All About Digestive Bitters Tonics and How To Make Your Own!

in ecotrain •  6 months ago


Digestive bitters are ancient medicinal herbal extracts, used through the ages to treat digestive ailments and flavour alcohol.

Bitters are made from a combination of bitter & aromatic, barks, roots, seeds, fruits & flowers. These herbs are infused in alcohol (essentially making a tincture). Not only are they good for digestion but they also assist with detoxifying the liver and keeping the whole digestive system in good working order.

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise. ~Oscar Wilde

Bitter foods have fallen out of favour in a lot of cultures however our bodies crave bitter foods. Our bodies need bitter foods for balanced health. In the good old days our ancestors would have naturally consumed wilder bitter tasting plants. Think of the dandelions that are spread across North America. This bitter green was brought over by European settlers and used as an important food and medicine for centuries before we deemed it a nuisance weed.

Note to world~ Stop spraying dandelions with chemicals. Eat them instead.

Bitter tonics are resurging in popularity for use in alcoholic beverages. During the great depression and also during prohibition, bitters were often used to make moonshine palatable. This is certainly one good way to use them but they can also be mixed with water, juice and other liquids as a pre or post meal digestive aide.


Bitters and Health.

When taken before meals, bitters are said to aide with:

  • Stimulating the digestive enzymes in the digestive tract
  • Increasing one’s appetite and help to stimulate gastric juice
  • Providing a general tonic action on digestion, stimulating self repair mechanisms

Bitter plants contain liver-boosting nutrients such as sulfur, along with fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Bitters work by stimulating the bitter receptors in the mouth and throat, which in turn increase the production of saliva, gastric juice, and bile. Bile is needed for optimal digestion and to help the liver work at prime level. For your liver to work its best to filter out the bad stuff, it needs to produce sufficient bile. If you aren't consuming bitters you are making it difficult for your body to do this properly. source

Quick & Easy Way To Get Bitters In Your Diet

If you aren't used to bitter foods you can begin by incorporating some bitter greens into your salads and soups a bit at a time. Dandelion and chicory are two great options.

If you don't want to make your own, you can purchase digestive bitter tonics. They seem to be available all over the place on-line. I still remember my first discovery of bitters years ago when I bought a package of Underberg bitters. They come in these tiny one serving bottles wrapped in paper - I honestly didn't even know what I was buying, the bottles were just really cute. Once tried it though and read up on it, bitters became really interesting to us.

Make Your Own Digestive Bitters!

To create tinctures containing bitters, you will want to chop up all of the ingredients and put them in a jar, cover with alcohol and allow to steep for 3-4 weeks. You should shake and test on occasion until you are happy with the results.

Generally the bitter component of this concoction should be about 30-40% of the brew and the rest should be made up with aromatics. Bitters are very strong!



Bitters are often comprised of bark, roots and citrus peel (with the white pith). there are a lot of options and this list is not exhaustive by any means.

  • Barkcassia, cinchona, birch

  • Roots Gentian, Ginger, Burdock, Dandelion. Barberry, Angelica, Elecampane, roasted chicory root

  • Citrus Peel Orange peel, grapefruit peel, lemon peel

  • Plants Feverfew, Horehound, Mugwort, Sarsaparilla, and Wormwood.


To balance the bitters you want to add some aromatics. Here are some common options.

  • Spices Fennel, Cardamom, Star Anise, Coriander. Ginger, Juniper Berry, Nutmeg, Vanilla Bean

  • Fruit Peach, Cherries, Plums

  • Flowers & herbs etc Yarrow, Chamomile, Rose Hips, Rose Petals, Lavender, hibiscus, hops, peppermint, rosemary, sage, thyme

  • Alcohol 80-100 proof vodka, Whisky, Brandy, Rum. Note: you can also use apple cider vinegar if you can't have alcohol. Vinegar tinctures will not be as strong.

  • optional You can add a touch of honey or maple syrup to the finished bitters.


How To Make Digestive Bitters

  • Chop up all of your herbs, roots, citrus rinds finely. Avoid using powdered herbs as they can't easily be strained out.

  • The rule of thumb is that your herb to alcohol ratio should be 1:3. Fill 1/3 of your jar with herbs and the rest with alcohol and you are set. 40% of the herbs we use are bitter and the remaining 60% are aromatics. Bitters are quite powerful so you don't want to be too heavy handed, especially when just starting out.

  • Pour the alcohol over the herbs, they should be well covered. Secure the cap and shake well. If using a metal lid place a paper cupcake liner or parchment paper under the lid to prevent erosion.

  • Label with the ingredients and the date and store in a warm sunny spot.

  • Give the jar a good shake every day for two weeks and up to four weeks. Test and continue to macerate if you would like a stronger infusion or strain, bottle and label.

Bitters are well ....very bitter. These are quite strong tinctures and are best when diluted a little bit. Add a dash of bitters (5-20 drops) to your favourite cocktail or in a bit of water or juice. They are traditionally taken before or after meals.


These are some of the bitters that we currently have macerating in the kitchen.

