Info: 35 g Dry Herbal Mix Packet or 250 ml Tincture/Elixir
These products are temporarily unavailable from the manufacturer. Alternatively, please see Canadian Bitters.
The use of bitters (a concentrated blend of bitter-tasting herbs) as a means of stimulating the digestive system, aiding digestion, and serving as a general tonic traces back at least to the Middle Ages, and possibly all the way back to ancient Babylon and Egypt.
The Original Sweden Elixir by Flora is a blend of 15 herbs in a base of alcohol to help with indigestion, constipation, and more. There is a ready-made version which comes in amber glass bottles, but it's heavy, subject to breakage, and contains alcohol - a 39.4% concentration by volume - making it problematic to ship. (It may be available in store or by special order.)
With the dried herbal ingredients in packets, you can prepare your own batch of bitters. Each 35 g packet makes up to 750 ml of Swedenbitters when added to 800 ml of whatever type of vodka* you choose.
The use of bitters was refined and formalized in the form now known as Swedish Bitters by a Dr. Samst in Sweden, circa 1850. This version by Flora has most of those same ingredients, except for Saffron and Theriac.
Some also use bitters as a blood tonic, and it can also be used topically, to relieve cuts, bruises, insect bites, or rashes.
Make Your Own Bitters
If you're looking to make larger quantities, or simply want a more economical option compared to the 250 ml Prepared Elixir, you can use a 35g Dry Herbal Blend Packet to make up to 750 ml of Tonic (when added to your own alcohol).
To prepare the dry herbal blend Swedenbitters into a tincture nearly identical to the Original Sweden Elixir (they share all the same ingredients, with just slight differences in some of their concentrations, simply follow the instructions below. The herbs are mixed with a bottle of alcohol, you let it sit for about a week (shaking it up a bit daily). You can have your own home-prepared elixir in 8 days.
If you would prefer not to prepare your own, we do carry a very similar product from Flora which is premixed and comes in the amber glass bottles: Maria's Swedish Bitters. St. Francis Herb Farm also offers a Canadian Bitters formula.
Flora Swedenbitters Dry Herbal Blend (Health Canada NPN 80038634):
Each 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of the prepared tincture contains (QCE):
Aloe (Aloe ferox) (1:215): 23.3 mg
Rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum) (1:215): 23.3 mg
Zedoary root (Curcuma zedoaria) (1:215): 23.3 mg
Manna sap (Fraxinus ornus) (1:215): 23.3 mg
Angelica root (Angelica archangelica) (1:215): 23.3 mg
Anise seed (Pimpinella anisum) (1:267): 18.7 mg
Senna pods (Cassia angustifolia) (1:435): 11.7 mg
Camphor sap (Cinnamomum camphora) (1:427): 11.7 mg
Carline thistle root (Carlina acaulis) (1:427): 11.7 mg
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) (1:427): 11.7 mg
Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) (1:427): 11.7 mg
Bitter orange peel (Citrus aurantium) (1:427): 11.7 mg
Myrrh resin (Commiphora molmol) (1:714): 7 mg
Gentian root (Gentiana lutea) (1:714): 7 mg
Galangal root (Alpinia officinarum) (1:714): 7 mg
QCE = Quantity Dried Crude Equivalent
Flora Original Sweden Elixir (NPN 80038619):
Each 5 ml teaspoon contains:
Aloe (Aloe ferox, leaf): 23.5 mg
Angelica (Angelica archangelica, root): 23.5 mg
Manna (Fraxinus ornus, sap): 23.5 mg
Rhubarb (Rheum palmatum, root): 23.5 mg
Zedoary (Curcuma zedoaria, root): 23.5 mg
Anise (Pimpinella anisum, seed): 11.5 mg
Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium, peel): 11.5 mg
Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora wood): 11.5 mg
Carline thistle root (Carlina acaulis, root): 11.5 mg
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare, seed): 11.5 mg
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, root): 11.5 mg
Senna (Cassia angustifolia, pod): 11.5 mg
Galangal (Alpinia officinarum, root): 7 mg
Gentian (Gentiana lutea, root): 7 mg
Myrrh resin (Commiphora molmol, resin): 7 mg
Non-medicinal ingredients: Water and grain alcohol (39.4 %v/v).
For the relief of dyspepsia (indigestion):
- with the Tincture prepared from the Dry Herbal Blend: Adults: Dilute 2 tsp (10 ml total) in water or herbal tea, and take once daily after a heavy meal.
- with the Original Sweden Elixir: Adults: Take 3 to 4 teaspoons once daily after a heavy meal.
For the relief of constipation:
- with the Tincture prepared from the Dry Herbal Blend: Adults: Dilute 2 tsp (10 ml total) in water or herbal tea, take up to once daily at bedtime.
- with the Original Sweden Elixir: Adults: Take 3 to 4 teaspoons once daily at bedtime.
Allow at least 6 to 12 hours for the laxative effect to occur with either type.
Do not exceed recommended dosage. Consult a healthcare practitioner for use as a laxative beyond 1 week at a time.
Keep the dry ingredients in a cool, dry place. The alcohol-based elixir does not require refrigeration, and has a long shelf life (3 years, for their pre-prepared version).
To Prepare the Tincture
Empty the content of package (35 g) in a wide-necked bottle (such as a very large mason jar) containing about 750 to 800 ml (about 3 cups) of vodka.* Cover the bottle tightly. Shake it daily. After 8 days, strain the contents through a clean cheese cloth or fine mesh into the clean bottle it is to be stored in, to remove all the herbs and sediments from the tincture.
* Note, it doesn't have to be vodka in particular: other types of strong (40% or more) alcohol may do. However, the efficacy of the bitters might be reduced if the taste of the alcohol is so strong that it prevents some of the flavours of the bitters from being tasted, which appears to be how they initially induce the liver to produce more bile, to stimulate digestion.
Shake either type of prepared bottle each time before using. Take the bitters a few hours before or after taking any other medications or health products. Take 2 to 3 times a week; if results are not observed, the frequency may be increased up to once daily.
The Prepared Elixir contains alcohol. Keep out of reach of children. Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding; or if you have acute stomach irritation, inflammation, stomach or duodenal ulcers, and/or intestinal obstruction; or if you are allergic to anethole or plants of the Apiaceae/carrot family.
Consult a healthcare practitioner prior to use if you are taking any medications or if you have a medical condition.
Consult a healthcare practitioner if symptoms persist or worsen.
Discontinue use and consult a health care practitioner if diarrhea, abdominal cramps, spasms, and/or pain occur. Hypersensitivity has been known to occur; in which case, discontinue use of Sweden Bitters.