Hello fellow plant purveyors!
Today I’ve rounded up a really excellent resource for you guys from the friendly folks at Herbal Academy. They recently offered a free course on compiling your own materia medica, and along with lots of awesome tips and instructions on how to make an effective plant profile, they provided this really cool list of different ways herbs taste, and how that indicates their healing properties! I’ve basically just copy + pasted it into this article, with a few tweaks for formatting purposes, because it was just too good not to share! Check out The Herbal Academy if you’re interested in getting an in-depth, comprehensive education in herbal healing- they offer great classes at reasonable rates that you can participate in anywhere you get a wifi signal! Just to be clear, this isn’t in any way a compensated promotion, just a whole-hearted recommendation as a past student of their program. Scroll below to learn more about how to identify herbal properties and actions by taste!
Sweet – sweet tastes are associated with sugars and polysaccharides. These are found in carbohydrates, a familiar macronutrient. This taste is not necessarily sweet as we perceive it in our modern diets, but in a relative sense—grains and milk are considered sweet.
Healing Abilities: a tonic, building, calming, harmonizing, restorative, and soothing
Examples: Astragalus root, licorice root, and mushrooms
Salty – salty tastes are associated with minerals or table salt.
Healing Abilities: mineral balance, nourish bones, hair, nails, and teeth, act as diuretics, stimulate digestion, and soften tissues
Examples: nettle, sea vegetables, and horsetail
Sour – sour tastes are associated with plant acids and some minerals.
Healing Abilities: astringe, tone, and tighten tissues, check fluid loss, stimulate digestion, and support the cardiovascular and immune systems
Examples: schisandra berry, rose hips, lemon, and sorrel
Bitter – bitter tastes are associated with alkaloids, sesquiterpenes, and volatile oils. Bitter tastes can be a warning system that alert people and animals to potentially toxic chemical constituents, and can also stimulate the digestive system and liver to prepare to remove the toxin from the body. This taste is quite common in plants.
Healing Abilities: stimulate the digestive system, thereby improving digestion, nutrient absorption, and elimination, and can also be calming to the nervous system
Examples: coffee, dandelion, chamomile, gentian, and motherwort
Pungent – pungent tastes are associated primarily with volatile oils and allyl sulfides.
Examples: garlic, ginger, and mustard
Healing Abilities: stimulate the digestive and circulatory systems and are antibacterial
Spicy – spicy tastes are associated with volatile oils and terpenes.
Examples: chili peppers and mint family plants like rosemary, thyme, and oregano
Healing Abilities: stimulate circulation, digestion, and the respiratory system, may be soothing to the nervous system, and are antimicrobial
Acrid – acrid taste is more of an irritating sensation in the mouth than a taste.
Examples: kava kava, lobelia, and black cohosh
Healing Abilities: analgesic and antispasmodic
Astringent – astringent herbs are associated with tannins, which have a noticeable drying effect when tasted.
Examples: black tea, red raspberry leaf, witch hazel, and rose petal
Healing Abilities: toning to tissues and can help stop bleeding (externally or internally) as well as diarrhea
Bland/Slippery – a bland taste and/or slippery texture are associated with mucilage.
Examples: slippery elm bark and marshmallow root
Heating Abilities: cool and soothe inflamed tissues, and can also act as laxatives
This next section goes into the healing properties of plants through their individual energies. The Herbal Academy explains, “particular tastes are also often associated with particular energetics, so you can use your taste buds to help you interpret the energetics of an herb. You will also experience an herb’s energetics via its effect on your circulatory system, such as the rush of warmth stimulated by cayenne pepper and ginger, or the cooling associated with hibiscus and rose.”
Warming – sweet herbs, most (but not all) pungent herbs, some spicy herbs. Warming herbs open the pores, thin fluids, and warm the center of the body, stimulating circulation to move heat outwards to the body exterior (Wood, n.d.).
Cooling – sour, salty, acrid, and bland herbs; most (but not all) bitter herbs. Cooling herbs refresh the body and can provide cooling in the case of fever (Wood, n.d.).
Drying – sour, salty, acrid, spicy, bitter, and astringent herbs. Drying herbs can tighten tissues, check fluid flow in the pores, close pores, and tone tissues (Wood, n.d.).
Moistening – sweet and slippery herbs. Moistening herbs increase moisture and are softening and nourishing to tissues (Wood, n.d.).
I hope you found that resource to be as helpful and fascinating as I did! May the rest of your day be filled with fun plant facts, light and learning. See you again next time!
Luck and licorice,