Bitter What? Benefits of Bitters

Bitters…have you ever tried them? Do you know what the benefits of bitters are? I am here to tell ya!

Bitter is a flavor that many Americans think is wrong. You hear all the time, “yuck too bitter!”, “needs more sugar” ad stuff like that. We NEED that flavor in our diet. America loves their sweets more than any other country in the world.

If you frequently feel lethargic after meals, bloated, constipated or just crummy in the tummy, you may benefit from taking a tincture of bitters before or after each meal. I find it works great before meals. As soon as you put the tincture on your tongue, it stimulates the salivary glands producing your first digestive juices which is telling your stomach to get ready, here comes the food, start the digestive process!

Not only that, it may help –

  • sugar cravings,
  • regulate blood sugar
  • balance appetite
  • increase absorption of vitamins
  • help the liver

BUT who is it not for???? Someone with IBS with diarrhea – we don’t want to encourage that for goodness sakes.

There are many commercial bitters on the market today with an array of flavor profiles but it is super easy to make. Of course if you don’t want to make it yourself, I can make it for YOU!

There are so many herbs and fruits to choose from when creating your bitters as well as choices of alcohol. I personally prefer to use brandy, it is mild and helps the medicine go down, so to speak.

First choose your bittering agents, one or a combination: Use between 10-50% of total ingredients.

  • Gentian Root – the bitterest of all bitter herbs on the planet. Very strong!!! Don’t go overboard.
  • Dandelion Root and Leaf – a common bitter that is eaten but does well in a tincture
  • sarsaparilla, wormwood, artichoke leaf – I have not tried yet
  • Orange, lemon or grapefruit peels

Flavorings or aromatics to help the flavor profile:

Spices, herbs, fruits:

Cardamom, Cinnamon, Coriander, Coffee, Ginger, Fennel seeds,  Black pepper, Vanilla beans, Cacao nibs(because chocolate goes with everything!)

Chamomile, Hops, Hibiscus, Hawthorn berries, Mints

Citrus fruits and peels, fresh or dried.

The sky is the limit really!

This is my recipe adapted from a recipe from Learning Herbs and from The Kitchn.

all the ingredients

Grapefruit Bitters

  • 1/2 fresh grapefruit, washed well, cut up into chunks
  • 1 Tablespoon dried dandelion root
  • 1 Tablespoon dried dandelion leaf
  • 1/4 cup dried hawthorn berries
  • 1/4 cup dried hibiscus roselle (sabdariffa)
  • 2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons raw cacao nibs
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • approximately 24 ounce brandy or other liquor

You can find most the the herbs at Bulk Herb Store I like that they are close by in Tennessee and I really love their story, check it out!

Add fruit, herbs, spices to a quart glass canning jar.


Then pour your brandy to cover completely!



Mix well and put a lid on it. Keep it on a shelf out of the direct sunlight, where you see it daily to give it a shake.

Grapefruit bitters and valerian tincture macerating

This is it after 24 hours – beautiful!! BUT you must wait a few weeks until it is ready. Taste it after two weeks but 3 might be better.


Once it is done, strain it into another jar. You can add a bit of warmed honey to it but not too much, maybe 1/4 cup. You don’t want it too sweet or it won’t do its job. 😉

I will post the finished product when it is ready.

Share with me your recipes or your experience with bitter.

Enjoy your day – get out into nature and take a walk – 





How To Make an Usnea Tincture

Usnea is a really cool herb! It is a lichen that grows on trees and you can find tons of it where the air is cleanest. We found enough for everyone at the retreat up in Highlands. Of course we did not pick it off the trees, that is a no no!!!! Many tree branches fell with all the bad weather up there so all we had to do was pick it up. 😀

So what is usnea?


Usnea is a lichen( an algae fungus combination) and it is antimicrobial, antibacterial, vulnerary and antifungal.

Uses: Known to help staph infections, heal wounds, respiratory issues, allergy symptoms, sore throat, fungal infections, urinary infections, sinus infections, vaginal infections, the list goes on and on!!!

You can tincture the whole herb for internal use –

or dry it and grind it to add to salves for topical uses.

I use it in my Not Your Mama’s First Aid Salve 🙂

I just finished making the tincture using the DOUBLE EXTRACTION method so I wanted to share my first video tutorial. It is in two parts so make sure you watch both on You Tube, here are the links.

How To Make an Usnea Tincture Part 1

How To Make an Usnea Tincture Part 2

The recipe I used is as follows:

Ratio of herb to liquid as weight to volume – 1:5 whether fresh or dried (That is NOT the same for all herbs)

1 ounce fresh or dried usnea, chopped up

4 ounces water

2.5 ounces pure organic cane or grain alcohol

  1. Place chopped usnea in a stainless steel pot, add water. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn to the lowest setting, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Your water should reduce down to approximately 2.5 ounces to match the amount of alcohol to be used.
  2. Take off the heat, remove cover and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Pour usnea and the infused liquid into an 8 ounce canning jar.
  4. Pour measured alcohol over the mixture and mix well.
  5. Cover and shake daily for two weeks.
  6. Strain and bottle into an amber or other dark colored bottle.

