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  • Writer's pictureJane Wheeler

Swedish Bitters

One of the reasons I got into the health food industry was because I believe that in nature, we can find plants to help nourish, help heal and sooth our bodies.

Herbal remedies have been around for thousands of years and they are noted and kept in every culture of the world. People have been using natural remedies forever.

Herbal therapies can be more effective than pharmaceutical remedies so one must take caution before taking anything into their bodies. Many herbal remedies can cause reactions with pharmaceutical medicines. It is always best to talk to a naturopath, doctor or pharmacist before launching out and trying new ideas.

I told one of my friends I would write about one of my favorite herbal products, actually I thought I had, but after searching my blogs, I could not find it.

One of my very most favorite products is called Swedish Bitters and not just any brand but I like Maria’s Swedish Bitters. There is a non-alcohol bitters and an alcohol-based bitters – I always choose the alcohol one, but it is 39.4% proof so it packs a quite the punch.

It has been proven that alcohol pulls more medicinal benefits from plants than just water alone which is why I choose the alcohol based one. However, the non-alcohol bitters are a must for children or anyone suffering from alcohol addictions.

Maria Treben was a European herbalist who lived from 1907 – 1991, she became incredibly famous when her book “Health Through God’s Pharmacy” was published. It was such a huge hit that it was translated into 24 languages and sold over 8 million copies. I have devoured her book as it is a wealth of information from how to spot a certain herb complete with pictures, what parts of the plant can be used, how to use it and what health conditions it might benefit. I consider this book to be essential for my herbal library.

Swedish Bitters have been around since the 18th century. There are various recipes and various ingredients, all a bit different but the premise is the same. Bitters firstly are something which most people lack in their diet. Bitters are foods, herbs that stimulate your gut, they have been proven to aid in digestion, relieve heartburn and calm an upset tummy. A teaspoon of bitters mixed into hot water and drank is beneficial for digestion. Personally, I find that Swedish Bitters is a very strong tasting and frankly smelly commodity that I care not to sip for periods of time so I have been known to simply swig on the bottle and down a shot when my tummy needs a bit of help. (I am not saying do this, rather giving you my strategy to get this strong smelling and tasting liquid down).

But that is not my favorite use of Swedish Bitters:

If you ask my children, they will tell you all about Swedish Bitters because they were given it regularly for many ailments – no they would not drink it, rather I smothered them in it.

In her book Maria Treben lists 2 pages of ailments that Swedish Bitters may be able to help with and some of them can have Swedish Bitters applied topically.

I remember the time I tried it topically on a friend of my sons who had been in a fight and what a shiner he had. His eye was swollen completely shut. I put some Swedish Bitters on a cotton pad and had him hold it over his eye for 15 minutes. When he took the pad away, his eye was half open! I made him sit for another 20 minutes and the result was miraculous. Oh, he was still technicolor but the swelling had gone down a lot. All of us, my kids and their friend were believers!

I have applied Bitters to bruises, sprains, swellings, warts, arthritis knobs, sore eyes, rashes, bug bites, cold sores, pimples and acne, boils, varicose veins, I used it with stomach flu. There probably is not much I have not tried it on if I was honest.

There are some catches here:

1) Swedish Bitters stains. It is a mustardy yellow color and it can stain your skin and clothing or bedding. So here is the recommendation: for sensitive skin, put some cream on your skin first as the alcohol will dry it out. Apply the bitters to a gauze pad and put it over the injured area, then cover the gauze pad with saran wrap (clear kitchen wrap). Yes, you will feel foolish the first time you do this, but you will not get anything stained and the wrap keeps the heat from the bitters in.

2) On an open wound, it is going to sting! The alcohol will cleanse it for sure but you might yell a little.

My kids knew when the saran wrap came out what was about to happen. Stomach flu? Place a couple gauze pads with the bitters on your stomach, wrap yourself up in saran wrap to keep the heat in and not stain anything.

The neatest thing about bitters is its ability to “move” stagnant fluid inside your body. The black eye reacted to the bitters because the bitters helped move the blood around. The flu got better faster because the bowels stimulated to move things along even from the topical application.

I once had such a sprained ankle I could not walk on it – I made up a compress of bitters and saran wrapped my foot and I could walk with no pain. With no pain I figured it had healed so I removed the compress but then I could not walk again from pain so I wore that compress all day.

I have been known to wrap up complete strangers in saran wrap along with the bitters.

When I have acne breakouts, I often apply Swedish bitters over my face on a cotton ball just before bed. I don’t care in the dark if my skin might be yellow, just wash it in the morning, Brian simply mumbles “oh the bitters again?” because they do have a strong and distinct smell. You can decide if that will work for you and your significant other.

It is my recommendation that no medicine cabinet be without a bottle of Swedish Bitters but I will caution that it is not for the faint of heart, it is strong enough to grow hair on your chest and it could make the hair on your head stand straight up.

But we all know that that which does not kill you makes you stronger!

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