Energetics of Food

By Sarah Petty L. Ac., Dipl. Ac. on February 29th, 2012

This is a big topic-but I will do my best to keep it concise and detailed. This will be an introduction that will include the five flavors. In later articles I will discuss the temperature of foods and how the preparation of foods has a lot to do with their energetic temperature. This article is for educational purposes-not for self diagnosis and treatment. Consult your acupuncturist for dietary tips.


Correspondences: Winter, Water element (like the salty sea), Bladder and Kidneys.

Salty has a yin, cooling effect that moves energy downward and inward. It moistens dryness, softens hard lumps, improves digestions, detoxifies the body, and can purge the bowel. It is a flavor that can help one transition into Fall and Winter.

Examples of Salty: Seaweed, barley, millet, soy sauce, miso, pickles, sea salt (very alkalizing-I recommend people switch their table salt with sea salt), salted raw sauerkraut or kimchee.


Correspondences: Spring, Wood element, Gallbladder and Liver.

Sour is yin and cooling as well, however it has a very different action in the body. Sour flavor is astringent (think about sucking on a lemon and how it will cause you to pucker!) and drying to reverse abnormal leakage of fluids and energy in the body by drying and firming up tissues.

Examples of Sour: Hawthorne berry, lemon, lime, pickles, rose hip, sauerkraut, sour apple (crab apple), sour plum, vinegar.


Correspondences: Summer, Fire element, Heart, Pericardium, Small Intestine.

Bitter is yin and cooling in nature which causes contraction and energy to descend. The bitter flavor reduces the excessive person that exhibits a sonorous voice, extroverted disposition, and reddish complexion. Bitter can reduce fever, dry fluids, drain dampness and can also be used as a purgative for the bowel.

Examples or Bitter: Alfalfa, bitter melon (very very bitter, but very beneficial), romaine lettuce, rye, coffee, dark chocolate, asparagus, white pepper.


Correspondences: Late Summer (when the humidity sets in), Earth element, Stomach and Spleen.

Sweet is yang in nature and subdivided into two categories: Full Sweet (tonifying and strengthening) and Empty Sweet (cleansing and cooling-most fruits). The sweet flavor found in warming foods help energy expand upward and outward in the body.  The sweet flavor has a slow and relaxing effect and is ideal for the thin and dry person.

Examples of Sweet: Apple, date, fig, grape, beet, button mushroom, carrot, pear, sweet potato, yam, almond, barley malt, honey, molasses.


Correspondences: Autumn, Metal element, Lung and Large Intestine.

Pungent is yang in nature. It is expansive and dispersive. When pungent is mixed with warming it stimulates circulation of energy and blood, moving energy upwards and outwards toward the periphery. It stimulates digestion, disperses mucous and can induce sweating.

Examples of Pungent: Warming pungents: spearmint, rosemary, scallion, garlic, cinnamon bark, cloves, ginger, cayenne, fennel, anise, dill, mustard greens, horseradish, basil, nutmeg. Cooling pungents: peppermint, marjoram, white pepper, radish.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Next week will be the first Wednesday of the month, so I’ll be featuring a season appropriate recipe!

Be well 🙂

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