The Use of Bitter Herbs in Practice

Michael McMullen
2017 International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine  
The use of bitter herbs in treatment of digestive disorders is common to many traditional healing systems. This article will reason that improvements of wellbeing after ingesting bitters are due to reflex physiological responses elicited by oral receptors. Any improvement is certainly not a placebo effect even if science has had been slow in determining the bitter tastant mechanism of activity. The article gives an update on oropharyngeal taste physiology, an overview of the digestive process
more » ... digestive process emphasizing postprandial hyperemia, an evidence based critical review of the suggested mechanisms by which bitters support digestion and suggestions as to when and why bitters can be applied for digestive and cardiovascular problems. Through understanding the mechanism by which traditional medicines work, we can both substantiate traditional usage and refine our tools. This knowledge allows us to extend traditional preparations to other pathologies. Our traditional knowledge base is large, but to investigate it we need experimental models sensitive enough to detect physiological changes that do not involve agents that block physiological activity. The studies presented in this article give only a glimpse of the effect bitters have on the body. Much is still to be discovered within the chemosensory world of tastants. Digestion is a process that takes over time and involves the secretion of saliva, swallowing, movement of the bolus along the esophagus, gastric distension, gastric secretions, gastric emptying, pancreatic secretions, gallbladder contractions, small intestine secretions, small intestine movement, absorption of nutrients, etc. These functions all require blood to supply nutrients to the metabolically active cells and blood to remove metabolic wastes Citation: McMullen M (2017) The Use of Bitter Herbs in Practice. Int J Complement Alt Med 6(5): 00198.
doi:10.15406/ijcam.2017.06.00198 fatcat:p7no65fuxbdn7k4ww2oo4z7c5u