Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Swedish Bitters; Cleansing Herbal Elixer
Despite the picture today including the bottle of vodka- this entry is not a continuation of yesterday's "lets party" theme!
Swedish Bitters are well known in alternative healing practice as a herbal remedy that can be used both internally and as an external compress.
In the 18th Century, Dr. Samst rediscovered the herbal formula from a traditional family recipe. His recorded recipe is what is still available today. The actual creation of the formula is traced to Dr. Phillipus Paracelsus, a Swiss Physician who lived in the mid 1500's.
The popularity of the remedy can best be attributed to Maria Treben, an Austrian herbalist who while fleeing with her family to Austria, contracted typhoid fever in a refugee camp and attributed her survival solely to the ingestion of Swedish bitters. Her accounts are written in various places including, "Health Through God's Pharmacy" and "The Long Life Elixir", both by Maria Treben.
The recipe is made from a long list of herbal ingredients. You may find slight variations depending on the manufacture but they include:
Carline Thistle roots
Investigation into the individual qualities of the ingredients will show that aloe, rhubarb root, and senna all have laxative properties. Aloe also helps stimulate gallbladder function. Rhubarb root can counteract digestive tract inflammation. Angelica, zedoary root, myrrh and anise help to stimulate appetite and the flow of digestive juices. Fennel relieves flatulence and bloating. Angelica root soothes, prevents cramps, and serves as a mild diuretic. Licorice promotes mucous secretion and protects the stomach from acid or irritants.
Given those effects, the main use of swedish bitters is for the relief of digestive complaints such as bloatedness, flatulence, and constipation. The anti-inflammatory properties suggest it may be helpful used externally as a compress to soothe skin inflammations including those caused by insect bites.
The typical oral dose of swedish bitters is to take one teaspoon of the elixir mixed with warm or hot water (made as a tea) every morning and evening. When using as a compress, you should apply oil or ointment such as calendula to the affected area before applying a piece of wood or cotton gauze that has been moistened with Swedish bitters. Some people recommend you cover this layer with a piece of plastic to seal the area and prevent staining of clothes as well.
You can buy ready to use Swedish Bitters in most health food stores as well as many pharmacies. You can also make your own from already prepared dry ingredients. You add the dry herbal ingredients to alcohol (vodka, fruit spirit, rye, brandy) in a wide mouth sealed glass bottle and let the picture sit - preferably in a sunny spot. The mixture should be skaken once a day. After 14 days, strain the mixture through cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer, disregard the solid particles (my plants love them!), and store the strained mixture in a sealed glass(preferably dark) bottle in a cool place. People experienced in the harvesting and preparation of herbs can make there own recipes from scratch.
The recommended dose is unlikely to produce any undesirable effects, but the mixture is herbal and should be used with caution if you have sensitivities or special concerns. Unlike homeopathic or essence therapies, swedish bitters does contain plant particles and therefore side effects and reactions are possible.
I personally stock Swedish bitters as part of my first aid/ home medicine kit and always have some on hand.
And by the way- if you did "let's party" a bit too much, you might want to consider a swedish bitter tea as a nice antidote!!