The gentian major, Gentiana lutea of the family of the Gentianaceae which includes about 400 species, is a perennial herbaceous plant with a robust vertical rhizome, yellowish-brown on the outside and bright yellow inside.It differs from gentianella, even if it has similar properties.It can reach 1.5 m, but in the early years it develops only a rosette of basal leaves; it is very common in the pastures and meadows of the alpine mountain areas, up to 2200 m, and more rare in the Apennines.
The basal leaves are oval-elliptic while those of the stem are opposite to two by two, which makes it possible to distinguish it from the poisonous Veratro (caution) which has alternate leaves.
The flowers are yellow gathered in bundles and the fruit is an oval-oblong capsule that opens, when ripe, in two parts; the seeds are oval and light brown in color.
The roots are harvested in spring and autumn, cut into pieces of some cm and split in half lengthwise. They are kept in closed glass containers after having been well dried in the sun.
15 Properties and benefits of gentian
- Gentian contains iridoidssuch as genziopicroside, gentisine, amarogentina. Genziopicrin is the main isolated bitter component since 1862. It contains alkaloids such as gentianin and phenolic acids such as caffeic acid which are useful as antipyretics because they act on thermoregulation. It contains essential oils, mucilage and gentisine which is the yellow coloring substance. Secoiridoids (bitter principles) are useful substances in appetite because they stimulate the taste receptors that make gentian one of the most effective plants as a digestive.
- In China, gentiopicroside is a compound isolated from Gentiana lutea, Qin Jiao in Chinese, represents one of the most common drugs with antiviral, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-hepatotoxic activity ( 1 ).
- Genitana rigescens and Gentiana macrophillacontain, like lutea, gentiopicroside (genziopicrin) and are two herbs used to treat jaundice and other liver and biliary diseases in traditional Chinese medicine that has been using them for thousands of years ( 2 ).
- Some studies, conducted on mice and requiring further research, have investigated the anti-arthritic and anti-rheumatoid effect of gentian. Iridoid glycosides from the flowers of Gentiana macrophilla Pall have produced improvements in collagen-induced arthritis in rats (Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2016).
- The bitter principles of the Gentian are useful to stimulate and balance the secretion of gastric and biliary juices, whose deficiency causes drowsiness, headache, intestinal fermentation, flatulence and to help, by improving the assimilation of food, the recovery of convalescents and weak and anemic subjects.
- Among the bitter principles contained, amarogentina is responsible for the bitter taste of gentian, the most bitter natural compound ever isolated!
- The other property of Gentian, thanks to its active ingredient, genziopicroside, is to be a good febrifuge, especially in the case of malarial or recurrent fevers, as it stimulates the body’s defenses by acting on the mechanisms of thermoregulation.
- Currently the Gentian, as a galenic preparation, is used as a bitter-tonic and eupeptic(favoring digestion). In therapy it is used as an exciting appetite, in dyspepsia and in hypochloride.
- As an antimalarial itcan be associated with quinine and may find particular indication in cases of quinine resistance.
- Some studies on gentian extracts consider it antioxidant, fungistatic (which prevents the development of fungi) and stimulate the immune defenses (study performed on rats: Perfumi M., Santoni G., Acta Phytotherapeutica 1996).
- It is known and famous as a digestive, the alkaloids contained in gentian exert a tonic action on the digestive tract by stimulating salivary and biliary secretion.
- Gentian finds use in digestive difficultiesdue to insufficiency of gastric juices, in these cases it is possible to drink the decoction: one cup 30 minutes before meals.
- The herbal tea is useful in case of lossof appetite, fullness and air in the belly , always half an hour before meals.
