After a long slow winter I really need to shake off my metabolic lethargy, so I take a herbal bitters tincture throughout the month of April or May. In the past I have used the digestive bitters products from St.Francis and Botanica, both of which are great. In recent years I have compounded my own blends and now am offering my very own formula to the public through my Seasonal Detox program.
This has been a health staple in my life for many years and I would like to share with you why.
Plants communicate their therapeutic properties through their flavour and the most ubiquitous flavour in nature is bitterness. The bitter favour is linked to a very extensive range of phytochemicals from the polyphenol and flavonoid antioxidants to the potentially toxic alkaloids.
Our body has built in taste receptors for all of the major flavours like sweet, salty and sour but we have more taste receptors for the bitter flavour than all of the other 6 flavours combined. Our bitter taste receptors are genetically coded to detect over 100 life-saving or life-threatening chemicals. The diversity and complexity of our bitter taste receptors mirrors the pervasiveness of bitter compounds in nature.
Unlike the sweet flavour which suffuses us with a feeling of lazy contentment, the bitter flavour challenges and invigorates our ability to process stuff.
A sweet or starchy meal eaten without bitter companions produces a sluggish digestive response creating an environment of bacterial ferment, bloating and gas. The bitter deficient diet makes the gut weak and sensitive, laying the groundwork for allergies and other gastrointestinal conditions.
The signal of bitterness on the tongue begins a cascade of digestive activity throughout the body and stimulates the detoxifying actions of the liver. This ‘bitter reflex’ triggers the release of digestive hormones and enzymes from the stomach through the liver and pancreas. In the old days the elderly and infirm instinctively reached for herbal bitters to restore their health. Nowadays we regard bitter tasting plants like dandelion as lowly roadside weeds to be shredded with our weed-eaters.
But herbal bitters are being revived in the cocktail renaissance that is currently sweeping the bar culture. These days a hip and trendy bartender will proudly be blending and bottling their own sluice of alcohol infused with bitter herbs and aromatic spices.
Herbal bitters as we know them today emerged from the monasteries of medieval Europe where the monks developed remedies for common ailments. These herbal recipes were handed down from generation to generation and became the basis of the popular aperitivo and digestivo drinks like Campari and Aperol.
Herb-infused alcohols sipped before and after meals are the secret to eating the typical six course Italian lunches. Uninformed tourists suffer digestive malaise when they skip this all important step.
In the world of herbal medicine, we make a similar blend of bitter and aromatic herbs which are extracted in alcohol spirits and taken directly under the tongue. It is an acquired taste but comes with an immediate sensation of vigour in the stomach.
Here are ten unbeatable reasons why I love to take my bitter medicine in spring:
- Bitters stimulate digestive secretions: saliva, hydrochloric acid, digestive hormones, enzymes and bile.
- They improve the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
- Bitters enhance absorption of nutrients like vitamin B12 and iron.
- They regulate and stabilize blood sugar and curb carbohydrate/sugar cravings
- Bitters stimulate liver detoxification and boost anti-oxidant synthesis in the liver.
- They promote bowel peristalsis and improve bowel transit time (constipation)
- Bitters help repair damage to the gut wall and the resulting inflammation (leaky gut).
- They reduce symptoms of acid reflux, belching, gas, bloating & indigestion.
- Bitters restore a healthy appetite.
- They releases ‘stuck’ gastrointestinal energy and the accompanying emotional frustration.
Using good judgement: If you have an inflammatory bowel disease or suffer from gall stones it is best to use bitters during remission periods and not in the midst of an acute flare up.
Want to learn more or sign up for the Spring Seasonal Detox? Drop me a line >