The Pungent Flavor and Its Effects on Your Body

The pungent flavor in action

The spicy or pungent flavor is a great way to get things moving internally! This flavor is meant to make your eyes water, activate your taste buds, and make you sweat. It can provide instant relief to our upper orifices including our lungs, and nose. Improper use of this flavor can also damage our essential fluids and resources.

A dinner I will always remember was the one where my brother consumed five different hot sauces.

We were of college age on a family vacation in the Florida Keys. 

While we sat for dinner, my brother was thrilled to learn about all the local island hot sauces. They were of varying temperature degrees of hot peppers. As the food came out, the hot sauce tasting began. 

At first he seemed fine, expressing heat in his mouth and on his tongue. As he poured on more hot sauce with each bite, he began to sweat from the very top of his head, and then his forehead. He continued to dabble bits of hot sauce on each bite. Droplets of sweat appeared around his eyebrows. The sweat from the top of his head and forehead began to accumulate and drip down his face and neck. His cheeks became noticeably red, his nose was extremely runny, and sweat stains appeared under his armpits. 

We were all laughing as he struggled to bear the heat of the local hot sauces. Eventually, he couldn’t eat anymore. He expressed that he couldn’t feel his tongue or lips, or taste his food. He had to excuse himself from the table, walk around, and grab a drink!

Chinese medicine explains the pungent flavor

What my brother experienced while eating hot sauce is the extreme of the spicy/pungent flavor. When using this flavor in higher doses, it will circulate energy to generate heat, open the pores, induce sweat, and express excess water and toxins.

The spicy/pungent flavor has an affinity for our lungs and lung channel or meridian, which are physiologically associated with our skin. 

When we consume spicy or pungent foods the bronchioles within our lungs are dilated. The warmth and heat of the spicy moves water and/or mucus up and out. This can manifest in several ways like sweating, a wet cough, and mucus in the nose and throat.

Once the body releases the heat, the body cools itself, allowing it to return to a more regulated temperature.

There are several medicinal uses for the spicy flavor. One popular way to use it is to aid in the relief of cold and flu symptoms like runny or stuffy nose, chills, and body aches.

The spicy / pungent flavor also has an affinity for the large intestine organ and the large intestine channel or meridian. If we consume too much of this flavor we may become constipated, experience dry hard stools, dry nose or nosebleeds. 

The large intestine channel begins at the corner of the first finger and travels up to the nose, which explains why my brothers had a runny nose while consuming those hot sauces. It also explains why we would experience a dry nose too. If you are already experiencing general dryness (dry skin, dry mouth, constipation), then consume the spicy flavor, it is going to dry you out more including your nose.

The spicy/pungent flavor is one of five flavors. Read about the salty flavor, the sweet flavor, and the sour flavor. You may be surprised at their medicinal uses and potency! 

Excess use of the spicy or pungent flavor can irritate the body and mind, causing restlessness, anger, and frustration. 

The right amount of this flavor can also induce excitement, clarity and expansion.

Spicy Pungent foods to enjoy

The spicy/pungent flavor is defined as having a strong or sharp taste. We cook with it often, use it as garnishes, and drink it in tea form. Here are several examples:

Common spicy/pungent foods: garlic, onion, scallions, horseradish, dried peppercorns, hot peppers, jalapeños, and wasabi cayenne.

Additional spicy herbs: mint, elderflower, rosemary, cinnamon bark, cloves, fresh and dried ginger,  fennel, anise, coriander, cumin, dill, basil, and nutmeg.

Vegetables: Mustard greens, daikon, and red radish.

To receive the full medicinal benefits of the spicy flavor, it is best to consume it raw, pickled, lightly cooked or brewed as a tea at low temperatures.

I love to top off soups with the green and white parts of fresh scallions.  I also have pickled red onions in my refrigerator to add to any meat dish and tacos. 

I’ll make a bedtime tea of peppermint, chamomile and fennel to aid digestion, and stimulate warmth. 

I hope that you found this information useful. Most importantly, I hope that it inspires you to consume more of the spicy pungent flavor!

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a reply down below.

As always, stay curious!



Disclaimer: This information is intended for general reference only. It is not a replacement for professional health advice. The content in this post intentionally does not provide dosage information or possible interactions with prescription drugs or other medications. Please contact a certified health practitioner such as a physician of Oriental Medicine or Herbalist before considering use. To schedule an appointment with Malerie, visit the services page.