This article is adapted from information in my book "Superior Health: The Secrets Of The Chinese And Eastern Way".
I will discuss in detail all these flavors eventually in this blog.
Generally, in small amounts, the tastes have a beneficial reaction. Whereas in large amounts they can disturb the body and throw it off course, even producing illnesses in it. By simply manipulating these flavors in your diet it can also help to resolve and even cure many ailments.
For example, if the body becomes too toxic, you will need to take in more foods that detoxify until you become clean again on the inside. After that the body should be able to function properly again and whatever ailment initially caused by the toxins will most likely fade away and disappear.
When you put something bitter into your mouth, like a slice of lemon, it causes it to tighten up and squeeze. Your tongue will nearly try to push its way out of the back of your mouth. As this is happening, you will notice that your mouth waters. The fluid washes away the bitterness and your mouth is left feeling dry.
The cells in your body don’t like anything that tastes bitter. They close up against it. As they are clamping up, they are squeezing fluid out to push the bitterness away. They are treating it like a poison, ( just like that old expression “a bitter poison”). As the cells push out fluids they also push out fats and toxins as well. This gives them a good cleaning.
The action continues the whole way down the digestive tract, causing cells to push toxins away and eventually out of your body. Some of the flavor is also absorbed into your bloodstream and circulated around you. Any tissues and organs it reaches will again reject it, by tightening away from it, pushing fluids against it, and releasing toxins as well. The whole of the body can be cleansed by the ingestion of bitter fluids, foods and herbs.
Many antibiotics are probably the chemical extraction of bitter foods and herbs. They share similar characteristics to each other. They both purge and flush toxins and bacteria from the body. Their side effects are also similar. For example, the bitter taste is constantly producing fluid wherever it touches. Some bitter fluids, such as grape or prune juice, are directed into the intestines and they end up awash with large amounts of fluid. The bowel movement then becomes looser. This is also a common side effect to be found with some types of antibiotics. (However some bitter tastes like lemon will pass out of the intestine and deeper into the body, thus causing the cleansing effect in that area. Lemon won’t therefore generally increase bowel movement.)
Another similarity to antibiotics is that if you take too much bitter taste or too intense bitter taste for a long period of time, then you can start to feel weak and tired. As good energy, nutrients and blood can end up being drained out of your body along with the bad stuff. Many people often complain of feeling fatigued after being on antibiotics. So from a Chinese Medical perspective they seem closely related.
Even in our kitchens and around our houses we can see the effectiveness of bitter flavours. You will notice that many washing up liquids and cleaning products, particularly ones dealing with fats, grimes and grease, use bitter lemon, orange, grapefruit, or lime in them. You can try a simple experiment to see its effects. If you get a greasy pan and put water onto it, it won’t do much. If you wipe it about you will make a sludge at best. But if you squeeze lemon juice onto it, you will start to see the fats break up. If you wipe this, the fats will easily start to remove themselves from the pan.
In your body the natural fat buster and detoxifier is bile. It is produced in the liver and the gallbladder. Chinese doctors sometimes in the past used animal bile as treatments. Can you guess what flavor it is ? That’s right, it is bitter, hence the old expression, “as bitter as bile”.
The general rule for using the bitter flavor is to use plenty of it when you are in a hot and toxic state. Consume lots of green tea, plenty of juices like pomegranate, berries and grapes, up to about a litre a day. And if there are signs of active bacteria and infections, have watered down weakened lemon, lime or grapefruit juice for a while to help deal with them. One should also obviously stop taking in foods that are toxic and phlegm creating as well, there is no point in clearing things out and putting them back in at the same time.
When we are in a balanced state, the advice changes, here we can have lots of weak bitter flavors, such as green tea or watered down juices. We should also have a glass or two daily of the more medium bitter tastes like pomegranate, berries and grapes. Intense flavors like lemon and grapefruit should be taken infrequently, perhaps once a week or even once every few weeks.
In Western science there are plenty of studies and evidence to back up the theory that bitterness cleans the body. Bitter tastes like pomegranate, grapes, blueberries, green tea and others have been shown time and time again to help in preventing disease by removing damage causing free radicals and also in treating conditions like cancer, heart disease, high levels of bad cholesterol and others like diabetes.
So by maintaining a moderate amount of bitter tastes daily we will help to keep our bodies clean and prevent infections and many other ailments. And by manipulating and increasing bitter tastes if we become toxic and sick then we can help to treat and often cure our own illnesses.
Amongst the common fruits that taste bitter are pomegranate, red or black currants, red or green grapes, blueberries, black berries, lemon, lime, raspberries, grapefruit, pineapple, cherries, prunes, plums and cranberries. And of course we can also have green tea.