What Are Bitters?

by Holistic_Health

Herbal bitters have a long history as a digestive aid -- perfect for holiday indigestion.

Herbal bitters are a traditional remedy for aiding digestion and supporting gut health. They are made by infusing herbs in alcohol or vinegar, which extract the bitter compounds from the plants. These bitters can be taken before or after meals, or whenever digestive discomfort arises. A number of different herbs can be used to make bitters, each with its own unique benefits.

Bitters for Digestion

Holidays often involve eating huge amounts of food followed by declarations of “I can believe I ate the whole thing.” This is where herbal bitters can be of great use to those who tend to overeat. Bitters are absolutely the best herbs for digestion.

Bitters for Digestion
Bitters for Digestion

Gastric problems are usually caused by not enough of digestive juices and the result is your food gets stuck in your chest, bloating and gas occur, etc. Nothing you want to deal with around the holidays with a ‘to do’ list a mile long or a house full of guests present.

Herbal bitters work by stimulating digestive juices. When the herbs hit the tongue, the taste buds respond to their bitterness by signaling the body to produce the enzymes and acids necessary to digest food.

Many people are familiar with Swedish bitters which are taken before a meal to facilitate digestion. Typically, half a teaspoon is diluted in a quarter cup of water and sipped before the meal.
Herbal bitters are a great way to calm your stomach if you are suffering from the symptoms of indigestion–bloating, gas, and heartburn. This particular group of herbs can be traced as far back as medieval apothecaries.


Herbal Bitters Video

Floradix Gallexier Herbal Bitters

Digestive Bitters
Salus-Haus - Floradix Gallexier Herbal Bitters - 8.5 oz

Types of Herbal Bitters

Some typical herbal bitters include—

DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) -- A compound in licorice called glycyrrhizin raises blood pressure. Remove it and you have DGL which is a safer form of the herb. DGL stimulates mucus secretion which lines the gut and helps neutralize gastric acid. Chew it thoroughly and take at least 20 minutes before eating.

Ginger –  Ginger relieves stomach spasms and stimulates production of digestive fluids. You can make a tea of fresh grated ginger by steeping  it in a cup of water for 10 minutes.

Chamomile – Chamomile tea is gentle enough for a child’s stomachache. Yet, it’s strong enough to relieve adult indigestion. Stomach cramps are eased by bisabolol, a chemical compound in the flowers of the plant.

The first time you try Swedish bitters you may think it's your last, but remember it's supposed to be diluted in water. Besides, no one said that everything that's good for you has to taste good. If you'd like to make it through the holiday season without any type of gastrointestinal problems, give bitters a try.

The Bitter End

Have you noticed that many people start the new year off with some sort of detox or cleanse? I think a lot of that has to do with the amount of fat they’ve digested over the holidays. Swedish bitters are made of herbs, barks, and flowers that help your liver and kidneys do their work despite the punishment you give them over the holidays. Try the bitters and you may find that you don’t need to jumpstart your digestive system.

More articles in the 'bitter' series

Can bitter melon cure diabetes?
Bitters are a type of alcohol that is typically made by infusing herbs, fruits, and other spices into a high-proof base spirit.
Updated: 09/15/2022, Holistic_Health
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Have you tried herbal bitters?

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Holistic_Health on 09/19/2022

@DerdriuMarriner You could say so since so many cultures use them.

DerdriuMarriner on 09/17/2022

Your Bitters for digestion subheading describes Swedish bitters as having a recorded history back to medieval apothecaries. And your subheading Types of herbal bitters elucidates the chamomile, ginger and licorice trio.

Would there almost be too many candidates to mention because of different cultures embracing bitters at different times or would there be more or less the same names -- such as ginger -- showing up no matter what the culture or the time period?

Holistic_Health on 07/06/2013

I guess there's all sorts of ways to use them in cooking too. Thanks for commenting!

cmoneyspinner on 07/06/2013

OK! Well at least I know I was on the right track with the ginger. There's a famous chef who said he uses bitters in his recipe for red beans. That was the first time I had ever heard of them. Very informative article. Thanks!

Holistic_Health on 04/23/2012

@shoesforrunning another paragraph and you'd have enough to publish an article. Why don't you go ahead and join up - http://wizzley.com/?pr=685?

Holistic_Health on 03/01/2012

@Sunforged Yes, the same. Herbs are versatile that way. I'll have to do a Wizz on cocktails. :)

Sunforged on 02/29/2012

I often order bitters in my muddled Old Fashioned's , Not many bars carry them anymore. though. Is it the same herbs?

Holistic_Health on 12/16/2011

@ethelsmith Yep, better safe than sorry.

ethelsmith on 12/15/2011

No but I might. Useful page so close to Christmas

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