Digestive Bitters Recipes Part III

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Digestive Bitter RecipesWe’re talking digestive bitters recipes today, in part III of this series.

  • In Part I, we talk about why you may really want to look at digestive bitters if you are needing to use probiotics, enzymes, or if you have weak or compromised digestions.
  • In Part II, I shared some awesome resources to learn more about digestive bitters, and also shared brands and where you can buy premade blends.

Today,  I’ll show you how easy it is to make a tincture, and I’ll share my own digestive bitters recipes.  We’ll also talk about dosing, when to avoid digestive bitters with caveats and options for nursing and pregnant Mamas, and I’ll link to a couple more digestive bitter recipes that you may want to try.

I’m working on Part IV of this series, which is outlines some of the classic digestive bitters, and companion herbs to help you if you want to tailor make a recipe to your own symptoms and situation.  These posts take me a lot of time, and I really appreciate your patience and enthusiastic prompts. :)

Finding The Right Fit

The real benefit of making your own digestive bitters  recipes is that you can tailor make them to suit your needs. How do you know which herbs will be a good fit?  One way is to look at the indications or symptom set of each herb, but I find the most effective way is to actually taste a little and see how your body responds to the flavor/herb overall.

Here, I’ve chosen orange peel and three classic bitter herbs, and I made a quick hot water infusion (tea) with the dried herb.

Digestive Bitters

I found that I really responded well to the dandelion, orange peel, and burdock…all were bitter, but not repulsively so.  However, the yellow dock was VERY unpleasant to the point of being vile.  I felt like it tasted like bug guts.  Remember how your hands smell after catching lightening bugs?  THAT.

Of course, my kids wanted to participate in my mad science experiment, and I was surprised by the results.  My kids didn’t react the way I did with the yellow dock, and were happy with all 4 of the herbs.  Though not kool-aid sweet, the flavors were not repulsive to them.

In researching yellow dock, I discovered that it enhances calcium uptake…something that my body was avidly trying to avoid, since I was dealing with high blood calcium at the time.  Pretty cool.

P1080956If you’ve never made a tincture before, I can assure you that it’s super simple.  If you can boil water and make tea, you can make a tincture.  In fact, you start by boiling water.  A tincture/extract is made using primarily alcohol as a substrate or medium to extract the herbal properties.  Think of it as making a ‘tea’ in alcohol. :)  You can also use other substrates to make a tincture, like glycerin or vinegar, but I find alcohol to be very easy to work with and preferable for this recipe.

Layer your jar loosely with herbs.  Fill it one third to halfway full of herb materials (root, flowers, leaves, etc.) according to the blend you want.  Dried materials will swell to about double their size, so don’t overfill your jar.  Halfway full is the MAX you’ll want.

The digestive bitters recipes below are done in ‘parts’ and not standard measurements.  But don’t freak out…it’s really easy to figure parts.  The main benefit is that you can really tailor these recipes to any size container, simply by using a smaller or bigger unit of measure.  I.e. use a T for a small recipe, and a 1/2 cup to 1 cup ‘part’ for a large batch.  I give you thorough instructions on this in the printable digestive bitters recipes below.

If you’re wanting a one stop shop for herbs, I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs.  They have a huge selection of herbs and even tincture containers.  I also love to shop at Savvy Teas & Herbs as well.

 click the mountain rose herbs link

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c
this is my affiliate code, so your purchase supports this site.  Thank you!
P1080959

When your water comes to a boil, dump in about a half cup to a cup…just enough to moisten and ‘wake up’ the dried herbs…this helps them release their properties into the alcohol a bit quicker.  Next, you simply fill the jar with the high proof alcohol of your choice.

I’ve used cheap Vodka.  It made my tinctures (to quote a friend) “taste nastier than they needed to.”  I have switched to rum, and it’s a nice difference.  I’ve used cheap, but I really prefer a mid-grade to nicer rum for smoother flavor.  This is Bacardi Rum. Notice how it’s clear going into the jar.  Remember that when you see the last picture.

