This concept has been known and observed in Chinese Medicine for centuries. In Chinese medicine, the bitter flavor is associated with and used to treat the heart. The five flavors treat the five major yin organs (Heart-bitter, Liver-sour, Lungs-spicy/pungent, Spleen/Pancreas-sweet, Kidney-salty). Each organ system responds to one of the five flavors more than the others.
A researcher from the study said, "When we activated one of the taste receptors with a specific chemical that we all taste as bitter, the contractile function of the heart was almost completely inhibited."
Bitter herbal medicine and foods help to clear excess heat (think any red, hot, inflamed or hyper condition) from the body. Symptoms associated with hearth heat syndromes in Chinese medicine include heart palpitations and anxiety which both affect the rhythm of the heart. It appears the bitter receptors may assist in regulating the heart.
Other research suggests that the blood, lungs, and possibly other organs also have smell/taste receptors.
It's amazing that these flavors have been known to treat and affect the function of these organs for thousands of years in Chinese medicine, but we are just starting to see the actual receptors at the cellular levels with our modern technology. Ancient observations and knowledge may help to inform our 'discoveries' to more deeply understand the mechanisms of how the body uses the flavors of herbs and food to heal our bodies and get to where they need to go most.
Click the picture above to read more about the heart research.
Click here to read more about smell/taste receptors in other organs and tissues.
Click here to learn more about the five flavors, the five major organs, and the symptoms and syndromes they treat.
NOTE: Don't ever overdo one flavor! Too much of something is never a good thing. A well balanced diet with a variety of foods and flavors is best. Sometimes a food/flavor craving may clue you in on which system may need a little extra TLC in your body.