Thanksgiving: time to talk bitters

The holidays have arrived, they've brought fat

and we're going to eat it.

Bile is essential to fat digestion and some herbs encourage the liver to make bile. Bile breaks fat into smaller pieces for processing. The pancreas adds bits to those smaller pieces, making them smaller still, and now the fat is on its way, through the small intestine and beyond.

Bitters are a great aid to fat digestion. "Bitters" is what we call herbs whose bitterness stimulates bile production. Orange peel, Dandelion root, the very ancient herb Centaury, Barberry, Burdock root, Yellow Dock, Gentian root, Goldenseal and Wormwood are but a few. In general, bitter tasting herbs are missing from our American diet, save for coffee (and then many of us add sugar and more fat!). Perhaps this is one reason we experience the dryness of poor fat digestion (hair, skin, nails, eyes, constipation, etc).

Digestive bitters are available as teas and tinctures. I make one using orange peel, Angelica and Gentian. You can make your own from the hundreds of recipes online, however they're also available at liquor stores. Many digestive liqueurs are modern day productions of ancient recipes created by European monks. These spirits are also called amaros (bitter), aperitifs (before the meal) and digestifs (after the meal); they can be drunk neat (no ice) or mixed with sparkling water and served over ice.

It's important to remember that tasting the bitterness is crucial to the digestive function, so don't over-sweeten the preparation. That bitter taste cues the liver to start making bile and primes the pancreas for its role as well. Bitters can be especially useful to folks who no longer have a gallbladder. The gallbladder is at-the-ready with a storage pouch of bile to dump on a hamburger or coconut curry. Without a gallbladder, the liver still offers bile, it just takes a bit longer to produce an adequate amount. Taking a bitters preparation just before eating can be very helpful to those people without a gallbladder.

For those interested in adding bitter liqueurs to their holiday menu, I've included a list (below) of some that are available locally through Plaza Liquors.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,


Becki Garza

Herbalist & Owner, La Yerberia Botanicals

Insta: @la_yerberia

fb: @layerberia

These bitter liqueurs are ordered from richer to lighter.

Fernet Branca

Francoli Fernet

Cynar (made using artichoke leaf)

Lucano Amaro

Montenegro Amaro

Meletti Amaro

Lazzaroni Amaro

Bruto Americanero

Granada-Vallett (made using pomegranate)




Cocktail bitters are tinctures of bitter herbs. Dashes of these bitters can be added to sparkling water.

Angostura bitters

Peychaud bitters

Workhorse Rye bitters

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