“Eat bitterness. Eat bitterness and speak bitterness and share bitter herbs upon your bread, for in bitterness we empty ourselves of poison. Bitterness cools the boiling blood, dries the festering wound, tightens, reduces, expels, rejects, empties the toxic wastes that cruelty deposits on our souls…Without bitters, you will sicken from them. Your liver will ache. Your belly will bloat, your head with throb, your joints will swell, and you will be unable to eat from nausea…If you eat bitters, drink bitters, speak bitterness you will be cleansed. You will be healed.” -Aurora Levins Morales in Remedios
Without being a much of a cocktail drinker, I decide to teach a Make Your Own Cocktail Bitters workshop at Bartram's Garden. Because I'm obsessed with bitters as medicine! I had so much fun teaching to an audience who wasn't necessarily there to learn about herbal medicine. Everyone seemed on board, even when discussing how bitters can change the color of your poop to a healthier, darker brown. We made Orange Cardamom bitters (some people included Cardoon / Artichoke leaves as well) and Coffee Cacao Cinnamon bitters.
Current Uses for Bitters as Medicine:
Taking bitters is to our digestive system what going on a daily run is to our cardiovascular system. The bitter taste implies a necessary challenge to our physiology - our livers and digestive systems get lazy without bitter. Bitter taste stimulates our bitter taste receptors, which are present throughout our body, including our lungs.
-stimulate digestive secretions, which increases our nutrient absorption, improves our ability to process fat, and more thoroughly breaks down our food.
-improve liver function
-regulate blood sugar
-regulate the hormones that conduct digestion, like sending the signals to our brain saying we are full
-reduce acid reflux / GERD
-balance any poop issues: too loose, too hard, too irregular, rabbit pellets, visible food, burning, light colored, oil slick on the water, too sticky, you name it.
-reduce bilious complaints: feeling “hot and bothered,” headaches, sensitive eyes, itching, rashes
-providing a feeling of grounding and presence / anti-anxiety.
Take 1/4 tsp before every meal, about 15 mins prior would be ideal. Some of these herbs should not be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding - check with someone who knows.
To make cocktail bitters, the basic formula is simple. Infuse about 50% bitter tasting plants, 50% aromatic tasting plants in about 40% alcohol - we used vodka.
Bitter tasting plants:
gentian root (Gentiana lutea), artichoke leaf (Cynara cardunculus), dandelion root (Taxacarum officinale), yellow dock root (Rumex crispus), burdock root (Arctium lappa), citrus peels (with the white pith), mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), coffee (Coffea arabica)
Aromatic tasting plants: orange peel, lemon peel, sour cherry, calamus, ginger, peppermint, clove, cinnamon, fennel, coriander, cardamom
Me, converting the masses in the beautiful barn at Bartram's Garden.