I think we would all agree that bitters are, first and foremost, classic digestive remedies. The herbs and recipes, though widely variable, always feature strong, bitter-tasting molecules (like the lactones in dandelion, angelica, gentian or Andrographis) that activate gut secretions, modulate the transit time of the food we eat, and reduce a range of gut symptoms. The consensus is that receptors for bitter taste probably serve as a protection against poisons, and trigger digestion and detoxification processes in many different animal species, from caterpillars to human beings. These are old, evolutionarily-conserved detectors that activate self-protection mechanisms, ensuring that we consume less of any potential poisons, and that if we do, we neutralize them quickly. But what if bitter taste receptors protect us from more than just poisonous substances?
New trends in research have also continued to build the case for bitters as regulators of appetite, with potential effects on metabolism and obesity. In a recent study, physicians in Naples, Italy noticed a 20% decrease in caloric consumption in patients who had been given a capsule containing quinine (a strong bitter alkaloid) 60 minutes before eating. Partly by triggering the release of “fullness” hormones such as cholecystokinin and decreasing “hunger” hormones such as ghrelin, the bitter-sensitive cells in the lining of our intestines act as an interface […]
Spring is a time of waking up; of bursting forth into the world. Winter’s stillness is replaced by a surge of energy and action. It’s also a time of clearing out any clutter that has accumulated over the cold, dark slower months of the year. We harness the season’s energy as we embark on spring cleaning projects that come more as instinct than as obligatory tasks.
It’s time to renew. This applies to our outer worlds as well as to our inner worlds. Spring has traditionally been a time to jumpstart the liver and gently cleanse our bodies. The natural world, with its infinite wisdom, provides us every opportunity to do just this. Bitter and nutrient-packed greens come to life, and for those of us paying attention to nature’s hints, provide us with delicious and nutritious Spring tonics.
Here are a couple of recipes that include some of our favorite spring tonic plants. Together they make the perfect light meal!
Spring Greens Salad
Dandelion greens are packed with vitamins and minerals, and also provide a bitter kick that helps support liver function. This is important during spring because hepatic function can become naturally a little sluggish after a more sedentary winter filled with rich seasonal food. Violet greens and chickweed are super-packed with nutrients, making them just the spring pick-me-up your body needs. Young greens of dandelion and violet especially are ideal, for both texture and taste reasons. You’ll need to find a good place to harvest your wild greens–fields or lawns that are not sprayed and that don’t get a lot of dog traffic (ie […]
Wondering why we’ve included bitter artichoke in our Aller-Blast formula? Sure, at Urban Moonshine we may be easily excitable when it comes to bitters. But trust us, there’s always good reason! In the case of Aller-Blast, we include something bitter for two primary reasons. First and foremost, liver support is essential when it comes to maintaining vibrant health during pollen season. Everyday toxins and exposures that we are faced with are processed through the liver. A well-functioning liver clears these substances efficiently and secretes bile to bind and send them on their way out of the body through the stool. Bitters stimulate the secretion of bile, supporting the liver in its job of detoxification. Without adequate liver function and bile secretion, toxins are left to recirculate in the blood stream. An overload of toxins can hardwire our system for reactivity, including to seasonal exposures.
Another benefit to bitters is that they are known to support healthy, relaxed smooth muscle tone in the bronchial pathways. In this manor, they help maintain open airways for easy breathing during pollen season and beyond.
So perhaps now you’ll smile instead of wince when you taste a little bitter in the background of our power-packed Aller-Blast formula. And even if we don’t edge a grin out of you, we know you’ll be happy with how you feel!