The Five Flavours and the Five Organs – From TCM’s Perspective

A healthy body always begins with a healthy diet. Getting rid of heavily processed foods, harmful chemicals or additives, cut down on alcohol, focus on the wholesomeness of the food you consume, these are universal rules that work for almost everyone – in a perfect world. In reality, we all have different nutrition needs and health concerns. Do you have a sweet tooth? Do you crave salty food all the time? Your body might be trying to tell you something with these signs. Here we will take a look at how traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) explains the relationship between flavours and the health of our major organs.

The five elements theory is used as the basis of the universe and describes the way everything interacts, including human body systems. The five elements are: fire, wood, earth, metal and water.  Our five major organs, namely heart, liver, spleen, lung and kidney, correspond to these five elements. Each of these organs is also linked to a flavour which can upset or help the function of that particular organ. These five flavours are: bitter, sour, sweet, pungent and salty.

The organs try to balance themselves through your diet. When an organ is upset, the body can send you signal by making you crave for a particular taste. The below table gives you a quick summary:


Corresponding flavour



Heart Bitter Fire bitter gourd, pomelo, mustard leaf and other bitter green vegetables
Liver Sour Wood tomato, orange, kiwifruit and vinegar
Spleen Sweet Earth corn, cooked onions, squash, yams, cooked grains, cooked cabbage, carrots, parsnips, fruits
Lung Pungent Metal spring onion, ginger, garlic and pepper
Kidney Salty Water prawns, sea cucumber, lamb, oyster, black beans, walnuts, chestnuts and goji berries

Now, let’s go into further details for the wellness of each major organ.

As with any other things in life – less is more. Do not over eat any single flavour as it might create imbalance in your body. Excess of any flavour may weaken instead of strengthen your system.

In the next blog post, we will share with you some yummy and simple recipes that will help you keep your organs in balance.


The Five Flavours and the Five Organs

The Five Tastes: Balancing Foods for All Seasons Marlene Watson-Tara

Five Major Organs

Disclaimer: the above information is not to be considered as a substitute for conventional medicine. If you have a serious health issue, you should consult your doctor.

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