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

Ethnobotany of gentians:
herbals, medicines, and other health products

Back to ethnobotany overview
Gentian species with medicinal properties
Chiretta in Nepal



There are many health-related products that contain gentian extracts.  Gentian extracts from some species have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-hepatic (against diabetes), lower fevers, 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. Gentian violet is not derived from gentians.


  Product Contents Country, notes
Allenru Laxative Pills    
American Calumba [Colombo] Frasera carolinensis United States
Bach's Extract  Gentianella amarella sold around year 2003
Bee Dee Senna and gentian, sulfur for poultry, horses, cattle, hogs, and sheep, from Tennessee, USA
Bitter gentian root Gentianella campestris England, herbal
Bioforce Centaurium fresh herb extract
Bliss Native Herbs   "purifying, kidney and liver regulator", USA
S. H. Boyd Gentian Elixir gentian, iron chloride, 20% alcohol produced in Wooster, Ohio, USA
  Colden's Liquid Beef Tonic   from NY, USA
Conway's Arrowhead Gentian with Sacred Bark California, USA, laxative
Dr. David Robert's Horse Tonic   for 'toning and conditioning" of horses, from Wisconsin, USA
Dr. Pierce's Golden Medical Discovery mix of gentian, Berberis, and Sanguinaria United States, 1900s
Dr. Pierce's Favorite Medical Prescription    
Dr. Thacher Vegetable Syrup    
Electric Brand Laxative mixed herbs, incl. gentian laxative
  Ferro - China - Berner Tonic includes iron, Cinchona, arsenic, sodium formate, gentian, phosphoric acid syrup and aromatics made by the Ferro-China-Berner Company in New York, USA
gentian root Gentiana sp., most commonly Gentiana lutea herbal
  Gentianae Macrophyllae Radix Gentiana macrophylla herbal listed in Pharmacopeia
Gentiana Radix, Gentianae Radix Gentiana lutea herbal listed in Pharmacopeia
Gray's Compound    
Gray's Glycerine Tonic, by John F. Gray Glycerine, gentian, Taraxacum (dandelion), sherry wine, phosphoric acid "digestion aid, stimulates the appetitie"
Hall's Two-Method Treatment    
Hillier's Gentian Root    
Hood's Compound Gentian, Sarsaparilla, and Bitter Orange USA
  Hostetter's Stomachic bitter   highly successful tonic sold in USA in the late 1800s, often earning over $1 million a year, sales reduced by the Depression in the 1930s, created by Dr. Jacob Hostetter from Lancaster, PA, USA
Hodson's Gentian Tonic gentian, sarsaparilla, and iron  
International Condition Powder   for horses
Immortal Monk   China, liniment
Invigorol   homeopathic
  Jayne's P-W treatment   "against pinworms"
Kodol Liquid   "to increase the appetite"
Locher's relief    
Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound Black Haw and Cramp Bark (Viburnum), Gentian, Iron  
Mayets   "laxative and cathartic"
Nervine Sedative Compound with Valeriana and Gentian  
NutraBiotics LipoLean   "fat-burning, for weight loss", USA, around year 2003
NutraBody Collatine   "fat-burning for weight loss", USA, around year 2003
NYAL Vegetable Laxative    
Penslar Blood & Liver Pills    
Purge   "parasite cleanser", sold around year 2003
Quick-Detox 16 herbs and many vitamins, including 'gentian' commonly sold on ebay 2003, for "drug detoxification"
  Radix Colombo Americanae Frasera carolinensis  
  Sharpei Ear Cleaner with alcohol, gentian, and boric for "cleaning dog ears", sold on ebay 2004 from UK
Solaray Goldenseal-Gentian   sold around year 2003
  Stella Vitae (Dr. Thacher's)    
Tanlac Tonic with alcohol, gentian, buckthorn, rhubarb, licorice, glycerin, wild cherry US prohibition era "system purifier", was popular due to its 15% alcohol content
  Tinctura Chiratae (chirayta) Swertia chirata (link1, link2) listed in United States Pharmacopeia
Yellow gentian root (herbal) Gentiana lutea England

sp. = any species

References and publications

Bisset, N.G., ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: medpharm GmbH Scientific Publishers, 1994.

Blumenthal, M., J. Gruenwald, T. Hall, and R.S. Rister, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998.

Bradley, P.C., ed. British Herbal Compendium: A Handbook of Scientific Information on Widely Used Plant Drugs, vol. 1. Bournemouth (Dorset), England: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992.

Castleman, M. The Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to the Curative Power of Nature's Medicines. New York: Bantam Books, 1995.

Grossmann, J. (1920) Gesundheitsschadliche Holzarten. Der Holzkaufer (Leipzig) 17: 529, 535, 540 and 545.

Hon, L.Y. (1967) Skin irritation caused by Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans). Malayan Forester 30: 274.

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.

Lawrence Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Facts and Comparisons, April 1993.

Leung, A.Y., and S. Foster. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.

Morimoto I, Nozaka T, Watanabe F, et al. Mutagenic activities of gentisin and isogentisin from Gentianae radix (Gentianaceae). Mutat Res. 1983;116:103117.

Newall, C.A., et al. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.

Tyler, V.E. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press/Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994.

Tyler, V.E. The Honest Herbal. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press/Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1993.

Weiss, R.F. Herbal Medicine, trans. A.R. Meuss, from the 6th German edition. Beaconsfield, England: Beaconsfield Publishers, Ltd., 1988.


Links: [old herbal information]

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

Ebay is a good source to find gentian products, both antique and current.

Herbmed [links and references regarding medicinal uses of gentians]


Lena Struwe, 2002-2004

Note:  The GENTIAN RESEARCH NETWORK does 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