Digestive Bitters 2: Resources, Links, & Brands

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I introduced digestive bitters last week in part I of this series, and wanted to share several excellent resources, some of my favorite research links and articles, and some recommended (and NOT recommended) brands of digestive bitters this week.

Let’s start with a short, informative video from Urban Moonshine with herbalist Guido Masé

Digestive Bitters: Research & Resources

Want to dig in deeper?

  • Guido Masé’s podcast on high caliber bitters: a great blend of herbal and scientific info…very well done.
    Update: this content has been removed. :(
  • Jim McDonald’s .pdf  Blessed Bitters…packed with great info from a well versed and well respected herbalist.

“Of all the flavors to grace our palate, there is perhaps none as fascinating as that of bitterness. It is a flavor that is universally despised—used linguistically to characterize pain, harshness and things that are extremely difficult to bear. Yet, it is also a flavor used in cultures the world over to strengthen digestion, cleanse the body and build vitality—in short, considered an ingredient essential to good health…”

Where to buy Digestive Bitters

All of the testimonials from friends in last week’s article on bitters used the Urban Moonshine products, from www.urbanmoonshine.com.

 urban_moonshine_bitters

They’re available in three flavors: maple, orange, and original, and come in a large or small dropper bottle or the smaller spritz bottles.  Use the larger bottle for dosing by the spoon, or to refill the smaller spritz bottles.  The spritzers are a unique and convenient way of dosing a tincture…spraying a few squirts into the mouth before meals is a very convenient and portable way of taking your bitters.  They suggest that you start with maple, then move to citrus, and then try original.  (moving from the more pleasant toward the strongest bitter flavor)

Urban Moonshine bitters are organic…the herbs are mostly grown and harvested in Vermont.  Their digestive bitters are a “whole-plant alternative to digestive enzyme supplements”, and are used to

  • Soothe gas and bloating
  • Relieve occasional heartburn
  • Tone, strengthen and build digestive health
  • Inspire the production of our own digestive juices and enzymes
  • Support healthy production and release of bile from the liver
  • Support healthy hydrochloric acid production
  • Help maintain healthy blood sugar levels
  • Balance appetite, engages mindful eating
  • Build digestive fire to create a clean burning digestive system
  • Support liver function and healthy skin

Urban Moonshine bitters come in several flavors and dosing options. The following are affiliate links from my Amazon store. I recommend starting with either the Chamomile bitters if you’re nursing or pregnant, or choosing the maple or citrus bitters in the spray bottles. The spray bottles make for easy dosing even on the go (they’re easy to tuck into a purse or briefcase) and you can later order the larger bottles for refills.

Important Note: The inclusion of Angelica herb makes the Urban Moonshine products contraindicated with pregnancy & breastfeeding.  I’ll be sharing my recipe next week, that is pregnancy friendly.

Update: Urban Moonshine now has a pregnancy friendly Chamomile Bitters formula that you can find here:

Swedish Bitters: NOT Recommended

I’ve heard really unsavory reviews from the ‘Swedish’ style bitters that incorporate camphor.  In addition to the camphor flavor being far more nasty than the normal ‘bitter’ flavors, these also often incorporate the herb senna, which is a bowel stimulant that can be habit forming…I’d recommend avoiding Swedish bitters.

Join me next Monday, and I’ll share my DIY digestive bitters recipes!

To Pin!The best digestive bitters brands, resources, and the ones I would stay away from.

Comments

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  1. Julie K says

    Gwen is this actually a supplement. My husband is doing a new cancer trial where no supplements are allowed. Maybe I could use this?

    • Its_Gwen says

      Julie, it’s herbs, so you’d need to talk with his doctors to clear it first. They do alter the body’s ability to process and that can interact with medications.

  2. Marcy says

    Thank you, Gwen, for your informative posts! My dad (84 yrs old!) purchased these from Urban Moonshine, and we both pray it helps alleviate some of his ‘digestive issues’. Also–the maple flavored bitters from UM aren’t too bitter, if anyone is wondering. Vitacost has a speedy delivery service, too. :)

  3. Jenny says

    I have been using the Swedish Bitters for the past few weeks, and while they truly are about the nastiest tasting thing I’ve ever tasted, they really do work amazingly well. Digestive problems of any kind are just gone after taking a teaspoon, so it’s worth the few seconds of the shivers.
    I am interested in trying to make my own though, since I’m sure it’s much cheaper. Thanks for all the info!

