I have been exploring bitters lately. The bitter taste and how it support good health. I have always liked the taste of something bitter. A few years ago, I began to wonder about motherwort and her bitterness and if she would support my digestion as well as my nervous system, heart and womb. I began to read and think and communicate with the plants in my garden about all of this.

As I read and explored, I began to wonder about the concept of bitterness as a feeling and how it was related to the taste of bitter.

There is no better way to find out about something like this than to take it to the plants.

The feeling or experience of bitterness can be defined as animosity, grief, anguish (anger and sadness) and/or resentment. We all have something that has troubled us for a long time, a person, a circumstance, a political act etc. What happened to you and then instead of working it through, you kept it inside? And now instead of anger, it has become a bitterness that seems to eat away at your well-being at times.

I have some situations like this. In bringing this topic and exploration to my Green Witch School it helped me to acknowledge these bitter places in me that need some kind of healing and transformation.
Enter nature, the plants, specifically the bitter plants.

I must say that this shamanic listening work with bitterness is quite experimental. I took this on to allow it to transform me without knowing what the heck would happen. And I still don’t quite know what will happen because the work is not finished.

Isn’t this a beautiful way to heal? To allow something to take you to place that you don’t even know what will occur when you get there. This work takes courage, vulnerability and radical honesty.
Here is what you can do if you would like to work with this…

Transforming Bitterness with Bitter Herbs ~ Shamanic Listening Exercise:

  • Acknowledge what you have become bitter about in your life. You can write this down in your journal.
    You are going to be connecting with bitter plants.
  • Don’t research the plants before hand. Allow a “not knowing” to be present so that your intuition can be activated.
  • Choose from a known list of bitter plants that live near you, that are in your garden or around where you live. (A list of bitter herbs is below.)
  • Walk through the garden and on the land connecting with different plants that are bitter and see which one can help you with this.
  • Bring this bitterness situation to mind and ask for transformation as you walk.
  • Allow a plant to call to you. Breathe with this plant and ask, “What have you for me?” Listen and offer gratitude.
  • Once you have spent time receiving information from this plant, you can ask permission to harvest and then create an herbal preparation like a tincture or vinegar with the plant.
  • You can also gather and dry the plant and make a tea or infusion.
  • Simple preparations of herbs can be made by cutting up the fresh herb into a jar and pouring 100 proof vodka or apple cider vinegar over it to the top. Let this sit for 2-6 weeks and strain. Store in a dark place in a beautiful bottle or jar.
  • Once you have created a healing preparation with the plant, then you can research more about the plants and what its traditional healing properties are.
  • Offer gratitude to this plant and its wisdom when you are complete.

Utilizing your bitter herbal preparation:
I have chosen to experiment with dandelion root vinegar and vervain as a tincture and dry herb in tea. The dandelion root is moderately bitter. I made the dandelion root vinegar in the fall when it is rich in inulin, a starchy substance that support the health of the gut flora. I have not as yet utilized vervain for healing. I found out that it is intensely bitter and this alerted me to the idea that my bitterness challenge is very deep. Vervain is a nervous system healing plant. I have heard stories of vervain helping those with depleted nervous systems. I feel I have a healthy nervous system but perhaps the releasing of something that has hounded me for a long time requires my nervous system to be strongly supported.
With the dandelion root vinegar, I am taking a teaspoon of the vinegar in water about 15 minutes before I eat. With a tincture, you can start with 5-10 drops and increase if you need to.

Some ways that bitter plants can support your health and the health of the planet:
Bitters can make our stomachs feel fuller, affect secretion of enzymes that digest our food and hormone that control appetite.
Bitters support healthy digestion, optimal liver function and reduced inflammation
Using herbs as bitters adds more diversity of plants and food in our diets and thus more healing constituents/nutrients into our bodies.
Utilizing bitters allows us to contribute to the health of our planet by learning generative harvesting techiques and growing more different kinds of plants. Many of the bitter herbs attract pollinators like lavender and this is beneficial for our earth.

Bitter Herbs:
Dandelion (Root, leaf, flower)
Artichoke leaf
Lemon Balm
Milk Thistle

Can you name others?

There are some resources that have been helpful in this bitter exploration:
DIY Bitters-Reviving the Forgetten Flavor-A Guide to Making Your Own Bitters by Guido Mase and Jovial King
A Taste of Herbs-This is an online class offered by Learning Herbs. Check out their website and get on their mailing list for the next offering of this class.

An important aspect of this exploration of healing is the connection with wholeness. We are whole and perfect as we are. To explore and transform bitterness adds onto our wholeness. As we heal, we allow ourselves to expand into more fully expressing who we are.

May it be in Beauty.