Medicinal plants

Yellow gentian - ingredients, effects and application

Yellow gentian - ingredients, effects and application

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Yellow gentian contains amarogentin, the bitterest substance in nature. This promotes digestion, but also helps with wound healing and against infections. The rare mountain perennial can be found in herbal liqueurs, as drops or tea and can be easily combined with wormwood and dandelions.


  • Scientific name: Gentiana lutea
  • Common names: Bitter root, (mountain) fever root, high root, noble gentian, common gentian, jaundice root, butterwort, salsify, zinzal root, intestinal root, scoundrel root, jänzene
  • family: Gentian Family (Gentianaceae)
  • distribution: Mountains of Europe and Turkey
  • Parts of plants used: Root
  • application areas:
    • Loss of appetite
    • anorexia
    • Flatulence
    • Biliary disorders
    • Inflammation of the respiratory tract


The medicinal substances are mainly in the roots. The common name "bitter root" says it: Gentian is an amarum, its effect is based primarily on bitter substances. The substance amarogentin contained in the root has a bitter value of about 58,000,000, which leads to a bitter value of the root of at least 10,000. If we dilute one liter of Amarum with 10,000 liters of water, we still perceive a bitter taste. This makes the yellow gentian the most bitter medicinal plant at home.

It contains up to four percent bitter substances, predominantly gentiopicroside (two to three percent) and 0.05 percent amarogentin. Other bioactive substances are phytosterols, xanthone derivatives, various types of sugar - including gentianose, which tastes a bit bitter although it is a sugar, and polysaccharides such as inulin. Xanthones color the plant yellow.

Gentiana - white turns yellow

The freshly drawn roots and rhizomes are white in color and can hardly be smelled. However, when air-dried, they turn yellow and give off a pungent, unpleasant smell. Their taste is sweet at first, but then becomes extremely bitter.


Yellow gentian

  • stimulates appetite and digestion,
  • balances the immune system,
  • lowers fever,
  • helps against rheumatism and arthritis,
  • inhibits inflammation,
  • promotes blood circulation in the mucous membranes
  • and has an overall strengthening effect.

Gastrointestinal complaints

The bitter substances are particularly effective against digestive problems because they stimulate the gastric juices. More specifically: they irritate the taste buds of the tongue and this leads to the increased formation of saliva and stomach acid. Due to the stimulus, gastric cells also release the digestive hormone gastrin. This also stimulates the release of gastric juices and stimulates the production of bile. This increases your appetite and your digestion gets going.

Gentian therefore counteracts

  • Constipation,
  • Flatulence,
  • Feeling of fullness,
  • Loss of appetite
  • and disorders of bile function.

Airways and blood vessels

Yellow gentian also affects the respiratory organs and blood vessels. Receptor proteins for bitter substances can also be found on the cells of the epidermis. Their ripening is improved by bitter substances. The roots are traditionally also used for wound healing - and the reception of the bitter substances makes such applications appear plausible.

Bitter substance receptors have now been found in studies in the upper respiratory tract as well as in the rectum. Gentian root ensures that the vessels expand and offers potential for new asthma treatments.

Laboratory tests have shown that the bioactive substances contained remove tough mucus from the respiratory tract. This is why root extracts can also be used against bronchitis, sinusitis, flu infections, coughing with stuck mucus and similar inflammations in the nose, throat and bronchi.

Cell repair and wound healing

The isogentisin in the gentian extract has been shown in experiments to protect the endothelial cells of blood vessels that were exposed to cigarette smoke. Isogentisin activates the repair function of the cells themselves. The root stimulates cell division and stimulates the production of collagenous connective tissue fibers. It strengthens wound healing.

Skin care

Amarogentin and other bitter substances trigger a calcium influx into the cells of the epidermis, which in turn leads to the formation of lipids and proteins and the skin barrier is strengthened.

Pathogenic bacteria

Wound healing also promotes gentian extract through antibacterial effects. The bioactive substances isogentisin, gentiopikrin and mangiferin inhibit the growth of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

Gentian root for medicines

Medicinal applications use the up to one meter long rhizome of the yellow gentian. The root is dried and then crushed, then used in teas and extracts or processed into tinctures, liqueurs and schnapps with alcohol.

