A bed of bitter greens

Bitter herbs are one of the most important groups of herbal medicines. The picture on the left is a bed of greens on my allotment which has an assortment of leaves for use in salads and stir-fries, including chicory, dandelion, kale, rocket and mizuna. The bitter taste of these plants actually has a fundamentally important effect on the digestive system. Bitter taste receptors in the mouth, and further down the digestive tract, lead to stimulation of the whole digestive process, from secretion of stomach acid, enzymes and bile, to motility of the digestive tract and a healthy blood supply to the digestive organs. A lack of bitter foods in the modern western diet may contribute to poor digestion that so many suffer from. A bitter green salad before each meal however, is inconvenient; an alternative is a dIgestive bitter aperitif such as Angostura bitters, which are little used these days, but are an easy and pleasant way of supporting good digestion; they should be taken about 15-20 minutes before food as directed on the bottle. The bitter herb here is gentian, which is considered a strong bitter, but there are many bitter herbs that can be used instead – centaury is a gentle bitter that can be used for sensitive stomachs, artichoke leaf also protects and repairs the liver, angelica root is also warming and barberry root is antiseptic.