As a bitter and digestive herb, Gentian has been used for centuries for any kind of digestive issue. It also treats inflammation, pain, anemia, skin issues and keeps your liver and gallbladder healthy.
Gentian is a bitter herb that has been used in traditional systems of medicine practiced throughout Europe for over 2,000 years. As a liver tonic and digestive aid, it also has a long history of use in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is still commonly used today for its various potent benefits:
A healthy digestive system is the cornerstone of overall vibrant health. Throughout history it has been widely known that bitter herbs support this important bodily process, and Gentian Root is one of the top bitter herbs used to stimulate the production of saliva, bile and stomach acids.
Gentian is an excellent solution to increase the appetite, soothe nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and general stomachaches. It is also helpful for any kind of abdominal pain, flatulence, constipation and vomiting.
Called the king of the bitter herbs, Gentian works on the stomach, liver and gall bladder – organs which each play a part in the digestive process. This root’s digestive benefits are in part attributed to the phytochemical amarogentin, which is mainly responsible for the bitter taste.
Gentian herb has traditionally used as “gastric stimulant” due to the effects that it has on saliva, bile and enzyme excretion. When bitters hit the tongue the saliva glands produce more saliva (the first element of digestion), which informs the digestive tract to release digestive enzymes that help to break down food. Gentian also stimulates bile production, which aids in the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine, breaking down foods and absorbing nutrients easier.
It is taken half an hour before meals to stimulate the appetite, or immediately after to soothe indigestion.
Gentian has a potent beneficial effect on the digestive system, effectively helping your body to absorb iron and all other essential minerals. This helps with prevention and treatment of anemia.
Liver health is very important for the balanced functioning of the body, as it processes and eliminates all of the toxins that we accumulate in our everyday lives. If it gets clogged, the toxins soon start to build up in all of our organs, making the perfect environment for the development of illnesses.
Gentian stimulates the production of bile, which not only helps to promote digestion; it prevents a sluggish liver by preventing the accumulation of waste and speeding up the digestion of proteins and fats. This in turn can help to allay the sense of fatigue that can be felt after consuming a heavy meal.
As in the past, in modern herbalism Gentian is considered a powerful protector and ally to the liver. It supports the overall function of the liver and gallbladder and blends well with other liver protective herbs, especially Dandelion root or leaves.
While inflammation is a valid response by the body thats trying to heal itself, persistent low-level inflammation is becoming increasingly known as one of the root causes of most disease.
Gentian Root contains several constituents with anti-inflammatory properties; secoiridoidal, iridoid glycosides, gentiopicroside, xanthones, polyphenols and flavones, which are of particular benefit to the cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive inflammation.
Gentian may also dilate blood vessels and help improve circulation, facilitating healing. This is why it is sometimes used to treat migraines, menstrual pains, stomach pains, arthritis, muscle spasms and more. Additionally, a compound in gentian called erythricine has been shown to have sedative and muscle relaxing effects, reducing spasms and cramps. It was also shown to help reduce high blood pressure and slow the heart rate in response to pain or stress.
Finally, the active compounds of Gentian not only lower inflammation, they can provide relief from pain by positively modulating pain pathways in the brain.
Like other nutrient-dense herbs, gentian has antioxidant properties that help to protect cells from free radical damage (also called oxidative stress).
Free radicals are compounds that form in your body as a result of things like stress, pollution and a poor diet. Over time, the accumulation of free radicals can lead to cell damage and chronic disease. Antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals and have been shown to reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Gentian is rich in antioxidants and has demonstrated the ability to protect against infections and reduce the damage to the arteries and smaller blood vessels. This is beneficial for prevention and treatment of arteriosclerosis, or hardening/thickening of the arteries. Gentian also has blood-pressure lowering effects.
There is also some preliminary evidence that constituents, including secoiridoidal, ridoid glycosides, gentiopicroside, xanthones, polyphenols and flavone, may help defend against cancer due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects.
Gentian is applied to the skin for treating various types of wounds and fungal infections. It has been shown to kill harmful bacteria and improve blood flow to wounds or damaged tissue, speeding up the healing time.
A number of studies have found that it has antimicrobiral and antifungal properties. Gentian is combined with other immune-boosting herbs (including Elder flower, Vervain and Sorrel) in a formula called Sinupret, which research studies have shown helps treat sinus infection symptoms (sinusitis).
