Gentian, yellow gentian, gentiana, wild gentian
Grassy alpine and sub-alpine pastures in central Europe, southern Europe, and western Asia (Blumenthal et al., 2000).
Gentian, specifically the G. lutea variety, is a plant whose roots are harvested for medicinal purposes. These roots are typically harvested after the plant has matured for 7-10 years and bloomed in the autumn. Once harvested, the roots are washed and dried to prevent fermentation, which can negatively impact the quality of the extract. This drying process is crucial for ensuring the effectiveness of the extract in its later use.
Gentian, despite its intensely bitter taste, has a rich history in traditional medicine. Its name is derived from King Gentius, the last king of Illyria, who is said to have discovered its therapeutic properties in 167 BC. Throughout history, various species of gentian have been used in different cultures to aid digestion, stimulate appetite, and alleviate digestive issues. The Gentiana lutea species, in particular, has been widely used for its medicinal properties.(1)
Gentian, a plant known for its bitter taste, has been highly valued for its medicinal properties. In Chinese and Korean cultures, the word "gentian" translates to "dragon gallbladder herb," highlighting its association with this organ. This is due to the presence of secoiridoid glycosides, which are the plant's most important chemical constituents. These glycosides are found in both the roots and aerial parts of the Gentiana genus and the broader Gentianaceae family, but are mainly isolated in the cortex of the root. The two main glycosides are gentiopicroside (also known as gentiamarine and gentiopicrine) and amarogentin, with the latter being 5,000 times more bitter than the former.(2)
Gentian has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat conditions related to damp-heat, particularly in the liver-gallbladder system. These conditions can manifest as heartburn, nausea, vomiting, gastritis, dyspepsia, and difficulty digesting fats in the spleen and stomach. In the liver and gallbladder, it can lead to hepatitis and jaundice, while damp-heat skin conditions may result in eczema. In the bladder, it can cause frequent and painful urination with a yellow-red color. (3)
Gentian, specifically G. lutea and related Indian species, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a cleansing herb for the liver and digestive system. It is known for its bitter taste and ability to stimulate gastric secretions, making it useful for fevers, lazy digestion, and enlargement of the liver or spleen. Additionally, it is considered a cooling and drying herb and has been used for atonic and sub-acid states, as well as genital herpes. These properties are documented in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia.(4)
Gentian root has been used in traditional Iranian medicine for its ability to draw out venoms from the body. A paste made from powdered gentian root and vinegar was applied topically to treat venomous bites from reptiles like snakes and scorpions, as well as insect bites. This natural remedy has been used for centuries and continues to be studied for its potential medicinal properties.
Tea/Decoction: ½ tsp of shredded root in 1 cup of water and boil for 5 minutes. Drink warm 15 to 30 minutes before meals or any time acute stomach pains are associated with a feeling of fullness.*
Cold maceration: 1 to 2 g in 150 ml of cold water and let sit for 8 to 10 hours, then boil.
Tincture: 1-2 ml (1:5 in 40%), 15 to 30 minutes before meals or any time acute stomach pains are associated with a feeling of fullness.
Fluid extract: Commission E recommends 2 to 4 ml daily.
Gentian, a bitter substance, may cause headaches in individuals who are particularly sensitive to bitter tastes. It is not recommended for use during pregnancy or for those with gastric and duodenal peptic ulcers, as it may cause gastrointestinal irritation, especially when taken in tincture form. However, there are no known interactions between gentian and other drugs.
(1)Mirzaee, F., Hosseini, A., Jouybari, H.B., Davoodi, A., & Azadbakht, M. (2017). Medicinal, biological and phytochemical properties of Gentiana species. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 7(4), 400–408. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.12.013
(2)Fisher, C. (2018). Materia medica of Western herbs. London: Aeon Books.
(3)Garran, T.A. (2008). Western herbs according to Traditional Chinese Medicine: A practitioner’s guide. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
(4)Khalsa, K P.S., & Tierra, M. (2010). The way of Ayurvedic herbs: The most complete guide to natural healing and health with traditional Ayurvedic herbalism. Delhi: Motila Banarsidass Publishers.
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