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Bitter is a yucky flavor, am I right? I admit I have a fondness for a few bitter things. Grapefruit and gin, for instance. Oh, and don’t forget dark chocolate. But for the most part bitter is not a flavor I appreciate, and I’m sure you probably have other flavors you prefer as well. However, herbal bitters have an important role to play in health!

Gentian and dandelion are well-known herbal bitters, but there are many others. Angelica, elecampane, ginger, Oregon grape root, burdock, motherwort, hawthorn, and yellow dock are all common choices in DIY herbal bitters recipes. Even chamomile is a mild bitter! By combining bitter herbs like dandelion and burdock with spices (and even a little sweetener), you can create intriguing blends that keep you coming back for more. Read on below to discover the health benefits of bitters and a collection of DIY herbal bitters recipes you can make.

The benefits of herbal bitters

Our modern diets often lack foods with a bitter flavor, but there are many indications that our bodies function at their best when challenged by bitter tastes. Bitter tasting foods and herbs actually start a chain reaction that begins in the mouth and extends all the way through the digestive tract to prime the body for digesting and assimilating food. Thus, the most common use for herbal bitters is to support healthy digestion- but the benefits don’t stop there. In fact, bitters may:

  • Support healthy immune function (read a fascinating article about that here!)
  • Give the liver and gallbladder a gentle daily detox
  • Prime your body to optimize digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Support the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder

The Wild Medicine Solution (#affiliate) by Guido Mase is a great book if your are interested in learning more about the benefits of bitters and ways to add them to your diet.

Who can use herbal bitters?

Although bitters should be fine for most adults, if you have health concerns regarding your liver or gallbladder it’s best to check with your doctor before you add bitters to your daily routine. Many bitter herbs should also be avoided during pregnancy. Aviva Romm, MD, has a list bitters that expectant mothers should be especially careful to avoid, but it would be wise to check in with an experienced herbalist and your doctor before you use any bitters – even ones that aren’t on this list.

Some bitters are also fine for kids and can be a blessing for keeping little ones regular. That being said, you may have to be creative in finding a way to share bitters that won’t make your little ones disappear into hiding the next time you proffer something herbal. Chamomile is a mild bitter that is generally kid approved in tea form (sweetening with a few drops of apple juice makes it tastier) but be careful with chamomile if your kiddo has a ragweed allergy.  

How to use herbal bitters

15 minutes or so before or after meals, put 30-60 drops of bitters into 4-8oz of sparkling or still water and sip. You can also put the drops directly in your mouth, but I like diluting them a little. You can use bitters in between meals, too – I find they can be super helpful for sugar cravings when used that way. Do be aware that if you have a sensitive digestive system your tummy may not thank you for using bitters when it’s very empty. Of course, bitters can be added to your favorite mocktails and cocktails, too, from time to time!

Herbal bitters recipes for you to try

Although there are plenty of bitters readymade by awesome herbal companies like Urban Moonshine (#affiliate) and Herb Pharm (#affiliate), making your own bitters can be a fun DIY project. Besides vodka, you could use gin (my favorite) or rum. I’ve collected 15 amazing herbal bitters recipes from around the web to inspire you on your own DIY bitters adventures – so read on to find one that looks interesting!

Bedtime bitters

Combining the health benefits of bitters with herbs that support a healthy night of sleep? This recipe by the Herbal Academy sounds divine!

Find the recipe here. (#affiliate)

Dandy tummy bitters

Fennel gives a slight licorice flavor to this recipe for Dandy Tummy Bitters on the Mountain Rose blog.

Find the recipe here

Dark and stormy mushroom bitters

A bitters blend featuring damiana and mushrooms by the Herbal Academy.

Find the recipe here. (#affiliate)

Grapefruit and rosemary bitters

And also a recipe for Tangerine + Spice bitters from Holly and Flora.

Find the recipe here

Homemade citrus spiced dandelion bitters

These homemade citrus spice bitters feature dandelion, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon by Traditional Medicinals

Find the recipe here

In bloom bitters

These feature lavender, rose, and sage from Imbibe Magazine.

Find the recipe here

Summer bitters recipe

This elegant and simple  bitters recipe features gentian, dandelion, and licorice from the Herbal Academy

Find the recipe here. (#affiliate)

Discover more herbal healthy digestion resources

Herbal bitters are just one aspect of healthy digestion. This article Exploring Herbs + Digestion is a great read if you are curious about herbal healthy digestion resources.

Jar of herbal bitters with a whisk.
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About Post Author

Agatha Noveille

Agatha is an herbalist and author in Atlanta, Georgia. She founded Indie Herbalist in 2011. Her herbal recipe book, The Complete Guide to Adaptogens, is available wherever books are sold. To listen to her podcast, visit Indie Herbalist's sister site, Teacup Alchemy.
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