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Gentian violet


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by Dr. Lena Struwe 
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updated: 01/19/11 

Ethnobotany of gentians:
species with medicinal properties

Back to ethnobotany overview
Medicinal products with gentian extracts
Gentian violet



There are many health-related products that contain gentian extracts.  Gentian extracts from many species have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-hepatic (against diabetes), lower fevers (febrifuges), and are used for a wide variety of purposes.  They are also added to diet pills, hair-loss products, homeopathic medicines, body cleansing products, and many others.


Species Used for/as Country and photo
Anthocleista (several spp.):
A. djalonensis (Nigeria), A. nobilis (link), A. procera (Guinea)
against malaria, reduces fever, leprosy, anti-dote for poison, intestinal problems, dislocation, anti-diabetic, fertility, venereal diseases tropical Africa
Blackstonia perfoliata (see Lindley, 1836)  
Calolisianthus pendulus (see Lindley, 1836) Brazil
Centaurium erythraea stomach ailments, tonic (link1 - link2) Europe, North Africa
Centaurium pulchellum (flowers are used) appetite loss, fever, high blood pressure, kidney stones, diabetes, indigestion, worms, inflammation, snake-bite, poisoning Europe (since at least Medieval times)
Chelonanthus alatus medicine Ecuadorian Amazon
Coutoubea (see Lindley, 1836) South America
Enistoema litorale (more info here)   Asia
Fagraea   Southeast Asia
Frasera carolinensis (American columbo - roots used) (link) North America
Gentiana andrewsii (bottle gentian) against snakebites, stomach digestive, antidote, appetizer, bitter, digestive, ophthalmic, poultice, stomachic, tonic. against pain and head aches,. North America (used by native Americans in Wisconsin, link2)
Gentiana cruciata (see Lindley, 1836)  
Gentiana lutea (yellow gentian - roots or leaves used) digestive, poison antidote, snake bites, rabies, liver and stomach ailments, intestinal worms, wound washing, improvement of appetite,  (sometimes used instead of hops in beer)
(link1 - link2 - link4)
Europe (used at least since 1200 BC in Egypt); especially used in France, Germany, and Switzerland
Gentiana macrophylla
(qin jiao)
for digestive disorders China
Gentiana pneumonanthe (marsh gentian) (link) Europe
Gentiana purpurea (see Lindley, 1836) Norway
Gentiana rubra (see Lindley, 1836) Germany
Gentiana scabrae
(long dan cao)
used instead of hops in beer (link) Japan, China
Gentiana verna (spring gentian) (link) Europe
Gentianella amarella (autumn gentian) (link) Europe
Gentianella campestris (field gentian) (link) Europe
Gentianella peruviana (Cachen) (see Lindley, 1836) Peru
Potalia resinifera (pao de cobra) and related species against snake bites (and other bites), fevers, inflammations, stomach and tooth aches, to soothe crying babies tropical South America, especially Amazonas
Sabatia angularis (Rose Pink) Digestive, for fevers, tonic, against worms, for dyspepsia, for indigestion eastern North America
Swertia chirata (chirata, chiretta, chirayta) [Note: several Swertia species are called 'chirata' in India] tonic, appetite-improving. laxative, for cough, against worms, anemia, fever, gonorrhea (link),
(link1, link2, link3)
India, Bhutan, Nepal (used in Holland, France, Germany, India, UK) - listed in US Pharmacopoeia, part of Ayervedic medicine in India (link); sustainable cultivation in Nepal; Chiretta in Nepal
Swertia japonica    
Tachia guianensis and T. grandiflora anti-malarial, (see Lindley, 1836) Brazil


References and publications

Jensen, S. R. & J. Shripsema. 2002. Chemotaxonomy and pharmacology of Gentianaceae. Pp. 573- 632. In: L. Struwe & V. A. Albert, editors. Gentianaceae systematics and natural history. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


Links: [old herbal information]

Gentians - bitter pill to swallow [medicinal history of gentians on HealthWorld Online]


Lena Struwe, 2002-2011

Note:  The GENTIAN RESEARCH NETWORK do not endorse or encourage the use of gentians or gentian-derived products for any medicinal purposes or as a cure for specific diseases and ailments.  The information is listed here for educational purposes only. The health value and safety of any of these plants and products has not been evaluated by us and we do not recommend any of them for medicinal use.

Gentian Research Network, 2002-2011.
For corrections and additions, contact Lena Struwe at