The Latin name of the genus gentian (Gentiana) comes from the name of the Illyrian king Gentius, who, according to legend, used this plant to treat the sick.
Gentian yellow (Gentiana lutea L.) from the gentian family of the same name is a large herbaceous plant with a height of 1 meter or more. The root system is very powerful and consists of a short, multi-headed rhizome and several thick adventitious roots that go deep into the soil. In the first years of life, the plant produces only a rosette of leaves. Blooms in the 3-4th year. The leaves are large, oval-ovate, 25-30 cm long, with 5-7 parallel veins. The stem is not branched, up to 150 cm tall. Yellow flowers are collected in several pieces in the axils of the upper leaves. The fruit is a unilocular polyspermous bivalve capsule. The plant blooms in June-July and for a rather long time - about 2.5-3 weeks, bears fruit in July-August.
Gentian yellow is widespread in the Alps and other mountainous regions of Central and Southern Europe. Prefers calcareous soils, occurs in pastures, in valleys and rises to an altitude of 2500 m. Prefers areas with abundant, but not stagnant moisture.
Cultivation and reproduction
On the site, the yellow gentian looks good in group plantings and in the background of the mixborder. The plant is very vigorous with a long flowering period. After flowering, numerous seed pods can be used as dried flowers for various compositions.
Gentian yellow reproduces only by seeds. When digging out rhizomes with roots (which are medicinal raw materials), renewal buds are clearly visible, which you just want to divide and plant. But it is useless to do this. Delenki almost never take root. Even a transplant in adulthood, yellow gentian tolerates extremely poorly.
The seeds are stratified for three months in the refrigerator. It is easier to sow them before winter on a previously prepared bed or in a box and take out the winter crops under the snow. Seeding depth is about 1 cm. After germination, if the weather is hot and dry, watering is necessary. You can cover the seedlings from the sun with agril. In Germany, to avoid picking, seeds are sown in cassettes with several stratified seeds, and then they are simply planted in a group. After that, the weakest plants are removed, leaving one, the strongest. This method is the least traumatic for the roots.
In the first year of life, seedlings develop very slowly and need frequent weeding. In addition, they must be watered on time, since the plant comes from areas with sufficient and even excessive moisture.
After overwintering, in the spring of the second year of life, the plants are transplanted to a permanent place. It is better not to leave this procedure at a later date - the older the plant, the worse it tolerates the transplant. If you have not yet decided on the place, then plant the plant in a container or pot previously dug into the soil. The plant will live in it for a year, and the next year it can simply be overloaded without injuring the root system.
It is better to prepare the soil for gentian in advance. At the planting site of the gentian, water should not stagnate. The site must be dug deeply, carefully select perennial weeds, add 5-6 buckets of compost per 1 sq. m and, if necessary, lime the soil (neutral or slightly acidic soils are preferred for yellow gentian). The soil should not be too heavy.
Plants are planted at a distance of 50-60 cm from each other. In one place, they can grow for 5 or 10 years. When the plants take root, they can be fed a couple of times per season with any complex mineral fertilizers. But the gentian does not have any special requirements for feeding.
Roots are usually dug in the fall.They climb quite deep, 80 or more centimeters, and at the same time also branch. Therefore, the plant is dug around and gradually shake off the soil. The dug roots are shaken off the ground and quickly washed with cold water. After that, they are cut into pieces and dried at a temperature not higher than + 50 + 60 ° C. The roots dry out 3-4 times. They are very hygroscopic, so it is better to store them in a sealed container.
The roots contain bitter substances - gentiopicrin and amarogenin. Genciopicrin is 2-3.5%. Yellow dyes are represented by xanthone derivatives, primarily gentioside. Fermentable sugars are 30-55% and are represented by glucose, fructose and the specific trisaccharide gentianose. Pectins make up 3-11%, so the roots are slightly slippery to the touch. Iridoid alkaloids have been found in small quantities. These bitter substances serve as protection from being eaten by herbivores. The content of bitter substances increases with the age of the plant and by the age of two they accumulate approximately as much as they will in subsequent years, respectively, and it is better to dig them out not earlier than the second year of life, although they will still be very small in size.
In scientific medicine, gentian is recommended for stimulating appetite and improving digestion, as well as for dyspepsia and intestinal atony, lazy bowel syndrome. In these cases, it is better to use it in the form of an alcoholic tincture (1 part of roots and 5 parts of vodka) 20 drops 3 times a day 15-20 minutes before meals. Gentian roots come in various bitters and teas to increase appetite. And I must say that the taste of this plant is very bitter. The extract has a distinctly bitter taste when diluted up to 1: 200,000.
Interestingly, in studies, the direction of the action depended on the concentration of alcohol, so the choleretic effect was stronger in the ethanol extract (95% alcohol), and the tincture with 30% alcohol increased the secretion of gastric juice by 37%.
In folk medicine, gentian is included in the collection for arthritis and gout. It has antipyretic properties, and in French folk medicine it is used for colds, but modern research does not confirm this property. But the tonic and restorative effect of the bitterness of this plant was confirmed. The roots are used for chronic fatigue, lack of weight, anemia and lack of appetite during recovery from serious diseases and operations. Together with iron preparations, it is prescribed for anemia. When studying the antiviral activity of gentian, high activity was noted against most RNA and DNA viruses, but the main mechanisms of action are still unclear.
In folk medicine, gentian is also used for gout, hypochondria, malaria and intestinal helminthiasis. In addition, this plant has the ability to increase the number of leukocytes in the blood. In modern research, gentian extracts have been found to have antioxidant and hemostatic properties.
In recent studies, gentian has been used as a hydroalcoholic extract for radiation therapy. As a result of studies, it was revealed that it removes the suppression of the production of cells responsible for immunity caused by radiation, which allows us to speak of a radioprotective effect.
Three substances were found in gentian - monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, which suggests its possible, though rather weak, antidepressant effect.
It is better to cook the broth in small portions, as it quickly deteriorates. Boil 1 tablespoon of roots in a glass of water for 20 minutes, filter and take 1 tablespoon before meals 3 times a day. The broth has a very bitter taste, so a few drops of tincture are much easier to swallow. A decoction of the roots is taken for heartburn, it has antihelminthic and choleretic properties.
With persistent heartburn, people sometimes use rhizome powder at 0.5-1.5 g per dose.
A separate conversation is about the relationship between gentian and alcoholic beverages. Previously, gentian root was used even in brewing. In French herbal medicine, an infusion of gentian on dry white wine is prepared for heartburn. Due to its high sugar content, fresh gentian root is used to prepare a specific medicinal distillate. The fresh root is fermented, and there are enough sugars there so as not to add them, and the resulting fermentation product is distilled. Unlike the extract, there is a moderate amount of bitterness, but all the aromatic substances get into it.
A special article in European herbal medicine is teas. These are infusions of a relatively small amount of raw materials with a relatively large amount of water. Accordingly, they drink it like ordinary tea, 1 cup each, that is, the volume of liquid taken at a time is comparable to the process of nutrition, not treatment. For stomach pains, such as insufficient formation of gastric juice, to improve the digestion of food, if you feel overcrowded and bloated, you can prepare the following tea: half a teaspoon (1-2 g) of gentian roots is poured with boiling water (150 ml) and after 10 A 15 minute infusion is filtered through a strainer. Cold infusion can also be prepared from the roots by infusion of raw materials with cold water for 6-8 hours.
Contraindications - stomach ulcers and duodenal ulcers. Side effects may manifest as headaches in sensitive patients.