A bitter herb has a characteristic bitter taste, and acts on the mucous membranes of the mouth and stomach, stimulating and toning the digestive system.
Bitters stimulate the flow of digestive secretions including saliva and gastric acid, which are essential for proper digestion. They also stimulate the secretion of bile from the liver, which helps support the liver’s role in detoxifying the blood. In the mouth, they act on the mucous membranes to increase salivation and promote appetite.
Bitter herbs commonly prescribed for poor appetite, gastritis, a sluggish digestion as well as gall bladder and liver problems.
Synonym: Bitter Tonic
- Aloe (Aloe vera)
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
- Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale)
- Gentian (Gentiana lutea)
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
- Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
- Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
- Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
“Bitters stimulate all digestive secretions: salive, acids, enzymes, hormones, bile, and so forth. Each of these acts as a solvent to break down food for absorption, and the quantity and quality of these foods ensure proper nutrition. Inadequate production of these secretions is common in modern cultures (i.e. cultures lacking bitters in their diet), and the implications of such deficiencies are myriad.”
Jim McDonald, Blessed Bitters
In this video, Susan Desjardins, a registered herbalist, discusses the benefits of bitters, particularly for the digestive system.