Although bitter is a taste most people try to avoid, Artichoke, Hibiscus, & Orange Bitters are a delicious way to stimulate digestion as a pre-meal libation or an after-meal digestive aid.
As I am making my way through my herbal certification with The Herbal Academy, I have found that I have a particular interest in bitters. Bitterness is considered by herbalists to be one of the most important tastes for healthy digestion. Although there are many bitter herbs and recipes used to prepare bitters, I keep coming back to this recipe found in my favorite herbal cookbook, Alchemy of Herbs by Rosalee De La Forêt.
Many common digestive issues are due to a deficiency of bitter flavors. Unfortunately, the bitter taste is being bred out of our food and our bodies are paying for it. Bitterness is a flavor that signals our body to prepare for the digestive process. Have you ever puckered at the thought of eating a lemon and felt the saliva gather on your tongue? This is a similar response that the body has to bitterness.
Interestingly, our body registers the bitter taste as being potentially poisonous, which throws the body into full alert, stimulating digestion to swiftly remove the “poison” from the system. Digestive juices start flowing starting with saliva in the mouth. Peristalsis begins in the digestive tract as the bitter flavor signals the digestive symphony. Think of Artichoke, Hibiscus, & Orange Bitters as the conductor warming up the instruments.
Key Herbs For This Bitters Tincture
- Artichoke Leaves– Most people enJOY the flower bud part of an artichoke dipped in melted butter or aioli. But did you know that if you move on down the plant to the leaves, you will find a source of bitter, herbal support that strengthens digestion, supports the heart, and keeps your liver healthy? When your digestion is strong and healthy, your skin, hair, and energy levels will be more balanced.
- Dandelion Root– Although you may be accustomed to thinking of this potent little plant as a nuisance in the lawn, in all actuality, dandelions are extremely nutrient-dense. Additionally, they are also amazing for digestion and nutrient assimilation. By gently nudging a sluggish liver to stimulate digestion, dandelion root brings relief to symptoms such as gas, bloating, nausea, headaches, and an inability to digest fats. It is also high in inulin, a prebiotic, which helps encourage a healthy gut biome. You can’t go wrong with dandelion root. I use it in my Summer Sunshine Shrub as well as eat the flowers and leaves in the spring in salads. Make sure and harvest in an area free of harmful sprays or foot traffic.
- Hawthorn Berries– Known and used by herbalists to support heart health, its high flavonoid content has also been shown to help with inflammation. Although it is not bitter, but rather a sour flavor, hawthorn berries balance the bitter flavor and add a more well-rounded flavor to this recipe.
- Hibiscus (whole)– Besides its beautiful red color, hibiscus is loaded with powerful antioxidants, helps with inflammation, and supports liver health. It has a sweet and tart flavor similar to cranberries. Hibiscus adds a balanced flavor profile to this digestive bitter. Think of it like a perfume that has top, middle, and base notes.
Red Thread Farm
Every year in the fall I prepare Artichoke, Hibiscus, & Orange Bitters. The artichokes have been harvested in the summer leaving their leaves behind to be collected and dried for my herbal preparations. Dandelion root has also been gathered all spring and summer long from wild areas on our property and properly cleaned and dried. Additionally, I order sixty pounds of raw clover honey as well as any other herbs I will use to stock up on my natural home remedies.
This year, to my surprise, while ordering my weekly pickup from Red Thread Farm, I noticed Jeremy had Roselle Hibiscus for sale. This variety, also known as red or Jamaican sorrel, can be used for culinary purposes by enJOYing the red flavorful calyces it produces as soon as the blooms wither and fall off. Used mainly as a delicious tea (hot or iced) with a similar flavor to cranberries, hibiscus is tremendously cooling, hydrating, and comforting, loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, and is great for decreasing inflammation.
I had never dried my own hibiscus before so I raced over to grab a bag of fresh calyces. Knowing I was purchasing my herbs locally as well as procuring an excellent, sustainably grown product made it all the more fun. Isn’t the color gorgeous? Of course, I will be sharing my final infusions with Jeremy so he can enJOY the fruit of his labors as well as solidify the importance of our connection to our local farms.
Preparing Your Bitters
- 1/4 cup (30 g) dried dandelion root
- 1/4 cup (7 g) whole hibiscus
- 1/4 cup (20g) dried hawthorn berries
- 1/4 cup (3 g) dried artichoke leaves
- 1 T (5 g) fennel seed
- 1 tsp. (2 g) fresh ground pepper
- 2 T (5 g) coriander seeds
- 1 whole organic orange, diced (including peel and seeds)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup raw honey (depending on taste preference)
- 3 cups organic vodka (I use Prairie Organic Vodka)
Place all the herbs, spices, and diced orange into a clean, sterile 1-quart jar.