  4. Kristen says

    Hi! I am going to try this for my kids that have been constipated for several months now. What dosage would you recommend for them? Thank you so much!

  5. John says

    I appreciate the information about the Swedish bitters. I saw video’s about how great they were and they were the first bitters out there. I had no idea about senna and thank you for pointing this out. I want my body to get better and do not want to have to rely on some thing that could do more harm then good.

  6. says

    I would recommend updating the note on the bitters with angelica to include nursing moms – angelica is not good while breastfeeding either.

    I really appreciate they made a pregnant/nursing friendly blend, as those hormonal states mess with my digestion, and since I nurse long-term I don’t want to wait until I wean to sort it out.

  7. Steve says

    The original Swedish Bitters formula includes natural Camphor (not to be confused with Camphor oil), which is included as a respiratory stimulant and cardiac tonic. It helps even one’s moods and also beneficial in alleviating rheumatism. Camphor, like any other herb is a problem only if taken in excess. In my long term experience in using it, I have found nothing in Camphor properties which would make it habit forming in the bowel.

    I’ve been taking traditional Swedish Bitters that includes natural Camphor for a very long time with nothing but beneficial results. It has cured my GERD, IBS and candida. After several months of 3x daily regimen, I went off Swedish Bitters for a few months and my digestion was excellent. I went back to taking Swedish Bitters daily because I have noticed my energy levels and sensor of well being is so much better when I am on it.

    • says

      Thank you for your feedback and experience with Swedish Bitters! I love hearing personal experiences.
      The camphor just adds an additional strong/unpleasant flavor to the bitters. It’s the senna that’s an herbal bowel stimulant that may become habit forming. I’m glad that’s not been the case for you!

      Have you ever tried other brands of bitters?

  8. Jen Lagein says

    My 5 year old has had issues with constipation since he was born. How do you recommend getting your child to take the bitters? I just started today myself with maple bitters from Urban Mountain, it is bitter but it doesn’t last too long. I may try my hand at making my own. Thanks for the info.

  9. Sarah says

    Odd question, could digestive bitters mess with your period? I started taking the urban moonshine chamomile bitters semi regularly and that month I started with painful periods again. I’ve been afraid to start again in case the bitters would make it worse. Was it just an odd coincidence? I want to take them but I don’t want debilitating periods again

    • says

      I am not sure what the connection would be between bitters and cramping? It may be that you have to experiment to see if that’s what’s happening for you. I’ve never heard of that before, but I wouldn’t rule it out either, since our bodies are each unique. :)

    • says

      You really need the taste of the bitters to get the benefits of them. I’m picky, and they’re not as bad as I thought they’d be. I almost like them now. :)

  10. Diane M. says

    After my parents died and I moved into the family home, I found a bottle of Fernet Branca. The label proclaims that it’s a “bitter stimulant to the appetite.” Is this a good source of bitters?

  11. Sarah says

    I was really hoping you’d say something more about camphor. I’m currently scouring the web for answers after my naturopath doc recommended NatureWorks Swedish bitters (which contains camphor and senna) for my liver. Many many people seem to love the brand, but I did read one 1-star review on Amazon in which the user took ½ tsp and became violently sick soon after. In that review, the user warned that camphor is toxic. Eeek. Now I’ve also read you must make sure the camphor is Chinese camphor…but it wasn’t explained why. And the NatureWorks bottle just says “camphor”, no further details. I can’t imagine why something toxic (with possibility of death if ingested, if you google ‘camphor WebMD’) would be put into any eaten thing. And so many people are taking it! Am I missing something, or do people not check up on the non-FDA approved things they put in their bodies?!

    • says

      Sarah, the FDA does not test herbal preparations, and generally marks them as not safe to ingest unless studies have been done…so it’s hard to take them very seriously when they warn of toxicity for so much. And many times, the toxicity of a substance depends highly on the dose or concentration. Camphor is not uncommon as an ingredient in cough drops. People can have allergies to it however, which is probably why one person out of so many reacted in such an extreme way.