P1080963

Now, if you are really into herbs, there are courses you can take about which proof of alcohol to use for which types of herbs.  But I’m a KISS girl (Keep It Simple or I feel Stupid).  So this is my rule of thumb: buy a good 80 proof rum and use it for tinctures.  It’s a great ‘all purpose’ choice.

80 proof means that it’s 40% alcohol and 60% water, so the water and the alcohol are both going to extract different components of the herbs.  This is a good thing…your herbal tincture will have a good range of nutrients, which are usually the water soluble components and alkaloyds, the bitter/medicinal properties that are the powerhouse of an herb.

P1080968This is the jar of herbs the next day.  I wanted you to see how much the herbs have expanded overnight.  I had to add more rum.  You want the herbs to be submerged under the alcohol.

I prefer a plastic lid to seal up my tinctures.  The metal lids have a tendency to rust.  I’m using half gallon wide mouth canning jars for this batch, because I’m making enough to share.  Label your jar with the tincture name and date, and store in a cool dark place for 3-6 weeks.  You can shake it if you remember.

Now there are many schools of thought on how long to let a tincture sit, but I’m of the school of thought that if the tincture comes out looking nice and dark, that you’ve ‘caught’ some good stuff in there.  I frequently will pull off some of the tincture (strain it off of the batch) and use it even before it’s official ‘done.’  P1090035

Look at that lovely, dark brew! After straining, I will store it in a dropper or small glass spray bottle for dosing.  Tinctures last for years.  They are a very potent method for extending the life of fresh or dried herbs.

So, that’s how I make a tincture.  I share a quick photo tutorial on my unconventional method of straining over here in the elderberry recipes post if you want to take a look.

Now for my digestive bitter recipes…I have two to choose from.

Orange Blossom Digestive Bitters
 
Digestive bitters enhance the digestive response over time, and are a great choice for those who have poor digestion or absorption issues. This digestive bitters recipe has a pleasant orange blossom flavor that even my kids approve of. If you've never made a recipe using parts, I explain it all below...totally easy.
Author:
Recipe type: Herbal Remedy
Ingredients
  • 1 cup or less boiling water
  • 80 proof decent quality rum to fill your container
  • 1 part yellow dock root
  • 1 part dried hibiscus blossoms*
  • 1 part dried orange peels
  • 1 part burdock root
  • 1 part dandelion root
Instructions
  1. Decide how much tincture you want to make, and choose a jar that's roughly double that volume.
  2. Choose a unit of measure that will fill the jar ⅓ to ½ full of herbal material. My jar holds about 8 cups total, so I want between 3 and 4 cups total. (The herbs will swell a LOT when you add liquid.) A one cup measure would be 5 cups...too much material. A half cup would only give me 2½ cups of herbs. I'd be better off choosing ¾ cups as my unit of measure, which gives me 3¾ cups of dried materials. Perfect.
    The beauty of using a recipe with parts is that you can scale the unit of measure to any size jar...even using half teaspoons if you desire a very small jar of tincture.
  3. Add your herbal material to the jar.
  4. Put a kettle of water on to boil, and when it's boiling add a few 'glugs' of water...really just enough to pre-moisten the herbs a bit. This just wakes up the herbs and speeds the process in the alcohol.
  5. Fill the jar to the top with 80 proof rum.
  6. Seal jar with a plastic lid, and sit in a dark, cool place.
  7. The next morning, check to make sure that the herbs are still submerged under the rum. They wil have swelled quite a bit. Add more rum as needed to cover the herbs.
  8. Allow mixture to steep in a cool dark place for 3-6 weeks (although I will strain and use some early on.)
  9. Strain by placing a mesh strainer over a bowl with a pouring spout. Line strainer with a tea towel and add a paper towel over the tea towel.
  10. Pour finished tincture into the towel lined sieve, and allow it to drain over the bowl.
  11. When it's mostly drained, gather up the towel and begin to twist the top and squeeze the herbs to press the remaining liquid out of them.
  12. Toss spent herbs (the paper towel lining makes this much easier).
  13. Store tincture in small glass dropper jar or sprayer bottle (available on MountainRoseHerbs.com). Tinctures last for up to 2 years.
Notes
*omit for pregnant and nursing Mamas, or substitute with red raspberry leaves.

