|| Bitter root
| European gentian
| Pale gentian
|| Yellow gentian
Habitat: Native of the alpine and
sub-alpine pastures of southern and central Europe. It is also found in Asia
Minor and is cultivated in the United States.
Description: This plant has a thick, branching,
yellowish-brown root that produces a hollow, erect stem reaching four feet in
height. The stem bears opposite obovate leaves which are bright green, sessile,
and have five prominent veins. Lower leaves are also present and emerge from
the root. Large, orange-yellow flowers bloom from July to August, appearing in
the upper leaf axils, growing in whorls of 3 to 10 blossoms. The fruit is an
Medicinal parts: root and rhizomes - collected in
the late summer and autumn, then dried slowly.
|| Bitter principles
|| Triterpenic acids
|| Volatile oils
* For definition of the some of the above terms see the
dictionary section of this book.
Gentian root is one of the strongest bitters known. It
embodies the best of the bitters' known characteristics: stomachic, cholagogue,
choleretic, sialagogue, secretagogue, appetite stimulant, and digestive tonic.
Gentian has given excellent results in the treatment of dyspepsia and several
other forms of digestive disease. As a cholagogue its actions is reliable, but
not the strongest. The herb has antibacterial properties, and several of its
components are anti-inflammatory. It generally stimulates the digestive system
and produces a mild rise in blood pressure. Clinical or in vivo tests routinely
demonstrate the plant's ability to promote secretion of digestive juices.
METHOD OF ACTION
Gentian is the standard bitter
Gentian root is the standard bitter against which all
others are measured. At dilutions of 1:12,000 it still has a bitter taste. Pure
amarogentine, one of the constituents, is bitter at dilutions as high as
Gentian is a cholagogue
Gentian has been shown to be a true cholagogue, but not
one of the strongest - it raises bile secretion by about 20%. This action is
due to the heterocyclic, nitrogen-containing constituents.
Gentian Root has antibacterial and
Gentiopicrine, a constituent, has antimalarial and
Several of the constituents of gentian have good
anti-inflammatory activity (in formalin-induced aseptic inflammations of rat
paws), including oliverine, gentianine, gentianadine, gentianamine, with the
former two being more active than the latter two.
Gentianine's anti-inflammatory property has been studied
in rat hind leg inflammation caused by subcutaneous injection of egg white at
the ankle joint. Administered intraperitoneally at dosage of 90 mg/kg, 30
minutes before egg white, it was effective in reducing swelling and causing its
disappearance sooner than controls. Further study revealed that the substance
does not work on the adrenal glands per se; its action is mediated by the
nervous and hypophyseal system. In formalin-induced arthritis, gentianine was
more effective than sodium salicylate, and just as effective as chloroquine and
Gentian Root has strong action on all
aspects of digestion
The ability of gentian extract to stimulate the appetite,
stimulate the secretion of saliva and gastric juices, and accelerate the
emptying of the stomach, has been investigated and substantiated.
Gentian, in a preparation that also included lesser
amounts of cayenne, ginger root and wormwood, was very effective in relieving
the symptoms of indigestion and heartburn in human subjects.
Gentian root has been shown to reflexively stimulate the
gallbladder and pancreas, and mucous membranes of the stomach, thus
contributing to an increase secretion of digestive juices and enzymes.
Gentian preparations have been found to most effective if
administration precedes mealtimes by about one-half hour. Its activity begins
about five minutes after reaching the stomach, as digestive juices begin to
flow and the secretion of bile increases. Whatever level of digestive liquid is
achieved in 30 minutes will maintained for 2-3 hour without increasing further.
This provides for better digestion of fats and proteins.
Gentian has an effect on the vascular system - the
abdominal organs are better fed by blood and there is a slight rise in blood
Gentian can raise blood sugar
Intraperitoneal doses of gentian have been found to raise
blood sugar levels. This effect begins 30 minutes after injection and lasts for
If gentian is being used on a daily basis, the following
drugs may be imperfectly absorbed: tetracycline derivatives, oral
anticholinergics, phenothiazines, digoxin;, isoniazid, phenytoin, and
Furthermore, certain antipsychotic drugs, such as
phenothiazines, as well as other psychoactive agents which are poorly absorbed
in the gastrointestinal tract, may be even more poorly absorbed if gentian is
also being used.
The urinary excretion of alkaline drugs, such as
amphetamines or quinidine, may be inhibited by the antacid nature of gentian.
The antacid nature of this herb may also decrease or delay the absorption of
nalidixic acid and the sulfonamides.
The ability of gentian to increase insulin production and
secretion may be antagonized by heparin.
The use of large amounts of gentian on a continuous basis
may partially block the digestion, absorption or resorption of a wide variety
of drugs and fat-soluble vitamins.
Conversely, this herb may potentiate the effects of oral
coumarin anticoagulants, such as warfarin and dicumarol, to the extent that it
stimulates the liver to catabolize and excrete cholesterol and it by-products
via the biliary route.
It should also be noted that drugs utilized to treat
angina pectoris, such as nadolol and propranolol HCl, may reduce
atrio-ventricular conduction induced by gentian.
Large doses have been known to cause gastroenteritis-like
irritation, while smaller doses will help to alleviate many gastrointestinal