Five functions & five tastes: yakuzen/medicinal food

If you kindly visit here, have you noticed that each post includes "function" and "taste" at the end of each post? I guess most of you who have noticed these terms would wonder what these mean. Here are what they represent.

As the list of five elements in the Go-Gyo List, otherwise known as yakuzen/medicinal food theory suggests, every single thing (food, season, emotion, organ, function, etc) exists around us can be categorized into five elements. This theory is a basis of yakuzen/medicinal food when we create menus for clients.

Here is the example. Let’s take the season. Generally, a year consists of four seasons: spring,summer,fall, and winter. However, in oriental medicine, long summer is also included to make the season divided into five, according to the list of five elements.

We talk about yakuzen food here so let’s dig the function of ingredients and the taste. Consuming ingredients in each season is the primary concept to live with yakuzen/medicinal food. But thinking of these two concepts is also the essential key to create yakuzen/medicinal food menus in order to get rid of particular symptoms a client has.


What we eat is gifted from the nature and each edible ingredient is divided into the following functions: warm, heat, cold, cool, and plain.

The function of ingredients describes how an ingredient works on our health. Eating these ingredients gives us one of these five functions to keep our total balance. According to the list of five elements, every ingredient belongs to one of functions.

Ingredients that can warm our body, for instance, are pepper, ginger, chili pepper, and so on. Spinach, celery, eggplant, tomato, cucumber, daikon radish, and many more are ingredients that can cool down our body temperature.

And five functions of ingredients not only have functions to warm and cool down our body but the following functions, as well:

Warm/heat Ingredients

  • When our body is warmed up, organs also get warmed and functions of organs become very active.
  • Blood vessels that also get warmed work so well to convey blood.

  • Enhance qi in us and activate metabolism to produce energy source.

Cold/cool Ingredients

  •  Get rid of excessive heat in out body and also cleanse our blood.

  •  The great news is that these ingredients help us take out retained water in the body.

Plain Ingredients

  • Plain ingredients don’t belong to either warm/heat ingredients or cold/cool ingredients.
  • As they are peaceful ingredients which you don't have to pay extra attention to, you can consume every day.
  • About 70% of ingredients we eat belong to this category of plain ingredients.


When you think of our taste, how many tastes can you recognize? Sweet, sour, salty, bitter. And what else? Officially, according to yakuzen/medicinal food theory, the following tastes are five tastes: sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty.

In general, when we think about sweet taste, for example, it means that we point out a taste of the cooked food we eat. However, in the taste category here, sweet means a taste of the ingredient itself.

Similar to the five functions of ingredients mentioned above, every ingredient can be categorized into one of five tastes. Some ingredients can have more than one functions, let’s say tomatoes.

Sour Taste

  • Tones up the body and muscle
  • Stops excessive sweat and bleeding
  • Prevents incontinence

Bitter Taste

  • Works as an anti-bacterial
  • Lowers a fever
  • Stops excessive sweating, asthma or severe cough
  • Excretes waste from the body system

Sweet Taste

  • Brings necessary energy into the body
  • Enhances digestion and adjust stomach function

Spicy Taste

  • Releases sweat and other unnecessary waste from the body
  • Enhances a circulation of qi and keeps us feeling happy
  • Purifies blood

Salty Taste

  • Softens lumps or stones
  • Prevents constipation

Being aware of five functions and five tastes takes us to the next level to how we create yakuzen/medicinal food recipes, how we combine ingredients to ease symptoms at moment, and how we can maximize what to eat.

It sounds like it can be annoying if we keep thinking about theories. I don’t believe we have to be strict with theories but we'd better to somewhat stick with theories to use ingredients as therapeutic treatment to get amazing results later on.