Dandy-byrd Licorice Digestive Bitters
 
This digestive bitter recipe is one that I designed for myself, since I enjoy the taste of licorice, and don't tolerate yellow dock. Because this recipe is written in 'parts' you can easily scale it up or down depending on the unit of measure that you use. I'll walk you through it.
Author:
Recipe type: Herbal Remedy
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (or less) boiling water
  • 80 proof decent rum to fill your container
  • 2 parts burdock root
  • 1 part dandelion root
  • 1 part fennel
  • 1 part licorice root*
  • ½ part dried orange peel
Instructions
  1. Decide how much tincture you want to make, and choose a jar that's roughly double that volume.
  2. Choose a unit of measure that will fill the jar ⅓ to ½ full of herbal material. My jar holds about 8 cups total, so I want between 3 and 4 cups of herbal material. (The herbs will swell a LOT when you add liquid.) I have 5½ total 'parts' in this recipe. A one cup measure would be 5½ cups...too much material. A half cup would only give me 2¾ cups of herbs, which is a bit shy. I'll move to the next size up, and go with a ⅔ cup 'unit', which will give me 3⅔ cups of herbs. Perfect.
    The beauty of using a recipe with parts is that you can scale the unit of measure to any size jar...even using half teaspoons if you desire a very small jar of tincture.
  3. Add your herbal material to the jar using the unit of measure that you selected.
  4. Put a kettle of water on to boil, and when it's boiling add a few 'glugs' of water...really just enough to pre-moisten the herbs a bit. This just wakes up the herbs and speeds the process in the alcohol.
  5. Fill the jar to the top with 80 proof rum.
  6. Seal jar with a plastic lid, and sit in a dark, cool place.
  7. The next morning, check to make sure that the herbs are still submerged under the rum. They wil have swelled quite a bit. Add more rum as needed to cover the herbs.
  8. Allow mixture to steep in a cool dark place for 3-6 weeks (although I will strain and use some early on.)
  9. Strain by placing a mesh strainer over a bowl with a pouring spout. Line strainer with a tea towel and add a paper towel over the tea towel.
  10. Pour finished tincture into the towel lined sieve, and allow it to drain over the bowl.
  11. When it's mostly drained, gather up the towel and begin to twist the top and squeeze the herbs to press the remaining liquid out of them.
  12. Toss spent herbs into the garbage- the paper towel lining makes this much easier.
  13. Store tincture in a cool dark place. To use, I fill a small glass dropper jar or sprayer bottle (available on MountainRoseHerbs.com). Tinctures last for up to 2 years.
Notes
*pregnant or nursing Mamas will want to sub anise seed for licorice.

Dosing Digestive Bitters

The rule of thumb is that you want to coat your tongue with the flavor, and experience the taste of bitter to really get good effect from them.  It’s the taste of bitter itself that triggers the digestive response and enhancement.  Your reaction to bitters may be different that how someone else responds, so the important thing to remember is to tune in to your body’s response.  If you respond strongly, start small and work your way up to 1/4 t. dose per meal, or when sugar cravings hit. You can dose up to 8 times per day. You can pour from a bottle into a tiny cup, or use a dropper, or even use a little glass spray bottle.  For the small spray bottles, use about 6 spritzes on your tongue either before or after a meal, or half of a dropper. I use about 3-4 sprays for my kids.

