Bitter substances in naturopathy

The traditional Indian art of healing Ayurveda, which goes back approximately five thousand years, is the oldest medical philosophy known to mankind.¹ Ayurveda believes that a person is healthy when body, mind and soul are in harmony.² Bitter substances are used to strengthen the organism.

Traditional Chinese medicine and other naturopathic approaches also rely on bitter substances³. For centuries, bitter tasting food was an integral part of man’s diet. Following a dramatic change in the appreciation of different flavours with sugar taking first place as the most relished flavour, food tasting bitter has fallen out of fashion. Today’s vegetables and fruit have been stripped of their bitter flavour.

About bitters.

Bitter substances are included in food and drink that leave a bitter taste. They can be found in many herbs, spices and fruits or vegetables –  such as yarrow, turmeric, grapefruit or spinach to name but a few.

What makes bitters so healthy?

Our intestines are often described as vital for our health. It is easy to understand why – they break down the food we eat into its components and make the nutrients available to the body.

Scholars of traditional Chinese medicine also see digestion as an essential component that our organism needs to control: “In the middle of the body burns the digestive fire, it must not burn too low, but also not blaze too high.”⁴ To warm up the inner furnace and stimulate digestion, the body needs nutrient-rich fuel on a daily basis.

Here is where bitter substances come in. They stimulate the digestive system and ⁵

  • facilitate digestion
  • increase digestive secretions
  • regulate our appetite

Bitters also influence the normal functioning of our liver. This is important for our fat metabolism.⁶ Bitters are therefore beneficial for our digestion and strengthen our inner powerhouse. You can find out more about the effect of bitter substances here.

Which food is particularly rich in bitter substances?

As the saying goes, “What is bitter in the mouth is healthy inside”.⁷ But these days bitter tasting food is rarely found on Western menus because the food industry replaced them by food that is sweet or salty to cater for the change in consumer appreciation.

It is no wonder that many people do not find bitter food appetising – they are simply no longer used to the bitter taste. The fact that bitter substances have a very positive impact on our health could not stop this development.

Thankfully you can include vegetables in your daily diet which contain bitters:

  • artichokes
  • broccoli
  • lettuce
  • cauliflower

Learn more about food rich in bitters.

Bitter receptors in your skin

Receptors for bitter substances are not only restricted to the mouth and our digestive organs. Science has discovered that your skin with its bitter receptors have a sizable impact on your metabolism and can trigger the production of protective proteins and lipids in the skin. These in turn are key elements of the skin barrier that stops foreign substances from penetrating the skin and also prevent the loss of moisture.