Herbal Bitters, what are they for?
Updated: Nov 29, 2021
(Above image: Burdock root -arctium lappa-moistening. The earth element (root) of burdock is used as a bitter)Why Bitters and When? Bitters play with the nervous system and the Gut! Signals are sent via gustatory (sense of taste) and vagus nerves to the brain to prepare for digestion. The Parasympathetic nervous system is activated. Digestive secretions (including bile from the liver, insulin from the pancreas, digestive enzymes from the stomach) release.
The help of bitters...
Stimulation of appetite during convalescence
General stimulation of the flow of digestive juices from the pancreas, duodenum, and liver. This aids a great range of problems that have their basis in inefficient or allergy distorted digestion
Aid the liver in its work of detoxification (if someone needs to detox due to ie. drug us of any kind, it is vital to work slowly with the liver. It is hot by nature and can have a temper if moved too quickly. visualize it as your gaurd dog) and increase the flow of bile
The regulatory effect upon the secretion by the pancreas of the hormones that regulate blood sugar, insulin & glucagon
Help the gut wall repair damage through stimulating self-repair mechanisms
Some of the main compounds in Burdock are Lignans (arctiin,arctigen,matairesinol) and is known for its inulin content. Arctium lappa is regarded as safe mostly, only use during 3rd trimester and postnatal time. The root and seed and leaf of Burdock are used. ie. fresh burdock leaf poultice helps ease skin infection. The seed helps support and rebalance with ie. arthritis and mineral deposits. The root, great as a decoction, is great for long-term use with blood, lymph, liver support. When there are chronic skin issues, it is best to focus on internal work. Burdock decoction is very helpful, supportive to rebalance and address discomforts with chronic skin conditions. Did you know if the body has kidney insufficiency ie. w/ mineral - fluid balance, that burdock is supportive? Yes it is, and it works gently. Essiac Tea, that supports people going through Cancer contains Burdock. It is known for decreasing cancer cell proliferation. Very supportive for folk in so many ways daily.
( Above: Artemesia absinthum- wormwood)Bitters improve digestion and create a calming effect on the nervous system by putting us in a more emotionally relaxed state. So, for maintaining a healthy gut, it is imperative our parasympathetic system is happy!! Perhaps check in on your parasympathetic system first before bringing in the bitters. Also, If someone needs bitters to help digestion, it is vital to take into account one's individual energetics.
Consider the energetics with Bitters. Are you cold or warm by nature? This is important. We are all energetically different inside! Do you have dry skin, creaky joints, brittle nails? Do you get cold easily? If so, if you took a cool-dry bitter to aid your digestion long-term, you may end up with a cold and dry imbalance in time. Cool - dry bitters can be used for those who tend to run environmentally on the cool/ dry side by adding moistening/ warming agents to neutralize the cool/dry. For example, adding moistenings bitters of dandelion (taraxacum officinale root) and burdock (arctium lappa). The goal is to watch for harmony and balance in your nervous system & digestive system, and your energetics when it comes to adding bitters for a balanced internal environment! Don't forget your diet!!
(above: notice how the emotions play off of your inner body) What do I work on in Thai Yoga Therapy to help the gut and parasympathetic system? Well, let me explain just a little for you. One of the many things I work on in Thai Yoga Therapy is your gut health. I use a mixture of Thai abdominal massage and Chi nei tsang. I am not even mentioning how many Yoga therapy poses would be utilized in an abdominal session to increase the gut health and parasympathetic and more. Chi Nei Tsang (“CNT“) is a Taoist system of abdominal massage that focuses on the navel center of the body. ... Chi Nei Tsang incorporates the Taoist understanding of the meridian system of energy and adds a new dimension to the practitioner's healing work. It integrates the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our being. It effectively addresses chronic conditions including digestive problems, headaches, chronic fatigue, menstrual cramps, sciatica, uterine fibroids, infertility, insomnia, depression- the list goes on (below: notice how much the lymphatic / immune system is activated through the gut)