What Are Bitters?
Bitters have been used throughout history to stimulate the digestive system. Thus began the tradition of steeping bitter-tasting roots, leaves, and berries in alcohol and serving the mixture before or after a meal. Urban Moonshine's tasty bitters may be enjoyed as an aperitif, a digestif, and may calm the occasional upset stomach.
This is the first, and most famous, of the gifts bitters give. Use them for occasional heartburn and indigestion*, sipping a small amount after a meal. Use them for gas and bloating*, by taking them before you eat to ignite the digestive fire, support the production of hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes and bile, and help ensure normal bowel habits*.
LESS HEARTBURN AND NAUSEA*
For occasional symptoms, a balanced bitter blend really shines. Aromatic ingredients like ginger, angelica, fenugreek and fennel help ensure that food moves along smoothly, relieving occasional nausea*. And the bitter roots that anchor all our formulas—dandelion, first and foremost—help keep the valve at the bottom of our throats closed tight, so occasional heartburn becomes a thing of the past*.
GENTLE, DAILY LIVER DETOX*
Our liver works tirelessly every day. It supports normal levels of inflammation in the body, ensures that toxins are swiftly and effectively eliminated, coordinates the metabolism of sugar and fats, and is involved in processing many hormones (among other things). Just by tasting bitters on your tongue, you send a reflex signal through the vagus nerve directly to the liver, waking it up and ensuring it’s at the top of its game*. But bitters don’t stop here: they support the healthy release of hormones like CCK (cholecystokinin)*, which stimulate gallbladder contraction. And, once absorbed, the phytochemicals in bitters support liver cells directly, by ensuring healthy antioxidant production, bile synthesis, and metabolism*.
BREAK THE HOLD OF SUGAR AND CARBS*
Asking someone who lives in today’s culture to slow down with sugar and carbs is like asking a smoker to quit by taking them to a Parisian nightclub. We’re left to fend for ourselves against the onslaught of marketing from the food industry: eat more snacks, more sugar, more carbs. It doesn’t help that our brains are hard-wired to crave the sweet taste. But bitters are your ally in this struggle: our unhealthy relationship to carbs is as much about the absence of bitterness as it is about the overabundance of carbs. Perhaps the greatest gift bitters have to offer is that they help reframe our relationship to food: they support a healthy, normal appetite and help us feel full and satisfied without overeating*, and if your blood sugar and cholesterol levels are normal, bitters will help keep them that way*.
SUPPORT BEAUTIFUL SKIN*
Herbalists turn to bitter roots, from burdock to dandelion and others, like Oregon grape root, to keep healthy skin clear and supple*. Part of the reason these bitters can help goes back to liver function, and relates to the old concept of “dirty blood”. While we know there’s no actual dirt in our bloodstream, a healthy liver makes sure that reactive material that can irritate our tissues is cleared from the body—and the skin is no exception. Herbalists have long known that if liver function is compromised, the skin tries to take up the slack. In fact, sebaceous glands in our skin process fats much like “mini-livers”: bitters provide important support here, too, helping keep pores clear and healthy*.
SPARK A CONVERSATION
Taking bitters is different than taking a drug: first off, the lively blend of flavors makes you sit up and take notice, while all the while supporting your health. But when you share bitters before dinner, or turn your friend on to the power of the bitterness, you’re also showcasing wild, weedy, unhybridized plants and making a case for a more diverse ecology. It’s hard to keep spraying dandelion with herbicide once you appreciate how much it helps your gut. And person by person, around the dinner table, taking bitters reframes our attitude around plants, weeds, gardening and agriculture as much as around flavor and cuisine.