Traditionally used as a "liver purger" to cleanse the liver, and also to help with arthritic joint pain. It is used by both men and women, although women have additional uses for it because it has been traditionally used to help with female-specific problems such as menstrual cramping, irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, hot flashes, and endometriosis. Some women with fertility problems use it to help with their menstrual cycle regularity in order to become pregnant.
Ingredients: Chinese Gentian, Scutellaria, Atractylodes, Bupleurum
Area of effect: the liver, gallbladder, and urinary bladder. Chinese Bitters is used to decongest the liver and gallbladder, and to help with womens' menstrual problems.
Directions: take ½ to 1 teaspoonful (about 5 mL) once daily on an empty stomach, 20-30 minutes before breakfast.
The primary ingredient of Chinese Bitters is Chinese Gentian, also known as Long Dan Cao, Gentianae Radix, or Bitterwort. In Chinese medicine, Gentian is used to decongest the liver and gallbladder. Gentian is also used to treat digestive disorders such as loss of appetite, fullness, flatulence, diarrhea, gastritis, heartburn, and vomiting. It is also used to help with hypertension and sluggish menstrual flow. It is even used topically as an antiseptic on wounds, and as an ingredient in some cosmetics. Medical researchers have found that Gentian can be useful in treating sinusitis.
The other ingredients of Chinese Bitters are:
- Scutellaria, also known as Huang Qin or Baikal Skullcap. This herb is traditionally used to treat various types of infections, particularly upper respiratory tract infections. According to medical research, it is a potent anti-inflammatory. It also appears to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, as well as antifungal activity. It also might have diuretic and antihypertensive properties. Huang Qin is known in Chinese medicine as a "cooling" herb which purges toxins.
- Atractylodes, also known as Bai Zhu or Atractylodis Radix. It is used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve gastrointestinal and immune system function, and for its diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Bupleurum, also known as Chai Hu or Bupleuri Radix. The literal English translation of the name is "Twigs of the Barbarians". According to medical research, this herb may stimulate immune system function. In Chinese medicine, it is used to treat flu and fever, and is said to decongest the liver, so it is often used to treat womens' problems such as irregular menstruation.
Contraindications and Side Effects
Because Chinese Gentian may stimulate flow of certain digestive juices, Chinese Bitters is not recommended for people who have stomach ulcers. Also, because Chinese Bitters has a fairly strong effect, it is not recommended to take Chinese Bitters for prolonged periods of time. We recommend that users take a 1 week break every month to avoid overtaxing their systems. And finally, because Chinese Gentian has an anti-hypertensive effect, you should not use Chinese Bitters in conjunction with other anti-hypertension medications.
Some users may experience headaches, which are believed to be a side-effect of the detoxification process. If you experience headaches, you should reduce the dosage until the headaches disappear; some people reduce to as little as 1/8 teaspoon and then slowly work their way up to the normal dosage as they detoxify.
Chinese Bitters should not be taken continuously for more than a month without taking a 1 week break, because detoxification puts strain on your liver and you need to rest it periodically. For women, this break should be timed to coincide with menstruation.
- If you are taking Chinese Bitters in order to cleanse your liver, you might also want to do a liver/gallbladder flush in order to eliminate gallstones because a loaded gallbladder will tend to cause liver problems to return.
- You should avoid foods that congest the liver, such as spicy foods and nuts (particularly roasted nuts) and especially deep-fried foods.
- Chinese Bitters should not be used in conjunction with any other medications, but if you must use other medications, you should make sure to separate them from the Bitters with a meal (ie- if you take Bitters before breakfast, take your other medication before lunch).
- Avoid use when pregnant or lactating. While some women have used Bitters to regulate their cycles and become pregnant, use should be discontinued once pregnancy begins.
- Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica 3rd Edition, D Bensky & S Clavey & E Stöger, Eastland Press 2004, pp.141-144.
- Ibid, pp.73-78.
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Therapeutic Research Faculty, Stockton California, 2009.
- Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, John K. Chen & Tina T. Chen, Art of Medicine Press Inc, p.856