The Health Benefits of Gentian

Remedy for Hepatic Symptoms and Inflammation

Spring Gentian (Gentiana Verna) on Mount Cistella
Federica Grassi / Getty Images

Gentian, also known as Gentiana L., is an annual or perennial flowering plant native to Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Gentian was recently introduced to the rest of North America, at which point its blue and purple flowers were used for dye. Yellow flowers have been commonly used as herbal remedies for inflammatory and hepatic symptoms such as infection, pain, loss of appetite, fever, and diarrhea. Yellow gentian can also be used for minor symptoms related to dysfunction of the gall bladder, spleen, liver, and stomach.

Health Benefits

The roots of yellow gentian found in Europe are the primary ingredient in its remedies, as the bitterness from secoiridoid is what allows for its current use in the treatment of digestive symptoms including loss of appetite, bloating, and flatulence.

Gentian was originally used in Chinese medicine for patients with chronic hepatitis, due to its ability to inhibit swelling in the liver, gall bladder, and stomach. Italian herbalists once used gentian roots distilled in alcohol topically to decrease swelling and treat nerve dysfunction.

Current uses of gentian root have expanded to include the treatment of excessive bleeding associated with menses, venom poisoning, muscle sprains, conjunctivitis, and vitiligo.

Selection, Preparation, & Storage

When prepared with other plant parts, the roots of European yellow gentian are frequently the origin of flavoring in certain liquors.

Due to the ability of gentian roots to permeate alcohol, there are more ways this herb can be taken as a remedy. Up to 4 grams of this herb can safely be taken each day. Powdered gentian tablets, fluid extract, tinctures, alcoholic extracts, and aqueous extracts are common preparations for this herb.

One to 2 grams of gentian root powder can be prepared in tea or full roots can be soaked for a similar benefit. Gentian tea can be combined with wormwood, yarrow, or centaury for added benefit to the digestive system when consumed in close proximity to meals.

Gentian tea can stimulate appetite when used half an hour before meals, or it can soothe indigestion immediately after meals.

As with most herbs, storage of gentian in a cool, dry place will assist in preserving the herb and its effects as long as possible.

Possible Side Effects

Gentian root in any form should not be taken by anyone with moderate or severe gastric and duodenal ulcers, as ingestion can worsen such conditions and associated digestive symptoms.

General side effects may include digestive complaints, heart palpitations, itchiness, and headaches in those with sensitivities to gentian. Gentian should not be taken by anyone who has a sensitivity or reaction to the flower or herb forms. There are no known interactions with chemical pharmaceuticals.

There has been limited evidence regarding the use of gentian in pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, and children under 18 years of age. Therefore, use in these populations is not recommended.

Common Questions

Can gentian root be used for anxiety?

There is no evidence to support the use of gentian for anxiety or other cognitive and emotional symptoms. The use of gentian to reduce bodily inflammation can assist an individual in feeling healthier, which can potentially have an associated feeling of relaxation. However, gentian has no direct effect on anxiety.

Where can gentian root be purchased?

Gentian root can be found at any natural health store or from a reputable herbal store online. Be sure to check ingredients and read reviews to ensure any product purchased is of good quality and content.

Can gentian be used for thrush in infants?

There is evidence proving the effectiveness of gentian bitters for thrush and this is safe for infant use in small doses.

However, the use of gentian violet should be avoided, as this is toxic to infants and breastfeeding mothers.

Be sure to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before taking gentian bitters yourself, as well as prior to giving them to a child.

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Article Sources
  • United States Department of Agriculture. Natural Resources Conservation Service 2017. https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=GENTI

  • Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Gentian plant. https://www.britannica.com/plant/gentian

  • Mirzaee F, Hosseini A, Jouybari HB, Davoodi A, Azadbakht M. Medicinal, biological and phytochemical properties of Gentiana species. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5634738/

  • Phytopharmaceutical Cooperation. Gentian. http://www.koop-phyto.org/en/medicinal-plants/gentian.php