Botanical: Gentiana lutea
Family: Gentianaceae (gentian)
Other common names: Bitterwort, Sampson's Snakeroot, Bitter Root, Yellow Gentian, Felwort, Gentiane Jaune, Enzianwurzel, Bitterwurzel
For three thousand years, Gentian has been used as a digestive aid to treat digestive disorders. Its bitter qualities help to stimulate gastric juices and increase bile production, which may relieve dyspepsia, morning sickness, flatulence, indigestion, flatulence and liver problems.
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Gentian is an intensely bitter herb that has been used in different cultures since ancient times to treat digestive disorders and to stimulate the appetite. It is a perennial plant that grows up to three or four feet tall and is said to be a native of the alpine and sub-alpine pastures of central and southern Europe. There are about 180 species of Gentians with flowers of varied color that are distributed throughout the temperate regions and high mountains of the world; however, their medicinal applications are virtually interchangeable. Gentiana lutea, or Yellow Gentian, is perhaps the most remarkable of the species which compose this genus, both for its beauty and great comparative size. From its thick, long, branching, perennial rhizome, an erect, round stem rises to the height of three or four feet, bearing opposite, sessile, ovate leaves of a bright-green color. The lower leaves, which spring from the root, are narrowed at their base into the form of a petiole. The flowers are large and beautiful, of a yellow color, peduncled, and placed in whorls at the axils of the upper leaves. The herb is widely cultivated in China and is frequently found in the mountains of Spain, Portugal, the Pyrenees, Sardinia and Corsica, the Apennines, Bosnia and the Balkan States. The botanical name of Gentian is derived from Gentius, an ancient botanist and King of Illyria (180-167 B.C.), who, according to Pliny and Dioscorides, discovered its medicinal value. In both Chinese and Korean, the terms for Gentian can be translated literally as "dragon gallbladder herb," which attests to Gentian's ability to treat fiery inflammations of the gallbladder. In Chinese medicine, other species of Gentian have been used and have similar constituents. These are referred to as longdan, and they are used for jaundice, hepatitis, conjunctivitis, urinary tract infections, pruritis and eczema. During the Middle Ages, Gentian was commonly employed as an antidote to poison, and later, Father Kneipp, a nineteenth- century healer who was well known in Europe, strongly recommended the use of Gentian bitters in a little cordial made with Gentian extract to stop the discomfort of food that was felt to be heavy in the stomach and troublesome. Most people find the neutral taste of the capsules preferable to the extremely bitter taste of drinks made with Gentian bitters. Among Gentian's constituents are iridoids including 4% gentiopicrosides (gentiopicrin and amarogentin - main bitter principle) and swertiomarin, alkaloids (gentianine and gentialutine), xanthones (gentisein, gentisin, isogentisin, gentioside, trimethoxyxanthone), caffeic and sinapic acids, linalool, limonene, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, B-vitamins and vitamin C.
For indigestion, Gentian is one of the most useful of the bitter vegetable tonics. Taken thirty minutes before eating, it is thought to stimulate the digestive juices, increase pancreatic activity and the production of bile (good for the liver, gallbladder and stones), as well as boost blood supply to the digestive tract and intestines. It is said to be excellent for preventing gas.
The strong bitter principle in Gentian is considered a sialagogue that helps to increase saliva production. It is said that bitters stimulate the vagus nerve reflex (activated by bitter receptors at the back of the tongue) to secrete digestive juices.
Further supporting its beneficial effects on liver function, the increased bile produced by Gentian is thought to be particularly helpful in emulsifying and digesting fat and protein and easing liver malfunction and jaundice.
Gentian is said to strengthen the entire human system by increasing vascular circulation and stimulating the activities of many glands and organs by ensuring a healthy blood supply.
As an overall tonic, Gentian has been useful in treating those in a state of exhaustion from chronic disease or in cases of general debility. It helps to stimulate the appetite, which is also thought to be useful in treating anorexia.
Another benefit attributed to Gentian is its mild ability to clean the bowel and effectively, slowly cleanse hardened morbid matter from the colon. As a mild laxative, it help to promote peristalsis (muscular contractions of the bowel), thus encouraging movement of waste from the body. Gentian is believed to prevent intestinal infection and help rebalance intestinal flora, which is helpful for preventing serious colorectal disease.
Herbalists have also used Gentian to help calm hysteria and decrease fever.
Gentian has been known expel worms and kill plasmodia (organisms that cause malaria) and is thought to be more effective than quinine.
Pregnant women or those with high blood pressure or chronic gastrointestinal problems should use Gentian Herbal Supplement only under supervision of a physician. Avoid Gentian if you have diarrhea caused by poor digestion, or if you have excess stomach acid, heartburn, peptic ulcer disease or gastritis. Older children and adults over sixty-five should take Gentian only with direction from a health care provider.