Do you have sluggish digestion? Gas? Bloating? You probably need to take herbal bitters! Herbal bitters help you digest food and absorb nutrients out of the food better.
Most of the world’s people take digestive bitters, except Americans. We have changed our diets so much that they don’t include the bitter herbs and vegetables our bodies need. The majority of Americans crave sweets. Traditional bitter foods have been altered through cultivation to not be bitter. And the ones that are still bitter, don’t usually get eaten.
Take kale, for example. Kale is a traditional bitter vegetable that most Americans avoid like the plague. Most people just don’t care for it. It’s because our taste buds aren’t used to bitter foods. But bitter foods are so good for our bodies!
Why we should eat bitter foods and herbs
- Bitter foods help you absorb more nutrients from the food you eat. Bitter herbs and foods stimulate your body to produce more gastric acid, enzymes, and bile. These all work together to properly break down the food you eat, so the nutrients are more readily available.
- Bitter foods also help to reduce cravings, especially for sweets. The more bitter greens you eat, the more you want. These bitter foods can replace heavy foods that aren’t as good for your body.
- Bitter herbs and foods can actually help boost your metabolism. Replacing your regular lettuce with kale or dandelion greens can help you burn more fat and lose weight.
- Bitter herbs and food help your body eliminate waste better. Sulphur-based compounds in bitter foods help the liver naturally detoxify itself.
- Bitter foods and herbs are very nutrient-rich, and have some powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants help fight free radicals, which is key to keeping a healthy immune system and healthy body.
How herbal bitters help you stay healthy
Herbal bitters can be taken at any time, but the best time to take them is 20 to 30 minutes before a meal. Most people take a small shot glass or 2 droppers full before eating a big meal. You can also take herbal bitters AFTER a meal, but really, before a meal is best.
Herbal bitters can be taken straight, or added to sparkling water or ginger ale. You can also add some honey to make a cordial, which is a bittersweet alcoholic drink that is perfect for sipping your medicine.
These herbal bitters help stimulate saliva, which starts the digestion process. It then triggers your stomach to make more gastric acid, the liver to secrete more bile, and the pancreas to produce more pancreatic acid. These acids help break down the food as it moves through the digestive tract.
Proper digestion of your food helps ensure that you get all the nutrients out of the food, as well as eliminating the feelings of indigestion, gas, and bloating. Herbal bitters also help the liver “clean up” by sweeping toxins out of your body.
Herbal bitters help make a delicious adult cocktail with medicinal benefits. Mix some with a sparkling soda or ginger ale for a pleasant, effervescent pre-dinner drink.
Herbs to use in your herbal bitters recipe
Of course, you can buy herbal bitters, but making your own allows you to customize it to your tastes and needs. You get to choose the menstrum (liquid) you use, and you can use whatever herbs you want. Here are some of the best bitter herbs to use in your bitters blend.
- Yellow dock
- Dandelion leaves and root
- Milk thistle
- Star anise
- Cacao nibs
- Gentian root
- Licorice root
- Citrus peels
- Chicory root
- Angelica root
When developing your own formula for herbal bitters, please make sure you do some research on each herb you plan to use. You need to make sure that nothing you are using in your blend will interfere with any medication you are taking, or be harmful for any condition you have.
For example, dandelion may interfere with the absorption of antibiotics. Yarrow, angelica root, mugwort, and a few others shouldn’t be used while pregnant, as they can cause uterine contractions. Wormwood shouldn’t be used by anyone with kidney disorders. And of course, if you’re allergic to anything, don’t put it in your bitters!
I decided to include dandelion leaf in my bitters this time, as I read that dandelion leaf extract can help prevent spike proteins from binding to the ACE2 cell surface receptor.
If you have other tinctures, such as elderberry elixir in your apothecary, you can even add bittering agents to it to make it a dual-purpose medicine.
Making your own herbal bitters
First, you need to know the basics of bitters. A bitter typically includes bitter ingredients and a carrier. The carrier is typically alcohol, but apple cider vinegar, vegetable glycerin, or another non-alcoholic spirit can be used instead.
If you are using alcohol, it should be at least 40% (or 80 proof). Vodka, rum, and brandy are the most common choices.
Choose from any of the herbs or bittering agents listed above, or choose from countless others. If you’re using fresh ingredients, fill your jar half way with your herbs. Then fill the jar all the way with your liquid of choice. For dry ingredients, fill the jar 1/3 full, then top with liquid.
Put the lid on your jar, and label it. Put it in a cool area out of direct sunlight. Try to keep it in an area that you see it often, so you remember to shake it. Your bitters need to be shaken every day, or as close to that as you can. Let the bitters infuse for about 2 weeks, up to 4 weeks. The longer it sits, the stronger it will be.
Once your bitters are done infusing (and you’re satisfied with the taste), strain the herbs out of it. Your herbal bitters will last almost indefinitely on the shelf. They will go down better if they’re chilled, though, so you may want to put a small bottle in the fridge. You can also add a little bit of honey to your finished product to sweeten it up just a little.
When you first start taking herbal bitters, take it slow. Start with just a few drops under the tongue before a meal. I wouldn’t suggest taking it for multiple meals right away. Try just with dinner for several days, then you can increase to use before every meal if desired.
Here is a video of my first time making herbal bitters:
I used dandelion leaf and root, yellow dock root, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cloves, and orange peels for my bitters. I did 2 separate formulations, one with brandy and one with spiced rum.
Are you going to try making your own bitters?
Herbal bitters are extremely easy to make. The hardest part is the waiting! And since they’re so healthy for you, it’s almost a no-brainer to try it. Are you going to try it? Have you ever had herbal bitters? Let us know in the comments!