Gentian is a bitter herb that has been used in traditional systems of medicine practiced throughout Europe for over 2,000 years. As a liver tonic and digestive aid, it also has a long history of use in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is still commonly used today for its various potent benefits:
A healthy digestive system is the cornerstone of overall vibrant health. Throughout history, it has been widely known that bitter herbs support this important bodily process, and Gentian Root is one of the top bitter herbs used to stimulate the production of saliva, bile and stomach acids.
Gentian is an excellent solution to increase the appetite, soothe nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and general stomachaches. It is also helpful for any kind of abdominal pain, flatulence, constipation and vomiting.
Called the king of the bitter herbs, Gentian works on the stomach, liver and gall bladder – organs which each play a part in the digestive process. This root’s digestive benefits are in part attributed to the phytochemical amarogentin, which is mainly responsible for the bitter taste.
Gentian herb has traditionally used as “gastric stimulant” due to the effects that it has on saliva, bile and enzyme excretion. When bitters hit the tongue the saliva glands produce more saliva (the first element of digestion), which informs the digestive tract to release digestive enzymes that help to break down food. Gentian also stimulates bile production, which aids in the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine, breaking down foods and absorbing nutrients easier.
It is taken half an hour before meals to stimulate the appetite, or immediately after to soothe indigestion.
Gentian has a potent beneficial effect on the digestive system, effectively helping your body to absorb iron and all other essential minerals. This helps with the prevention and treatment of anemia.
Liver health is very important for the balanced functioning of the body, as it processes and eliminates all of the toxins that we accumulate in our everyday lives. If it gets clogged, the toxins soon start to build up in all of our organs, making the perfect environment for the development of illnesses.
Gentian stimulates the production of bile, which not only helps to promote digestion; it prevents a sluggish liver by preventing the accumulation of waste and speeding up the digestion of proteins and fats. This, in turn, can help to allay the sense of fatigue that can be felt after consuming a heavy meal.
As in the past, in modern herbalism Gentian is considered a powerful protector and ally to the liver. It supports the overall function of the liver and gallbladder and blends well with other liver-protective herbs, especially Dandelion root or leaves.
Anti-Inflammatory and Pain relief
While inflammation is a valid response by the body that’s trying to heal itself, persistent low-level inflammation is becoming increasingly known as one of the root causes of most disease.
Gentian Root contains several constituents with anti-inflammatory properties; secoiridoidal, iridoid glycosides, gentiopicroside, xanthones, polyphenols, and flavones, which are of particular benefit to the cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive inflammation.
Gentian may also dilate blood vessels and help improve circulation, facilitating healing. This is why it is sometimes used to treat migraines, menstrual pains, stomach pains, arthritis, muscle spasms and more. Additionally, a compound in gentian called erythricine has been shown to have sedative and muscle-relaxing effects, reducing spasms and cramps. It was also shown to help reduce high blood pressure and slow the heart rate in response to pain or stress.
Finally, the active compounds of Gentian not only lower inflammation, but they can also provide relief from pain by positively modulating pain pathways in the brain.
Antioxidant properties and chronic illnesses
Like other nutrient-dense herbs, gentian has antioxidant properties that help to protect cells from free radical damage (also called oxidative stress).
Free radicals are compounds that form in your body as a result of things like stress, pollution, and a poor diet. Over time, the accumulation of free radicals can lead to cell damage and chronic disease. Antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals and have been shown to reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Gentian is rich in antioxidants and has demonstrated the ability to protect against infections and reduce the damage to the arteries and smaller blood vessels. This is beneficial for the prevention and treatment of arteriosclerosis, or hardening/thickening of the arteries. Gentian also has blood-pressure lowering effects.
There is also some preliminary evidence that constituents, including secoiridoidal, ridoid glycosides, gentiopicroside, xanthones, polyphenols, and flavone, may help defend against cancer due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects.
Wounds and infections
Gentian is applied to the skin for treating various types of wounds and fungal infections. It has been shown to kill harmful bacteria and improve blood flow to wounds or damaged tissue, speeding up the healing time.
A number of studies have found that it has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Gentian is combined with other immune-boosting herbs (including Elder flower, Vervain and Sorrel) in a formula called Sinupret, which research studies have shown helps treat sinus infection symptoms (sinusitis).
Compounds in this herb can also help inhibit bacteria that may cause other infections, such as leptospira, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, proteusbacillus vulgaris and Salmonella typhi. In addition to fighting bacteria, gentian has also been shown to help decrease fungal and yeast infections, such as those caused by Candida Albicans.
Nervous System support
Gentian seems to benefit the central nervous system by helping relax muscle tension and acting as a natural sedative, yet at the same time, it also helps fight fatigue. Studies have shown that compounds found in gentian, including gentiopicroside, swertiamarine and sweroside, lead to increased endurance and less muscular fatigue.
Another herb that Gentian can be used in combination with to support the nervous system is the adaptogen called Licorice root, which has been used for centuries to treat fatigue, stress-related symptoms, coughs and colds, gastrointestinal issues, and reproductive issues. Licorice root can actually help gentian be more effective. It’s often used in Chinese medicine as a “guide drug” since it helps enhance other herbs and remedies to make them most beneficial.