Bonus - Taking Wormwood & Herbal Bitters
Part Two - Bitter Foods and Receptor Medicine
Disclaimer - It goes without saying that I am not a doctor and this is not legal medical advice. I aim to write about supplements and compounds that I take or have tried and the research which underpins them. Anything you take yourself you do at your own risk
Bitter foods are amongst the least enjoyed and consumed. Studies point to bitter compounds from plants being instinctively unpalatable, likely for the evolutionary purpose of avoiding poisonous foods. Consumers consistently prefer the less bitter of two products; however, research also shows that bitter foods are enjoyed when placed into an appropriate context - alcohol, coffee, tea and chocolate are often consumed without much sweetener, sometimes as marker of sophistication or health, such as dark chocolate or espresso.
Outside of food & drink though, bitter plants and compounds have a very long history in folk and civilisational forms of medicine. Herbal remedies in both Chinese and Ayurvedic treatments often include a variety of bitter plants and roots - bitter being associated with fire/small intestine in Chinese thought and with draining excess fluids in Ayurveda. Numerous bitter plants have been shown to have antibacterial efficacy in traditional Bangladeshi herbal medicine. Malaysian folk remedies make use of 17 bitter plants to treat over 30 medical conditions and species such as Remijia ferruginea, Strychnos pseudoquina, Hortia brasiliana and Solanum pseudoquina are used in Brazilian traditional medicine to ease the symptoms of malarial fever.
It’s hardly a revelation to point out that the lines between food and medicine are blurry; Hippocrates himself said “let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”. Bittering plants, herbs, barks and roots are routinely used in cooking, both for their medicinal and taste properties. Consider some standard spices such as turmeric or cumin, which can uplift a dish, but taste unpleasant on their own in large amounts. How bitter foods are perceived differs between communities - the Hausa of Nigeria attribute good gastrointestinal health to the properties of bitter plants, whereas Bangladeshis see bitter foods as the natural opposite to sweets, therefore they are used to treat diabetes.
The Evidence For Bitter Foods & Health
Taste is sensed by taste receptor proteins which sit in the cell membrane and bind to bitter compounds which you eat, drink or inhale. The human genome codes for over 40 bitter receptors, known as TAS2R proteins (GPCR proteins for those who are interested). The standard medical understanding of bitter receptors confined them to the tongue and mouth, however, in recent decades it has been shown that TAS2R receptors exist all over the body. In 2009 it was reported that TSR receptors exist in
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Grey Goose Chronicles to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.