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Safest bitter herbs?  RSS feed

 
Ran Prieur
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Location: Spokane and near Diamond Lake, WA
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This is a weird question. I really like bitter flavors! I already eat dandelion leaves and mountain ash berries and sip homemade oregon grape root tincture. But I know that bitter flavors often come from powerful compounds that are not safe for long-term use. So I'm wondering which bitter herbs are safest (and also cheap).
 
ronie dee
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The Dandelion is the safest plant bitter that i know of. It has Officianale in its Latin name, meaning that it has been recognized as highly beneficial plant since ancient times.

Dandy has so many vitamins in it that you might get hypervitaminosis if you ate a ton of it a day. ~~
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maikeru sumi-e
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Not really an herb, but you may want to take a look at bitter melon. It's one of my favorite vegetables and is really good stuffed and stewed or stir-fried as chanpuru. They say it has medicinal qualities such as being anti-diabetic and a vermifuge.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitter_melon
 
Tyler Ludens
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I also love bitter!    I concur with Dandelion as an excellent bitter herb and the only one I would consider safe to consume in large quantities.

http://herbs.lovetoknow.com/List_of_Bitter_Herbs
 
                        
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If you like bitter then you should try motherwort, it's about the most bitter thing I have ever tasted and safe to boot.  Even so, start slow and don't eat or drink too much at once off the start.  In addition to it's mind numbingly bitter taste it is also a muscle relaxer, antispasmodic and has been used for the treatment of urinary disorders and for regulating menstruation(hence the name).

feverfew is also quite bitter and safe to take over long periods. guess what this one helps with.
 
ronie dee
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Thanks Eric,
I taste herbs that i know are edible as i pass by. I tried the Motherwort and it didn't seem like something i would want to cook up and dine on. Have you tried it cooked? or is it just a medicinal herb?  I knew it was used for menstrual regulation, but i didn't know it had muscle relaxant properties. Good to know - thanks.
 
                        
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It's not something that I would eat as a green unless I was desperate......really desperate.  I make tea from it if I'm feeling sore and run down from a flu or something if I don't have a tincture on hand, which I rarely do.  A tincture is about the only way I can take it effectively over any period of time because of the, in my opinion, vile bitter taste.  They used to make preserves and syrups, I imagine they sweetened it, and keep it that way.

"There is no better herb to drive melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful, blithe and merry. May be kept in a syrup, or conserve, therefore the Latins call it cardiaca..."

-Culpepper-
 
Daniel Zimmermann
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I know that the compounds found in many bitters are beneficial in and of themselves, but is there any research showing if bitterness has some sort of effect?  Does the bitter taste create a physiological reaction?  To use dandelion as an example, will there be a difference between chewing the leaf and wadding it up to wash down with a swig of what so as not to taste it?
 
ronie dee
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Chewing stimulates paristalsis (smooth muscle contractions that move food along the intestine).

Bitter stimulates appetite hormone called ghrelin that increases appetite, but then decreases paristalsis. So the effect is to make one eat more foods - then the slower digestion seems to keep you feeling full for a long time.

Eating Bitter Melon is thought to help one lose weight.
 
John Rushton
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Location: Norman, OK
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Red raspberry is a mildly bitter herb on the nutritional end of the spectrum, very safe for long-term regular use.  It has a flavor that resembles black tea.  It is very easy to get.  On the other end of the spectrum, extremely bitter, but very safe and gentle, are the gentians.  Gentian is considered a tonic for the stomach and liver.  I have never used it myself, but you might look into it.
 
T. Joy
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I love bitter as well. Endive is not an herb but a lovely mild bitter green. Raddichio as well, that's the pretty red kind.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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ronie wrote:
Chewing stimulates paristalsis (smooth muscle contractions that move food along the intestine).

Bitter stimulates appetite hormone called ghrelin that increases appetite, but then decreases paristalsis. So the effect is to make one eat more foods - then the slower digestion seems to keep you feeling full for a long time.

Eating Bitter Melon is thought to help one lose weight.


ronie, I'm fascinated by your comments.

I thought bitter herbs stimulated digestion. I'd read that coffee as a bitter would stimulate appetite before a meal, or help you digest it when drank it after the meal. (See the does coffee get you "going"? thread.)

As I'm aging, I think I'm producing less HCL (I guess that is common as we reach our 40's and 50's), and/or not digesting as well as I would like to. (I probably need more pro-biotics, but I supplement as I can.)