Gentian blue or gentian yellow?

Not every gentian blooms blue, blue, blue. The gentiana lutea used in medicine also blooms in the Alps, but in a yellow color. Since its root, which contains the bioactive substances, is much larger than that of its blue relative, medicine in Germany only uses the yellow gentian.


In the pharmacy, yellow gentian is offered as an extract, tea or drops. It is often found in combination with other bitter plants such as wormwood, centaury, dandelion or Benedictine herb. Appropriate products should be taken at least 30 minutes before the next meal to stimulate digestion.

Gentian schnapps

With gentian, a schnapps or liqueur is made in the Alps, which is also called "gentian". It is a bitter bitch that people traditionally drink before or after eating, especially to stimulate the digestion after feasting on foods that are difficult to digest. This alcohol is made exclusively from the roots of Gentiana lutea. A medical liqueur formerly known as "Theriak" also contained gentian root.

Confusion - white germer

The white germer is very similar to the yellow gentian and poisonous. Since Gentiana lutea cannot be collected in Germany anyway for reasons of nature conservation, you should have no problems with such a mix-up.

Gentian shrub or gentian?

To avoid any misunderstandings: the gentian shrub (Lycianthes rantonnetii) available in the garden trade is not identical to the yellow gentian or other species of gentian.

Naturopathy and medical history

Gentians already valued ancient doctors as medicines - the doctor and anatomist Galenus recommended him as a remedy for gout. The name Gentiana refers to King Genthios of Illyria (180-168 BC), who is said to have used the plant as a medicinal plant.

The physician and botanist Leonhart Fuchs mentioned the Alpine flower in 1543 as a drug against snake bites, side stings, broken bones as a result of accidents, deeply infected wounds and internal injuries. In the case of deep wounds, a piece of the root was pushed into the wound and should "reynigen" there. According to Fuchs, gentian root would solve blood clots as well as constipation.

He also discusses the benefits against gastrointestinal complaints. Fuchs was familiar with the proven effects against skin problems today: He recommended applying the juice of the roots to "all unformed and stained".

Sebastian Kneipp, the inventor of Kneipp therapy, was enthusiastic about the gentian in the 19th century and said that gentian, wormwood and sage had a complete pharmacy.

Ayurveda - gentian in Indian medicine

Gentian plants are widely used as medicinal plants in the Indian healing tradition Ayurveda. In Ayurvedic, they have the following names: Girisaanja, Girijaa, Anujaa, Balbhra, Traayamaana and Traayanti.

Threatened with extinction

Its medicinal effects made collectors a rarity. Yellow gentian populates lime-rich mountain regions in Central and Southern Europe and Asia Minor. Above all, we find the perennial on mountain meadows at heights of 750 to 2500 meters and in bogs. In Germany today it is a threatened plant under nature protection and collecting should be avoided. Gentiana lutea is cultivated so that you don't have to do without the effects of the bitter substances.

Gentian root in herbal medicine

Gentian root can be found in the herbal medicinal product "Sinupret extract", combined with bioactive substances from marsh, elder, verbena and cowslip. This phytotherapeutic agent is used against acute inflammation in the nasopharynx area.


Interactions between gentian root and other medicinal products have not been adequately researched. Interactions with plant-based antidepressants and with antifungal phytotherapeutic agents are suspected. Gentian root could raise blood sugar levels and react bioactively with the components of the blood sugar balance in the body.


The bitter substances that stimulate the production of gastric juices have a harmful effect on people who suffer from gastric ulcers or ulcers in the duodenum. Here they aggravate the symptoms. Any disease in which increasing gastric acidity causes damage prohibits the use of gentian. This applies to occlusion of the biliary tract like a reduction in stomach size.

Pregnant and nursing women should also avoid the plant, since the xanthones contained in the roots can change the genome.

Side effects

Rare side effects of gentian products can be headache and stomach pain, and itching or rapid heartbeat are even less common. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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