Saturday, 8 May 2010

Classification of Food in TCM – The Five Flavors (Wu Wei)

Besides the energetic thermal nature, TCM classifies food according to their flavors. The five flavors are the oldest system of food classification in TCM. The five flavors are Sweet, Acrid/Pungent, Salty, Sour, Bitter. Every flavor has its own Yin or Yang quality. The flavor that are Yang are Sweet and Acrid/Pungent, while that have Yin quality are Salty, Sour, Bitter. In addition to their specific Yin or Yang effect, the five flavors each belong to one of the five phase. Sweet is earth, Acrid is metal, Bitter is fire, Salty is water, and Sour is wood.

Each flavor has important qualities that influence my body in this way :
1.Sweet Flavor.
Sweet flavor foods such as honey, sugar, water melon, effect my body with warming, strengthening, harmonizing, relaxing, and moistening it. Sweet foods strengthen my Spleen Qi, where it builds up energy, nourish my Body Fluids, relieve my inner tension, and stabilize my “inner center”. Excess Sweet foods weaken my kidneys, resulting in bone and teeth disorders, obesity, and weakness of connective tissue.

2.Acrid Flavor.
Acrid flavor foods such as ginger, green onion, peppermint, move my Qi, invigorate my energy circulation, loosen stagnation, disperse, open pores, free surface of exogenous disease factors, and produce perspiration. The acrid flavor foods strengthen my lungs and banish wind-cold. Their sweat-producing effect and ability to open pores are helpful during the acute stage of a cold. Because of their invigorating effect on Qi, Acrid flavors loosen emotional stagnation and associated breathing problems. With they tendency to move Qi upward, Acrid flavor foods are very useful when I experience emotional strain, such as sadness, melancholy, and despondency. But excess foods with Acrid flavor will give me dryness, allergies, itching skin, sun allergy, ascendant Liver Yang, inner restlessness, hyperactivity, sleep disorders, sexual compulsions, and constipation.

3.Salty Flavor.
Salty flavor foods such as salt, pork, seaweed, in moderation supplement my kidneys function, promote urine and stool excretion, dissolve congestions and hardened areas. Too much salt in my daily meal dehydrates my body : damages fluids, blood, and vascular system (result hypertension).

4.Sour Flavor.
Sour flavor foods such as lemon, orange, plum, give astringent, gathers and preserves fluids effects to my body. Sour foods refresh my body, reduce excessive perspiration, promote the creation of fluids, and soothe “heated” temperaments by cooling emotional “heal” in the liver. Because sour flavor also supplements Yin, it is useful in times of emotional stress and anger. Sour flavor foods are not good in the acute external weather conditions like wind-cold. Because they will pull the pathogenic effects into deeper layer of my body.

5.Bitter Flavor.
Bitter flavor foods such as coffee, tea, dandelion produce drying, hardening, and downbearing effects into my body. They supplement Heart Yin and have a calming effect, especially following stress and mental strain. Too much Bitter flavor foods cause diarrhea, dehydrate, damage fluids, damage my bones, heat up my heart, and inhibit my spirit.

The next post will be Food Flavor Association with Organ Networks.

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