School of Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion
Pungency is characterized by irritation, or sharp, spicy foods that irritate the mouth such as black pepper.
Types of PungentsBlack pepper and chilis are quintessential pungents. Hard liquor is pungent and burning. Sour taste, which increases secretions, is sharp but not pungent. At 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 and spices that have a strong smell, like peppermint. Herbal resins like frankincense and myrrh have 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, liquefies, softens, secretes, and flushes, breaking up and dissolving thick or hardened masses such as mucus. As it moves blood, pungent taste warms the liver, forcing it to work harder. Warming the liver is helpful if blood is cold and liver is stagnant. However, the surge of blood stimulated by pungent taste can overtax the liver's cleansing capacity if Pitta is already aggravated. 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, and 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 rashes. 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 and arjuna cool inflammation.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.