Feel Better With Bitters (Plus, a Festive Recipe)

With extra holiday food and so much emphasis on sweets, you may notice your digestion getting a little sluggish this time of year. One way to help balance your system is to add some bitter flavors to your day.

For centuries, humans evolved eating bitter greens, roots and barks. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each food flavor has an impact on health. Bitter foods, like dark leafy greens, vinegar, coffee, dandelion and chocolate, are believed to promote health by helping with weight loss and controlling food cravings.

Herbalists have used bitter tinctures for years as a natural remedy to stimulate the digestive system and to help ease an upset stomach.

These tinctures, also called bitters, are created from a blend of herbs and roots mixed in alcohol to preserve them, usually combining bitters with something more appealing like fennel or orange peel. You may have seen bitters at a cocktail bar, but they have a long-standing tradition of medicinal use before they became popular at fancy pubs.

Angostura bitters are one better-known form found in cocktails and used in traditional Jamaican cooking. But bitters come in many flavors with three main categories that include Angostura (clove, anise), citrus (orange, lemon, grapefruit) and herbal (lavender, celery).

You can add a few splashes of any flavor of bitters to sparkling water for a festive “mocktail” or try a dash of bitters in any holiday cocktail. You can find a variety of bitters online or at some specialty food shops. You can find Angostura in the beverage or condiment aisle of your grocery store, as well.

Bitters & Juicing

One way to boost your system is to use bitters before juicing to help spark your digestive fire and ensure your system can process and assimilate the juice.

The bitter flavor will stimulate digestion, helping you to absorb nutrients and further break down your food. Both bitter herbs and vegetables also act as natural fat burners.

While you can add bitters directly to a juice to enhance the flavor (yes, celery bitters exist), you get the most benefit by taking bitters before you drink your juice. Simply put a few drops on your tongue or add a few drops to water and drink up.

Another way to incorporate  bitter flavors into your juices is to add greens like kale or celery or don’t peel your lemons or limes. You can try this Drink Your Bitters Juice.


Apple Toddy & Bitters Recipe

  • 3 apples, chopped
  • unsalted butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 ounces apple brandy*
  • Hot water**
  • 3-4 dashes of bitters (orange, Angostura or apple spice)


1. Sauté apples in butter with coconut sugar and cinnamon until apples are soft (about 5 minutes).

2. Place one scoop of apples into the bottom of a mug.

3. Add two ounces apple brandy, then fill the mug to the top with hot water and stir gently.

4. Add bitters and stir. Add extra cinnamon on top if you like.

*This cocktail tastes great with just the bitters and no alcohol too!

**To add more flavor use hot apple cider instead of hot water.