Many people wonder what Chyawanprash tastes like before they purchase the product. Chyawanprash is an unusual food in that it is composed of all six tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, astringent.
In general, Chyawanprash is an herbal jam that has a rich, earthy, and fruit flavor that’s balanced and enjoyable. However, to fully appreciate the complexity of the Chyawanprash taste, it’s important to understand the meaning and significance of taste in Ayurveda.
Taste According to Ayurveda
Taste, or rasa, in Ayurveda, bears significance beyond the common Western understanding. Rasa literally means a number of things—plasma, juice, and enthusiasm—in addition to taste. In Ayurveda, taste is more than the flavor you detect when a food or beverage hits your taste buds. The rasa of a food is indicative of the overall energetics and effect contained within the food or herb. For instance, foods and herbs with a sweet rasa are generally nutritive and building. Foods and herbs with a bitter rasa are typically purifying. Furthermore, the pungent and sour tastes stimulate agni (the digestive fires).
Fundamental to the understanding of rasa, is the Ayurvedic teaching that all of nature is composed of some combination of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. This same principal applies to rasa. Below is a summary of the six tastes in Ayurveda and the elements of which they are made.
sweet: earth and water
sour: earth and fire
salty: water and fire
pungent: fire and air
bitter: air and ether
astringent: air and earth
Taste and the Doshas
Given that each taste is some combination of the five elements, rasa also has a profound impact on the three doshas. Each rasa will increase one or two doshas and at the same time pacify one or two doshas. Below is a summary of how each taste affects the doshas.
sweet: increases Kapha, pacifies Vata and Pitta
sour: increases Kapha and Pitta, pacifies Vata
salty: increases Kapha and Pitta, pacifies Vata
pungent: increases Pitta and Vata, pacifies Kapha
bitter: increases Vata, pacifies Pitta and Kapha
astringent: increases Vata, pacifies Pitta and Kapha
Though it is important for everyone to eat foods with all six tastes, when you are familiar with your constitution and any doshic imbalances, you can choose which tastes to emphasize and minimize.
The Unique Chyawanprash Taste
As aforementioned, Chyawanprash is an unusual food in that it is composed of all six tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, astringent. This means that Chyawanprash also contains all five elements, earth, water, fire, air, and ether.
You can take a closer look at the ingredients in Chyawanprash to better understand how this power-packed jam contains all six tastes. Honey, ghee, sesame oil, and rasayana herbs such as Shatavari give Chyawanprash its sweet taste. Amla Berry, which forms the base of Chyawanprash, contains all the tastes except for salty, and has an overall nutritive effect. Neem and Bacopa are quite bitter. Long Pepper (Pippali), cinnamon, and ginger offer pungency, and Arjuna has an astringent rasa.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the ingredients that make up the Chyawanprash taste. However, you can get a sense as to how this complex and diverse list of herbs combines to make a nourishing breakfast food that offers the benefits of all six tastes. Providing more than anti-oxidants, Chyawanprash offers broad-spectrum botanical support by nourishing the body and mind with all five elements.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT). Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.