Bitter herbs have been used for hundreds of years as detox helpers and ingested for energy, health building, and digestive support. Known as “Bitters,” these herbs can affect chemical reactions within the body, working as an astringent, a tonic, a relaxer, and an internal cleanser.
Bitter herbs and greens share a rich history of medicinal use. Today, most contemporary diets are lacking these highly beneficial elements. It’s easy to understand why – most people dislike bitter flavors and eat on the go. It’s sharp-tasting foods that hold large amounts of naturally occurring antioxidants and contribute some of the highest health benefits. For thousands of years, bitter herbs performed an essential role in alternative healing.
Improved Digestion From Plants?
Plants can have a remarkably vital part to play in improving digestion system wellness. If you are experiencing a weak or slow system, bitters can assist digestion and digestive “fire.” Well-known herbs like Peppermint or Spearmint are commonly used in teas for gas, bloating, and indigestion. Other herbs for the stomach may reduce irritation and inflammation and increase tone.
Most traditional bitters digestion preparations include water and alcohol. The alcohol has two functions; one is a solvent to extract botanical compounds and to maintain freshness. Bitters are an indispensable solution to good health – and are nearly universally loved.
Why Are Bitters Used in so Many Herbal Remedies?
There is a diversity of plant compounds classified as ‘bitters.’ Phytochemical compounds have names like catechins, hesperidin, quercetin, and alkaloids, all of which are naturally occurring.
Many bitter plants have shown antifungal (Bitter gourd), antiseptic (Blackberry), and antiparasitic properties (Wormwood). The evolution of these self-defense mechanisms is even linked to the antitumor properties of plants (Curcumin).
Biologists think the alkaloid compounds evolved to protect those plants from consumption by animals or insects. Most humans have also evolved to have an aversion to sharply bitter flavors. Biologically, the natural reaction is that sour equals poisonous, which in some cases is entirely correct.
Benefits of Bitters
Many bitter plants have fantastic health benefits, think Dandelion Greens, and even Arugula. And many of us have found that some of these intensely flavored plants are quite delicious. With knowledge of safe eating, humans finally learned to appreciate a variety of plant flavors.
Want to start receiving the strong influences of these rich flavors? One of the main strengths of plant bitters is its digestive-stimulating effect.
What Happens When You Eat Bitter Foods?
When we taste a bitter item, taste buds on our tongues trigger a chain of events, known as the “bitter reflex.” This reflex triggers the release of three cell compounds called Gastrin in the digestive tract. Gastrin’s job is to signal the liver, stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, and intestine that food or drinks are arriving. All of these organs contribute to the complete digestive process. But more Gastrin is the primary key to improving the whole chain of events.
Interestingly, there are differing thoughts as to how Bitters (and additional Gastrin) can improve digestion. One is the “Cephalic Effect” that a bitter taste has on the Vagus Nerve, and another is the “Cephalic Response.” This is a triggered response from the thought of eating or even the smell of food. In any case, increased production of digestive juices gives you a natural head-start on digestion.
What Role Does Gastrin Play in Digestion?
First, you’ll have increased the production of saliva to break down food carbohydrates. More chewing = more saliva and enzymes to improve food adsorption.
The presence of Gastrin encourages additional Hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This acid further breaks down proteins and fats and intensifies the absorption of nutrients. Next chief cells release pepsinogen, a precursor enzyme for digesting proteins. Those protein molecules are then consumed by pepsin, made from the pepsinogen.
Finally, the Intrinsic factor is needed to absorb Vitamin B12. Additional bile production occurs to break down fats and clear the liver. You can improve your digestive health with more stomach acid.
Bitters for Better Health
Consuming bitters in small doses routinely can help to strengthen your entire digestive system. Get more Gastrin for your stomach, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas.
As noted, many Bitter preparations contain alcohol to assist with the extraction of plant compounds. You can avoid this alcohol by mixing the bitter with boiling water and consuming it after the mixture cools. Additionally, some formulas contain Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar for a 100% alcohol-free formula.