The Bitter Flavor in Herbs

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Whole dandelion plants with roots

The flavor of an herb is different than its taste. Taste is subjective while flavor is a major indicator of how an herb affects the body and thus, how it’s used. In other words, there is a direct correlation between flavor and physiological function. Basing an herb’s properties on its flavor was a way that herbalists identified what today are biochemical constituents. For example, alkaloids are generally bitter while glycosides are typically sweet. As well, the flavor determines an herb’s actions.

The bitter flavor enters the heart and small intestine. It is cooling, drying, draining, detoxifying, purging, and anti-inflammatory. A small amount strengthens these organs whereas too much weakens them. Bitter stimulates the secretion of bile, which in turn, sparks digestive fires and stimulates normal bowel elimination. It also helps protect the…

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