Benefits of Digestive Bitters
Updated: May 14, 2020
Our ancestors would chew on bitter herbs before eating to jump start the digestion process. Their wisdom and innate intelligence lead them to different plants that they needed. Since then, we have been disconnected from this synergistic alignment with nature and in turn, our health conditions are declining. Unfortunately, many of these helpful traditions have been tossed aside. Taking bitter herbs 5-10 minutes before a meal gives your digestive system a head start to producing the necessary juices to help properly break down and absorb food. We live in a society where an under functioning digestive system is very common. Contrary to popular belief, most people do not produce enough hydrochloric acid, also known as stomach acid. We need our stomach to secrete the acidic juices to kill harmful microbes, to properly break down food so our body can assimilate the nutrients, and to signal other parts of the body that digestion is up and running. Maldigested food is one of the main culprits of leaky gut, allergies, food sensitivities, and auto immune conditions. Large, undigested particles of food, bacteria, and toxins pass through the villi in our small intestine and enter our blood stream causing wide spread inflammation and an auto immune reaction. Our body recognizes the undigested food floating around in our blood steam as invaders and signals the appropriate immune response. The second bitter herbs meet our tongue, our body is immediately signaled to start the digestive process. Hydrochloric acid begins to be produced, as well as bile production and secretion, and pancreatic enzymes. Taking bitter herbs 5-10 minutes before a meal ensures that your stomach is producing enough hydrochloric acid, your liver and gallbladder is secreting sufficient bile, and your pancreas is releasing pancreatic enzymes. These are all VITAL to proper digestion and health. The energetics of bitter herbs are cooling and drying. Therefore, if you are a person who is normally on the cooler side and skinnier side, I would also incorporate some pungent or aromatic herbs. Examples of these are black pepper, thyme, rosemary, ginger, basil, oregano, or parsley. Naturally, many aromatic herbs are already common culinary herbs found in our kitchen pantry. These herbs tend to be more warming. Digestion still requires heat so that the digestive fire is able to propel the process. What I love about bitters is that they help your body do what it needs to naturally. Unlike digestive enzymes which literally give your body what it needs, bitter herbs help your body realign and remember what it needs to do to maintain homeostasis. Our bodies want to be healthy. It's our job to make that easy.
Some of my favorite digestive herbal bitters are:
Gentian Root - Gentian helps awaken and strengthen our inner ‘gut’ instinct, inner power (solar plexus), and helps us go on in times of self doubt. This affinity for the stomach, both physically and emotionally, makes it an excellent bitter that goes right to where it’s needed.
Dandelion Root - A gentle, soothing bitter that helps prevent constipation and promotes healthy liver detoxification.
Hops - Hops can aid in digestion, due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic effects. They are soothing for the stomach and other digestive organs.
Peppermint - Peppermint has carminative properties, which means it help expel gas and relieve its associated symptoms. It defends against many types of harmful organisms in the gut such as parasites and fungi, and is an excellent aid for relieving indigestion and discomfort.
Kale and other Dark Greens