The rule of thumb is that if your digestive issues are from the ribcage down…issues like constipation, intestinal burning, chronic loose stools, then you want to send the bitters into action prior to eating to get the digestive tract primed.  If one of your symptoms is skin breakouts, dose prior to eating.  However, if your digestion problems come up from the stomach, like belching, acidic stomach, and burning in the esophagus, then try taking your dose after you eat.

Using bitters often gives an immediate response in digestion, but it also works on a deeper level to build and enhance digestive response over time.  So commit to trying it for a month.

Herbs, like pantyhose are not a one size fits all situation.  My next post will be exploring the different digestive bitters, and carminative (stomach supporting) herbs.  If you’re struggling after a couple of weeks to adapt to the bitter flavor, and you seem to be really reviled by the taste, then it’s possible that you may have an herb in the mix that is not a good fit for you. (Remember my run in with yellow dock?)

When To Avoid Digestive Bitters

Those with ulcers are advised not to use bitters, as they can aggravate an ulcerated stomach.

Pregnant & nursing Mamas have to use some caution when choosing a bitters formula.  Most commercial formulas contain herbs that are contraindicated in pregnancy or nursing.  However, the great news is that many nursing support teas contain LOTS of bitter herbs.  Mountain Rose Herbs has a Nurse Me Rhyme Tea  that is loaded with great digestive herbs. Mountain Meadow Herbs has a Maxi Milk tincture for nursing Mamas that would do double duty as digestive bitters.

More Digestive Bitter Recipes:

Here are a few more interesting bitter recipes and resources

My final post in this series will be a list of digestive bitter herbs, to help you determine which herbs may be the best fit for yourself or your family. Stay tuned!

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Comments

Digestive Bitters Recipes Part III — 14 Comments

  1. Thanks so much Gwen! I will definitely give this a try. I cross referenced different herbs that were listed as good for digestion, liver tonic, stomach, etc. and noted which were on our genotype superfoods list. I’ll give it a go with those first. One of these days maybe I’ll learn muscle testing and further define the beneficial herbs for us.

    • Hi Debra,
      I’ve not heard of the site you posted, but I know that friends of mine have tried swedish bitters and not cared for the taste. They are also known for using senna, which is an herb than can (with continued use) cause the bowels to become dependent on it. So I’d look elsewhere.

      Bitter blends are going to vary…though the very basic dandelion bitter is a classic. You really can blend from a variety of different bitter herbs to suit your tastes, symptoms, and constitution.

  2. Hi Gwen. Fairly new to THM but have had an interest in herbs for years. In fact through herbs, and the helps of a certified herpetologist (is that the right term?), trained in England, I was able get rid of my endometriosis and Uterine Polypsin , resulting in the pregnancy of our last child, which the doctor said could never happen :) She is 20 now, and I was close to 46 when she was born. Oh, back to point. I read about silymarin and was wondering what brand you used, and second I do not have ulcers but very close to it. Should I, too, avoid the bitters? Thank you for all your hard work!! Judy

    • Hi Judy,

      Wow! Cool history! I wish I could sit with a cup of tea and hear the long version. :)

      I’d research ulcers and especially the role of bacteria in ulcerations. That may need to be addressed first.

      I use the NOW or Vitacost brand of silymarin or milk thistle extract.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I’m excited to get started! One question…can I give this to my children, considering the alcohol??

    • That would be a totally personal decision. Some Mamas are fine with the tiny amounts of alcohol, and others choose to use glycerin or even vinegar instead of alcohol for their children’s tinctures. You could also meet in the middle and do half tincture, and half glycerin or vinegar.

  4. Sorry if this question was already asked. But did you dry your own orange peel?
    Thanks for posting. I appreciate your time and effort. Is Part 4 done yet?

    • alcohol is preferred here, since we’re wanting it to affect the liver, and the bitter alkaloids are extracted better with alcohol. But if you can’t use it, then try vinegar to extract the herbs. I would use the same recipe/ratio, but warm it on low heat in a crock pot for a day or so, and/or let it sit with the herbs in it for several weeks.

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