Compounds in this herb can also help inhibit bacteria that may cause other infections, such as leptospira, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, proteusbacillus vulgaris and Salmonella typhi. In addition to fighting bacteria, gentian has also been shown to help decrease fungal and yeast infections, such as those caused by Candida albicans.
Gentian seems to benefit the central nervous system by helping relax muscle tension and acting as a natural sedative, yet at the same time it also helps fight fatigue. Studies have shown that compounds found in gentian, including gentiopicroside, swertiamarine and sweroside, lead to increased endurance and less muscular fatigue.
Another herb that Gentian can be used in combination with to support the nervous system is the adaptogen called Licorice root, which has been used for centuries to treat fatigue, stress-related symptoms, coughs and colds, gastrointestional issues, and reproductive issues. Licorice root can actually help gentian be more effective. It’s often used in Chinese medicine as a “guide drug” since it helps enhance other herbs and remedies to make them most beneficial.
Dosage and preparation:
Tea - Pour a cup of boiled water over 1 teaspoon of gentian root. Let it steep for 3-10 minutes, depending on the desired strength. Drink 3 times a day. It is taken half an hour before meals to stimulate the appetite, or immediately after to soothe indigestion.
Tincture - 20 to 30 drops, 3 times a day.
Topical application: Apply the tea or tincture on the affected area of the skin with a cotton ball.
The taste: Gentian is an intensely bitter herb. Although this is where most of its medicinal benefits come from, you can add some honey or lemon if the taste isn't pleasant. Alternatively, Licorice root is a great addition to Gentian tea, as it adds the sweetness, but also multiplies the beneficial effects!
Precaution: Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Do not use gentian root if an increased production of gastric acid is generally not desired. As an alternative, consider medicinal plants such as fennel, chamomile, and lemon balm. People suffering from stomach ulcers or duodenum should not use gentian. For gallstones, consult a doctor before use. If a person suffers blocked bile tracts, avoid the use of gentian root.
Please consult your healthcare practitioner if you are taking blood pressure, blood thinnng or blood sugar medication before using Gentian Root. Do not use 2 weeks before scheduled surgery.
Disclaimer: Information on this website is based on research from the internet, books, articles and studies and/or companies selling herbs online. Statements in this website have not necessarily been evaluated and should not be considered as medical advice. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. for diagnosis or treatment consult your physician.Use herbs in moderation and watch for allergic reactions.If you are taking any other medication, are pregnant, breast feeding or suffering from a medical condition and/or are at all concerned about any of the advice or ingredients consult your doctor before taking the herbs.Remember that diet, exercise and relaxation are equally important to your health.
Gentian root is considered the king of the bitter herbs with many health benefits. In tests, it was found that the bitter taste from Gentian can still be perceived even when diluted down to 1 part in 12,000.
Gentian has a long and esteemed history of traditional use, primarily as a digestive aid and to strengthen the digestive system. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Arab physicians all used Gentian Root as a herbal medicine, it was especially indicated for health issues where a weakened digestive system was involved.
Gentian Root is also popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Indian healing system of Ayurveda, where it is commonly used to treat liver disorders, support detoxification and to stimulate the digestive system.
King Gentius of Illyria (180-67 BC) introduced Gentian when he gave the herb, later named after him, to his army and cured them of a mysterious fever.
It has long been used as a bitter flavoring for alcoholic drinks, especially in Germany and Switzerland where Gentian flavored beer was drunk before the introduction of hops. Gentian wine was also served as an aperitif at 18th century dinner parties to encourage the guest’s digestion following a meal.
Gentian is found in many liquor stores as the chief flavor in vermouth, and in Stockton and Angostura bitters, both of which were originally used as digestive tonics. Angostura bitters was produced in Angostura, Argentina (now Ciudad Bolivar), by Dr. J.G.B. Siegart, who was the Chief Surgeon at the U.S. Military Hospital in 1824. The label describes it as a “pleasant and dependable stomachic” and suggests adding it to soups, stews, vegetables, ice cream, and just about every other food.
In more recent times, Gentian found fame as the key ingredient in a soft drink called "Moxie". In its heyday, Moxie outsold Coca Cola and was touted as the ultimate "nerve food". Moxie became synonymous with good times and the "vigorous" life that drinking the product was supposed to sustain. It holds a place in history as the world's first mass-marketed soft drink.
Common Names: 'yellow gentian', 'bitter root', 'bitterwort', 'centiyane' and 'genciana'.