Of all the tastes discussed herein, the bitter
one is perhaps the one best known in Western herbalism which has
long touted various bitters (gentian, dandelion, aloe vera, goldenseal,
etc.) for treating a wide range of conditions predominantly associated
with the liver. Bitter foods are generally
overwhelming in taste and therefore obscure the presence of the
other tastes. Bitters are purifying and detoxifying and they
help to remove poisons from the blood as well as from mother's
milk. They are also useful when a person has suppurating wounds.
They are hence indicated for skin disorders, especially where there
is also fever, jaundice, or loss of appetite. Many bitters are
germicidal, bactericidal, and anti-inflammatory.
Because of the catabolic quality of bitters, an
excessive intake will be debilitating. Moreover, many bitter plants
are poisonous; however, many have well appreciated pharmaceutical
uses, such as foxglove which is used in making digitalis. Bitters
are strong medicine and should be used carefully. There are many
bitter herbal formulas on the market. The best known is perhaps
Swedish Bitters. It is quite intense but well regarded. The Floradix
formula is my personal preference. It can be used relatively safely
to regulate appetite and digestion. Of the culinary spices which
are bitter, turmeric is perhaps the most widely used. It is turmeric
which imparts the yellow color to curry, and this spice is extremely
beneficial both internally and externally. Coriander is another
bitter spice used in curry; it helps to provide energetic balance
since it is slightly cooling whereas many of the other ingredients
of curry are heating.
The average person can probably benefit from occasional
use of bitters, even as part of a detoxification program (preferably
in autumn or early winter). By tonifying the liver and thereby also the
gall bladder and blood stream, the regular flow of bile is promoted.
This, in turn, kills intestinal worms. Nearly all types, except
perhaps the air type, should consider annual health programs employing
bitters, but their use should be stopped if the mouth becomes too
dry or if the individual becomes constipated. Bitters are contraindicated
where there is a headache, dizziness, loss of muscular strength,
or reduction of stamina.
Because bitters are detoxifying, the promote clarity
of the mind. Their effect in elevating the air element is
thought to aid the intellect.
Banyan Botanicals, 90 tablets, 500
mg, certified organic
Neem is a detoxifying herb that is especially
valuable in removing excess pitta and kapha. It is very bitter
and cooling. Vata types can combine neem with some warming
herbs to offset its cooling effects. Neem is used to purify
the blood, cleanse the liver, and boost immunity.
Ingredients: Neem leaf*
*Certified organically grown
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2004
Reprinted from The Elements: Constitutional
Type and Temperament by Ingrid Naiman
Copyright 1989 and 1998 by Ingrid Naiman