All ayurvedic medicines use substances that have qualities known in Ayurveda as gurvadi gunas. These qualities can range from heating, cooling to being light, heavy, unctuous, drying, etc. It is through these qualities that we define and adjust the possible actions a substance will create in the body. These substances create a medical reaction in the body which is primarily defined and understood by the six tastes considered by Ayurveda;
Madhura – sweet
(includes food with wheat products such as bread, cereal and pasta; rice; milk; ice cream and desserts)
Amla – sour
(includes food made from tomato: ketchup, spicy Mexican sauce, pasta sauce; cheese, also citrus fruits and drinks)
Lavana – salty
Katu – hot
Tikta – bitter and Kashai – astringent
(Ayurvedic churnas, or spice mixes)
In addition to the aforementioned reaction, these tastes also develop an affinity for an organ in the body and/or an emotion, hence, adding a unique aspect to each individual, also making it interdependent with the Dosha of the individual. The six tastes should be balanced in the diet for optimum health and nutrition./
So the taste applies not only to the perception of taste buds situated on the tongue, but to the final reaction of food in the acid medium of the stomach. And accordingly, the taste is bifurcated into the taste in the mouth called svadu and the taste in the stomach called paka.
Not all medicines taste or smell bad (pungent). And for the ones that do, there’s a valid purpose behind them doing so. The bitter taste helps to balance Pitta and Kapha. It decreases water retention and is therefore used as a tonic for a congested liver. It is cleansing and helps to take away burning and itching sensations. Even the astringent taste helps balance Pitta and Kapha by internally purifying the blood. So people who need to balance Pitta and Kapha generally need to eat more bitter and astringent foods to help them cope up with their problems.
Moreover the medicines are prepared to bring relief and not result in personal satisfaction of an individual’s palate. Instead of thinking about the taste and smell of a medicine, one should focus on its efficiency in treating a disorder/disease. But in extreme cases, one can adopt an alternative in the form of the medium with which the medicine is consumed. Honey or Rock Candy (also known as Mishri) could be helpful in moderating the bitter taste of a medicine.