Vata but pungents should not be used to stimulate deficient organs. They increase Vata's already high metabolism which burns fluids (ojas) causing tissues to dry out. Instead, nourishment is the best way to rebuild organ strength for Vata. Excess pungent taste overstimulates the Vata mind. Ginger, pippali, guduchi and garlic are exceptions.
Pathological PungencyExcess sharpness and pungent taste aggravates Pitta and could lead to bleeding disorders, bruises, ulcers, inflammation and rash. After encouraging secretions excess pungent taste leaves behind thirst and dryness much as the hot sun dries the desert.
Treatment of Excess PungentsSweet, gooey foods coat and soothe excess pungency. Cooling demulcents like licorice ghee and shatavari are also indicated. Astringents like amalaki & arjuna cool inflammation.
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