Bitters foods have a diverse group of chemicals compounds that share the common characteristic of a bitter taste. But did you know the taste of bitter herbs, foods, juices, etc can be used to strengthen and increase digestive function by encouraging the release of digestive juices, enzymes and acids. Bitter tasting foods also stimulate the gallbladder to contract and release bile into the intestine, aiding in the digestion of fatty foods so that enzymes can easily break it down for absorption. This is important because fats carry essential fatty acids, such as healthy omega-3s to carry nutrients into cells.
The benefits of bitter foods go beyond digestion and absorption. Bitter stimulation can often shift a condition or illness that does not appear to have anything to do with the digestive process. The bitter principal acts to increase self-healing and resistance in many ways.
To be effective bitter foods must be tasted on the taste buds of the tongue in order to stimulate the bitter taste buds and thus increase salivation. This stimulates stomach acid production and causes digestive juices to be secreted. The bitters promote the flow of digestive juices from the pancreas, duodenum, and liver that results in better assimilation of nutrients and less undigested food being passed through the digestive tract. This is of benefit to indigestion problems that are as a result of inefficient digestion.
Bitter foods are recommended for use in:
- poor digestion
- weakness due to chronic illness especially with a bacterial or viral infection
- loss of energy
- painful digestion
- intestinal cramps
- excessive gas/bloating
- irritable bowel syndrome
- poor appetite
- excessive craving for sweets, fats, and carbohydrates
- immune disorders where nutritional deficiency is present
- digestive weakness due to mental overwork and lack of exercise.
Which Greens Are Bitter?
Bitter greens include arugula, radicchio, collards, kale, endives, escarole, mizuna, sorrel, dandelions, watercress, and red/green mustard. In other words, all those leafy greens which can be grown at home.
Which Herbs Are Bitter?
Bitter herbs include peppermint oil, chamomile, wormwood, bitter orange peel, lemon peel, artichoke leaf, blessed thistle, angelica, motherwort, gentian root, centaury root, tarragon, hops, boneset, barberry, yarrow, horehound, and tansy.
Bitter herbal indigestion remedies have a wide range in their levels of bitterness ranging from mild bitters like chamomile to intense bitter herbs like wormwood or gentian. A mild bitter herb like chamomile has a very wide therapeutic margin and can be used in much greater quantities for a large percentage of the population. Generally speaking, bitter herbs should be taken in small quantities before or during meals and not usually consumed by the cupfuls throughout the day.