Medicinal Herbs used in Wildcrafted Herbal Products' Therapeutic Creams and Compounds

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Medicinal Herb: Gentian (Gentiana lutea)

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The Yellow Gentian is a native of the Alpine and sub-alpine pastures of central and southern Europe, frequent in the mountains of Spain and Portugal, the Pyrenees, Sardinia and Corsica, the Apennines, the Mountains of Auvergne, the Jura, the lower slopes of the Vosges, the Black Forest and throughout the chain of the Alps as far as Bosnia and the Balkan States. It does not reach the northern countries of the Continent, nor the British Isles. At an elevation of from 3,000 to 4,500 feet, it is a characteristic species of many parts of France and Switzerland, where, even when not in flower, the numerous barren shoots form conspicuous objects: the leaves are at first sight very similar to Veratrum album, the White Hellebore, which is its frequent companion. Out of Europe, the plant occurs in the mountains of Lydia. In some parts it occupies large tracts of country, being untouched by any kind of cattle.

The root is used medicinally. Several other similar species can be used interchangeably. The root is long and thick, generally about a foot long and an inch in diameter, but sometimes even a yard or more long and 2 inches in diameter, of a yellowish-brown colour and a very bitter taste. The stem grows 3 or 4 feet high or more, with a pair of leaves opposite to one another, at each joint. The lowest leaves have short foot-stalks, but the upper ones are stalkless, their bases almost embracing the stem. They are yellowish-green in colour, oblong in shape and pointed, rather stiff, with five prominent veins on the underside, and diminish gradually in size as they grow up the stem. The large flowers are in whorls in the axils of the uppermost few pairs of leaves, forming big orange-yellow clusters. The corollas are wheel-shaped, usually five-cleft, 2 inches across, sometimes marked with rows of small brown spots, giving a red tinge to the otherwise deep yellow. Seeds in abundance are produced by strong plants, and stock is easily raised from them.




Biological Name:
Gentiana lutea

Other Names:

Gentian, bitterroot, bitterwort, gentian root, yellow gentian, pale gentian, felwort

Parts Used:

Active Compounds: 
Gentian contains some of the most bitter substances known, particularly the glycosides gentiopicrin and amarogentin. The taste of these can be detected even when diluted 50,000 times.

Besides stimulating secretion of saliva in the mouth and hydrochloric acid in the stomach, gentiopicrin may protect the liver.

Gentian root and other highly bitter plants have been used for centuries in Europe as digestive aids (the well-known Swedish bitters often contain gentian).

Other folk uses included topical use on skin tumors, decreasing fevers, and treatment of diarrhea. Its ability to increase digestive function, including production of stomach acid, has since been validated in modern times.

Traditional Applications in Herbal Medicine:
Stomachic, tonic, anthelmintic, antibilious
Useful for:
    Poor appetite

Purifies blood, good for liver complaints, dysentery, jaundice, excellent for spleen, improves appetite an strengthen digestive organs. Also used for gastritis, indigestion, heartburn, stomach aches; it increases circulation, benefit the female organs, and invigorates the entire system.
Useful for fevers, colds, gout, convulsions, scrofula, and dyspepsia as well as for suppressed menstruation and scanty urine.

Gentian is one of the most useful of our bitter vegetable tonics. It is specially useful in states of exhaustion from chronic disease and in all cases of general debility, weakness of the digestive organs and want of appetite. It is one of the best strengtheners of the human system, and is an excellent tonic to combine with a purgative to prevent its debilitating effects. Many dyspeptic complaints are more effectually relieved by Gentian bitters than by Peruvian Bark. It is of extreme value in jaundice and is prescribed extensively.

Besides being unrivalled as a stomachic tonic, Gentian possesses febrifuge, emmenagogue, anthelmintic and antiseptic properties, and is also useful in hysteria, female weakness, etc. Gentian with equal parts of Tormentil or galls has been used with success for curing intermittent fever.

As a simple bitter, Gentian is considered more palatable combined with an aromatic, and for this purpose orange peel is frequently used.


Up to 20 drops of gentian tincture dissolved in a small glass of water should be sipped, at least fifteen minutes before meals.

Gentian should not be used by people suffering from excessive stomach acid, heartburn, stomach ulcers, or gastritis.

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