Gentian has been used for centuries to treat mild to moderate digestive disorders. It has been approved for use in foods, cosmetics, and some antismoking products. During the summer, the herb is extracted from the roots and rhizome (underground stem) of 2- to 5-year-old Gentiana lutea L. plants. Another variety, called stemless gentian, is extracted from the entire plant of Gentiana acaulis L Both types are approved food additives and used to flavor vermouth.
Gentian plant has a thick, branching, yellowish-brown root that produces a hollow, erect stem reaching four feet in height. The stem grows 3 or 4 feet high or more, with opposite obovate leaves which are bright green, sessile, and have five prominent veins. Lower leaves are also present and emerge from the root. Large, orange-yellow flowers bloom from July to August, appearing in the upper leaf axils, growing in whorls of 3 to 10 blossoms. The fruit is an obovate capsule. Gentian roots are collected and dried in central and southern Europe, much of the supply for this country having formerly come from Germany, though it is also imported from Switzerland, France and Spain, and French Gentian is considered of special excellence.
The herb’s bitterness depends on how fast it’s dried: the faster, the more bitter. Although no longer listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia (a legal compendium of drug standards), gentian can still be found in similar European compendiums, including the British Pharmacopoeia.
Common doses of gentian
Gentian comes as stemless gentian tea or extract, compound gentian infusion BP 1993, and concentrated compound gentian infusion BP 1993. Some experts recommend the following dose:
- As a tea, boil 1/2 teaspoon of coarsely powdered gentian root in 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) of water for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture and take 30 minutes before meals, up to four times daily. If the tea is strong and bitter, reduce the amount of herb.
Uses of gentian herb
Gentian root may well be the most bitter substance on the planet! It is a powerful digestive stimulant used for improving appetite, absorption of nutrients, promoting secretion of digestive juices and alleviating bloating and wind. It is particularly useful for older people. Specifically, gentian may help to :-
- Intestinal gas
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Sharp intestinal pains
- To help curb smoking
- To stimulate the appetite
Side effects of gentian
Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of gentian:
Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Tell your health care practitioner about any prescription or nonprescription drugs you’re taking.
Important points to remember
- Don’t use gentian if you have high blood pressure.
- Avoid this herb if you’re pregnant.
- Know that the best way to take gentian is by brewing a tea.
- Don’t collect the herb in the wild because nonflowering G. lutea may be hard to distinguish from the poisonous white hellebore.
What the research shows
In one limited clinical trial, a small amount of gentian extract was effective in stimulating the appetite and aiding digestion. The herb’s other uses haven’t been tested or documented.
Other names for gentian : –
Other names for gentian include bitter root, feltwort, gall weed, pale gentian, stemless gentian, and yellow gentian.
A product containing gentian is sold as Angostura Bitters, a commercial cocktail flavoring containing an alcoholic extract of stemless gentian.