The Five Medicinal Flavors
Guest Post by Autumn Bear
An Alternative Point of View
“Dietary therapy should be the first step when one treats a disease. Only when this is unsuccessful should one try medicines.” — Sun Si Miao of the Tang Dynasty, 618-907 A.D.
Most of us delight in a meal with decadent flavor that warms our palate with a bouquet of surprises, often one flavor enhancing the next. Food offers one of the most orgasmic joys in living, and there is no question that we all love to have a good meal. But did you know that the food you eat can have energetic properties that act similar to medicine?
There are five main pillars to Chinese medicine: Dietary Therapy, Acupuncture, Herbs, Feng Shui (the art of placement to appeal to the ancestors) and Meditation. Dietary therapy is the relationship between our bodies and the outside world in what we eat. This puts a crucial importance in balancing our foods to nourish all the elements of our body, spirit and emotions. There was a model developed to help us find balance in all we eat. The ancient sages categorized foods not by their mineral content, protein source or by any pyramidal guidelines, but rather by what they called the Five Flavors.
The Five Flavors represent the tastes of a food but also its energetic properties and which organs they effect. They consist of Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Spicy, and Salty. If balanced in each meal, these collective flavors are thought to bring optimal nourishment to the body keeping it free of disease:
Sour is an astringent that caters to our wood influenced organs of the Liver and Gall Bladder. Sour foods such as olives, tart apples, lemons and sauerkraut help our liver to detoxify and help the gall bladder flush excess bile to keep stones or accumulations from forming.
Bitter foods like raw cacao (chocolate), coffee, and dandelion root affect the heart and small intestines. These foods create an energetic downward movement to help with circulation and elimination.
Sweetness, a downfall for most of us, if consumed in moderation has a very healthy attribute to the spleen and stomach. Sweet foods like syrup, yams, and sweet berries can cool stomach heat and nourish digestion.
Spicy, a note found in ginger, green onions, garlic, chili and alcohol, is an energetically charged flavor that creates an upward and warming motion. Ever notice that if you eat something really spicy it causes you to sweat and your nose to run? This upward movement of spicy affects the lungs and their ability to influence the immune system.
Lastly, there is our friend Salty. The salty flavor as found in natural salt additives has a downward motion and affects the kidneys and bladder. This downward motion stimulates the kidneys to filter and move fluids out of the body.
It is only when we begin to have an excess of any one flavor that an overabundance can form in the body. In turn, this creates an imbalance where an excess of one flavor and deficiency of another accelerates a destructive cycle leading to disease. Knowledgeable balance of our food and the delicate pairing of our tastes allow us to live healthy and happy lives.