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Check out our new Bitters Bar Herbs!

#moonriseherbs #bittersbar #bitterstonic #tonicwater #quinine #cinchona #lovage #grapefruitpeel #quassia #szechuanpepper #bitters

In honor of our new Bitters Bar section, we wanted to share #herbalwisdomwednesday with you by talking about the herbs we have available and a couple recipes for you to try with them!


Cinchona officinalis – Also known as quinine, this bitter bark has been proven effective as an anti-fever/anti-malarial agent as well as a bitter tonic to promote digestion, anti-parasitic, anti-protozoal, anti-spasmodic, anti-arrhythmic and a cardiotonic.  It is indicated in the treatment of blood vessel disorders; such as varicose veins, hemerrhoids and nocturnal leg cramps. Traditional uses of the South American tree bark include much of the above, as well as anti-fungal, antiseptic, astringent, nervine (balancing and calming to nervous system) and neurasthenic (reduction of nerve pain)  Traditional dosages are ½ cup of decocted tea, 2 – 3 times per day, 1-2ml of tincture, 2 times per day or 1-2 grams powdered bark per day.  *Caution: do not imbibe in large amounts, quinine alkaloids can be toxic in larger quantities and are contraindicated for those on blood-thinning drugs.

Citrus paradisi – Grapefruit peel, like many citruses, are high in antioxidants. The limonene in citrus peel has also shown anti-inflammatory effects and has also shown some promise in fighting various forms of cancer.  Grapefruit peel itself is quite bitter and bitter principles stimulate the production of digestive juices.  It is also rich in pectin which helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. *Caution: Citruses can increase photosensitivity and grapefruit peel specifically may also interact with the metabolism of medications.

Levisticum officinale – Part of the same plant family as carrots, parsley and dill (Apiaceae), Lovage was brought over from Europe as both food (the leaves and stems make a nice addition to soups and salads) and a medicinal and now grows wild in many parts of the US. Traditionally, it was used in love potions and ground up (much like pepper) as a seasoning for meats. Lovage root is a wonderful bitter herb for upset stomach, colic, and acts as a carminative (relieves gas). It also has diuretic properties.

Quassia (Quassia amara) – Quassia has traditionally been used much the same as Quinine, though it grows at lower elevations in the Amazon rainforest.  It’s bitter properties make it an excellent digestive stimulant and it aids the liver/gallbladder to increase bile and eliminate toxins and stones.  It is anti-malarial, anti-parasitic, kills lice, antiseptic, insecticide and much more! Traditional dosages are 2 teaspoons of chips per 8oz of water in an overnight cold infusion for parasites, gallstones and digestive disorder, 1g via tablet or capsule can be taken 2-3 times per day or apply a standard infusion as a hair wash for both humans and dogs to prevent bugs of many kinds. *Caution: this is another herb not to be imbibed in large quantities.

Szechuan Peppers (Zanthoxylum spp.) – Many folks may be familiar with these in the culinary usage as it is an ingredient in the famous Chinese Five Spice blend.  They are spicy, a bit lemony and have a lovely tingly/cool numbing sensation on the tongue.  These unique peppers contain volatile oils, limonene, phytosterols, unsaturated fatty acids and much more.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they have been used to stimulate appetite, protect the stomach and spleen, warm the body and remove cold and dampness.  It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relieving) effects and it may have anti-fungal effects as well. *Caution: Naturally, be wary of use if you are sensitive to spicy foods, have blood pressure issues or are pregnant/nursing.



Tonic Water: Adapted by David Lebovitz from a recipe by Jennifer McLagan

*To make the simple syrup, bring 1 1/4 cup (250g) of sugar to a boil with 1 cup (250ml) of water, stirring frequently, for one minute, until the sugar is completely dissolved.To use this tonic water, mix it 1:1 (in equal parts) with sparkling water or club soda.

1 quart (1L) water

1 grapefruit

1 orange

1 lemon

1 lime

2 1/2 ounces lemongrass

3 tablespoons (33g) citric acid

1/4 cup (22g) chopped chinchona bark

10 allspice berries

5 cardamom pods, slightly crushed

2 small star anise

1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 1/2 cups (375ml) simple syrup*

  1. Pour the water into a medium-sized nonreactive saucepan. Add the zest from the grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lime. (You can remove it with a sharp vegetable peeler, in strips, or with a citrus zester.) Halve, then juice the citrus fruits and add the juice to the saucepan.
  2. Add the lemongrass, citric acid, chinchona bark, allspice, cardamom, star anise, salt, and black peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid, leaving it slightly askew, and let it simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and cool to room temperature.
  3. Pour into a container, such as a large screw-top jar, and chill for 2 days in the refrigerator, shaking it gently a couple of times a day.
  4. Strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer, preferably into a large measuring cup (which will make the next step easier). Discard the spices, lemongrass, bark, and citrus peels. Strain the mixture again, this time through a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth, muslin, or a coffee filter. (If using a coffee filter, it’ll remove most traces of the spice powder but it’ll take a bit of time, so be patient.)
  5. Add the sugar syrup, then pour into clean bottles or screw-top jars and refrigerate until ready to use.

To use the tonic water: Pour off the tonic water, avoiding disturbing any bark and spice sediment that might settle into the bottom of the bottle or jar, then add an equal amount of sparkling water to obtain the quantity that you need. So to make 1 cup (250ml) of tonic water, you’ll use 1/2 cup (125ml) of the tonic water mixture, and 1/2 cup (125ml) sparkling water.

Storage: The tonic water can be kept for several months in the refrigerator. Don’t tighten the lid as the tonic water can ferment a bit and you want any air to be able to escape.


Quinine Syrup by Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Makes 28 ounces (830 milliliters), with enough tincture left over for 2 more batches

6 grams powdered cinchona bark (red will be more assertive, yellow is milder and less bitter)
150 milliliters vodka
20 grams citric acid
10 grams whole gentian root
2 grams Ceylon soft-stick cinnamon, broken by hand into small pieces
30 grams lemon peel, peeled with a vegetable peeler
30 grams grapefruit peel, peeled with a vegetable peeler
400 grams sugar
500 milliliters water

  • To make the tincture: Dissolve the powdered cinchona bark in the vodka. Mix well, and then strain the mixture through a paper coffee filter fitted into a strainer (or a filter cone, if you have one) and suspend over a large enough container to accommodate the final volume of vodka. This process could take up to 1 hour, so don't worry if it seems like nothing is happening.
  • Combine all the ingredients for the aromatics in a medium saucepan. Heat them over medium heat just until boiling, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Strain out the solids and let the liquid cool.
  • Stir 1 1/2 ounces (45 milliliters) of the quinine tincture into the cooled aromatics, and then pour it into a sterilized bottle. Seal it tightly and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Find our dried herbs here:


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