Dosage for adults is 2-3 dropperfuls 3x/day as needed.

There is an amazing amount of Usnea info from Rosalee de la Foret so go visit her blog too!

Have a beautiful day!


Gobo Burdock Roots and Tincture

Wildcrafting Wednesday
Finally, I dug up the Gobo Burdock roots!!!

This year was the first that I tried to grow burdock so I planted 6 seedlings. Four of them took and three took over most of the raised bed.

Burdock in September with holy basil, motherwort and lemon balm and regular basil
Burdock in September with holy basil, motherwort and lemon balm and regular basil

After I harvested the plants, I noticed Motherwort was hiding under all the foliage of the Burdock. Guess that is one strong little plant!

Being that we already had a few very cold days below 35, I thought there is no way these burdock roots will be good. Ha! They were PERFECT and not difficult to get out of the ground. Remember that Lemongrass fiasco??? I only got one of those plants up, the other can just stay there forever as far as I am concerned.

I kind of thought the burdock would be similar to digging yellow dock – nope. Maybe it was the raised beds, maybe it was the beautiful healthy soil or maybe just luck. 😀 Whatever the case may be, I will definitely plant more next year and way more.

I washed all of the roots in a bucket which took longer than digging them up but who wants dirty, gritty roots?! The roots were beautiful and I remember my teacher Patricia saying we have to clean and cut up roots right away otherwise they will get too hard to cut.

burdock roots

Tincturing was the next step. Fresh burdock should be tinctured at 75% alcohol, 25% water. I chopped it up tiny, weighed it and added the roots to a quart glass jar. I measured my alcohol – pure cane organic alcohol, measured my water and mixed the two liquids together.

Next step was pouring the liquid over the roots and mixing well. Perfect. Now to let it sit for a couple weeks!

If you don’t have your own burdock growing, then visit Mountain Rose Herbs here! My go to herb supplier for awesome organic or wildcrafted herbs.

Here it is after a week –

working its magic
working its magic

burdock tinc2

There will be a lot of tincture. 🙂 Here is your monograph on Burdock:

Gobo Burdock (Arctium lappa)

burdock flower

Burdock is in the Asteraceae Family. It is a biennial that can grow 9 feet tall if allowed. The plant has large alternate cordiform leaves. Burdock has pinkish-purple flowers that develop into a spiny burr that contains many seeds. The burrs stick to everything and supposedly the plant inspired the idea of velcro!

It can grow easily from seeds but needs a large area with good loose soil. Plant early Spring and harvest the roots in the fall.

Actions: Alterative, lymphatic, diuretic, demulcent tonic, mild laxative.

All parts of the plant are used in the following manner:

Root: For chronic skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Systemic inflammation(Rheumatic and arthritic)

Enlarged lymph glands, lymphedema, mastitis,

Chronic constipation, poor appetite and weak digestion, GI Harmonizer, poor kidney function, dandruff

Boils, cysts, sties, gout and it is EDIBLE

Seeds: Chronic skin conditions topically and internally

Leaf: Topical as a fresh poultice, skin inflammation, infections, boils and cysts.

There are no know side effects from Burdock or drug interactions but you can get contact dermatitis from handling the plant.

Medicinal Preparations:

Capsules up to 6/ 500-600mg/day

Tea – steep 1-2 tsp. dried root in 8-10 ounces of water. Decoct 15-20 minutes and steep for 40 minutes/ up to 3x/day

Tincture 1:2 ratio weight of fresh herb to volume of menstruum(alcohol & water). 40-90 drops(2-4ml) 3x/day

Hope you enjoyed today’s post!


Disclosure statement: While I may recommend certain herbs and foods for any illnesses, allergies, skin conditions, natural beauty care and household cleaning, as a reader and a consumer use what I say to research further on your end. I am not a doctor but I am an herbalist not a licensed practitioner but  always learning to improve our lives and to relay what I  have learned on to you!

Sometimes this site includes affiliate links from trusted companies that I personally deal with and approve. By clicking on the links provided in my posts, I do receive a small commission with each purchase at no cost to you. It helps pay for my time spent writing, exploring new products and to bring you the best content that I can. I hope to provide giveaways that are provided from our affiliates soon.

Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. Whether you use the link or buy the product is entirely up to you.

Lemon Balm Start To Finish

Lemon Balm ( Melissa officinale), a beautiful, sweet smelling, happy herb! Some of you love it and some of you curse it because of its rapid spread all over the garden, going places you don’t want it to go. 🙂 How do you fix that?

