Power of Energetics: 5 Flavors (Part 2)

images-3Part 2 about the 5 flavors in Chinese Medicine with respect to their thermal properties (warming vs cooling), remedial actions (drying, moistening, etc.), where their energy is directed and how they are used therapeutically.

In this part we are going to focus on the last of the 5 flavors, Bitter and Sweet flavors.



I would like to restate that occasionally food is assigned a certain flavor property that might not correspond to the actual taste. Flavors are assigned to designate and reflect the properties of food, not just taste.  There are also many foods that have more than one flavor associated to it and are generally only used when both flavors are needed.



organic-alfalfa-sproutsProperties: A yin flavor; cooling effect; causes contraction and encourages the energy of the body to descend.  Reduces the excessive person (robust, extroverted, with thick tongue coating, loud voice, reddish complexion, etc.). Bitterness is an antipyretic, lowering fever; it will also dry fluids and drain dampness. Certain bitter foods and herbs have a purgative effect and induce bowel movements. Enter the Heart and Small Intestines.  Corresponds to the Fire Element.

Uses: Helpful for inflammations, infections, and overly moist, damp conditions. Also used for constipation.

Organ Function: Bitter foods clear heat and clean arteries of damp mucoid deposits of cholesterol and fats, in general tending to lower blood pressure. Bitter foods clear stagnancy and cools heat in the liver (usually caused by overconsumption of rich foods).  Bitter foods and herbs drain damp-associated conditions in the form of candida yeast overgrowth, parasites, mucus, swellings, skin eruptions, abscesses, growths, tumors, cysts, obesity, and all moist accumulations including edema. Bitter foods also increase intestinal muscle contractions. The kidneys and lungs are tonified and vitalized by bitter foods. It is superb n removing mucus/heat conditions in the lungs, signified by yellow phlegm discharges.

Seasonal Attunement: One should progressively increase their bitter intake during the fall and winter months, in order to contract and channel energy lower into the body. Heat symptoms arising in any season can be neutralized by bitter foods.

Individual Benefited: Slow, overweight, lethargic, watery (damp) individuals. Aggressive, overheated people are cooled by bitter foods.

Cautions: People who are deficient, cold, weak, thin, nervous, and dry should limit their bitter food intake.



Goji BerriesProperties: A yang flavor; regularly subdivided into full sweet (more tonifying and strengthening) and empty sweet (more cleansing and cooling). The sweet flavor, especially found in warming food, helps energy expand upward and outward in the body.  It is a harmonizing flavor with a slow, relaxing effect.  They also build yin in the body—tissues and fluids—and thus tonify the thin and dry person.

Uses: In the form of complex carbohydrates, sweet food is the center of most traditional diets; it energizes and yet relaxes the body, nerves, and brain. Sweet foods are used to reduce the harsh taste of bitter foods and to retard acute disease symptoms. Sweet foods in the form of complex carbohydrates also are suitable for treating the cold or deficient person. Enters the Spleen-Pancreas and Stomach.  Corresponds to the Earth Element.

Organ Function: Sweet foods soothe aggressive liver emotions such as anger and impatience. It is traditionally used to calm acute liver attacks.  Sweet foods also moisten dry conditions of the lungs, and slows an overactive heart and mind.

Seasonal Attunement: Sweet foods are appropriate for all seasons, and especially desirable during the equinoxes and solstices as they promote harmony. Warming and/or ascending sweet foods attune to the upsurges of spring, as do pungent foods.

Individual Benefited: The dry, cold, nervous, thin, weak, or scattered person needs whole sweet foods in greater quantity; the aggressive person needs sweet foods too for its retarding effect.

Cautions: The sluggish, overweight individual, or those with other damp signs, including mucus conditions, should take very sweet foods sparingly. Chewing carbohydrates well makes them much less mucus-forming and thus has a lighter, less damp impact on digestion. Too much sweet foods damages the kidneys and spleen-pancreas, weakens the bones, and causes hair loss.


Flavors and Direction

Affected organ



Bitter (yin) Cooling, direct energy inward and to lower body (downward) HeartSmall Intestine Inflammations, infections, moist and damp conditions, high cholesterol, candida overgrowth, parasites, abscesses and overeating.  Dry, cold, nervous, weak persons should not overeat bitter foods Alfalfa, romaine lettuce, rye.Bitter+pungent: citrus peel, radish leaf, scallion, turnip, white pepper.Bitter+sweet: amaranth, asparagus, celery, lettuce, papaya, quinoa.Bitter+sour: vinegar
Pungent (yang) Warming, direct energy outward and to upper body, expansive, dispersive LungLarge Intestine Stimulates circulation, cardioprotective, clear obstructions and improve liver function, moistens the kidneys affecting fluids in the entire body, improve digestion, and reduce mucous conditions, expels parasites Warming: spearmint, rosemary, scallion, garlic, onion, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper, all peppers, cayenne, mustard greens, fennel, anise, dill, nutmeg, basil and horseradishCooling:  peppermint, marjoram, white pepper and radishNeutral: taro, turnip and kohlrabi
Salty (yin)Cooling, direct energy inward and to lower body (downward) KidneysBladder Soften lumps (such as hardened lymph nodes), cataracts, knotted muscles and glands.  Constipation, abdominal swelling and pain, sore throat, pyorrhea.  Increases appetite Salt, seaweed (kelp, kombu, bladderwrack, dusle), barley, millet, soy sauce, miso, pickles, umeboshi and gomasio
Sour (yin)Cooling, causes contraction and has an absorbent, astringent effect LiverGallbladder Incontinence, excessive perspiration, hemorrhage, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, prevent or reverse abnormal leakage of fluids, dries and firms up tissue Hawthorne berry, lemon, lime, pickles, rose hip, sauerkraut, crab apple, sour plum.Sour+bitter: vinegar.Sour+pungent: leek.Sour+sweet: aduki bean, apple, blackberry, cheese, grape, mango, olive, raspberry, sourdough bread, tangerine, tomato, yogurt
Sweet (yang)Warming, direct energy outward and to upper body (upward) Spleen-pancreasStomach Slows acute reactions and neutralizes toxic effects of other foods, also lubricates and nourishes the body. Those to benefit most are dry, cold, nervous, thin, weak , scattered or aggressive persons. Less needed for those persons with damp or mucous signs. Fruits: apple, apricot, cherry, date, fig, grape, grapefruit, olive, papaya, peach, pear, strawberry, tomatoVegetables: beet, mushroom, cabbage, carrot, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, potato, spearmint, squash, sweet potato, yamNuts/seeds: almond, chestnut, coconut, sesame seed, sunflower seed, walnutSweeteners: amasake, barley malt, honey, molasses, rice syrup, whole sugar (unrefined)


For Part 1 Click Here!


While waiting for the next installment, please take a look at the foods in our other blogs to see how to choose the most nutritious groceries, how to store them to retain freshness, the nutritional benefits, and of course—the energetics.