Taste is one of the five senses (Sight, Hearing, Smell, and Touch), and the Six Tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent) are present in all the foods, herbs, spices, and beverages we ingest.
The six tastes are introduced to the body through the taste buds, which stimulates the Six Stages of digestion, which are responsible for breaking down what we ingest as food moves through our systems.
Long before the USDA established guidelines for health in this country, Ayurveda was using the Six Taste theory to achieve balanced nutrition.
The Pungent taste is a combination of the fire and air elements and is the hottest of all the tastes which stimulate digestion, clears sinuses, improves blood circulation, and motivates the senses.
This taste is associated with wasabi (horseradish), chilis, ginger, garlic, onions, mustard greens, radish, turnip, and many heating spices like black pepper, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, cloves and paprika, all which breaks down carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Its light and dry qualities will aggravate Pitta and Vata but can bring balance to the wet and heavy Kapha by eliminating ama (digestive slug) and mucus, clearing the sinuses, breaking up clots, and supporting the elimination of excess fat.
The exceptions to the rule are raw onions and garlic, which are very heating, but their energetics become cooler when they are cooked. Also, it is important to note that dry ginger is very aggravating for Pitta and Vata because of its heat, lightness, and dryness, but fresh ginger is balancing for all three doshas.