Originally published September 23 2009
Superfood Profile: Find the Health Benefits of Herbal Bitters
by Elizabeth Walling
(NaturalNews) Bitters are a compilation of various bitter-tasting herbs which serve as a tonic for overall vitality, while specifically enhancing digestive health. Bitters have held an important place in traditional medicine in cultures all over the world. Apart from modern Western society, most cultures still view bitters as a staple for health and longevity.
A healthy digestive system is more important than many people realize. After all, this is where our body assimilates our food so it can be used to rebuild and regenerate. It is also where toxins and potentially harmful substances are swiftly removed from the body. If either of these functions can't be performed properly, a myriad of side effects can occur. We frequently feel these effects when we experience indigestion, heartburn and bloating after a meal. On the surface, many side effects such as sluggishness or anxiety may not appear directly linked to poor digestion, but they are.
Modern bitters can serve as highly effective digestive aids, replacing potentially harmful antacids and other over-the-counter chemical remedies that do nothing but mask symptoms. Bitters get right down to the heart of the matter - or perhaps more accurately the stomach of it - by helping the body produce its own digestive juices. This enhances our ability to absorb nutrients from our foods.
Bitters begin their work the moment they touch your tongue. Their bitter nature stimulates the stomach, the liver, the gallbladder and the pancreas to begin secreting vital digestive components used to assimilate nutrients in the body, such as bile, gastric juices and insulin. The liver's ability to eliminate toxins is also enhanced.
Bitter herbs include artichoke leaf, angelica, dandelion, gentian root, chamomile, yarrow, wormwood and many others. A high-quality bitters tonic will usually contain several varieties of bitter herbs. There are many variations available, and often you can find an herbalist who will make a customized bitters tonic tailored to your specific needs. While you can find bitters in capsule formula if you want to avoid the bitter taste, bitters function much more effectively in a traditional tincture form.
At first, the taste of herbal bitters may not seem agreeable. Our modern diet of processed, sugar-laden foods essentially brainwashes our taste buds into preferring only bland, sweet or salty flavors. Traditional medicine teaches us to value bitter herbs and their unique flavor. Many herbalists will tell you, if you find the taste of bitters to be particularly off-putting, it's likely because your body is in desperate need of digestive help. In these cases it helps to work up slowly to the desired potency. Over time, most people find they become accustomed to the taste of bitters and many even begin to prefer it.
To feel the full benefits of bitters, they should be taken before meals at least once daily. Many people prefer to take bitters with each meal to ensure proper digestion. Some people experience enhanced energy and clarity right away, which others may experience a strong detoxification reaction (which can be reduced by starting small and gradually increasing dosage over time) . Optimal results are achieved over a period of weeks or months depending on the state of your health. The end result of restored health and increased vitality is more than worth the bitter taste.
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About the authorElizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more:
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