The Five Flavors

The five flavors, pungent, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, are distinguished by taste. The ancient Chinese used clinical experience to distinguish the actions of herbs, concluding that pungent herbs disperse, sour herbs constrict, sweet herbs slow down, bitter herbs harden, and salty herbs soften. This is recorded in The Yellow Emperor's Classics of Internal Medicine. Chinese physicians later found that pungent herbs promote energy flow, sour herbs obstruct, sweet herbs harmonize, bitter herbs cause diarrhea, and salty herbs promote downward movement. There is also a tasteless flavor classification that helps dampness seep and promotes urination, which is similar to sweet flavor. As a result, a celebrated Chinese herbalist said, 'Tasteless flavor is considered a type of sweet flavor.'