The Bitter Principle - the key to a healthier digestion

Ever wondered why many medicines are bitter?

Learn why and what bitters can do to tune up your whole system

Bitters can be used to improve and strengthen your nervous and digestive system, activate digestive hormones and have a broad effect on the entire physiology, tone, and function of your whole body.

Bitters [1] are made up of a numerous group of chemical compounds that have the common characteristic of a bitter taste and act to increase the vital energy centers in your body.

Illness or other health conditions that do not appear to have anything to do with the digestive process can be overcome by bitter stimulation which contributes to increasing the self-healing process.

Which Herbs Are Bitters?


1901 advert for bitters
a jolly “Elixir of Life”

Effective bitter herbs include:

Dandelion - a bitter herb

  • Peppermint
  • Calendula
  • Dandelion
  • Artichoke leaf
  • Blessed Thistle
  • Angelica
  • Motherwort
  • Wormwood
  • Bitter Orange Peel
  • Lemon Peel
  • Gentian root
  • Centaury root
  • Wormwood
  • Bitter Orange Peel
  • Lemon Peel
  • Gentian root
  • Centaury root
  • Mugwort
  • Goldenseal
  • Cascara Sagrada
  • Devil’s Claw
  • Tarragon
  • Hops
  • Boneset
  • Barberry
  • Chamomile
  • Yarrow
  • Horehound
  • Tansy

Bitters range in effect from mild bitters like Chamomile to intense bitters like Wormwood or Gentian.

The mild bitter herbs like Chamonile can be used for a larger therapeutic range of conditions and the intense bitter herbs like Wormwood, Tansy and Rue would have a low therapeutic margin and need to be used carefully.

Absinthinn found in Artemisias such as Wormwood is so bitter it can be tasted at a dilution of 1:30,000.

A mild bitter like Chamomile has a very wide therapeutic margin and can be used in much greater quantities. Generally bitters are taken ONLY in small quantities 15 to 30 minutes before or after meals. If too great a dose is taken symptoms may get worse. If that is the case lower the dose and gradually build up the doseage as the body gets stronger.

How To Take Your Bitters

Bitters extract well into hot water and alcohol. Bitters may be combined with flavourful herbs such as Licorice, Orange peel, Lemon peel or Cardamon to give a better tasting remedy. Some bitters are destroyed by heat and most bitters are taken in tincture alcohol preparations.

To fully obtain results from taking bitters the tinctures should be taken over a 12 week period and in that time you can start becoming familiar with the edible bitter weeds that grow wild around you and use them in your salads, stir fry's and soups, or pick a few leaves and eat them as you pass by them.

You may gain immediate results from taking bitters, but their fullest benefit in the body is achieved when they are taken over a 12 week period, and after that just include the edible weeds in your diet daily, unless your lifestyle prefers to keep taking the tinctures.

Who Should Use Bitters?

Bitters are indicated when there is digestive weakness. Digestive weakness is often associated with an infectious disease that depletes the vital energy of the body.


Bitters at a bottle collectors show

Digestive weakness and decreased vitality both reduce the assimilation of nutrients and the elimination of wastes resulting in a spiraling effect of depletion in the body. Stress can deplete vital energy which disrupts digestion and this further decreases the body’s vital energy.

Bitters can also be useful for those who live mainly in their mind
which results in physical exhaustion, as well as a tonic to restore vitality.

Bitters are indicated for use in:

  • anemia
  • excessive gas
  • poor appetite
  • painful digestion
  • intestinal cramps
  • poor fat digestion
  • poor protein digestion
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • loss of energy and vitality
  • excessive craving for sweets, fats, and carbohydrates
  • immune disorders where nutritional deficiency is present
  • digestive weakness due to mental overwork and lack of exercise.
  • weakness due to chronic illness especially with a bacterial or viral infection
  Angostura Bitters - a popular brand of bitters

Increasing Immune Responses

Some bitter herbs such as Gentian can modulate the gut associated immune responses. In some therapeutic circles bitters are indicated for treatment of those recovering from infectious diseases including viral conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome.

bitter medicine?


Some clinical tests have shown that bitters can decrease levels of sIgA antibodies and reduce or eliminate symptoms in those with inflammatory bowel disease. Bitters may help repair gut wall damage through stimulating self-repair mechanisms.

