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The Action of Bitter Foods

By 28/05/2012May 23rd, 2017No Comments

The Bitters or Bitter tonics are a group of botanicals with a prominently bitter taste, due to the presence of a variety of chemical constituents including volatile oils, alkaloids and sesquiterpene lactones. These are all termed ‘bitter principles’. The taste of bitterness is a common characteristic of many herbal remedies.

This taste has a major pharmacological action through the stimulation of bitter sensitive taste buds in the mouth. These specialised cells do more than just signify the taste of food or medicine. They are actually connected neutrally in such a way that their stimulation leads to the release of the hormone gastrin from the gut wall into the bloodstream, among other responses. The action in the body of gastrin accords closely with the claims made for the action of bitter herbs such as Swedish Bitters.

A bitter taste has a profound effect on your digestive system, especially the liver, the keeper of metabolic balance within the body. The liver’s job is to produce fluids required for proper and complete digestion, as well as to rid your system of dangerous toxins. Even if you eat a good natural diet, artificial ingredients and chemical residues can find their way into your system. It’s so important to cleanse your body of these unwanted substances as soon as possible. Our liver has several tremendous jobs to do and is helps with the stimulation of bitter herbs in order to do its job properly.

Every human taste bud contains 50 to 100 taste receptor cells, and most people have tens of thousands of taste buds. The four main tastes that receptors can distinguish are salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Humans only have 24 bitter taste receptors to perceive thousands of different bitter substances.

Our internal organs, and hence our whole system, can suffer if we don’t have the bitter taste element in our diet. A lack of it results in symptoms like poor digestion, fatigue, and irregularity, which can make us feel out of sorts, and low in energy.

In our diet today, there exists almost no bitter taste, no bitter substances at all.  In general, we have overloaded the sweet side and eliminated bitter foods from our diet.  It is fairly obvious that a lack of bitter taste has had a dramatic effect on our metabolic system especially after a few generations.

The best time to take a bitter remedy is 20 minutes prior to eating a large meal. This gives the stomach, liver, gall bladder and pancreas time to raise the digestive secretions to an optimum level.

Bitter Foods:

  • Chicory
  • Endive
  • Radicchio
  • Swedish bitters
  • Dandelion greens
  • Citrus
  • Olives
  • Dandelion root coffee (preferable drunk black without sugar)
  • Centaury (a herbal medicine with a very gentle bitter action)

Benefits of bitter foods:

  1. Helps those who suffer from chronic metabolic problems and digestive difficulties
  2. Useful for people with problems of circulation, lack of physical and mental energy
  3. Beneficial for people who easily get colds and infections
  4. Helpful for people who are fatigued and tire easily
  5. Eases constipation and regulates bowel movements
  6. Important for those who have had their gallbladder removed
  7. Reduces bloating and gas
  8. Stores usable glycogen, copper and iron to feed the cells
  9. Helps metabolises proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
  10. Removes some poisonous substances from the blood safely
  11. It is the metabolic laboratory of the body.
  12. Accelerating the digestion of otherwise undigested food in the stomach that may be causing indigestion.

Spiced Dandelion Latte:

Serves 2


  • 1-2 tbsp. of dandelion tea or two teabags
  • 2 cups of cows or soymilk
  • ½ tsp. of honey or agave nectar
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. cardamom
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg


Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. Leave to simmer for 3-5 minutes, remove the teabags and whisk until slightly fluffy. Serve.