The Five Flavours of Chinese Medicine

The Five Flavours of Chinese Medicine

healthy foodIn Chinese medicine, there are five important flavours which are known as sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pungent. These flavours are said to correspond to the five elements and therefore, the organs associated with those elements.

To break this down, we have created the following table to represent this below;

Flavour Element Organ
Sweet Earth Spleen
Salty Water Kidney
Bitter Fire Heart
Pungent Metal Lung
Sour Wood Sour

These flavours work in a way to balance and compliment each other in accordance with the theory of the five elements.

As such, each of the flavours has a nourishing or ‘tonifying’ effect on the related element and organ that it is associated with. For example, foods which have a sour taste such as lemons, limes, grapefruit and raspberries are said to have a nourishing effect on the liver. Foods that have a bitter flavour such as liquorice have a tonifying effect on the heart, and so forth.

It is important to bear in mind, however, that this also needs to be applied in balance and in accordance with the concept of yin-yang. For example, if one has too many foods of a pertaining flavour then it can potentially cause damage to its related organ and element.

The flavour of sweet is an interesting one. In Chinese medicine, it is said that foods that have a sweet flavour have a healthy and supportive effect on the spleen organ. However, it is important that one obtains the sweet flavour from foods that are naturally sweet such as sweet potato, grains, oats and honey. Unfortunately processed sugars do not benefit the spleen, but in fact, will injure the spleen over time as they will cause an accumulation of damp, which will flood the spleen and make it less efficient. Therefore, it is very important that a person obtains the sweet flavours from natural sugars only in order to tonify and nourish the spleen.

Another interesting one is the salty taste that is said to benefit the kidneys. However, it is important that one only uses natural and healthy salts such as Himalayan salt or sea salt and not standard table salt. Standard table salt contains a lot of chemicals and will cause damage to the body over time, especially the kidneys.

Even when using a high-quality Himalayan or pink salt or sea salt one should take care to only use very small amounts as too much may still damage the kidneys.

If you are unsure how much salt you should have in your diet, then please consult your doctor or a nutritionist who can assess you in person to take into account your diet, lifestyle and the current state of your overall health. You should never rely on the information you read on the internet or from word of mouth for health advice without consulting your doctor. Your doctor or medical physician should always be the authority that you ultimately listen to for your health advice.

Here is a great video with more information on the five flavours of Chinese medicine.

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