This intensely bitter root is also aptly known as ‘Bitterwort’ or ‘Yellow Gentian’. It is native to the mountainous regions of Europe and has beautiful whorls of yellow flowers that appear in summer.

Gentian is used as a bitter tonic to stimulate the liver, gallbladder and digestive system. It is used for liver complaints, indigestion and gastric infections, as well as poor appetite or sluggish digestion. It is used to help dispel intestinal gas, reduce heartburn & nausea, and treat diarrhoea, This herb is also used to reduce inflammation and lower fever, as well as for diabetes and high blood pressure (see precautions).

Gentian is also a key ingredient in Angostura bitters, an alcoholic herbal beverage used as a flavouring and tonic.

There are also two types of Chinese Gentians that are used herbally; Gentiana macrophylla known as Qin Jiao and Gentiana scabra known as Long Dan Cao. Both are bitter remedies that are also used for digestive and feverish conditions. In TCM there are often described as clearing “heat and damp”.

Preparation: 1.5-6g dried root per day as decoction: simmer herb in water for 5 minutes then steep for 15 minutes. Best taken 20-30 mins before meals.

Reference: Penelope Ody (1993), The Complete Medicinal Herbal, p.63, Deni Brown (2002), New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses, pp.222-223,