Making Orange Bitters

Sweet, sour, salty, umami and bitter. These are the 5 major flavors that the 5,000 taste buds speckling your tongue and throat have been primed to identify. Each with unique gastronomic qualities and health indications, traditional cultures believed in the fundamental importance of consuming a rich balance of all these flavors. However today, with the overwhelming load of sugar-encrusted, salt-sprinkled and MSG-doused foods filling our plates, bitterness has essentially vanished from the modern palate. This unfortunate disappearance has done more than simply change the tang and smack-factor of our foods. In fact, the general lack of bitter flavor in the diet may very well be contributing widespread problems with digestion and appetite control.

Bitter: A Mysterious Flavor…

Bitter is an intriguing flavor. The very most sensitive of all tastes, bitterness has an excitable quality that some people would describe as disagreeable and harsh. The very word “bitter” has even become linguistically associated with expressions of anger, resentment, pain and reactivity. Yet complex bitter flavor does far more than cause lips to pucker and heads to shake. Known for stimulating the senses and engaging the digestive system, foods possessing a bitter quality have long been valued for a unique ability to cleanse the body and build vitality.

Many cultures revered bitter foods as an essential part of a regular healthy diet. Large numbers of the diverse roots, barks, flowers and herbs of the wild plant kingdom are bursting with complex bitter flavor. When consumed, such plants naturally stimulate the production of saliva, gastric juices and bile to balance the appetite and prime digestion. Yet while bitter botanicals were consumed readily by our foraging ancestors, such richly flavored plant foods have been unfortunately lost to the endless aisles of sweetened and salted snacks filling grocery stores today.

10 Reasons to Use Bitters:

Including bitter foods in the diet isn’t simply a matter of reviving tradition or taste. Bitter flavored foods also have a rich history in the healing arts. From the wine infused herbal concoctions used by Ancient Egyptians to the 16th century prescriptions of famous physician Paracelsus and beyond, elixirs brewed from carefully selected bitter herbs have been treasured as cure-all remedies across the ages. Studies have confirmed that getting an adequate amount bitter flavor is important for digestive balance and linked with many related health benefits. Eating bitters regularly has been shown to:

1. Curb sugar cravings
2. Soothe gas and bloating
3. Relieve occasional heartburn
4. Encourage digestive enzymes, bile & HCL production
5. Calm upset stomach and nausea
6. Increase absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K
7. Help maintain healthy blood sugar levels
8. Balance appetite
9. Ease constipation and regulate bowel movements
10. Support liver function and healthy skin


Zest of 3 oranges, cut into strips with a paring knife
¼ cup chopped dried orange peel
4 cloves
8 green cardamom pods, cracked
¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon gentian root
¼ teaspoon allspice berries
2 cups high-proof vodka, or more as needed
1 cup water
2 tablespoons rich syrup or local raw honey

History of Bitters:

Mercola on Bitters:

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