Herb: Yellow Gentian

Latin name: Gentiana lutea

Family: Gentianaceae (Gentian Family)

Medicinal use of Yellow Gentian:

Gentian root has a long history of use as a herbal bitter in the treatment of digestive disorders and is an ingredient of many proprietary medicines. It contains some of the most bitter compounds known and is used as a scientific basis for measuring bitterness. It is especially useful in states of exhaustion from chronic disease and in all cases of debility, weakness of the digestive system and lack of appetite. It is one of the best strengtheners of the human system, stimulating the liver, gall bladder and digestive system, and is an excellent tonic to combine with a purgative in order to prevent its debilitating effects. The root is anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, bitter tonic, cholagogue, emmenagogue, febrifuge, refrigerant and stomachic. It is taken internally in the treatment of liver complaints, indigestion, gastric infections and anorexia. It should not be prescribed for patients with gastric or duodenal ulcers. The root, which can be as thick as a person's arm and has few branches, is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. It is quite likely that the roots of plants that have not flowered are the richest in medicinal properties.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Grassy alpine and sub-alpine pastures, usually on calcareous soils.

Edible parts of Yellow Gentian:

The root is sometimes used in the manufacture of gentian bitters. The root contains sugar and mucilage (this is probably a reference to its medicinal properties). The root was occasionally used as a flavouring in beer before the use of hops (Humulus lupulus) became widespread.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame. It can also be sown in late winter or early spring but the seed germinates best if given a period of cold stratification and quickly loses viability when stored, with older seed germinating slowly and erratically. It is advantageous to keep the seed at about 10C for a few days after sowing, to enable the seed to imbibe moisture. Following this with a period of at least 5 - 6 weeks with temperatures falling to between 0 and -5C will usually produce reasonable germination. It is best to use clay pots, since plastic ones do not drain so freely and the moister conditions encourage the growth of moss, which will prevent germination of the seed. The seed should be surface-sown, or only covered with a very light dressing of compost. The seed requires dark for germination, so the pots should be covered with something like newspaper or be kept in the dark. Pot up the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. The seedlings grow on very slowly, taking 2 - 7 years to reach flowering size. When the plants are of sufficient size, place them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of basal shoots in late spring.

Cultivation of Yellow Gentian:

Grassy alpine and sub-alpine pastures, usually on calcareous soils.

Known hazards of Gentiana lutea:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.