Posted on Jun 03, 2019, 5 p.m.
Herbs and spices are used in different cuisines to enhance the flavor of dishes, but certain herbs can also be used medicinally to treat minor complaints and research suggests that bitter herbs and vegetables can also be used to help treat the symptoms of conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Bitter compounds in plants help to protect them from being consumed, humans and animals will instinctively avoid bitter tasting foods because they are associated with poisonous qualities. However in traditional medicines bitter herbal cures are used to boost energy, detoxify the body, improve digestive health, and address conditions such as Candida overgrowth, inflammatory conditions, and thyroid problems.
Sharp almost biting tastes of certain bitter herbs indicate that they are full of disease fighting antioxidants and flavonoid compounds such as alkaloids, iridoids, lactones, sesquiterpenes, and a variety of volatile oils. While some bitter plants are poisonous, some are edible greens, herbs, and spices that carry impressive health benefits.
The moment bitter greens contact the tongue their health benefits begin, this process starts with the release of gastrin which stimulates the gallbladder, liver, intestines, pancreas, and stomach into starting digestion. The taste promotes release of saliva to help break down carbohydrates, and the taste also triggers release of hydrochloric acid in the stomach to break down proteins, fats and kill pathogens and microbes that may cause food poisoning.
Bitter greens release pepsin and other enzymes which stimulate the release of bile that breaks down fats and boosts absorption of vitamins while neutralizing toxins and clearing fat and cholesterol from the liver. Bitter greens assist the pancreas by helping break down and absorb nutrients, and helping to produce insulin. Smooth muscle of the intestine is stimulated by bitter greens which promotes better gastric emptying.
Adding more bitter greens to the diet can help to relieve symptoms of GERD by helping to move food along the intestines to prevent stomach contents from backing up. They also have a tightening effect which helps the esophageal sphincter muscle contract to minimize symptoms.
Bitter herbs can help address leaky gut syndrome that occurs when tight junctions of the intestinal walls loosen which can allow dangerous substances and undigested food particles enter the bloodstream, once in the bloodstream they can trigger inflammation, autoimmune disease, and allergic reactions.
Bitter compounds can be used to address symptoms of GERD and gastric ulcers according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences. The journal Molecules published a study suggesting bitter herbal teas containing iridoid are a natural remedy for digestive disorders such as nausea and heartburn.
Arugula, endives, radicchio, mustard greens, and chicory are examples of vegetables containing bitter compounds. These leafy greens are cruciferous veggies that are full of sulforaphane, nitrites, and chlorophyll. Bitter greens can be added to omelets, salads, soups, wraps, and smoothies among others. Cinnamon, oregano, sage, thyme, turmeric, rosemary, and bay leaves also have bitter compounds.
If using bitters in the form of tinctures take them at minimum 30 minutes to an hour before eating. It is advised to consult an integrative physician before adding these tinctures to your diet to determine if they are right for you and avoid possible medication interactions.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.