Gentian originally comes from meadows in Europe and Turkey. However, it is now also cultivated in North America. The root is used in herbal medicine.
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3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
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Gentian is a bitter herb thought to stimulate digestion by increasing saliva production and promoting stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.
Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.6 As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury.7. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.
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Gentian root and other highly bitter plants have been used for centuries by herbalists in Europe as digestive aids, and it is still used to treat poor appetite and indigestion. (Caution: Gentian should not be used by people suffering from excessive stomach acid, heartburn, peptic ulcer disease, or gastritis.)
Gentian root and other highly bitter plants have been used for centuries by herbalists in Europe as digestive aids (the well-known Swedish bitters often contain gentian). Gentian is still used to treat poor appetite and indigestion.8 An open study shows that gentian tincture inhibits the feeling of fullness after eating, suggesting it could improve poor appetite.9 However, gentian should not be used by people suffering from excessive stomach acid, heartburn, peptic ulcer disease, or gastritis.10
Sinusitis (Elder Flower, Primrose Flowers, Sorrel, Vervain)
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An herbal combination of gentian root, primrose flowers, sorrel herb, elder flowers, and European vervain has been found to help promote mucus drainage from the sinuses.
One of the most popular supportive treatments for both acute and chronic sinusitis in Germany is an herbal combination containing gentian root, primrose flowers, sorrel herb, elder flowers, and European vervain.11 The combination has been found to be useful in helping to promote mucus drainage (“mucolytic” action) from the sinuses.12 The combination is typically used together with antibiotics for treating acute sinusitis.
Gentian root and other highly bitter plants have been used for centuries by herbalists in Europe as digestive aids (the well-known Swedish bitters often contain gentian). Other folk uses included topical application on skin tumors, decreasing fevers, and treatment of diarrhea.1
Active constituents: Gentian contains bitter substances such as the glycosides gentiopicrin and amarogentin. The bitter taste of these can be detected even when diluted 50,000 times.2 Besides stimulating secretion of saliva in the mouth and hydrochloric acid in the stomach, gentiopicrin may protect the liver.3 Gentian is used to treat poor appetite and indigestion.4 An open study shows that gentian tincture inhibits the feeling of fullness after eating, suggesting it could improve poor appetite.5
Tincture can be taken 20 minutes before each meal, for a total of 1/4–1/2 teaspoon (1–3 ml) daily. Alternatively, whole root, 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 grams) per day, can be used. Since capsules of the herb bypass the taste buds, they may not have the same effect as other dosage methods.
1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 207–8.
2. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 40–2.
3. Kondo Y, Takano F, Hojo H. Suppression of chemically and immunologically induced hepatic injuries by gentiopicroside in mice. Planta Med 1994;60:414–6.
4. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine, 3rd ed. Berlin: Springer, 1988, 171.
5. Goetzl FR. Bitter tonics. I. Influence upon olfactory acuity and appetite. Drug Standards 1956;24:101–10.
6. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed, Berlin: Springer, 1998, 168–73.
7. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425–6.
8. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine, 3rd ed. Berlin: Springer, 1988, 171.
9. Goetzl FR. Bitter tonics. I. Influence upon olfactory acuity and appetite. Drug Standards 1956;24:101–10.
10. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 135.
11. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1998, 163–4.
12. März RW, Ismail C, Popp MA. Action profile and efficacy of a herbal combination preparation for the treatment of sinusitis. Wien Med Wschr 1999;149:202–8.
Last Review: 05-01-2013
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