GENTIAN: Gentiana Lutea, Frasera Speciosa (green gentian), Gentiana Clausa, Gentiana Linearis, etc.
Also known as: bitterwort, felwort, pale gentian, yellow gentian, blue gentian, mountain gentian, green gentian, monument plant, elkweed, etc.
Parts used: root, flowers, leaves
Meridans/Organs affected: liver, gallbladder, slpeen, thyroid, digestive
Properties: stomachic, anthelmintic, tonic, anti-bilious, alterative, antipyretic, emmenogogue, antiseptic, carminative, anti-fungal (green), cathartic (green), analgesic, antibacterial, bitter, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cholagogue, emetic (in large amounts), sialagogue, anti-venomous, anti-carcinogenic, depurant, contraceptive, aperient
Gentian is its own family of plants (Gentianaceae) of which there are 180 species. (The green gentian would be part of this family even though it doesn't resemble the European varieties most people know). Green gentian is also known as monument plant or elkweed as the elk seem to love it. Gentian is what they term as 'monocarpic' meaning it grows until it blooms and then it dies. The difference being this plant might grow 20-80 years before it blooms. It blooms once in a lifetime. (WOW...) Gentian for the most part if a hairless plant with opposite leaves (green gentian is actually what the native americans term as mulleins husband plant as it is wooly in nature, take two years to produce a stalk, etc.). The flowers vary in color from blue (European), red (South America, New Zealand), yellow (Europe and North America) and on rare occasions, white. It grows in all climates although it seems to enjoy temperate regions and high elevations. In fact, gentian species have been found growing in the Andes, Alps and Himalayan mountains so it is a fairly hardy species. It blooms from July to September (when it does finally bloom). All gentians can be used interchangeably for medicinal purposes.
Gentian got its name from King Gentius of Illyria who was the first to discover its use as a tonic medicine. Gentian was also one of the most widely used bitter herbs for brewing before hops made an appearance. It was also listed in ancient Greek and Arab texts as being a general tonic for the body. The Catawba Indians used an herbal decoction of blue gentian for backaches (in poultice or formentation form). In fact, it has been used for a great many things including edema, gout, fevers, jaundice, skin maladies, indigestion, lack of appetite, hysteria, female weakness, general debility, heartburn, flatulence, thyroid issues and as an overall tonic for the body. According to Dr. John Christopher, Jethro Kloss and a host of other herbalists-gentian is one of the most effective bitter herbs we have, if you can stomach it. It promotes digestion and strengthens the overall human system. It stimulate bile flow, saliva and the gastric juices which help to empty the stomach. The Chinese use gentian for venereal diseases and pelvic inflammation. They also use it for hepatitis and many other liver related ailments.
The root of green gentian is considered to be an edible. It can be eaten raw, roasted or boiled (elk and cattle seem to love the green parts as it comes up through the ground) and many times it is mixed with other roots or herbs in soups and stews. The dried leaves of green gentian were mixed with mountain tobacco and smoked as it was believed to make one have strength and mental clarity. Lost hunters smoked it in pipes thinking it would help them find their way back to camp. The root powder of green gentian has been dried for use as a fungicide for jock itch and athlete's foot. The powder has also been mixed with lard and used in the hair or on the scalp for scabies and lice. A tincture of the root of green gentian is said to be effective for ringworm (not for use on children as it can irritate the skin).
Jethro Kloss said gentian is an effective blood purifier. He also stated it was helpful for scrofula (tumors and growths on the lymph), convulsions, menstrual issues, poisonous bites (snake, insect and rabid dog bites supposedly), and is more effective than quinine for malaria. He believed a person should take 1/4-1/2 tsp of powdered gentian in a cup of water 30 minutes before every meal to help with digestion. Gentian does contain one of the most bitter components known to man-amarogentin. No doubt this is why it works so well as a carminative.
There are some species of gentian that are considered more rare so when harvesting one should only pick 1 out of every 5 plants. This herb should not be given to pregnant women as it can stimulate the uterus. Gentian root should also be dried quickly as it loses potentcy the longer it takes to dry.
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