Herbal Supplements
Gentian: the Standard of Bitters

Biological Description

Gentiana lutea or Yellow Gentian is one of the oldest known herbal remedies. It is a member of a large Gentianaceae family, which includes 87 genera and more than 1600 species. The majority of plants from this family have similar chemical constituents, properties, and health benefits when used in the traditional herbal medicine; however, they differ, sometimes significantly, in the shape and colour of the flowers, height and looks of the stem, etc.

Yellow Gentian is a perennial plant up to three feet tall. It has a long, thick, and branchy brownish root bitter to taste, which is medicinally valuable (the plant is also commonly called “Bitterwort” for the taste of its root). The single stem of the herb is hallow and erect. The broad opposite leaves are larger at the bottom of the stem; they have short foot-stalks. The upper leaves are stalkless and smaller. They are all quite stiff, being oblong in shape and pointed.

Gentian flowers are very beautiful and large, growing in whorls of 3 to 10 blossoms. Usually, they have wide and brightly-coloured petals. In this specie they are yellow, although, other members of this family may have white, red, orange, blue and violet flowers. Yellow Gentian will bloom for the first time on the third year of growing.


Bitterwort is native to the Alpine pastures, in the mountains of Portugal and Spain. In fact, it may reside anywhere in Europe, except for the northern parts of the continent and British Isles.

Gentiana lutea needs loamy soil and much moisture. At the same time, the plant grows best if sheltered from the winds and full sun.

Frankly speaking, Gentians, depending on the variety, are found almost in all the parts of the world. The oldest species of the family were discovered to originate from the tropics (South America and Africa).

Parts Used

The root of the Yellow Gentian, which is considered to be one of the oldest known bitter tonics, and its rhizome are medicinally valuable parts of the plant. They are collected in autumn and dried slowly to achieve brownish colour and improve the flavour.  

By the way, Gentian root is classified as the standard bitter, and the rest are measured against it.


The dried root, capsules, decoctions, and tinctures of Yellow Gentian are available for purchase today.


Gentian is rich on such elements as gentiin, gentiamarin, bitter glucosides (for example, gentisin), gentiopicrin and saccharine constituents as dextrose, laevulose, sucrose and gentianose. Plant’s root also containsoliverine,gentianine, gentianadine, gentianamine, which are said to show anti-inflammatory activity. Other constituents of Gentian – xanthones, iridoids, alkaloids, triterpenes – add to its effectiveness in healing certain diseases and relieving the symptoms of others.

Gentiopicrin is believed to be a good antimalarial and antiamoebic agent. Thus, the remedy made of Gentian possesses antibacterial properties as well.

Yellow Gentian may stimulate bile production(due to the heterocyclic, nitrogen-containing constituents, researchers believe) and promote digestion by improving the secretion of stomach acids. It stimulates appetite, as well as promotes pancreas and liver proper functioning.

The plant is also said to improve blood flow, and thus deliver more oxygen to all the body organs. It shows promises in the treatment of age-related disorders, as for example, vision problems (cataracts).

Herbalists use Gentian as febrifuge, emmenagogue, anthelmintic and antiseptic means. It can also reduce fever and help in the treatment of hysteria, diabetes, and female weakness.

Health Benefits

Previously, Gentian was used by Europeans and Chinese herbalists to eliminate digestive problems and to fight poisoning.

These days, besides the above mentioned disorders, herbal remedies with Gentian compound are used to treat gallstones, indigestion, dyspepsia, flatulence, anorexia, exhaustion (especially, from the chronic diseases) and jaundice.  

Bacterial infections (for example, candidosis) immediately subside under the action of Gentian herbal remedies. Fevers may be reduced and the health of eyes may be preserved with the help of Yellow Gentian – the bitterest remedy among all the bitters.

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