Gentian - Gentiana lutea

Gentian

Gentiana lutea

Gentian is famous for its extremely bitter taste. Every part of this herbage accents intense bitterness. Being a herbal bitter, many proprietary medicines employ gentian herbs to address digestive system irregularities, including flatulence (intestinal gas), loss of appetite, bloating, gastritis, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and heartburn.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Gentiana, Great Yellow Gentian, Bitterroot, Bitterwort, Felwort
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: No
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Root, Leaves and Flowers
  • Side Effects: Gentian is contraindicated in pregnancy
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About Gentian

Gentian is a flowering herbaceous perennial is native to Europe and Western Asia. It is highly prized due to its gorgeous yellow flowers. Its height ranges from 3 to 6 feet, portraying long and broad lanceolate to elliptic leaves with narrow petalled flowers. 

Gentian is famous for its extremely bitter taste. Every part of this herbage accents intense bitterness. Being a herbal bitter, many proprietary medicines employ gentian herbs to address digestive system irregularities, including flatulence (intestinal gas), loss of appetite, bloating, gastritis, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and heartburn. It is also used as a germicide and parasitic worm killer. People use it as an antispasmodic for muscular spasms and also for reducing fever, hysteria, and high blood pressure.

The Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicinal system has claimed a plethora of medicinal benefits of gentian root, however, very few scientific studies have been able to back its purported perks. Gentian root has been found to possess xanthones, iridoids, secoiridoids, and different flavonoids. 

Researchers have discovered its anti-inflammatory property due to gentiopicroside (an iridoid) which makes it fruitful for the treatment of arthritis and sinus infection. However, a few more studies are required to verify its novel uses.

 

Growing

This dainty gentian beauty is a bit finicky about its requirements to grow. Gentian grows at a slow pace and might take years to produce flowers. It requires rich, moist, and well-drained sandy loam. 

Gentian seeds can be sown at any time of the year, but try starting gentian in early spring or winter for better yield as cold spells and wet compost help break the seed dormancy. They can be started indoors too, ideally in a greenhouse with artificial optimum requirements, if you are out of the zone league.

Gentian seeds pose extremely unpredictable germination times. They can germinate within 2 weeks or can take as long as six months too. After sprouting, gentian radicles and shoots grow slowly and gradually.

After a year or so, they give out exquisite yellow flowers that again pose some difficulty for pollination as their petals are fused all the way to the top and only strong insects like bumblebees can push their way past through it to pollinate the flower in exchange for its nectar.

Once pollinated, the flowers undergo fertilization to produce small orange fruits that bear 3 seeds which promise the perpetuation of the gentian plant.

 

Harvesting

The gentian leaves and flowers are harvested during spring and summer while its root is harvested during fall as it is packed with all the phytoconstituents reserved during the summers.

Gentian leaves and flowers can be snipped with scissors but for the root, loosen the plant around the soil and dig it up, cut the required amount of root and place back the rest to avoid jeopardizing its growth.

Gentian root is dried in sun and chopped to be stored in an airtight container for medicinal use. The roots are good to use for 12 months if dried this way.

Usage

Gentian root is used to make pills, capsules, tinctures, and topical preparations for medicinal uses. It imparts a myriad of fringe benefits that we are sure to try.

  • Tincture - Dried gentian root is chopped and macerated in menstruum (alcohol) for 4 to 6 weeks to extract its highly prized phytoconstituents.
  • Tea - Dried gentian root pieces are soaked in a cup of hot boiling for 10 to 15 minutes to make gentian tea.
  • Decoction - Dried gentian root is decocted in hot boiling water according to the specification of the given monograph.
  • Syrup - Dried Gentian root is simmered in sugar solution for 10 to 15 minutes to form gentian root syrup.
  • Salve - Gentian root-infused oil is thickened with melted beeswax pellets to form a congealed gentian root salve.
  • Infused oil - Dried and chopped gentian root pieces are infused in olive oil on a sunny windowsill in a glass bottle for 2 to 3 weeks or use a double boiler to speed up the process and get gentian root-infused oil.