I looked for a thread on here about bitters, because it seems that when I make a bitter tea, or use a bit of Swedish Bitters as a tea, my digestive system seems to function better.

So, I'm a bit confused about bitters now. Do they stimulate or slow digestion? (Or both or it depends?)

 
ronie dee
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It looks like to me, that bitter increases the appetite and slows parastaltis. The slowed paristaltis would make you feel fuller longer.

But losing weight would depend on ones determination. Just because I feel full doesn't stop me from wanting a piece of pie.

If you find a tea that seems to help with digestion, it would be good to store up some of that tea.

I don't think that HCL is decreased with age, but then it has been years since I took Anatomy and Phsyiology.
 
Zachary Schrock
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Location: Columbus, OH
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Greenbriar (Smilax spp.), is a bitter plant that I've taken in very high concentration (in the form of leaf juice) without negative effects. I believe Euell Gibbons also said that he consumed large amounts of it also without negative effects. It's a very good bitter, and a very good tonic, which has given me a lot of energy when I took it.
 
ronie dee
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outdoorlunatic wrote:
Greenbriar (Smilax spp.), is a bitter plant that I've taken in very high concentration (in the form of leaf juice) without negative effects. I believe Euell Gibbons also said that he consumed large amounts of it also without negative effects. It's a very good bitter, and a very good tonic, which has given me a lot of energy when I took it.


Taking something because of a lack of negative effect leaves me wondering - what are the positive effects that you get from green briar?
 
Zachary Schrock
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Location: Columbus, OH
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ronie wrote:
Taking something because of a lack of negative effect leaves me wondering - what are the positive effects that you get from green briar?


Like I said it's an energizing tonic. It's not energizing in the same way coffee is (it doesn't give you a buzz and then let you crash). It doesn't immediately give me a feeling that I have a lot of energy, but if do something like running after I take it, I really feel it. It also contributes to a general feeling of well being, and has helped with the back pain I sometimes have.
 
ronie dee
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So you just use the leaves or the leaves and the shoots? I eat the young tender shoot ends raw, but I've never tried the leaves. I read all Euell Gibbons - but I guess I don't remember his comments on green briar.

Do you think it has a pain numbing effect on your back or is it a bonus from the other effects you mentioned?
 
Zachary Schrock
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ronie wrote:
So you just use the leaves or the leaves and the shoots? I eat the young tender shoot ends raw, but I've never tried the leaves. I read all Euell Gibbons - but I guess I don't remember his comments on green briar.

Do you think it has a pain numbing effect on your back or is it a bonus from the other effects you mentioned?


Yeah I juice the shoots and leaves. As to the pain relief, I really have no idea what causes that. Euell Gibbons talks about Greenbriar in chapter 37 of Stalking the Healthful Herbs called "What I Do With the Blaspheme Vine and Indian Cucumber."
 
ronie dee
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I'm not so sure that the main 'drug' in green briar is not in the leaves but in the thorns. If you ever grabbed a tree in walking the woods and wound up with green briar thorn in your hand - you realize that there is something going on besides just a thorn stick.
 
janette cormier
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Ran Prieur wrote:
This is a weird question. I really like bitter flavors! I already eat dandelion leaves and mountain ash berries and sip homemade oregon grape root tincture. But I know that bitter flavors often come from powerful compounds that are not safe for long-term use. So I'm wondering which bitter herbs are safest (and also cheap).


toxicity of plants mostly has to do with dosage. anything can be toxic at the wrong dosage.. even water. if you are particularly concerned over toxicity and herbs, than your rule of thumb should be to consume medicinal herbs that are also food plants. so, dandelions would be a great option for you - and you can harvest them yourself.

on a general dosage (ie: not dosing high d/t medical issues) the majority of bitter herbs are very safe. if you wanted to be having 3+ cups of strong decoction a day than that's potentially a bit high for a prolonged period of time. if you find yourself drawn to certain flavors, chances are your body likely craves them for a reason.

to make things more complicated, though, plants have 'energetics' and so do humans. if you give just cooling herbs to an already cold person than you will eventually aggravate any cold conditions that person is dealing with. bitters are generally cooling.

that being said, the average person can and should consume bitter-flavoured herbs and foods. particularly 20-30 minutes before eating as the bitter flavour preps your digestive system to receive food.

oregon grape root
dandelion leaf/flower/root
chicory root
chaga
yellow dock root
gentian root(s)

and many others...

personally, i really like oregon grape root for when i crave bitters and i like chaga daily, sometimes with a bit of ginger root.
 