Ginger Burdock Digestive Bitter

Brandy to fill container (or vodka or other chosen alcohol)
2 Tbsp burdock root
1 Tbsp Ginger root
1Tbsp roasted chicory root
2 Cloves
2 Tsp orange peel

Burdock, Peach & Rose Digestive Bitter

Brandy to fill container (or vodka or other chosen alcohol)
2 Tbsp Burdock root
1 Tbsp Roasted chicory root
2 Tsp peaches
6-8 Rose hips
5 Cardamom pods

Turmeric Ginger Digestive Bitter

Brandy to fill container (or vodka or other chosen alcohol)
2 Tbsp Turmeric root
1 Tbsp Ginger root
1 Tbsp Orange peel
3 Star Anise

Hibiscus Rose Digestive Bitter

Brandy to fill container (or vodka or other chosen alcohol)
2 Tbsp ginger root
1 Tbsp Roasted chicory root
12 Rose hips (fresh)
1 Tbsp hibiscus
2 Tsp Orange peel
1/2 tsp rose petals
3 Cardamom pods


Education and Cautions

Always consult a herbalist or doctor if you have health conditions, take other medications or are pregnant. If you have gall stones bitters should be avoided.

Please use caution when ingesting herbs. Study them, and be certain of what you are gathering. Information shared here is for educational purposes only. I make neither medical claim, nor intend to diagnose or treat medical conditions. You must do your own research concerning the safety and usage of any herbs or supplements.

If you are looking to further your herbal knowledge, I am a proud affiliate of the Herbal Academy. They offer informative and enjoyable, on-line, at your own pace way to learn about botany and wild crafting. They'll help you learn how to identify and become more familiar with common wild edibles, herbs, and at-risk plants. You can learn more here!

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Thank you for sharing this. While we have not attempted to make our own tinctures, yet, we have purchased some herbal remedies and they seem to work great. Having not studied bitters before, I found this super interesting and educational. Recently, I purchased an herbal supplement for the liver for my husband. After checking ingredients again just now, sure enough it contains bitters. Thank you for posting this, and have a great day!


Thanks so much for sharing this, I really appreciate it! :)

I hate the bitter taste and also I don’t drink alcohol, so probably I wouldn’t try it, but your photos are truly great! I also like your writing and how detailed and engaging your post is! Great job!


Thanks @danielapetk! Bitters can take some time to get used to. When diluted in juice they are really quite delicious. Some people make the tincture using apple cider vinegar instead of alcohol.

I also don't use alcohol, but am intrigued by the use of bitters for health. Some of your mixes sound pretty good!


You could use apple cider vinegar instead of alcohol! I like to add apple cider vinegar infused with ginger in a glass of water. I bet these bitters would be really interesting like that - I'd love to try it myself.


We go on Friday to get apples, but I don't know how much vinegar they will make. I need enough for the year for cooking, and to do food processing next summer. So we will see how many gallons we get....

wow this is such a great post, I am loving all this wisdom you keep sharing with us and those recipes are great, I can't wait to give some of them a go, great great post xxx


Thank you for the encouragement, It means a lot. This is an eventful time of year for us with all the ingredients we need to transform for winter time use. It lends itself to creative projects and making a lot of variety.

i tried commenting when you posted this but dummy steemit was acting wonky. here i am after reading this all and cannot wait to try to make these. thank you for the reference to learn more about herbs. you'd think i would know more but i do not. hoping to get the hang of this for sure. much love,
eagle spirit

What a fabulous and informative post. I presume, in responsee to those who don't drink alcohol, you're taking it as a medicine and not downing shots of bitters on TGIF.

I'd love to make my own tinctures and bitters as I do really love them. Ijust have to get around to getting all the things together! Keep doing these posts just for me so I'm constantly remidned to get my ass into gear! You're an inspiration!!!

I love that Wilde quote - how appropriate!!!!

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This year has been a big one for me with my self-education, I finally have all of these neat ingredients to work with, that I understand and feel confident in working with. It is bordering on an obsession! I am about to be up to my elbows in apples so that will likely be the focus over the next week. I wonder what other medicinal things I can do with them? :)

You are right as well, a dropper of bitters is medicine. We are talking 2-5 small drops per dosage. I've been mentioning that apple cider vinegar can be used as an alternative base. I don't think vinegar extracts as much of the benefits from the roots and plants, and the shelf life is less, but it would still be quite good.

I hope you are having an amazing holiday! xx

This is an amazing post, I'm going to bookmark to re-read again. I'm interested to try dandilions but need to find a field where dogs walkers aren't using 😂

I don't know how I missed this when you first posted it. I love a little dose of aromatic bitters in the evening, but I've fallen out of the habit recently. Underberg, like you mentioned, is a common one. Angostura bitters is easier to find in the US, it is also good. My favorite is Zwack Unicum from Hungary. It is fantastically complex, but it seems like the version sold in the US is not what is available in Hungary. The US version is very sweet and loaded with anise like Jagermeister.

I attempted to make my own one time, but never finished the development. The local herbalist recommended Black Cohosh as a bittering agent, which is a good choice. It has a very earthy flavor, like mushrooms, that I like.

I'm interested in harvesting some chicory. How do you prepare it? Should I roast the roots until they darken?


We just dug up and roasted some chicory - it was really easy. I wrote about it here with some directions if you are interested.