A Taste Is Not Just a Taste

Acupuncturists often ask a lot of questions, including some that may seem random but actually have relevance in the patient’s treatment.

For instance, I commonly ask, “Any odd or unusual taste in your mouth?” The answers vary from bitter, sweet, sour, to salty or pungent. From a Chinese medicine perspective, tastes indicate internal imbalances in the body. These imbalances can come from dietary, emotional, psychological, physical, environmental, or constitutional conditions. Constitutional conditions are conditions that are more easily acquired through our family genetics. We carry certain traits as a result of these family genes.

A bitter taste is usually comes from Liver Heat, Liver Fire, or Heart Heat. These patterns indicate excess.
Liver Heat and Fire can come from stress, anxiety, unresolved anger, fatty, greasy, fried food diets, and the consumption of alcohol or toxins.
Heart Heat often arises from emotional factors including chronic anxiety, constant worrying, and depression.

A sweet taste indicates Spleen Deficiency or Damp Heat.
Spleen Deficiency can come from mental and dietary factors including; overthinking over an extended period of time, prolonged exposure to a damp climate, chronic illness, over-eating, as well as the over-consumption of cold, raw food leading to poor digestion. Over-consumption is relative, varying from person to person. Some people naturally have “iron stomachs.”

Damp Heat patterns arise from both internal and external causes. This condition can arise from external pathogens such as seasonal affects (summer heat), dietary choices including fried, greasy, fatty foods, and from excessive work, or even emotional disturbances such as anger and long-term bottled up emotions, specifically jealousy.

A sour taste usually comes from the Retention of Food in the Stomach or the Liver Invading the Stomach.
Retention of Food and Liver Invading the Stomach patterns develop from poor digestion that comes from over-eating, eating too quickly, poor diet, and stress.

A salty taste is usually caused by Kidney Yin Deficiency.
Kidney Yin Deficiency often comes with age. It can also arise from chronic illness, overwork over an extended period, or dehydration, among other factors.

A pungent taste comes from Lung Heat.
Lung heat can arise from a pathogenic influence such as a cold settling into the lungs creating heat, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Internal imbalances can be treated with acupuncture, herb and supplements, and diet. Treatments and recommendations vary from person to person. Reach out to Element Natural Healing Arts for more information!


Acupuncturist, herbalist, Maya abdominal practitioner, and reflexologist Christina Morris is the founder of Element Natural Healing Arts. Writing about health and wellness gives her an outlet to express her care and concern for her beloved community. She believes everyone can achieve better health and happiness–emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.