Bitters - Bitter Principle And Tonics

  • Herb Properties
  • Herbs Alphabetical by Common Name

  • See List Herbs by Botanical Name

Bitter herbs are unrivaled stomach tonics. They improve the appetite, promoting digestive juices and the flow of bile. By stimulating bile flow, bitters improve fat digestion and prevent waste accumulation in the liver. It is especially important to detoxify the body from the effects of a high fat diet, and excessive alcohol and drug use. Bitter herbs have a wide ranging set of beneficial effects on the body beyond just the digestive system. Traditional uses include treatment for fever, quinine (an alkaloid of cinchona) was the standard anti-malarial for years, and new malaria research is being done on both gentian and wormwood. Bitters have a general tonic effect on the sympathetic nervous system and are thought to improve circulation and heart function. Some bitters have an anti-depressant effect. Some are emmenagogues. Many plants contain bitters along with other active constituents. Tonic or simple bitters such as gentian and centaury are used in the most part for their bitter principle. Many aromatic herbs also contain bitters, such as chamomile and angelica. While they may not be used primarily as bitters, the bitter principle enhances their therapeutic action. Pungent or acrid bitters are often used as spices. Astringent bitters contain tannins.