Sweet, sour, salty, umami, bitter. Of the five basic tastes, the latter is often our least favorite—and least consumed. It makes sense: Most plants that are poisonous and can be dangerous to humans are extremely bitter. Our taste buds have been sensitized to bitterness for our survival, so we tend to instinctively reject the flavor.
But of course, not all bitter foods and herbs are toxic and harmful. In fact, they can be extremely beneficial to our well-being—in addition to quite tasty (leafy greens, coffee, chocolate, and the list goes on). In the case of bitter herbs, they can support healthy digestion and soothe an occasional upset or nervous stomach.* Hence, herbal bitters formulas are also called digestive bitters. Read on to learn more.
What Are Herbal Bitters?
Herbal bitters, aka digestive bitters, are supplements containing bitter-tasting herbs that are used to support digestion.* They can be made with or without the use of ethanol, or alcohol. Some popular bitter herbs used in digestive bitters formulas include:
A Brief History of Herbal BittersHerbal bitter formulations date back to ancient civilizations. Evidence suggests the ancient Egyptians steeped bitter herbs in wine, likely using the infusion to both improve the wine’s taste and for wellness, including for digestive support as we do today.*
It is believed that the first bitters formula to be documented in the Western world traces to Mithridates, ruler of the ancient Greek kingdom of Pontus, who was looking, interestingly, to develop an antidote to poisonous substances.
The use of herbal bitters expanded in the Middle Ages. By the 1700s, doctors developed their own formulas—including the well-known physician George Cheyne, who called his traditional remedy digestive bitters. Many were patented and made available commercially, and often taken with spirits. The popular Swedish Bitters preparation was formally labeled as such around this time. Shortly after, in the early 1800s, the term “cocktail” was coined, a recipe consisting of water, alcohol, sugar, and bitters. Indeed, bitters are still a cocktail staple these days (keep reading for three delicious mocktail recipes).
Herbal bitters also have a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where they are thought to move energy down in the body and are used to support digestion.* Likewise, they have been used in Ayurveda, which considers them balancing for certain doshas, or constitutions.*
How Do Digestive Bitters Work & What Are Their Health Benefits?As you’ve just read, bitter herbs have long been used to support digestion.* Though it’s not entirely clear how herbal bitters do so, it’s believed they help jump-start your digestive system.*
Taste receptors on your tongue perceive bitterness from certain constituents in the plants, such as alkaloids and phenolic compounds, in turn stimulating your salivary glands and encouraging other digestive secretions.* In other words, the bitter taste helps get your digestive process going, signaling to your stomach that food is on the way and helping promote healthy digestion.* Herbal bitters are also used to help relieve occasional indigestion and upset stomach.*
It's important to note that the food industry has selectively bred many of the plant compounds that are responsible for their bitter taste and also their health effects out of food crops to satisfy our palates, which can result in less beneficial effects from these foods. What's more, as a result of less bitter compounds in our food, our taste buds actually become more sensitized to bitterness.
If we regularly consume bitter foods and herbs, our taste buds become more accustomed to bitterness, and we can experience more of the beneficial effects from bitter stimulation in our body.
Here’s How to Use Herbal Bitters in Your Wellness Routine
As mentioned above, herbal bitters formulas can be made with or without alcohol.
Gallexier® Herbal BittersThe herbal bitters formula from Floradix®, Gallexier, is alcohol-free and designed to be taken before or after a meal to support healthy digestion, relieve occasional upset stomach or indigestion, and soothe the stomach during times of occasional stress.* You can take it straight from the provided serving cup or mix it into drinks, like the tasty mocktails below. The suggested serving size is 20 mL; Gallexier can be used regularly.
Our plant-based liquid extract contains a blend of more than 10 bitter herbs, including artichoke leaf, dandelion leaf, gentian root, turmeric root, and bitter fennel seed—plus fruit juices. It is easily absorbed and non-GMO, vegan, kosher, gluten-free, lactose-free, and alcohol-free, with no artificial additives or preservatives. What’s more, it’s formulated for an enjoyable taste, even if you’re not the biggest bitter fan.
Cheers! Gallexier Mocktail Recipes
While cocktail bitters are made especially for spirited and mocktail beverages, herbal bitters can be used in this manner as well, as they were traditionally.
Here are three delicious and refreshing mocktail recipes to try using Gallexier Herbal Bitters. Note: To get a full serving of Gallexier, you can double the recipe and enjoy a larger drink.
Gallexier Fruit PunchThis mocktail is fruit-forward with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Cranberry helps to balance the flavors of the bitters and orange juice.
•10 mL Gallexier
•3 oz orange juice
•3 oz cranberry juice
•Orange slice and cranberries for garnish, optional
1. Pour the juices and Gallexier into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Or, simply mix the juices and Gallexier together and then pour over ice.
2. Garnish with an orange slice and fresh cranberries if desired.
Gallexier MuleThis mule is like your favorite flavored sparkling water only better, with a bright taste and slightly bitter finish.
•10 mL Gallexier
•1 tsp simple syrup
•4 oz sparkling water or club soda
•Squeeze of lime
•Mint leaves (rub together first for more aromatics), optional
1. Combine all ingredients except mint in a cocktail shaker and shake to blend. Or, stir together Gallexier, simple syrup, sparkling water, and lime juice, and then pour over ice.
2. Garnish with mint leaves for extra flavor, if desired.
Gallexier Old FashionedThis drink is simple yet delightfully aromatic, with a balanced bitter flavor.
•10 mL Gallexier
•2 oz water or club soda
•Muddled orange to taste
•1/2 tsp simple syrup
•Basil (slap before putting into the glass for more flavor)
•Cranberries or pomegranate seeds for garnish, optional
1. Combine all ingredients except cranberries and pomegranate seeds in a cocktail shaker and shake to blend. Or, stir them all together then pour over ice.
2. Garnish with cranberries or pomegranate seeds for color, if desired.
Digestive Bitters Side EffectsGallexier is a gentle formulation. That said, if you have health conditions, take medications, or are pregnant, consult with your naturopathic physician or other health care provider before using it or any herbal bitters supplement.
Bitters aren’t just for cocktails. When taken as a supplement before or after a meal, herbal bitters offer digestive support.* Taking bitter herbs for digestion is nothing new: Their use for health and wellness dates back to ancient Egypt.*
Don’t Miss Out on Herbal Bitters Benefits*
With a harmonious blend of 10+ specially selected bitter herbs, Gallexier Herbal Bitters from Floradix is formulated to support healthy digestion, help relieve occasional upset stomach or indigestion, and soothe the stomach during times of occasional stress.* Suitable for all lifestyles, this gentle supplement is alcohol-free, kosher, vegan, gluten-free, and lactose-free. It can be taken on its own or mixed into drinks, including those shared here.
In other words, it's easy to make digestive bitters part of your wellness routine.
Make one of our Gallexier mocktails? Let us know how it turns out! Share your success with a picture or comment on the Floradix USA Instagram account or Facebook page.