Add the desired amount of honey to taste.
Pound with a sauerkraut pounder (vegetable tamper) or wooden spoon to release juices.
Fill the jar up to 1" from the top with the vodka. Shake well, cover with a lid, and shake 1-2 times a day for two weeks.
Strain off the herbs and store alcohol-infused bitters in a dark bottle or dark location.
I keep a dropper bottle by our table to take (1/2 tsp. or 5-10 drops or 2 dropperfuls before meals.
This recipe is slightly adapted from my FAVORITE herbal cookbook, Alchemy of Herbs by Roasalee De La Forêt.
Let Your Bitters Steep For Two Weeks
Place your prepared bitters in a cool, dark place to rest and steep for two weeks. I store mine in my apothecary cabinet behind closed doors along with my loose herbs, prepared tinctures, and infused oils. Shake several times a day for two weeks. When the time is up, strain the menstruum from the herbs, discard or compost the herbs, and fill in dark tincture bottles. Store the rest in a labeled jar in a dark place. It is a good idea to keep all your herbal preparations together for ease of use.
How To Administer
Bitters are generally taken 1-2 dropper fulls 15 minutes before a meal because they aid in the digestion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Perfect for all those heavy meals such as Thanksgiving, Easter, or St. Patricks Day dinner. Additionally, they can be enjoyed after eating or even mixed in a cocktail. Consequently, we keep ours in the Apothecary close to our dining room table.
IF I DON’T GROW MY OWN HERBS, WHERE CAN I SOURCE THEM?
I am glad you asked. Ultimately, sourcing your herbs from a good, reputable source is important. Amazon can be great in a pinch, with its unlimited selection, convenience, and easy shopping experience. But lately, I have been feeling a little concerned that they are becoming too big for their britches. We have all been lulled into comfort and convenience and expect everything now to be delivered in 2-days or less. Even so, I like to remind myself that it is good to patiently wait for things and support the little guy.
Mountain Rose Herbs
If you do not grow your own herbs or spices, and you haven’t found a reputable local source, you can always trust Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon for your herbal needs. I am not getting a commission for saying this. Without a doubt, I am just a woman who likes good quality ingredients and I love supporting excellent small businesses. When I was visiting family in Oregon, we stopped in the shop and I literally wanted to buy everything there. Their quality and dedication to their products are phenomenal. Check them out here.
FURTHERING YOUR HERBAL EDUCATION
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of herbs, either for culinary purposes, learning to make your own herbal remedies, herbs with children, or even furthering your education to become a certified herbalist or herbal entrepreneur, I highly recommend these websites:
HERBAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES WITH YOUR CHILDREN
I began my herbal journey on LearningHerbs.com. My children and I went through the Herb Fairies course as well as have enjoyed the board game, Wildcraft. Learning and discovering along with my children has enriched our relationships as well as passed on a wonderful herbal heritage to them. For this reason, I recommend all their courses offered.
ROSALEE DE LA FORET’S ALCHEMY OF HERBS… WHERE IT ALL BEGAN FOR ME
Rosalee De La Foret, from Learning Herbs, has a wonderful book called Alchemy of Herbs. You can watch a video trailer of her book here. This book is what launched me into my herbal studies. It easily introduces you to twenty-nine of the most common herbs and several recipes to make with them. I have tried almost all of them. Alchemy of Herbs is one of my favorite go-to herbal cookbooks.
CONTINUING EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATION AT HERBAL ACADEMY
As I continued my herbal journey, I wanted to go further and even become certified as an herbalist as well as possibly create my own body, home, and wellness care products to sell. I am currently enrolled at Herbal Academy in their Introductory, Intermediate, and Business courses where I am engaged in over four years of intensive study. The courses are phenomenal and I encourage anyone to take charge of their own healthcare even if mastery is not the goal.
Learning how to incorporate healing herbs and plants into your diet as well as discovering how the nutrients in various foods have healing properties is a wonderful skill. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is famous for his quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Amen that.
PRECAUTIONS IN USING HERBS AND ROOTS
Just a note of caution: It is recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
*This recipe has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Herbs are used to aide the body in promoting a healthy lifestyle. For educational purposes only.
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If I don’t grow an herb myself, or know a reputable farmer in the area, I trust Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon for all my spices, jars, and herbal purchases.
Alchemy of Herbs by Rosalee De La Forêt