Sweet (madhura rasa) are the majority of foodstuffs.
Characteristics: kapha-kara, vayu-ghna (vayu limiting), mostly earth and water, antidote to bitter, pungent and astringent foods
Prolonged overuse: sleepiness, obesity, defective digestion, asthma, colds and coughs
Examples: rice, wheat, mung dahl, sugar
Sour (amla rasa) foods tingle the throat causing a hot sensation.
Characteristics: pitta-kara, vayu-ghna, earth and fire, antidote to bitter items
Prolonged overuse: aging, pallor, increased thirst
Examples: acid fruits like amla and pomegranate
Salty taste (lavana rasa) adds a savory flavor to foods and drinks and is a digestive.
Characteristics: pitta-kara, vayu-ghna, water and fire, antidote to all the five remaining rasas
Prolonged overuse: increased thirst, early baldness, rough skin and a decrease of bodily luster (“oja”, the famed saintly halo due to the semen moving upward)
Examples: all salts
Bitter taste (tiksa rasa) favors digestion, intellectual power and restores taste.
Characteristics: vayu-kara, kapha-ghna, air and ether, antidote to the madhura rasa
Prolonged overuse: nervous diseases, debility, hardness and wasting in general
Examples: turmeric, green vegetable leaves
Pungent taste (katuka rasa) helps digestion and suppresses oral infections.
Characteristics: pitta-kara, kapha-ghna, air and fire, antidote to madhura rasa
Prolonged overuse: excessive bodily heat, cutting and piercing aches, leanness
Examples: ginger, asafoetida
Astringent taste (kashapa rasa) favors complexion and dries up internal moisture.
Characteristics: kapha-kara, pitta-ghna, air and earth, antidote to sour and pungent items
Prolonged overuse: obstruction of excretory channels, fits and tremors
Examples: haritaki, lodha tree fruit. Honey and buttermilk also have astringent qualities along with their primary madhura nature, as many foodstuffs contain more than one rasa.
By proper combination of these six tastes every day, avoidance of excessive or deficient ones and increasing antidotes to excessive or deficient ones the tri-dosha is kept in healthy equilibrium. Ayurveda medicines are designed in this way and people who don’t have time to become involved in complexities of proper combination take Ayurvedic tonics which supply them needed elements in proper proportion besides relying on them when disease actually manifests.