But They Taste So Bitter!

A few clients state that they don't like the bitter taste of some herbs and medicines, this is because when you buy a lettuce or other green they no longer are in their natural bitter state. It takes only 3 days for the taste buds to adjust to a new flavour but the benefits from this adjustment will revitalize you.

To be effective bitters must be tasted on the taste buds of the tongue and thus increase salivation. This stimulates the gastric reflex to cause digestive juices to be secreted from the pancreas, duodenum, and liver thus resulting in better assimilation of nutrients and less undigested food being passed through your digestive tract. This is of benefit to problems that have their core route in inefficient or allergy distorted digestion.

The Various Roles of Bitters

Bitters act to increase or stabilize the appetite. In general, there is a stimulation of the appetite which is important in conditions of convalescence and where there is otherwise a reduction of appetite. Bitters do not seem to increase appetite in a healthy person who has good digestion, rather a healthyl balance in the appetite occurs. Your body will acquire more taste for healthy foods and less taste for unhealthy processed foods.

When bitters activate the gastric secretion of hydrochloric acid and other digestive enzymes, the nerve tone of the muscles of the entire digestive tract improves. Blood circulation improves and the body can assimilate foods, absorb nutrients, and eliminate wastes more effectantly. This will improve your blood circulation which will improve all areas of your system.

Cleansing and Detoxification

Bitters stimulate the liver and will increase the effective cleansing and detoxifying job it does as well as encourage the gallbladder to make bile. The production of bile helps metabolize fats and keeps elimination moving along smoothly. Bitters also produce a diuretic and hepatic effect in the body. This has value when working with any condition that has origins in a sluggish or overworked liver.

Our one day detox or spring water colonic irrigation is very effective and popular for further detoxing and cleansing.

Stabilizing Blood Sugar

Bitters produce a regulatory effect on the secretion of the pancreas of the hormones that regulate blood sugar, insulin, and glucagon. This can be of benefit in stabilizing insulin levels and modulating blood sugar swings.


Swedish Bitters - another modern source

Reducing Stress

Bitters is supportive in rejuvenating your nervous system, reducing stress, anxiety and feelings of being overextended in your day to day life. acting upon the parasympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system which induces a more relaxed state in your body producing a marked antidepressant effect on your consciousness and wellbeing.

bitters as medicine

You are what you eat.

Your health, vitality and performance are enhanced when you become disciplined in making the right food choices which are preservative and additive free natural healthy nutritional unprocessed foods that will help you through times of high stress, balance your moods and energize your entire body.

If you answer "yes" to any of these questions you might benefit from including specific bitters into your diet:

  • Do you crave junk foods?
  • Do you experience burping or belching?
  • Do you experience reflux?
  • Are you never hungry?
  • Are you always hungry?
  • Do you experience gas or flatulence?
  • Do you experience constipation?
  • Do you experience diarrhea?
  • Do you experience"heartburn"?
  • Do you experience rumbling, irritation, burning in your digestive tract

Where Do I Get Bitters?

Nature knows best and grows powerful edible bitter weeds around you. You have many wild herbs (otherwise called edible weeds) that grow around you naturally for food and medicine. I encourage you to learn about these weeds and use them daily in your diet. Adding just a few leaves of these weeds to your natural diet daily, means that you will not have to depend on outside sources for your health and wellbeing.

On our website to help educate you about these weeds, we have images and information on some of these life promoting weeds.

Middle Path grows bitter organic herbs and produces the highest professional grade tinctures for therapeutic use. The TGA states these can only be sold to clients by a registered Naturopath with a consultation. You can arrange for a Naturopathic consultation and purchase them at our Clinic or via an Online Consultation

For further information on how you can improve your health and wellbeing I suggest you purchase Secrets to Living a Quality Life and Middle Path's professional clinic health regime Natural Heath Care Insurance report.


different brands of bitters

Secrets to Living a Quality Life comes in a CD and an immediate downloadable PDF and mp3 and Natural Heath Care Insurance report comes in an immediate downloadable PDF.> Middle Path> Quality of Life> The Bitter Principle


 [#]SourceTitle and link to resource if available
[1]  herbs2000.comBitter Principles
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