What Are Bitters? And How Can They Help Your Digestion

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What Are Bitters?

The term bitters refer to alcohol-based extracts of the bark, leaves, roots, or flowers of bitter-tasting plants that have been used medicinally since ancient times for digestive ailments. You’ll probably be familiar with those that make a tasty addition to a cocktail, but their interesting history has a medicinal origin. So, what are bitters, what are they made of, and how can they benefit your health? We are going to answer all these questions in this blog.


Bitters Have Been Around Forever

Traces of bitters have been found on pottery jars from an ancient tomb in Egypt. The Romans were known to have infused their wines with bitter herbs to boost good digestion and counteract the effects of overeating.

Bitters were historically popular in England, where they were used in a drink called Canary wine. The practice of using herbal bitters caught on in the American colonies, especially with the rise of the cocktail. Angostura bitters, which continue to be a key component of many cocktails today, were initially promoted as a stomach remedy in 19th-century America.

We Once Had Bitter Diets

Our diets were once filled with bitter foods. Our carrots were bitter, we ate more bitter plants, which comprised a fairly decent portion of our food intake. But as the years went on, and with the industrialisation of sugar, this taste disappeared from our diet. Sugar and sweetness became celebrated and preferred. It was a signature of wealth and tasted pretty good, so we started to breed out the bitter tastes we had in our plants.

Fast forward to now, and we have a modern diet that prefers; sugar, salt and fat. In fact, there is a great book with the same title that talks about how fast food companies and food technologists worked out exact ‘bliss’ points of these three tastes that would encourage repeat consumption and addiction in some cases.

Certain cultures have always kept bitters in their diet, particularly Italy with their Campari or Amaro. Italians would bookend a meal with a bitter aperitif and then finish the meal with a bitter digestif. This helped immensely with digestion and also helped with satiety and reducing overeating.

This is because bitters have a direct effect on how you digest your food and how your liver works. It even works on your hormones so can help with overeating and appetite control.

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What Are Bitters And How Do They Work?


You possess 40-80 types of bitter taste receptors, and you have these receptors all through your body, even in your brain! Your bitter taste receptors trigger reflexes to help coordinate the secretion of digestive juices, including enzymes and bile. They line your intestinal mucous membrane, where they trigger the release of hormones, which determine how full you feel and your blood sugar balance.


What are bitters good for aside from digestion? The bitter taste receptors in your airways are part of an important immune mechanism that safely helps you handle microbial threats. It is interesting to note that bitter taste receptors are abundant on the heart, where their activation may contribute to regulating blood flow, especially after a meal! 

Supporting your liver

Everything in your body is connected and does an amazing job of eliminating what it needs to. We don't believe in intense 'detoxes' or extreme diets to help your liver, we prefer daily support to help it do what it does best, and plants are the best medium for that. Be it through increasing your dark green leafy vegetable intake, having bitter plants to support your liver's natural elimination pathways, or taking 'bitters' in tincture form like our Liver Bitters.

What Are Bitters Made Of?

So, what are bitters made of? A bitter herb is often the primary ingredient but the peels of citrus fruits are often used to give bitters a bright, citrusy flavour. Aromatic herbs and spices can be added to give a complex, spicy flavor profile. These ingredients are combined and steeped in high-proof alcohol for several weeks or months.

Our Liver Bitters

What are bitters that you can incorporate into your life? Here at Wild Dispensary, we are all about simplicity and sustainability. Things have to be easy to be able to be maintained, and that goes for daily habits as well. We are all busy, so what we create needs to work for you - that’s why we made our Liver Bitters. 



What Is In Our Liver Bitters?

Globe Artichoke - Our main Liver Bitter plant. Globe artichoke contains cynarin, which is its active constituent - this stimulates the liver to produce bile, which helps break down food and supports the elimination pathways.

Calendula - is anti-inflammatory, helps to support digestion and is also a lymphatic. It is also bitter tasting, so it will help to activate the bitter taste receptors.

Mānuka - our amazing New Zealand native. So many of our natives are bitter, giving them great digestive supportive properties. Manuka is well known for its antibacterial properties as well as the bitter taste we were after.

Orange peel and cardamon are both bitter in a different sense and also help bring a carminative (calming) action and contribute to taste and synergy in our blend.

Our hope is that this formula helps to support your body every day and that you can easily use it without much thought. Including bitters into your diet can profoundly affect your well-being - it may help improve your digestion, skin and food consumption. It has been known to help a few of us the morning after a few too many gins as well...

1 comment

  • Posted on by Phillipa Crofskey
    Hi, I’m taking the liver bitters and I was wondering how long before meals do you take a dose.

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