Ayurveda views all of nature as being made of some combination of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These five elements are real—they exist in nature in a tangible fashion. In addition, the five elements correspond to certain qualities. These qualities exist within us and the foods we eat. The Ayurvedic six tastes are foundational to Ayurvedic eating. Having an understanding of the qualities and elements within each taste will help you to understand how to bring about balance in your diet. This article will focus on salt and the salty taste. With more people becoming aware of managing their blood pressure, some people have come to believe that salt is unhealthy. However, in Ayurveda, it’s all about balance. Is there such a thing as Ayurvedic salt and is all salt created equally? Let’s take a look!
Five Elements, Six Tastes
Before we dive into the specifics of the salty taste and the attributes of Ayurvedic salt, let’s take a brief overview of the six tastes. Below is a summary of the six tastes and the elements of which they are made (1): sweet: water and earth sour: earth and fire salty: water and fire pungent: fire and air bitter: air and space astringent: air and earth Also, here is a breakdown of the energetics of the six tastes (2): sweet: cold, nourishing sour: hot, mildly nourishing salty: hot, nourishing pungent: hot, purifying bitter: cold, purifying astringent: cold, purifying
Qualities and Benefits of the Salty Taste
The salty taste is heating and heavy, which makes sense as it is composed of water and fire. Therefore, it is especially balancing for Vata dosha. (Vata dosha is light and dry by nature). However, we all require some balance of the six tastes—the ideal amounts of each taste depend in part on one’s constitution. Salt calms Vata dosha, assists in elimination, enkindles the digestive fire, stimulates salivation, and improves the flavor of food. In addition, healthy salts are key to maintaining water and electrolyte balance. Also, quality salts, such as purple bamboo salt, are rich in a range of important, healthful trace minerals. Some foods that express the salty taste are rock salt, sea salt, kelp and other seaweeds, and cottage cheese.
Salt and The Seven Dhatus
Consuming small to moderate amounts of healthy salts is fundamental to balancing the rasa, or fluids, of the body. Ayurveda teaches that the seven dhatus make up the human body: rasa, rakta, mamsa, medas, asthi, majja, and shukra. Below is a summary of the seven dhatus and their approximate English translation: rasa: plasma, fluids of the body rakta: blood, particularly the hemoglobin mamsa: muslce medas: fat asthi: bone majja: nerves and brain shukra: sexual organs and fluids The rasa is key because it is foundational to the system of the seven dhatus. The seven dhatus are likened to concentric circles—to nourish the deeper tissues, one must first adequately support the rasa dhatu. This means proper fluid balance as well as the ability to rid the body of wastes and toxins. Salt is indispensable to this process. Therefore, healthy salt is a rasayana as it nourishes the rasa which then circulates throughout the entire body.
What About Ayurvedic Salt?
Now that you understand the importance of consuming healthy salts, you may wonder which salt is best. Rock salt, sea salt, pink, purple, or gray salt—does it matter? There is a big difference from one salt to the next. Understanding the origins and preparation methods of any given salt will help you make an informed and healthful decision. Just as soil impacts the nutritional quality of the plants that grow out of it, the nutritional quality of salt is influenced by its origins. Bamboo salt is a specially prepared salt, gathered and processed with time, love, and attention to quality. If there is an Ayurvedic salt, purple bamboo salt would rank high on the list! To give you a sense as to the time and care that goes into making this special type of Ayurvedic salt, purple bamboo salt is hand-harvested sea salt from the western Korean coast. It is roasted according to ancient Buddhist monk traditions. This happens over the course of 25 days wherein sun-dried ocean salt is deposited into bamboo pillars capped with red clay and roasted 8 times in a pinewood fire at 1472°F. On the 9th time, the bamboo salt is melted with a resin fire above 2800°F. The artisan roasting process results in highly alkaline 11.5 pH purple salt free from toxins and heavy metals and rich in bioactive minerals with a savory sulphur flavor. This high-quality salt, made with love and care, can be used in cooking or sprinkled on food. Also, since purple bamboo salt is rich in minerals, antiseptic, and alkaline, it works great as a gargle. Or, sprinkle it on your toothbrush.
Purple Bamboo Salt: Made with Love
Oftentimes, people who are new to Ayurveda think that only Indian food can be Ayurvedic. Since India is the birthplace of Ayurveda it stands to reason that Ayurvedic cuisine often has Indian origins or an Indian flare. However, what truly makes a food Ayurvedic is the time, love, care, and intention that goes into creating it. Furthermore, when we understand the origins of our food and preparation methods, as well as how it affects our doshas and dhatus, then we can look at our food through an Ayurvedic lens and with an increased level of awareness.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Learn more about Greta's work.
(1) Lad, V & Lad, U. (1994). Ayurvedic cooking for self-healing (2nd ed.). The Ayurvedic Press. (2) Svoboda, R. (2010). Prakriti: Your ayurvedic constitution. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.