Grow it in a raised bed garden with sides. It will stay contained and you will have more than enough for yourself and friends. Here is where mine started: The box in the back of the pic………………..this one – you can see the small pics 218 (1024x576)

You don’t have to pamper it – my kinda plant! Just keep harvesting it as it grows to encourage a thicker, bushier plant instead a leggy, scrawny plant. It grew to this:

lemon balm
lemon balm

Nice huh? So throughout the season I have been cutting it, making tea, making a glycerite(recipe below), giving it to students at my Backyard Medicinal Classes. I cut it before it flowers but at one point it got away from me and flowered. I thought, “Oh now I have done it, it will be finished for the season!!!”. This was in August. I had nothing to lose so I trimmed it all down below the flowers, short too and guess what, it grew back to a bushy, beautiful crop!

The other day I went outside and cut all of it, well most of it, left some for the bees, butterflies and birds.

I have some drying :

My Medicine Chest - Lemon Balm, Nettles, Golden Rod, Holy Basil, Lavender, Cayenne Peppers
My Medicine Chest – Lemon Balm, Nettles, Golden Rod, Holy Basil, Lavender, Cayenne Peppers

If you don’t have lemon balm here is a good place to get some organic dried lemon balm. HERE

Lemon Balm Uses and What Is It Good For:

#1 Makes a wonderful tea just for drinking

#2 Helps alleviate stomach aches due to anxiety

#3 Brings up your spirits, makes you feel happier and uplifted.

#4 NOT for folks that are Hypothyroid, sorry. 😦

#5 Delicious!

#6 Actions? Antiviral, antispasmodic, carminative, sedative, antibacterial.

#7 The herb is used for nervous agitation, sleeping problems, functional gastrointestinal complaints, menstrual cramps and urinary spasms. **From Herb Wisdom**

#8 It is thought that the volatile oils in lemon balm contain chemicals that relax muscles, particularly in the bladder, stomach, and uterus, thereby relieving cramps, gas, and nausea. **From Herb Wisdom**

Next step once it is dried. Take it off the stems. Add it to your food processor and pulse until crumbled but not powdered. This will keep in a jar for up to 1 year. If you let it last that long! 🙂


Rash Treatment Salve:

1 tbsp. (1 oz.) Beeswax
8 tbsp. (4-5 oz.) Lemon Balm infused carrier oil such as olive, jojoba, almond, avocado, coconut, shea butter
2 tsp. vitamin E oil
3 drops tea tree oil
4-5 drops lavender essential oil

Melt carrier oil, beeswax, and vitamin E oil over low heat. Remove from heat and add tea tree and lavender essential oils. Pour into prepared jar for storage. This recipe makes enough to fill two 2 oz. glass jars.

Lemon Balm glycerite(vegetable glycerine) –

an extract for children or anyone that does not want an alcohol extract. Ratio is 1:2 fresh herb weight to vegetable glycerine volume. BUT I personally find more menstruum(glycerine) is needed, closer to 1:3 but not quite. You have to eye ball it and add a bit more to cover the lemon balm. Here are the steps:

Weigh out your fresh lemon balm
Weigh out your fresh lemon balm
Fill your glass jar, I used a 16 oz. jar
Fill your glass jar, I used a 16 oz. jar
Vegetable glycerin, your filled jar, a measuring cup and your herb worksheet
Vegetable glycerin, your filled jar, a measuring cup and your herb worksheet

By The way if you want the above worksheet, just visit my friend Lorna at and print one out!

Pour your measured glycerin over the lemon balm.
Pour your measured glycerin over the lemon balm.
Squish it down, stir it well with a chop stick.
Squish it down, stir it well with a chop stick.
I added a bit more a few days later, SHAKE IT EVERYDAY!!
I added a bit more a few days later, SHAKE IT EVERYDAY!! 

With glycerin, you must watch it and keep squishing down the herb. It is so thick in there, you don’t want to ruin it!

The finished product - gorgeous amber color and it tastes like a lemon drop candy. :)
The finished product – gorgeous amber color and it tastes like a lemon drop candy. 🙂

Tinctures – alcohol – , can be taken internally or used topically. Tincture Fresh at a 1:2 ratio. 3 oz. herb, weight to 6 oz. alcohol, 100% grain alcohol. Tincture dried, 1:5 ratio with a 70% alcohol to 30% water.

Carmelite Water

3 parts lemon balm leaf

1 part angelica root

½ part coriander seed

½ part lemon peel

¼ part nutmeg

80 proof brandy


Tincture as per instructions in handout. Whoops handout not here so pour the brandy over the herbs in a glass jar and cover by 1 “. Shake well each day for 14-21 days and then strain.

Before bottling, add ¼ cup honey per quart of tincture. Drink before dinner as an herbal apertif or digestive aid.

Remember if you don’t have lemon balm growing or a friend to give you some, order it from my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs where you will get high quality dried herbs for excellent prices!

Hope you enjoyed this uplifting post on our lemony sweet friend!


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