Habitat & Cultivation : The largest member of the diverse gentian family, this plant is native to the Alps and other mountainous regions of central and southern Europe, spanning from Spain to the Balkans. It thrives at altitudes of 700-2,400 m (2,300-7,900 ft). The large root crowns can be split or the plant grown from seed. However, due to overharvesting from the wild, it is now a threatened species. Therefore, it is recommended to buy only cultivated root. The plant requires a loamy soil and a sheltered site. The root is typically dug up in early autumn and then dried.
Related Species : Many gentian species are bitter-tasting plants and a number are used in herbal medicine as a result, for example Japanese gentian (G. scabra) and the Chinese qin jiao (G. macrophylla).
- Bitter principles (gentiopicroside, amarogentin)
- Phenolic acids
- Digestive stimulant
- Eases stomach pain
Traditional & Current Uses
- Origin of the name
Gentius, king of Illyria in the 2nd century BCE, reputedly discovered the virtues of the plant. The name gentian attests to its use in classical times.
- Action of bitter principles
There are four primary taste receptors on the tongue, namely sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. Studies have demonstrated that the bitter principles present in gentian stimulate the bitter taste receptors on the tongue. This stimulation leads to an increase in the production of saliva and gastric secretions. Consequently, it enhances appetite and overall digestive system function.
- Digestive stimulant
Gentian, by promoting stomach activity, alleviates symptoms related to weak digestion, including indigestion, poor appetite, and flatulence. Improved stomach secretions enhance nutrient absorption. Additionally, the herb acts as a stimulant on the gallbladder and liver, prompting more efficient functioning. Consequently, gentian is beneficial in various conditions where digestive system support is required and is commonly used as a digestive tonic in elderly individuals.
- Nutrient absorption
Enhancing digestive function, gentian contributes to improved nutrient absorption, facilitating the assimilation of various nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12. Consequently, gentian is beneficial for conditions like iron-deficiency anemia, often associated with blood loss. It is frequently included in formulations for women experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding.