There are a multitude of ways that we can support our digestive system using key foods and beverages. One little-known drink that can have a beneficial (and tasty) effect is a digestive shrub. It’s not only easy to make using ingredients you likely already have on hand, but also you can customize your shrub to your preferences or health concerns. And it really takes your cocktails or mocktails to the next level!
Our digestive shrub recipe below was a sleeper hit amongst our students in our Everyday Herbal course – it received so many rave reviews we knew we had to share it with everyone!
What Is a Shrub?
Also known as ‘drinking vinegar’, a shrub is a concentrated liquid made of herbs, vinegar and sometimes fruit that is fermented for a short period. Shrubs can be taken in small amounts on their own as a shot or mixed with water, tea or other drinks for a tasty beverage.
Photo by Jessica Pescush
Culinary Nutrition Benefits of Digestive Shrubs
We adore digestive shrubs because they:
- help stimulate our digestive juices though their bitter quality
- lower our cravings for sugary foods
- are infused with herbs and spices that can reduce gas and bloating, soothe the digestive tract, relax intestinal muscles and lower inflammation
- are fermented, a process that yields innumerable probiotics; helping us to maintain and nourish the microbiome in our guts, support the immune system and make certain nutrients easier for us to absorb
- are low-cost and easy to prepare
- can be adjusted to include local and seasonal foods
- are refreshing at all times of the year, but particularly in the warmer months when combined with hydrating beverages
Best Vinegar for Digestive Shrubs
Our go-to vinegar for digestive shrubs is organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar because it:
- is a fermented food, containing probiotics that support digestion
- helps to stimulate stomach acid, a vital part of our digestive process that breaks down our food in the stomach
- helps lower the glycemic effect of foods and improves insulin sensitivity
- is incredible versatile in cooking, home cleaning, beauty care and more (learn 20 different ways to use apple cider vinegar here)
Best Herbs and Flavours for Digestive Shrubs
We like to create a balance of tastes, drawing on flavourings that are sweet, spicy, sour and bitter.
You are welcome to choose your favourite flavours for your digestive shrubs. The ones we adore are:
Mint helps to relax our intestinal muscles, reducing spasms and pain, and it relieves bloating and gas. It can help address a variety of gastrointestinal conditions, but is often used in irritable bowel syndrome to diminish symptoms and abdominal pain.
Ginger is a pungent, slightly spicy herb that has strong carminative properties, which means it
can reduce gas and bloating, plus it can help prevent indigestion. It contains compounds called gingerols, which block pro-inflammatory compounds and can lessen pain and is a great remedy for gastrointestinal upset and nausea.
Licorice is a sweet-tasting herb that soothes the digestive tract, plus it has anti-viral and anti-microbial properties, which can be helpful for inhibiting bacteria and addressing peptic ulcers. We are beginning to learn that licorice has potential as a prebiotic, which helps support digestion and the intestinal microbiome.
Fennel enhances digestion by reducing bloating and gas, and can help reduce abdominal pain and symptoms of IBS.
Cinnamon contains an anti-inflammatory compound called cinnamaldehyde and also helps to slow the speed of food leaving the stomach. We prefer using true cinnamon, otherwise known as Ceylon cinnamon.
Photo by: Meghan Telpner
To Sweeten or Not to Sweeten?
Many traditional shrub recipes include sugar. Our recipe below gathers sweetness from the fruit, herbs and spices, so we don’t add any extra sugar to it. Yes, the vinegar has some bite but when we consume a shrub on its own as a digestive aid, we want that bitterness to prompt the digestive process.
If you’re creating a cocktail or mocktail with your digestive shrub, or need a little bit of extra sweetness, add your favourite natural sweetener to taste.
- Guide to Natural Sweeteners
- Culinary Nutrition Guide to Honey
- Monk Fruit and Low Carb Sweeteners: Are They Healthy?
If you enjoy making our digestive shrub and feel ready to explore more herbal medicine, Everyday Herbal takes the overwhelm out of making herbal remedies at home!
When Should You Drink Your Digestive Shrub?
Sip on a digestive shrub before meals to get the digestive juices flowing; or after eating to help you digest your food. Start off with 1 tablespoon, or use a small shot glass.
For an anytime-of-the-day libation, mix your digestive shrub into water, or a mocktail or cocktail recipe.
Tools Needed for Digestive Shrubs
- Measuring cup
- Wooden spoon
- Glass jar
- Cheesecloth or a fine-weave cloth
- Parchment paper
- Fine-mesh sieve
Digestive Shrub Recipe
What we adore about this recipe is you can experiment with it! Play around with herbs, spices and fruits. If you aren’t interested in adding fruit to your concoction, you can leave it out entirely.
- 1 cup berries of choice
- 1 cup coarsely chopped orange
- ¼ cup chopped orange peel
- ¼ cup licorice root
- 2–3 Tbsp chopped ginger
- 3–4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 cups raw apple cider vinegar
- Put all fruits and herbs into a clean glass jar. Add additional fruits and herbs
to fill the jar if needed.
- Using a wooden spoon, muddle up the mix to release the juices and oils.
- Pour in your vinegar until the jar is nearly full. Leave about 1 inch of space at the
- Place a clean cheesecloth or fine-weave cloth over the jar and secure it on with a
rubber band or the metal ring of your jar. Leave your jar out overnight for about
12 hours. This allows the wild yeasts to join the shrub party and accelerate the
- After 12 hours, remove the cloth and cover with a square of parchment paper
and the lid of your jar (this helps ensure the vinegar doesn’t contact the plastic surface on your jar lid).
- Shake the jar gently two to three times a day for the next 3 days.
- After 3 days, change the parchment paper to prevent mold growth and transfer to the fridge for 4 more days, continuing to shake it a few times daily.
- After a total fermentation period of 6–7 days, strain the solid parts out through a
fine-mesh sieve, keeping the liquid in a separate bowl.
- Pour the remaining liquid into your preferred glass storage bottle (or back into
the jar once it’s been cleaned out). Will keep in your fridge for 2–3 months or
Digestive shrubs are an easy fermentation project you can add to your repertoire and they’re sure to impress your family and friends (and maybe prevent some post-dinner emissions!). Be sure to leave us a comment if you loved this recipe!