Jeremy Briggs
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Test.
I just posted a rather thorough reply on this thread. Didn't see it post. This is my first one so I don't know if there is usually a delay, or if I just wasted the last half hour. Maybe I should log in before I compose, hm?
 
Jeremy Briggs
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Crap. Oh well. Some other time maybe. That's frustrating.
 
Corin Royal Drummond
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So, I'm a bit confused about bitters now. Do they stimulate or slow digestion? (Or both or it depends?)


Bitters stimulate the cephalic phase of digestion. There's a reflex between the taste of bitter and the release of hormones that prepare the stomach to secrete acid and enzymes. According to legendary herbalist Michael Moore (RIP), bitters help regulate the timing of the different contractions such as the bile ducts, pancreatic ducts, and so forth, so that they are in sync. Many times when eating under stress, the body is not adequately prepared for food. So the pancreas will perhaps squirt too soon, and miss the food going by. This greatly decreases the efficiency of digestion.

For someone who has sluggish digestion, who's food seems to sit there, who has problems with foul burps, low production of HCl, acid reflux and the like, bitters can be a wonderful, simple, safe, and refreshing pick me up and digestive stimulant. The classic bitter's formula is Compound Tincture of Gentian, which has gentian root, prickly ash berries, and citrus peel. Gentian is intensely bitter, and not much of anything else, so it's very safe. Prickly Ash berries are a gentle and tasty circulatory stimulant that open up the large arteries that feed the belly. Citrus peel is an aromatic carminative that gently nudges the digestive mucosa into action.

The best way to take bitters is a couple droppersful of tincture in a shot of water a few minutes before sitting down to eat. This gives the reflex action time to get your stomach juicy. This is where the concept of aperitifs comes from, a drink taken before a meal in order to cleanse the palate, and pave the way for efficient digestion.
 
Jeremy Briggs
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Thank you Corin. That's right on.

I would add that there is a distinction in herbalism between "bitters" proper, which tend to be cooling energetically (but not to the "digestive fire"), and "aromatic bitters" which tend to be neutral or warming, and are considered carminative. That is they help with the even flow of peristalsis, that is, the movement of the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, and help reduce the formation of gasses and thus flatulence.

Aromatic bitters are often added to bitter formulas to improve the taste, along with a sweet element. They fit into the category of carminatives. They include ginger, many of the Mint family members including basil, thyme, culinary sage, oregano, etc., as well as many others frequently used in cooking. A good list is on Wikipedia, actually. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carminative

One simple way to apply this is simply to eat bitter and wild greens before a meal, such as dandelion or plantain, and cook with plenty of carminatives, or have some nice tea after a meal. The general gist is bitters before and carminatives during or after a meal.

Tinctures are also a great way to easily add these to your diet. Capsules would not work for bitters. You need to actually taste them.

Plants are miraculous geniuses and are here partly to serve you, and vice versa.

Blessings,
Jeremy
 
Corin Royal Drummond
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Why thanks Jeremy, that's very kind of you. I just joined up yesterday, and figured I'd jump right in on something I know something about. You remind me that salads were originally a bitter appetite stimulant before a meal. But nowadays iceberg passes for lettuce and all the bitter's been bred out. Cheers.
 
Roge Luo
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Although most herbs are bitter, not all herbs are bitter.
There is a Chinese old say: All herbs have toxicity, it means herbs are not suitable to taken daily without docoter's suggestions.
Every herbs has its own characters, it can reslove some problem of our boby, or compounds of herbs can do it, but if you have no problem in your body, I don't think you need to take it.
 
Roge Luo
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Have you tried Coptis Root, I think it is more bitter
 
Rose Pinder
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Here's another good resources on bitters from not quite yet, but eventually will be legendary herbalist Jim McDonald.

http://www.herbcraft.org/bitters.pdf
 
Adrian Lloyd
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I may advice Angelica herb since it is safe in addition to fight colds. It is also considered as a great remedy for rheumatism illness. You can also try Wormwood as it is used as an antiseptic, stoma-chic as well as toning. This is safe and also possess a better taste.
 
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