Can’t have too much of a good thing? While eating a head and a half of cauliflower is healthier than eating the same amount of pasta, chances are your gut’s still not going to feel great.

For enthusiastic foodies (even the healthy ones) portion control is a tough area to master. Especially when it comes to social eating, it is easy to forget that our stomaches have physical limits. We love this over-eater’s digestion tonic from the pretty pages of Tonic by Tanita de Ruijt featuring a star ingredient we love: digestive bitters.

This is a digestion tonic inspired by a colorful Indian post-supper snack called mukhwas that I discovered at a restaurant situated in the car park of a very sacred Hindu temple near Wembley, London. Not only did the menu adhere entirely to the Hindu practice of sattvic eating (a vegetarian diet of unprocessed, healing foods), but it was also some of the tastiest Indian food I have ever eaten. Mukhwas is mostly made using fennel seeds, peppermint oil, sesame seeds, coconut and sugar. Chewing mukhwas (fennel seeds in particular) after meals to support digestion is an age-old tradition in India and Pakistan.

Fennel and peppermint jump-start the digestive process, by encouraging the production of digestive juices, and also destroy the bacteria that cause bad breath (halitosis), making them brilliant mouth fresheners as well.

A Note on Digestive Bitters

This is a tincture of bitter herbs, spices, roots and peels, infused in apple cider vinegar.

Bitter flavors get our digestive juices flowing. They help to soothe gas, burping, bloating and indigestion. They also balance our cravings for sweetness and keep our appetites in check, to prevent us from overindulging.

Sometime around 1824, Johann Siegert, a doctor in Venezuela, began making angostura bitters as a stimulant for the troops, to help keep them on their feet. Even the ancient Egyptians were said to have infused medicinal herbs in jars of wine. Across Europe, bitters have been a core part of every meal, to prepare the digestive system for particularly heavy, fatty foods.

Note: Quantities for bitters ingredients depend on the size of your preserving jar. (It’s a good opportunity to use up what might be going to waste in your kitchen – choose from the list below.)

Overeater’s Tonic
Makes 1 serving


1 tsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp honey
1-inch piece of fresh ginger root
1-inch piece of fresh turmeric root or
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 sprig of peppermint
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lime
8 fl oz sparkling water
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1–2 tsp digestive bitters (optional, see below)


In a frying pan (skillet) set over a medium heat, dry-toast the fennel seeds.

Transfer the seeds to a pestle and mortar, and mash with the honey, ginger, turmeric and peppermint, to release their essential oils. This will create the base of your drink.

Transfer this mixture to a glass and stir in the remaining ingredients, until mixed. Add the digestive bitters (if using), strain and serve over ice.

Recipes excerpted with permission from Tonic by Tanita de Ruijt, published by Hardie Grant Books January 2018.

Digestive Bitters
Makes as much as you like


large glass preserving jar with lid, sterilized
bottles for storage, sterilized


50% bitter-flavored ingredients:
+citrus peels: lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit
+roots: licorice root, dandelion root, turmeric root, ginger root

50% aromatic ingredients:
+spices: allspice, aniseed (anise), caraway, cardamom, celery seed, chillies, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, fennel, ground ginger, juniper berries, nutmeg, peppercorns, star anise, vanilla pods
+herbs and flowers: chamomile, hibiscus, hops, lavender, lemongrass, mint, rose, rosemary, sage, thyme
+nuts: toasted almonds, pecans, walnuts
+beans: cacao beans, cocoa nibs, coffee beans

apple cider vinegar (enough to fill preserving jar)


Chop up your chosen ingredients or coarsely grind or crack them to expose more surface area for infusion. Chuck it all into the large, sterilized glass jar.

Top up with apple cider vinegar, then seal, shake. Store at room temperature for 3 weeks.

Strain with cheesecloth, then decant back into sterilized bottles and enjoy. It will keep for 3 months.

Recipes excerpted with permission from Tonic by Tanita de Ruijt, published by Hardie Grant Books January 2018.

Can’t get enough gut-friendly bitters? These herbal tonics are sure to be a new morning fave.

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