Bitters: They’re Not Just for Cocktails

Bitters are an infusion created from predominantly “bitter” ingredients. These ingredients comprise botanicals and aromatics, including any combination of roots, bark, herbs, seeds, fruit, or flowers.

It’s common to see additions like Angostura bitters on the cocktail and mixed drink menus at bars, but that’s not what they were initially intended for. They’re much more than additions to adult beverages.

Bitters were once apothecary staples first marketed in the 1700s as a remedy for common ailments. Botanicals and medicinal herbs were preserved in alcohol, often touted as a cure-all. Throughout the next couple of centuries, bitters began being used for everything from stimulants for military troops to a potential treatment for malaria. Eventually, bitters made their way to Happy Hour at pubs and bars.

With emerging science backing up the benefits, bitters have regained popularity for digestive health, boosting the immune system, easing stress, and curbing sugar cravings.

Let’s talk about how bitter ingredients can affect our health and who can benefit from them.

Health Benefits of Bitters

Bitters are one of the seven basic tastes. Our body contains receptors for bitter compounds, not only in our mouth and on our tongue. These receptors exist in our gut, stomach, pancreas, and liver. However, these receptors are mostly for protective reasons. They warn our bodies, as most poisonous and dangerous things taste highly bitter.

Stimulating our bitter receptors promotes healthy digestion by increasing digestive secretions. This leads to improved absorption of nutrients and natural liver detoxification, which can positively affect stress – thanks to our gut-brain connection.

It’s essential that we remember that bitters aren’t a primary treatment. Instead, they provide a health boost to help our bodies run smoothly. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin.

Bitters For Digestion & Gut Benefits

Bitters can aid stomach acid and acts as a digestive aid for indigestion, nausea, heartburn, bloating, gas, and cramps.

Bitters For Gut Health and Digestion

  • Dandelion
  • Wormwood
  • Burdock
  • Gentian

Bitters For Inflammation & Immune Boosting

Burdock fights inflammation, and it’s been shown to have positive benefits for those dealing with osteoarthritis. When paired with additional herbs like turmeric and ginger, bitters can be a powerhouse of immune-boosting benefits. The anti-inflammatory compounds in these ingredients contain strong antioxidant effects that protect the body from issues like autoimmune diseases.

Bitters For Inflammation & Immune Function Support

  • Barberry
  • Angelica
  • Oregon Grape
  • Chamomile

Bitters For Appetite & Sugar Control

Bitters help counter the brain receptors that drive us to consume sweet treats, which can curb sugar cravings quickly. Bitters have the ability to promote healthy eating habits and control overeating as well.

Bitter foods stimulate the production of GLP-1 and PYY hormones that help suppress and control our appetite.

Bitters For Appetite & Sugar Control

  • Citrus Peels
  • Gentian Root
  • Artichoke Leaf
  • Licorice Root

Bittering Agents

There is a lengthy list of bitters that provide health benefits for our bodies.

  • Dandelion Root: A powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation.
  • Artichoke Leaf: The leaves of artichoke plants contain a flavonoid, silymarin. This powerful liver protectant can help our liver cells regenerate.
  • Chicory Root: Aids in bowel function and digestion. It can also help regulate our blood sugar.
  • Gentian Root: This root contains cancer-fighting compounds and relieves indigestion, heartburn, and loss of appetite.
  • Licorice Root: This anti-inflammatory boosts the immune system and can soothe digestive issues.
  • Wild Cherry Bark: Immune-boosting properties are strong, and the bark of wild cherry has been shown to have anti-proliferative effects on colon cancer cells.

The list of bitters is much longer than mine. You’ll have to do some digging to learn more about these fantastic medicinal herbs and plants. Taking preventative measures to ensure that our body is functioning as it should is always smart; however, before you start a new regimen or begin taking bitters, talk with your doctor to ensure it’s the best route for you. This is especially true if you currently have medical issues or take any kind of medication.

-Elaina Garcia

Photo: cottonbro studio (

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Elaina Garcia is a published writer in various niches. She has been studying and practicing plant medicine and natural healing for 15 years now. A New York native living far from her old home, she lives a sustainable lifestyle in her tiny home! Her writing career began a little over 4 years ago starting at the bottom and working her way up. Elaina is the author of children's educational books and a content creator with work on various sites

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