What is Gentian Root?
Gentian root is an extremely bitter herb from the Gentianaceae family of flowering plants. Plants in the Gentian family are characterized by rhizomes and roots which often contain bitter principals. They are also often cultivated as ornamental plants.
Gentian root is native to the alpine regions of South and Central Europe, and can be found growing in Asia Minor as well. Today it is cultivated in the United States. Gentian’s yellowish roots have been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries, its medicinal value recorded by Pliny the Elder, the ancient Roman naturalist. Gentian roots and rhizomes are harvested during the fall, and then dried for some time. Its taste is initially sweet, followed by being very bitter. Aside from being a popular bitter tonic, gentian root is often used in various liquors, and the extract, an ingredient in natural remedies.
Health Benefits of Gentian Root
Most of the benefits of gentian root revolve around this herb’s ability to stimulate and tone the entire digestive system. Its bitter elements set off a positive reaction, allowing for movement and the production of proper fluids. It is well-known as a liver tonic and a remedy for common digestive issues such as flatulence, indigestion, and upset stomach. It can be taken to stimulate the system after an illness as well. Taking gentian root will increase the secretion of digestive juices, encouraging optimal function of the whole digestive tract. This action also helps to improve appetite, making gentian root a beneficial herb for anorexia.
Gentian root has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits. This herb contains bitter principals, gentiopicrin, gentiin, gentiamarin, amarogentine, and swertiamarin, giving it its ability to act as a potent digestive tonic. It also contains mucilage, tannins, xanthones, and phenolic acid.
How to Use Gentian Root
For the medicinal benefits of gentian root, this bitter herb can be ingested as an herbal infusion. Only a small amount is necessary; one-half teaspoon is a standard dose. Boil dried, shredded gentian root in purified water for about five minutes and strain. Because of its strong bitterness, gentian blends well with other stimulating herbs such as ginger and cardamon. When treating anorexia, infuse with nervine herbs such as chamomile or skullcap. Drink gentian root tea about half an hour before the largest meal of the day for the best effect. The tea can also be drunk any time stomach pains, indigestion, or flatulence occur from overeating.
Before taking gentian root, talk to your doctor, especially if on any type of prescription medication. This bitter herb should not be taken in the case of gastric ulcers. It is also not recommended in large doses. Gentian root has a wonderful healing value, but its potency should be respected.
Hoffmann, David. “The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies.” (Element Books, 1996).
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