Are you experiencing tummy troubles? Sluggish digestion? Trouble with gas, burping, or bloating?
Your body needs digestive bitters!
Bitters are a centuries-old tradition used to kickstart digestion. They stimulate the digestive system, improve the function of digestive organs, and promote overall good health (source) and (source).
So… why don't more people include bitters in their diet?
Well, they're bitter! 😉
Thanks to our North American diets, our taste buds are used to sweet and salty flavors. Not so much all things bitter.
And yet, bitter herbs and foods are just what our bodies need to work optimally.
What If Bitters Are Too Bitter?
I know what you may be thinking… “Can't I bypass the bitter flavor by taking bitters in pill form?” Unfortunately, this time, that won't work. You have to actually taste the bitter flavor to reap the digestive benefits. It's part of the process.
Remember that bitter is an acquired taste. Simply start small and increase the amount of bitters you're taking over time until you're used to them.
3 Easy Ways To Use Digestive Bitters
Try adding bitters to your diet in different ways!
If a tincture is too strong, try an infusion, or eat fresh greens. Vary the bitters until you find a blend that is perfect for you.
Ready to get started? Here are 3 easy ways to use digestive bitters! (#2 and #3 teach you how to make digestive bitters yourself!)
#1 — Eat bitter greens.
Chicory, radicchio, dandelion, and arugula are all bitter greens. Add them to your salad and kickstart your meal!
Most herbalists recommend eating bitters before your regular meal for the best benefit.
#2 — Drink a bitter infusion.
Don't know how to make an infusion? It's as simple as pouring boiling water over herbs!
Choose 1 or a blend of herbs from the list below. Place herbs in a cup or jar (1 tablespoon herbs per 1 cup of water). Cover in boiling water. Let steep at least 30 minutes or overnight. Strain out the herbs. If you prefer your infusion hot, simply reheat gently.
I make a large jar in the evening, let it sit overnight, then strain the herbs out the next morning and sip away at my new infusion before every meal.
#3 — Take a bitter tincture.
Yes, there are many digestive bitters tinctures available to buy… but it's also really easy to make your own! Making your own means you can easily adjust the formula to suit your own needs and tastes.
To make a tincture, fill a jar 1/2 full of dry herbs or 2/3 full of fresh. Then fill to the top with vodka. Let sit, out of direct sunlight, for about 6 weeks, shaking the jar from time to time.
After 6 weeks, strain the herbs out of the vodka using a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze the herbs in the cheesecloth to get out as much moisture as possible. Store in an amber bottle with a dropper lid.
Recommended doses vary depending on the herbs you use, but 1 full dropper of tincture mixed with a little water is a common dosage for digestive bitters. Take about 20 minutes before eating.
Choosing The Right Bitter Herbs
Most commercial bitter formulas include herbs like gentian, globe artichoke, dandelion, burdock, and yellow dock. There are many more bitter herbs to choose from, however, each with its own flavor profile and list of benefits!
These are all herbs I regularly keep on hand, so it's easy to make up a batch. As my herbal medicine cabinet continues to grow, I will experiment by adding new herbs to my blend.
How should you go about choosing herbs for your bitter mixture? Start with whatever you have on hand or is readily available, or look for herbs that specifically soothe and heal your current health needs.
- Artichoke stimulates the liver, may lower cholesterol, and is an antioxidant (source).
- Barberry especially benefits the liver and gallbladder. It is a mild laxative and cleanses the system. (Source.)
- Black walnut cleanses and tones the colon, and helps prevent leaky bowel syndrome (source).
- Burdock stimulates digestive juices (especially bile) and improves appetite (source).
- Centaury strengthens the stomach, promotes digestion, and helps with diarrhea (source).
- Chamomile relaxes, relieves indigestion and inflammation, and eases flatulence (source).
- Dandelion is a diuretic and especially benefits the liver and gall bladder (source).
- Fennel relieves flatulence and stimulates digestion and appetite (source).
- Gentian root stimulates digestive juices and accelerates emptying of the stomach. It's particularly useful for a sluggish digestive system or lack of appetite. (Source.)
- Goldenseal reduces unhealthy secretions (excessive, mucous, or bloody) while increasing good secretions like bile and pancreatic enzymes. Also promotes appetite. (Source.)
- White horehound stimulates the gallbladder (source).
- Wormwood stimulates the digestive process and helps indigestion (source).
- Yarrow increases appetite, aids digestive cramps, bloating, and colic, and normalizes blood circulation (source).
- Yellow dock promotes flow of bile and eases constipation (source).
Herbs That Complement Bitter Herbs
- Cardamom stimulates appetite and saliva while helping to reduce flatulence.
- Cinnamon relieves nausea and prevents diarrhea.
- Clove eases nausea and flatulence and also stimulates digestion.
- Ginger promotes gastric secretions. It is useful for flatulence, dyspepsia, and colic.
Do you use bitters? Do you know how to make digestive bitters? What herbs do you like best?
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You are responsible for your own health and for the use of any remedies, treatments, or medications you use at home.
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