When you hear digestive bitters, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Something gross, right? In the Western culture, we rarely incorporate anything bitter (or even sour for that matter) into our foods because our diets are hyper-focused on salty, sweet, and a dash of pungent. In Chinese medicine, however, bitter flavors go straight to the heart – making Summer the perfect time to master a homemade digestive bitters recipe!
Bitter foods are magic to the taste receptors scattered through the mouth, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and intestines and when we awaken these receptors, the bitter taste triggers the secretion of digestive juices and kickstart the entire digestive process. So why go bananas over the bitters? Less inflammation, bloating, spasms, gas, cramping, and overall digestive discomfort – to name a few.
Digestive Bitters Recipe
Here’s What You’ll Need:
Peel of 1 orange
2 tablespoons dried dandelion root and leaves
1 tablespoon dried whole hibiscus flowers
1/4 cup dried hawthorn berries
2 teaspoons grated ginger
4 dried whole star anise
6 cardamom pods
1 liter vodka or brandy
Raw local honey as needed for taste and immunity
Optional ingredients for warming (if you are constitutionally or temporarily “cold”):
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
Optional ingredient for liver cleansing:
1/2 grapefruit (chopped)
Special equipment needed:
One 32-ounce Mason or Ball jar with lid (I recommend BPA-free plastic as it won’t corrode)
Small glass serving bottle
- Add all the fruit and herbs to the Mason jar.
- Fill the jar to the brim with vodka or brandy.
- Cover and shake well.
- Put a label on the jar and store it in a cool place away from sunlight. Shake the jar everyday.
- Give it a taste two-weeks after you first close the jar. If it’s the right amount of bitter flavor (noting that even the slightest bitterness will taste strong), strain and pour into the small serving bottle. Store in the fridge.
- If you prefer more bitterness, taste once a week for up to 6 weeks until you reach the desired flavor.
- Add honey as needed to the serving bottle for taste and for an additional boost in immunity.
- The mixture will last indefinitely when stored properly – unless using the fresh grapefruit for liver cleaning – in which case it will only has a couple of weeks and will need to be refrigerated.
- If you tend to experience digestive upset such as cramping, bloating, or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), drink 1-ounce glass of bitters before meals.
- If you tend to experience digestive challenges such as heartburn, indigestion, nausea, or upset stomach – drink a 1-ounce glass of bitters after meals.
- Do not consume bitters if you have an active ulcer or are pregnant.
- Consult with a practitioner before consumption.
If you have any questions on the bitter flavor profile, digestive bitters, or digestion in general – please don’t hesitate to reach out! You can also learn more about the bitter flavor, Summer, and the Fire element in my book – Everyday Chinese Medicine: A Guide to Vibrant Health and Well-Being