The Effects of the Bitter Flavor
Chinese Medicine Theory, Dietary Therapy
February 6th, 2021
My Experience with Bitter Coffee
How do you relate to the bitter flavor? Do you crave it from your coffee, love it in dark chocolate or perhaps, need it from your Brussel sprouts?
I have a love hate relationship with the bitter flavor. Its taste is striking and distinct, yet harsh and brass at times too.
For many years, I would enjoy a double espresso first thing in the morning, no cream or sugar. It was how I loved to usher in my day. After I had my double espresso, I would take with me a skip in my step from the caffeine and a chill deep in my bones. That chill wasn’t normal. I would be freezing for hours, if not all day.
It took me about two years to realize that the chill wasn’t my thyroid or just me “being a female.” It was the coffee! Those bitter coffee beans were acting as a cooling agent to my entire system.
It now made sense why Chinese medicine recommends we not consume bitter, or raw foods during the colder seasons because they are cold in temperature. In the cold weather, we want to consume warmer foods since we no longer have exterior warmth from the sun that we once did in the spring and summer.
The bitter flavor is the only flavor of the five flavors that is cooling or cold. The other five flavors are either neutral, warm or slightly cool. You can read about each of the other four flavors by clicking on the flavor: salty, sour, sweet, pungent.
Have you ever noticed feeling cold after a cup of coffee or green tea? Or perhaps you feel a slight chill after eating Brussel sprouts, broccoli or lettuce. I have a friend who rarely eats bitter celery because she swears it makes her cold! Can you imagine her validation when I told her about the temperature and nature of the bitter flavor. She was right all along!
The bitter flavor as medicine
The cold temperature of the bitter flavor can be beneficial medicinally. It is known to be antipyretic, or a fever reducer. We can also use the bitter flavor in food and herbs to clear additional heat from the system like signs and symptoms of feeling hot, redness, sore throat, and even heart palpitations, intestinal pain, and hacking cough.
This flavor is also an expert in reducing accumulations in the body. These accumulations can manifest as swellings and the build up of cholesterol within arteries. I think of the bitter flavor as distinct and sharp. It is its sharpness cleans arteries and reduces fat accumulations. While it’s drying nature aids in reducing swelling such as bloating and edema.
We must take care and caution around the bitter flavor too. When we consume too much of it, we will experience its drying nature to an extreme. This can cause a reduction of resources such as fluids in the body and energy and can manifest as dehydration, dry, fatigue, and lack of clarity to name a few.
The bitter flavor also has a predominant purgative and descending nature. This is the reason why many people consume coffee. The strong bitter flavor in coffee helps people to descend and purge their bowels every morning. We also enjoy cruciferous vegetable for this same effect. They too stimulate the peristaltic activity of the intestines to clean and move the bowels. It’s no mistake that Chinese medicine assigns the Small Intestine to the bitter flavor!
Chinese medicine also assigns the bitter flavor to the Heart. As mentioned above, the bitter flavor helps keep the arteries and blood vessels guiding to the heart clear of excess and accumulation. This property is similar to the antioxidant effect we hear so much about.
Bitter foods are all around them. You may be eating or drinking them regularly and not even know it! Reference the list of bitter foods to enjoy and incorporate in your weekly meal planning.
Bitter herbs: burdock, chamomile, chicory, echinacea, dandelion, dill, green tea, hops, white pepper, yarrow, valerian,
Bitter greens: Alfalfa, asparagus, arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, dandelion, kale, romaine lettuce, rye, scallions, radishes greens, rhubarb
Bitter fruits: cranberries, bitter melon
Bitter grains: amaranth, quinoa
Other bitters: cacao, coffee
I hope that you found this information useful, but most importantly I hope that you choose bitter foods to keep yourself healthy and well,
Disclaimer: This information is intended for general reference only. It is not a replacement for professional health advice. The content in this post intentionally does not provide dosage information or possible interactions with prescription drugs or other medications. Please contact a certified health practitioner such as a physician of Oriental Medicine or Herbalist before considering use. To schedule an appointment with Malerie, visit the services page.
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