Also known as
Gentiana lutea, wild gentian or yellow gentian, and as gentiana in English-language commentaries on Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Gentian is an herb of the high pastures of the Alps and the Himalayas. The roots take 7 to 10 growing seasons to mature. The botanical name Gentiana is derived from Gentius, king of ancient Illyria (modern day Bosnia) (180-167 B.C.E.), who discovered its therapeutic values, according to a history written by Pliny the Elder (ca. 23-79 C.E.) The herb has been used in European herbal medicine throughout the 2200 years since its discovery. Gentian is also mentioned in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia, recommending it for anorexia and sluggish digestion. Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends it for sore throat, headaches, and inflammations. Gentian is one of the world's strongest bitters, and is used in the production of alcoholic bitters and vermouth. It is traditionally used to stimulate the appetite and improve digestion. Both the Chinese and Korean word for gentian translates as "dragon's gallbladder herb" due to its ability to treat inflammations of the gallbladder. In the mid 1800's, gentian was mixed with licorice as a remedy to quite smoking.
Bitter principles (amarogentin, gentiopicroside) and the bitter-tasting gentiobiose, which is so bitter that it can be tasted even if it is diluted with 58,000,000 times its volume of water.
Dried, mature root.
Bitters, teas, tonics, and tinctures.
Gentian has an ancient reputation as a poison cure. Nicholas Culpepper wrote in the mid 18th century in regards to its effectiveness for treating the plague that a "more sure remedy cannot be found to prevent the pestilence". The validity of this opinion has not been scientifically verified however. The bitters in gentian activate a reflex action that releases acids into the stomach and bile into the gallbladder. This accelerates digestion and helps the intestines absorb fat, preventing bloating and flatulence. Gentian is typically taken before a fatty meal. The German E Commission monograph indicates its effectiveness at increasing digestive juices by its incredibly bitter nature.
Don't take gentian if you have peptic or duodenal ulcers. May seldom cause gastro-intestinal upset. Not recommended for long term use.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.