Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A bitter taste can be good....

Good for you, that is.  I prefer dessert, myself.
Most of the people in this country are hypochloridric....that is, have a stomach pH that is too low for good digestion and health....yes, I said too LOW.  I am no exception.

There are many reasons why we need good stomach acid.  The stomach is designed to have a pH of 1.5-3, which is VERY acidic.  If stomach acid is low, many problems are triggered....digestion is a cascade, each step triggering the next step.  If one of the first steps in the process is out of kilter, the rest of the steps will be poorly triggered, or not triggered at all.  It kinda reminds me of a Rube Goldberg machine.  I thought this one was quite appropriate, considering the ultimate task the machine was designed to accomplish.  Digestion is a north to south process, with each function signalling the next function to take place.

If our body is not producing sufficient amounts of HCl (hydrochloric acid), we should seriously consider supplementing with HCl until we correct the glitch in the system.  Do so only with the guidance of a qualified health professional, such as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.

Without enough HCl, we won't properly digest our foods, especially proteins.  Undigested foods will enter our intestines in a form that can do us much harm.....rancid fats, rotting proteins, and too-large particles of food can poison us and actually create food allergies and sensitivities if we develop antibodies against what is perceived as invaders.  We also won't obtain the nutrients we need from our excellent diet and ultimately, we will begin to break down.  What systems will be hit the hardest?  That depends entirely on each one of us and our unique bioindividuality.  It really is best to correct this problem before symptoms of the damage are evident, or at least while the damage can still be reversed.

Bitters are a way to stimulate HCl production in a sluggish stomach.  HCl is a powerful barrier against pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, and prions.  Yes, E-coli, salmonella, and Mad Cow Disease are all killed in a stomach with a pH of 1.5-3.  These foreign proteins actually become food if they are digested by good levels of stomach acid.

A bitter taste can trigger the production of HCl as the body prepares for an invader, as bitter taste is often associated with poison.  The stomach, when properly functioning, will bathe itself in response to the bitter flavor in the mouth, getting ready to quickly destroy anything that is swallowed.  We can trick the stomach into preparing for our cheeseburger lunch, too, with the use of bitter, yet harmless, herbs.

My first experiment with making a bitters solution is a simple tincture.  All you need is some cheap vodka (which should always be on hand for making tinctures and liqueurs and vodka Collins......mama needs her med'cine!)  and some bitter herbs.  I had wormwood on hand, but other bitter, yet safe, herbs will do, such as hops used in beer brewing.
To make a simple tincture, put some herbs, fresh or dried, in a jar.  I use wormwood for worming my goats, so I had some on hand in a powdered form.  Cut or whole would work just as well.
Add enough vodka to cover the herbs, and stir.  Add the lid and put it in a dark cupboard for about a month, inverting the jar on occasion (daily if possible) to mix the herbs and get floating bits back into the solution.
I put any projects needing this type of attention in with my dishes that I use every day.  When I reach for a mug, I will give this little jar a shake and put it back.

After a month, I'll strain it with a tea strainer and put it into a small, food safe bottle with a spritzer top.  These can be found with aromatherapy supplies.  Then a spritz in the mouth, like a funky breath spray, taken a few minutes before eating will stimulate my body to produce its own HCl and I'll be able to wean myself off the supplemental HCl.

The supplemental HCl, by the way, has made a huge difference in how I feel when eating a meal.  I now get hungry regularly as a meal time approaches.  I rarely felt hunger over the past few years....no hunger pangs, just weakness and shakiness if I went too long without eating.  That was also a symptom of poor blood sugar regulation, but everything works together and intertwines.

The journey to vibrant health from a nutritional standpoint begins with diet and digestion.  The blood sugar handling diet, along with attention to stomach pH and gut microflora (a future article), is a great start.


  1. i'm definitely a hypochondriac... wait.. a what? hey as long as vodka is involved i'll try anything!

    great info!

  2. Very interesting. I grow 2 kinds of wormwood in the herb garden: Roman wormwood (Artemisia pontica) and regular wormwood (Artemisia absinthium L.) This is an herb garden my sister planted in 1990 and then she promptly moved to NM. I researched each plant and made notes about them on cards as I had a 1 year old child and didn't know anything about the plants.

    From what I found in several herb books, it said to not take internally as it caused convulsions and has a narcotic effect. So I used it dried for my cedar closet as a moth deterrent.

    I just re-read the card and I had also found it increased appetite and was used for intestinal worms. I found your info about stomach acid and bitters interesting. I'd heard of bitters but never knew what they were for.

    I love the bits of new information you pass onto us devoted readers. :))

  3. Thank you! I've been trying to grow wormwood but those teensy seeds just won't germinate for me! I'll be trying yet again this year.

  4. Here's the culture info from my card:

    Start 6-8 weeks before last frost. Sprinkle seed on soil and gently press in. Do not cover seed as it needs light to germinate. Keep soil moist by covering with plastic (I use clear domes.) It likes 55 -65F to germinate. Should come up in 7-10 days.

    Also you can take semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer. If your seeds fail, you could try this from mine.

  5. I would love some cuttings! Thanks for the info, I'll be trying again soon. Some inside, some outside in the garden.

  6. I have more darn wormwood that I cannot get rid of. I am in suffield and will more than gladly share.. jeanie

  7. I would love some of your wormwood! Are you Jeanie the NTP? Let me know when it would be good to transplant and I'll take all you are wanting to part with. I want to naturalize it on my property.