Digestive bitters are my new best friend. Although I eat a very clean diet, I along with others struggle with constipation, gas, and stomach issues. The problem seems to be a lack of bitter food and herbs in our diet. So, what are bitters and how do you get your hands on some?
What are Digestive Bitters?
The following herbs and food are in the bitter family. (This isn’t an extensive list.)
- Artichoke Leaf
- Bitter Melon
- Orange Peel
- Dark Chocolate
- Mustard Greens
The above plants contain compounds that taste bitter to protect the plants against microbes and oxidative damage. Most importantly, they deter predators from eating them.
Why Do We Need Digestive Bitters In Our Diet?
Herbalist James Green coined the term, “bitter deficiency” syndrome, and postulated that the lack of bitter flavored food in the US and Canadian diet is a major contributor to common imbalances. Some of the imbalances he noted included PMS, female and male sexual organ dysfunction, migraine headaches, indigestion, diabetes, hypoglycemia, liver and gall bladder dysfunction and more.
How Do Digestive Bitters Help?
Bitters help to:
- Stimulate digestive secretions
- Stimulate metabolism
- Increase absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- Relieve constipation and promote healthy bowel movements
- Relieves sluggish digestion
- Increases the production of the enzyme pepsin which helps break down protein and is essential for the absorption of B-12
- Promotes bile production in the liver, which is crucial for the digestion of fats and oils
- Regulates blood sugar and promotes the release of pancreatic digestive enzymes
Herbalist Jim McDonald explains that bitters stimulate gastric acids. Low stomach acid prevents mineral assimilation, which in turn robs the body of essential nutrition.
As we age, we produce less acid.
In one of the diets I followed to heal my gut, hydrochloric acid supplementation was suggested to remedy low acid. McDonald suggests in lieu of this supplement that we should be using bitters to allow our bodies to produce its own acid.
How Do Digestive Bitters Works?
Herbalist Rosalee de la Forêt explains that the bitter taste stimulates the secretion of saliva. In turn this secretion of saliva aids in carbohydrate consumption.
Further down the digestive tract, bitters increase HCL secretion, which helps to break down proteins and nutrients.
She states that a lack of HCL is attributed to heartburn, stomach ulcers, food intolerance, and nutrient deficiencies.
“Bile is our built in resident laxative. When our “plumbing is humming’, many of our body’s systems work better. All is connected!”
Isn’t this the truth!
How to Take Your Digestive Bitters:
There are several way to take your bitters! However, before taking any herb, consult your physician or holistic provider especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
For example, Gina Mohammed, Ph.D states bitter melon should not be consumed during pregnancy due to risks to the fetus. (Also Urban Moonshine, a maker of bitters, advises pregnant women not to use formulations with angelica or gentian.)
Also, you may be allergic to certain herbs. Chamomile and wormwood are in the same family as ragweed. So you might be allergic to both of these herbs too.
Lastly, bitter herbs in large doses may make your vomit. A little goes a long way.
How to Access Digestive Bitters:
Here are some ideas how to get more bitters into your diet:
- Bitter digestive pastilles (which contains powdered herbs with honey to make a pill) by Rosalee.
- An elecampagne roasted dandelion tincture by Rosalee. (She suggests 15-30 drops or a half to one full teaspoon before meals.)
- Add some bitter foods to your diet such as a few leaves of dandelion, chicory and endive when eating salad or eating your greens such as spinach.
Here are some recipes (especially from Carol) for your use:
- Assorted Dandelion Recipes –Studio Botanica
- Dandelion Pesto by Studio Botanica
- Bitter Herbs Salad–Martha Rose Shulman–NY Times.
- Raw Dandelion Salad–Studio Botancia
McDonald suggests to add acids such as lemon juice and vinegar, ginger, sun-dried tomatoes, fat or a bit of sea salt to help balance bitters’ taste.
You can even add a splash of bitters to tonic water or club soda. Brad Parson’s book, “Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas contains recipes of how to make your own bitter drinks.
Next up is how to make your own bitters.
Join the Conversation:
How do you add digestive bitters to your diet?
**I sell these herbs if you want to buy them.
Charles-Davies, Danielle. “Bitters: The Revival of a Forgotten Flavor – Weston A Price.” Weston A Price. N.p., 29 Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.
De La Forêt, Rosalee. “Bitter Digestive Pastilles: A Convenient Bitters Recipe.” LearningHerbs. N.p., 01 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
McDonald, Jim. “Blessed Bitter.” (n.d.): 141-54. Http://www.herbcraft.org/bitters.pdf. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Mohammed, Gina, Ph.D. “Natural Healing – Bitter Is Better Befriending the Bitter Herbs.” Mother Earth Living. Ogden Publications, 01 Mar. 2003. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Little, Carol. “10 GOOD Reasons to Use Bitters – Studio Botanica.” Studio Botanica. N.p., 20 Oct. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
“Wormwood: The Herb Kills Parasites & Cancer Cells!” Dr. Axe. N.p., 05 Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.
Disclaimers: There may be affiliate links in this article. Thank you for your loyalty.
The information provided in this article is only for educational purpose and is not approved by a FDA. Always consult a doctor or holistic provider before taking any herb.