- As a febrifuge, mother tincture is recommended by herbalists. Messèguè in “My Herbarium” writes of the gentian: “Already the ancients administered it, believing that it would cure the bites of snakes (I do not believe it), to cure disorders of the liver and intestines (I completely agree), against parasites of any kind (it is certain), as a general stimulant of the digestive functions (I verified it myself), as a febrifuge and as a diuretic (I guarantee it). We moderns have added to this list of virtues that of increasing salivary secretion (which makes it an excellent aperitif), of toning the whole organism (like all bitter plants) and of increasing white blood cells, valid defenders against all infectious germs. “
- Gentian is an aperitif and digestive, it is useful in de-skins, in convalescence, in the low production of gastric juices, in fevers.
How to use gentian:
- The herbal tea : even if for the roots and the rhizomes the most used form is the decoction, some texts also report the herbal tea that is obtained by pouring 150 ml of boiling water over 2 g of coarsely ground root, let it rest for 10 minutes and filter.
- Decoction : obtained by placing 2 g of coarsely ground root in 150 ml of cold water. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer for 25/30 minutes, turn off and cover for 10 minutes then filter.
- Alcolate: the mountaineers prepared numerous varieties of gentian-based alcoholates (also with the addition of some juniper berries or bitter orange peel or cloves) by macerating a root segment, about 5 cm, in a liter of good grappa. After a month she was ready.
- Wine tincture : wine maceration could not be missing (the industry mainly uses alcohol to produce bitter digestive) which is obtained by soaking in good 100 ml of wine, 3 g of roots for 8 days.
- Mother tincture: for the preparation of the mother tincture the roots are left to macerate, 5 or 6 years old and harvested in autumn, for three weeks in a mixture of food alcohol and water.
It is already prepared in herbalist’s shops, very often in mixtures with other herbs such as lemon balm, angelica, licorice, mint and fennel.
All the preparations are very bitter.
Here is Messèguè’s recipe : “Leave a handful of gentian roots in a glass of brandy in a large vase of stoneware, in a cool place. The next day add a liter of white wine and leave to macerate until the end of the week. On Sundays, at aperitif time, you can have a drink with your friends. If any of them offer gout, or see a bad flu appear on the horizon, they will thank you. ”
The naturopath’s advice for a gentian-based supplement …
In cases of slow digestion and abdominal swelling, digenzym AB thanks to the contents of ginger, anise, curcuma, walnut and gentian is one of the most effective and recommended recommended gentian based dietary supplements.
Gentian water for oily skin
Gentian has a tonic action on the sebaceous glands, decreasing their secretion.
Gentian water is obtained following the indications of the decoction, it is cooled and applied to the face with a spray, letting the water be absorbed. Alternatively, the mother tincture is used, appropriately diluted in four parts of water and in this case a cotton pad is applied soaked to apply on the clean face.
Curiosity and the history of gentian
The use of gentian, as a digestive medicinal herb, was known by the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans. It owes its name to Genzio, the king of Illyria.
It was used to disinfect wounds, to eliminate intestinal worms and for “female hysteria”, as menstrual pains used to be called. In 1885 an American herbalist launched the Moxie drink, a gentian-based drink, to cure: “nervous breakdowns, loss of virility and imbecility”. It was not successful as a medicine and was sold as a refreshing drink with a positive result.
Gentian is used as a flavoring in bitters, such as Fernet Branca, and in aperitifs such as Aperol.
In France there are several species, among which the stupendous sapphire sappiana Achaulis: gentianella.
Gentian is known, as Bach flower , under the name of Gentian . Gentian is the flower of bitterness, distrust, pessimism and discouragement due to believing that you have no chance of success, that things will go wrong.
Contraindications and warnings before use:
Gentian is not recommended for those suffering from stomach acid or ulcers because it increases the production of gastric juices. Avoid in cases of hypersensitivity to the components and in patients suffering from gastritis, peptic ulcer, hiatal hernia, esophagitis. High doses can cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, irritate the stomach or produce the opposite effect that is to hinder digestion. It is contraindicated in those suffering from hyperchlorhydria; in sensitive people with recurring headaches, gentian can exacerbate headaches. To pregnant women because, traditionally, it was used to induce menstruation. Breastfeeding and children. Gentian can increase the gastrolesivity of other herbs or drugs.