Bitters 101

By Mary, CN Blog Contributor and digestive health enthusiast

Remember when your parents would give you a dropper full of digestive bitters before dinner when you were a kid? Neither do I. But Guido Masé, chief herbalist at Urban Moonshine, sure does and he and the UM team are steadily bringing this long forgotten tradition back.

A group of us recently had a chance to meet Guido and the rest of the Urban Moonshine team, including founder Jovial King, for an amazing dinner and training session in Boston. While we shared edamame and rosé with our new friends, we learned exactly how bitters work and why they’ve been a focal point for the brand since its inception.

I’ve had many people scrunch their faces at the mere thought of the word “bitters” when they see me spritz some in my mouth before a meal. What you may not realize is that the bitter flavor so many of us resist is the exact flavor that our bodies are asking for when in digestive distress. By taking bitters the receptors on our tongue initiate a digestive wake-up call that echoes throughout our body. They’re safe to take daily, and in fact, it’s the gentle daily cleansing action that supports the liver and makes real lasting change on our health.

Some benefits from the daily use of bitters may include*:

  • Balancing food sensitivities, allowing for a broader diet
  • Easing heartburn and indigestion discomfort when taken after a meal
  • Lessening gas and bloating when taken before a meal. These symptoms are often caused by undigested carbohydrates flying through our gut and bitters allow them to remain in our stomachs longer to be fully bathed in our digestive juices!
  • Supporting clear, healthy skin
  • Helping curb sugar cravings
  • Cooling effect on entire digestive system
  • Increasing digestive secretions

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products made by Urban Moonshine are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The more digestive support-savvy readers may be wondering about the difference between bitters and digestive enzymes. Although exogenous enzymes can help digestion enormously, they may not be tackling the root of the problem. I’m a fan of taking an enzyme after a particularly heavy meal (think: Thanksgiving), or if I eat late at night. But according to Guido Masé, taking an enzyme excessively basically telling your pancreas to go to sleep, while bitters encourage your system to do the work you want it to, on its own. Masé compared using bitters with riding your bicycle to work daily, vs. taking an uber.

One of the best tips Guido gave to us during the presentation was keeping one of the spray bottles in your car, purse, or backpack. Not only do bitters help you digest heavy meals at a restaurant or while traveling, but they can also help curb the post-dinner sugar crisis. Do you ever find yourself grabbing whatever sugar-filled, brightly packaged snack you’ve been trying to avoid out of hangry desperation? A few sprays of Urban Moonshine bitters on your tongue can help reduce the craving urge and keep you balanced, while you make a more mindful decision.

Citrus: Closest to a cocktail, the refreshing orange peel in this formula is perfect for the Don Drapers out there. Bring out your inner bartender and create an appertif for your next dinner party. Your friends will have no idea you hid something healthy in their cocktail, and doesn’t every health nut love tricking the people in their life into consuming their favorite herbal medicine?

Maple: Considered the training wheels to the bitters world. It’s made with real, organic, Vermont maple syrup. The slight sweetness of the maple takes the edge off of the bitterness that so many newbies run from. I love putting a dropper full of this in a glass of water and drinking it before or after a meal.

Chamomile: This is the only formula in their bitters line that is safe for mamas-to-be since they removed the gentian and angelica that are contraindicated for pregnancy. They also increased the ginger, making this the most antispasmodic of the four, so there’s extra tummy soothing power. This has quickly become a staff favorite since its release and I like to keep a spray bottle in my purse.

Original: The first. The foremost. The pioneer, if you will. For the bitters devotees who don’t want any fuss and the hard core herbal medicine lovers that don’t mess around. Guido Masé may have mentioned he uses this formula himself!

The owners of Zach Woods Herb Farm, where much of UM's organic ingredients are grown

The owners of Zach Woods Herb Farm, where much of UM's organic ingredients are grown

We carry all of the current flavors in the Urban Moonshine bitters line at Cambridge Naturals in varying sizes. It’s safe to say the six of us who enjoyed this training have been taking our bitters very seriously ever since. Our digestive powers combined, who knows what we can accomplish.

This blog post — Bitters 101 — is for general health information only. This blog post is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.