During the holidays, we might indulge in foods we don't normally consume, eat large rich meals, or more alcohol/sweets. All of this can cause digestive abnormalities, a sluggish liver and uncomfortable symptoms of digestive upset. Luckily, we have herbal formulas which help promotes happy bellies and balanced digestion. There is one in particular that I want to feature today, Simple Bitters.
Surprisingly, bitter herbs work so well at improving our health, because our bodies originally evolved to treat bitter flavors as toxic. Back when we were tasting the array of plant life, in order to asses which foods met our foraging needs, several toxic plants had bitter compounds. In order for the body to render the toxin more neutral, it had to secrete all of the digestive juices that would better break down the substance. Today, it remains that whenever we eat bitter foods that are not toxic, the body signals secretion of all agents that help us digest our food.
It begins in the mouth, with increased salivation and all of the carbohydrate focused digestive enzymes that exist there. Then the parietal cells in the stomach will secrete additional hydrochloric acid that specifically aids in the digestion of protein. Our lacteals pick up any fat in the meal that travels to the liver to be emulsified. The gallbladder secretes additional bile into the liver which better breaks down any fat into a substance that is easier for the body to excrete.
Essentially, bitters render the digestive system more capable of breaking down our food so it can be properly assimilated and excreted. Many herbalists speak about how bitter is a “lost flavor”. At least in the standard American diet, we are taught to gravitate toward sweet and salty flavors over all else. Bitter greens have been hybridized into sweet iceberg lettuce, and then covered in a sugary dressing. Whatever happened to salads before a meal, endive or raddichio, lightly dressed in simple oil & vinegar?
Most people in our culture would tremendously benefit from tasting the bitter flavor more, in order to support their digestive function. Bitter herbs can be a convenient way to engage with this flavor before meals.
Our simple bitters formula contains Gentian root, Fennel seed & Oregon grape root. Gentian and Oregon grape are potent bitter herbs. Fennel has a bitter quality, but is also carminative- meaning it aids with gas and bloating. This formula powerfully turns on the digestive signals to help you better digest the food you are about to consume.
You don’t have to take much of a bitters formula, usually just a couple of drops in order to taste the flavor, 20 minutes before meals works best. I will warn you, our formula tastes reeaally strongly bitter- but this is the good medicine, how it really works.
Bitters are specifically indicated for folks who struggle with the digestion of fat (signs of this being cystic acne on the back & buttocks, stool is oily- floats or streaks the bottom of the toilet). By helping support the liver, bitter herbs can help clear up skin issues (especially if they are connected to digestive upset as well).
Other specific indications for bitter herbs are when people feel heavy or bloated after meals, overly full or generally sluggish.
Order Simple Bitters on our website, or stop into our brick and mortar store in Durango to pick up this tincture along with some unique and heartfelt gifts for your loved ones!
We are wishing you an easeful, special and herbal infused Thanksgiving and holiday season!
From all of our loving hearts to yours,
Elliott & the team at Dancing Willow Herbs