Tastes that Uplift
By Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Oregon, USA
Happiness is truly your birthright. You were born to be happy but of course, sometimes life interferes while you’re making plans. Keeping your physical, mental, and spiritual energies balanced is the way to keep the good times rolling. Keeping the tattvas balanced creates lifelong health, and along with that, happiness.
A good place to start is with the tastes of the foods and herbs you consume. The yogic word for taste, rasa, has many meanings, and the interrelated nature of those definitions helps us to connect with the importance of taste. Rasa means “essence.” In Ayurveda, taste is one of the key factors in understanding the qualities of a food or herb. In addition, rasa can mean “appreciation,” “artistic delight,” or a “musical note.”
The taste of our food or herbal medicine stimulates the nerves, the mind, and the senses—it makes us lively. Through stimulating the gastric nerves, taste enhances digestion. And taste directly affects our nervous system through the prana, the life force.
Sweet, Sour, and Salty Tastes
Yoga refers to three main tastes that keep us happy, nourished, and fulfilled: sweet, sour, and salty. Eating foods with sweet rasa increases the body’s bulk and physical stamina. Most long-term nourishing tonics are sweet, and research is revealing that many immune-stimulant tonics have in common a certain kind of healing carbohydrate, which has a sweet taste. Sweet foods are calming for the brain. They are also useful in easing bowel movements.
All grains and nuts are predominantly sweet. Shatavari, the root of an Asian asparagus plant, and the premier yogic herb for women, is a sweet herb that is also used for kidney and lung problems. Licorice is another classic sweet herb and it balances emotions.
Chrysanthemum flower is a sweet herb that can keep you happy. Of course we think of this plant as a pleasant decorative flower, but it also has some nice medicinal properties. Chrysanthemum flower is a cooling remedy with an affinity for the head, so it cools the eyes and helps vision. Chrysanthemum is very cooling to the mind, as well. It helps to surrender the egoistic will and also soothes anger. Chrysanthemum tastes good as a tea, so drink up, cool your anger, and stay happy.
Foods with a sour taste produce their action through organic acids and cleanse the body of toxins and promote digestion. Acidic foods tend to be high in vitamin content, such as vitamin C in lemons. Citrus peels are, in fact, used as herbs to promote digestion and stimulate appetite. Rose hips are sour therapy, contain vitamin C, and are used for the respiratory tract.
Salty foods contain mineral compounds that help the body retain fluids and improve digestion and bowel action. They add savor to food and activate the flow of saliva and gastric juices. Salty foods and herbs like kelp act to control gas, and are given for coughs. Since salty taste helps keep our tissue moist, it is very salubrious for the nervous system, the main system we want to stay in balance.
Gokshura seed is a well known Ayurvedic herb that is a standout for building sexual energy. Gokshura is highly esteemed as a rejuvenative remedy that balances heat and dryness in the body. Gokshura is a common ingredient in aphrodisiac formulas. One contemporary product combines it with 22 other multipurpose herbs, many of which actually are herbs with targeted aphrodisiac effects, including saffron, shankpushpi, ashwaganda, and nutmeg. Gokshura also promotes mental clarity, and in fact, I’ve found it to have exceptional clinical effect in depression. It may be taken with ashwaganda as a tonic in nervous disorders.
To this set of happiness herbs, we could add guduchi, an exceptional remedy for the brain. Yogi Bhajan was fond of guduchi and often recommended it. This remedy is one of the best herbs for clearing the srotas (channels). It is a potent yet well tolerated detoxifier that is found in many Ayurvedic formulas. Because of this, it is included in formulas to assist the delivery of herbs to the tissues. Guduchi aids all aspects of healthy metabolism and particularly clears the srotas in the brain, facilitating mental activity. It supports proper communication and coordination between all the various cells and their many related functions, promoting better overall health.
However you get there, true happiness comes from constant progress on your spiritual journey. And anything that can support you in your destiny must be welcome. Balance is the key. Getting to balance may be a bit of a project, but remember, happiness is your birthright.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Yogaraj, D.N.-C., R.H., studied Ayurveda with Yogi Bhajan for over 30 years. He lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he serves as Senior Research Scientist and Chief Medical Formulator for Yogi Tea. His recent book is The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs. Read his Yogi Blog at http://www.yogiproducts.com/well-being/.
You can find more information about these Ayurvedic herbs, in The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by Karta Purkh S. Khalsa. To purchase Ayurvedic Herbs, visit www.a-healing.com.