Medicinal Bitters

Medicinal Bitters

The topic of discussion at our first Denver Medicinal Plant Society meeting was the many benefits of bitters.  Bitter taste is arguably America's least favorite sensation on the tongue.  If you scan the grocery aisle today, you will find an endless supply of sweet, salty and savory foods.  But our system needs a balance, and we should be integrating more bitter flavors into our diet.   Known for stimulating the senses and engaging the digestive system, foods containing a bitter taste are valued for their unique ability to cleanse the body and build vitality.  Take just a drop or two of medicinal bitters and you will immediately notice an increase of saliva production.  And that is just the beginning.  The bitter taste on the tongue can also stimulate the production of gastric juices, bile and awaken the gallbladder and liver.

Benefits of Medicinal Bitters include:

*curb sugar cravings

*soothe gas and bloating

*ease heartburn

*calm an upset stomach

*increase absorption of Vitamins A, D, E, K

*balance the appetite

*ease constipation and regulate bowels

*support liver function and healthy skin


Please note that overconsumption of bitters can cause headache or vomiting.  A small amount will go a long way. Not recommended for children, pregnancy, people with IBS, Chron's Disease, and other digestive diseases. 

Gentian Root

One of the most prized bitter plants throughout the world is Gentian, specifically Gentiana lutea.

Habitat: Native to the Alps and other mountainous regions of Europe and N. America.

Part used: Root

Actions: Bitter tonic, digestive stimulant, cooling, eases stomach pain.

Uses: Appetite stimulant, tonifying and strengthening for the digestive system, Increase nutrient absorption, Gallbladder and Liver Stimulant

Precautions: Not recommended for children.

Avoid during pregnancy and lactation.

For the medicine making portion of the meeting, the Society tried out a Grapefruit Bitters Recipe.  This digestive potion contains not only Gentian root, but Grapefruit Peel and blend of spices and aromatics proven to help digestion. 

Grapefruit Bitters

4 cups of vodka (100 proof is best, 80 proof will do just fine)

Dried zest from two organic grapefruits

Dried zest from two organic lemons

1 Teaspoon of Lavender Blossoms

8 Dried Allspice Berries

1 Teaspoon of Fennel

Ginger to taste, coarsely chopped

2 sage leaves

1 Teaspoon of Coriander

3 Teaspoon of cut Gentian Root

4 ounces of Simple Syrup

1 large mason jar (1/2 quart is best)

1 small mason jar (1 pint is best)

  1. Place grapefruit and lemon zest and ginger in a large sealable glass jar with 3 1/2 cups vodka. Seal and shake, then let the mixture steep four days in a cool, dark place. This is jar #1. Please note that the dried peel may soak up much of the liquid.  Check in 12-24 hours, add liquid as needed making sure the ingredients are fully immersed.
  2. In the smaller jar, add the lavender, coriander, fennel, allspice, sage and gentian root. Add 1/2 cup of vodka. Seal and shake, then let this combined mixture steep for 10 to 12 days in a cool, dark place.  This is jar #2
  3. After 4 days, strain jar #1 through cheesecloth-lined sieve into a container then return to jar #1
  4. After 10-12 days, strain jar #2 into jar#1. Then bottle by filtering through a coffee filter. Add simple syrup to the bottle. Seal and shake, then let rest for 1 day. Store at room temperature for up to a year.

Just a tablespoon will do. This can be taken neat, or diluted in water.  Take before a heavy meal, or enjoy when symptoms of indigestion occur.  Considered the "salt and pepper" to many cocktails, bitters are great addition to many adult beverages. 

Thank you for reading! :)