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Gentian (Gentiana lutea)
Parts used and where grown: This plant comes from meadows in Europe and Turkey. It is also cultivated in North America. The root is used medicinally. Several other similar species can be used interchangeably.
In what conditions might gentian be supportive?
¥ indigestion and heartburn
¥ poor appetite
Historical or traditional use: 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.1 Its ability to increase digestive function, including production of stomach acid, has since been validated in modern times.
Active constituents: 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.2 Besides stimulating secretion of saliva in the mouth and hydrochloric acid in the stomach, gentiopicrin may protect the liver.3
How much should I take? Up to 20 drops of gentian tincture dissolved in a small glass of water should be sipped at least fifteen minutes before meals.
Are there any side effects or interactions? Gentian should not be used with people suffering from excessive stomach acid, heart burn, stomach ulcers, or gastritis.
1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 207-8. 2. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 40-42. 3. Kondo Y, Takano F, Hojo H. Suppression of chemically and immunologically induced hepatic injuries by gentiopicroside in mice. Planta Med 1994;60:414-6.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.