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Gentiana lutea (Gentianaceae)

GENTIAN, YELLOW GENTIAN

 

The root of this bitter-tasting alpine plant is given by herbalists for digestive problems from anorexia to hepatitis. Chinese medicine uses Gentiana species for eye and skin problems. Some over-the-counter tonics contain gentian.

 

Gentian is an ancient medicine, whose name is said to have come from Gentius, King of Illyria, who discovered its ability to neutralize poisons. Containing one of the most bitter substances known to man, gentian is used as a scientific reference for bitterness. An alpine plant found at about 1,300 m (4,000 ft) above sea level, it is native to Europe and Asia Minor but is distributed widely around the world. The root, which is thick and long, throws up an erect stem with short, stalkless, yellowish leaves. Yellow flowers appear in spring.

 

PARTS USED

Dried root.

 

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

Bitter seco-iridoid glycosides, including gentiopicroside, gentioside, amarogentin, and swertismarin; xanthones, including gentisein and gentisin; alkaloids, including gentianine; phenolic acids.

 

ACTIONS

Strong hitter stimulant; anti-inflammatory.

 

MEDICINAL USE

Used to treat sluggish digestion, anorexia, inflammation of the digestive tract such as indigestion, and liver and gallbladder diseases such as hepatitis. Other species of Gentiana are prescribed in Chinese medicine for similar conditions, as well as for conjunctivitis, urinary tract infections, eczema, and other skin problems. Some over-the-counter tonic preparations still contain gentian.

 

PREPARATIONS

Dried root, tincture, tablets.

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