gentian large Gentian

Gentian| gentiana lutea

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include gentian, yellow gentian,


Gentian is a perennial plant, a high mountain dweller native to the grassy slopes of the Alpine and other mountainous regions of Europe.

The large leaves emerge in spring and early summer before the flower stalk appears (usually when the plant is a couple of years old). The flower stalk can get to the height of around 1.2 metres and consists of clusters of bright yellow star shaped flowers nestling in pairs of leaves ascending the flower stalk.

The root is the part used medicinally and over its long life span of up to fifty years, the root can grow to the size of a human arm!


Organic Gentian dried herb and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.


harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

The root of the gentian is collected from plants at least 2 years old in the Autumn usually. The root is then brushed clean (not washed or it will absorb water) before being cut into rings and carefully dried. When fully dried, store in an airtight container away from heat and light.


Gentian is protected in the wild but can be grown in the garden where it makes an impressive border plant given a loamy or lime rich soil. It likes moisture but the soil needs to be well drained. It can be grown easily form seed or be divided from crown cuttings.

Organic Gentian dried herb and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.


therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

Gentian root is a prime bitter tonic, described beautifully in the old herbals as 'opening obstructions'. It has a long history of use as a medicinal tonic and is a common ingredient in popular bitter remedies to improve digestion such as 'Swedish Bitters' and many alcoholic aperitifs that aid digestion.
Its bitter taste acts upon the nerves to increase the secretion of saliva from the salivary glands, gastric juices from the stomach and digestive secretions from the liver, gallbladder, pancreas and small intestines. It accelerates the rate at which the stomach empties It has been used for centuries against all kinds of disorders of the digestive system and its organs. It is most indicated for sluggish and slow improper digestion which tend to be indicated by symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, fullness and flatulence and also for griping pains, loss of appetite, anorexia, jaundice, hepatitis, halitosis (from incomplete digestion), low blood sugar, migraine (when arising from digestive dysfunction) and vomiting and nausea. Paradoxically, it can help people to loose weight too, it helps stave off sugar cravings and gives a boost to the digestive 'fire', generaly improving digestion and metabolism of fats and other food types/
Besides its bitterness, it also helps to relieve spams in the digestive tract and more modern day applications for gentian include IBS, watery diarrhoea and giardia.
Traditionally it has ben used to help expel worms.
Gentian has a good reputation in the treatment of fevers and as a a general immune tonic also benefiting in conditions such as post viral fatigue, tiredness & exhaustion and debility following chronic long term ill health. Often used as an aid in convalescence after a long or acute illness and in draining conditions such as bronchitis.
It seems to have an uplifting and reviving quality for the frail and/or elderly who have lost their appetite, strength or vitality.
Gentian has radioprotective activities against x-ray radiation for healthy cells whilst still allowing unhealthy malignant cells to be targeted and killed.
A preparation called 'gentian violet' (a remedy popular in the 1800's) has shown very positive antibacterial, anti-fungal and general antiseptic results against MRSA and other superbugs, streptococcus, staphylococcus, E. coli and even certain meningitis strains. Candida albicans and other fungal infections such as thrush, fungal infections of the skin and mouth  can be treated with it also. It can be helpful in skin infections and conditions such as impetigo, festering wounds, ringworm, athletes foot  Research link on the anti-fungal properties of gentian violet here.
Prevents angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels) so can be useful in shrinking and destroying tumours.

Gentian root also has a marked beneficial effect on the nerves. The older herbals give a recipe that is equally valid to day for nervous exhaustion (nervous breakdown), feelings of being totally out of control of your senses as in the older pathological term of 'hysteria'. The recipe suggests to simmer 25g each of gentian root and valerian root in 2 pints of water for a few minutes then pour the liquid containing the roots over 6g each of skullcap, hops and mistletoe. Cover with a lid and stand until cooled. Strain the liquid off the herbs and  take a tablespoon of the liquid 3 - 4 times daily. Store the liquid in a capped bottle in the fridge for several days before making a new batch

Gentian stimulates the production of red blood cells so could be useful as part of a formula in anaemia.

Gentian root also stimulates the production of thyroid hormone so can be useful as part of a formula in hypothyroidism and goitre.

It increases blood circulation somewhat so can be useful in cases of angina (as part of a broader formula) and conditions arising from faulty blood flow such as chilblains.

It has a cleansing and tonic action on the female reproductive system, as do many bitter herbs, and can be used to bring on absent menstruation and to help in fibroids and hot flushes as well as nervous states associated with the menstrual cycle.

In the middle ages it was used as an antidote to poisons, for mad dog bites, venomous bites from snakes and the like as it was said to cleanse the blood of toxins. Modern herbalists apply its ability to remove impurities and toxins from the body to stubborn skin conditions such as psoriasis, dandruff.

It can be used as part of a formula in stubborn cases of arthritis and rheumatism and even gout.


An informative article on the history and use of gentian as medicine by herbalist Christopher Hobbs.


Another excellent piece on his experience of gentian as a medicine by herbalist Richard Wheelan.


dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

* Avoid during pregnancy (stimulates the uterus) and use cautiously in breast feeding (makes milk taste bitter).

* Be very cautious giving gentian to children under 14 but especially cautious in very young children. Use very small dose for a week or so then stop.

* It may raise blood pressure so avoid in hypertension.

* Be extra cautious in cases of gastric and duodenal ulcers due to increases in stomach acid as it may increase irritation.

* Be extra cautious in cases of excess stomach acid and in stomach irritability or inflammation.



* Start with doses smaller than those stated below and build up over several days to avoid possible aggravation of any digestive issues.

Tincture: 1-4ml up to 3 times daily

Dried herb in tea form: 1/2 teaspoon of dried root standing in a cup of cold water for an hour or so, up to 3 cups daily. Or 1/2 teaspoon of root in a cup of water and simmer for 5 minutes, up to 3 cups daily half an hour before food. For general medicinal use add 1.5 teaspoons to 3 cups of cold water and allow to infuse overnight, Drink a cup of it before meals, up to 3 times daily. 

For more general tonic effects, use 3-10 drops of tincture up to 3 times daily.

Many add herbs such as cardamon pods and orange peel to soften the bitter taste.


* Do not use in children under 2 years of age.

Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.





Child watering plants




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