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The five tastes are pungent(acrid), sweet, sour, bitter and salty, and each taste has a different set of functions and characteristics and are associated with different organ pairings. Both herbs and foods are categorized by the five flavors and are associated with the specific flavor functions.






Pungent herbs are used with the intention that they might induce sweating and to direct and vitalize qi and the blood, the flavor is associated with the lung and large intestine organs. Green onion and chives are examples of pungent foods.  


Sweet-tasting herbs are thought to tonify or harmonize bodily systems. Some sweet-tasting herbs also exhibit a bland taste, which helps drain dampness through diuresis. According to Chinese medical theory sweet flavor acts on the spleen and stomach. Sugar is a sweet food, another example is bananas. 



Practitioners believe that the sour taste most often is astringent or consolidates fluids or qi, and the flavor is associated with the liver and gallbladder. Lemons and plums would be examples of sour foods.  


Bitter taste is thought to drain heat, purge through the bowels and get rid of dampness by the action of drying, the flavor is associated with the heart and small intestine. Coffee and lettuce are examples of foods in the bitter category. 



Salty tastes are thought to soften hard masses as well as purge and open the bowels, this flavor is associated with the kidneys and bladder. Examples of salty foods are sea vegetables and table salt.


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