Swedish bitters is said to have been formulated in a similar way to ancient bitters by Paracelsus and rediscovered by 18th century Swedish medics Dr. Klaus Samst and Dr. Urban Hjärne (which must be a mistake for his son Kristian Henrik Hjärne, who did invent a bitter).
In modern times Swedish bitters has been popularised by Maria Treben, an Austrian herbalist. The tonic is claimed to cure a large number of ailments and help digestion. These claims are presented with little in the way of scientific evidence to support them; on the other hand empirical evidence provides for a very large database of positive results.
The alcoholic Swedish bitters is reported as having a similar flavour to Angostura bitters, though perhaps a little drier. Nowadays is more common to prepare Swedish bitters from a dry herbs mixture
The following herbs are added to alcohol to make Swedish Bitters:
- aloe as active ingredient
- water extract of the following herbs:
- angelica root (Angelica archangelica)
- carline thistle root (Carlina acaulis)
- camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
- manna (Fraxinus ornus)
- rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum)
- senna (Senna alexandrina)
- theriac venetian (theriac) (a mixture of many herbs and other substances)
- zedoary root (Curcuma zedoaria)
Some Swedish Bitters that are sold might have up to 22 different ingredients. One of these Swedish Bitters is produced in Germany as a dry mix by Stefan Zwerenz, that consist of the following herbs:
1. Archangelica; 2. Aloe vera (Aloe Barbadensis); 3. Lycopodiaceae; 4. Pimpinella; 5. Carlina acaulis; 6. Veronica herba; 7. Althaea; 8. Gentiana lutea; 9. Acorus calamus; 10. Cinnamonum camphora; 11. Kandis; 12. Viscum album; 13. Commiphora; 14. Juglandaceae; 15. Rheum radix; 16. Carthamus tinctorius; 17. Senna folium; 18. Ginkgo biloba; 19. Theriaca; 20. Potentilla erecta; 21. Artemisia absinthium; 22. Zedoaria rhizoma.
More information and photos of these herbs can be found here Swedish Bitters by Stefan Zwerenz. Maria Treben's book contains 9 pages on this bitter, with a description of many ailments and their cures.
- (French) Maria Treben, La Santé à la pharmacie du bon Dieu (original title: Gesundheit aus der Apotheke Gottes - Ratschläge und Erfahrungen mit Heilkräutern). Ed. Wilhelm Ennsthaler (http://www.ennsthaler.at/) , Austria. ISBN 3-85068-123-8. First edition : 1983.
- (German) Origin of Swedish bitters "Herkunft des Schwedenbitters".
- Swedish bitters mixture ("élixir du suédois"), herb mix for 1,5 l of tincture/bitter.
- Ingredients of the original Swedish bitters ″Zusammensetzung des Original Schwedenbitters″, german.