Gentian Root

What can you use gentian for? Historically, it’s been used to treat:

Liver damage
Stomach and digestive problems, such as loss of appetite, diarrhea, gas, bloating, heartburn and nausea
Sinus infections
Menstrual pains
Chronic fatigue and weakness
Scalp eczema
High blood pressure
Hair loss
Food allergies and intolerances
Poor infant growth and development
What are the benefits of gentian? While it has been used safely and effectively for thousands of years, clinical human studies involving this herb are lacking. The FDA does not regulate sales of this herb (or other herbal supplements), and few trials have been conducted to prove its effectiveness. That being said, there’s a large body of anecdotal evidence showing that it has real uses and benefits.

1. Helps Improve Digestive, Liver and Gallbladder Function
One of the most popular uses of this herb centuries ago and still today is improving a number of facets of digestive health. Gentian herb has traditionally used as “gastric stimulant” due to the effects that it has on saliva, bile and enzyme excretion. (4) There’s some evidence that it can stimulate the secretion of enzymes in the small intestines and increase gastric secretion, which makes breaking down foods and absorbing nutrients easier. Some of the supposed benefits of gentian for digestion include: (5, 6)

Reducing loss of appetite
Decreasing nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and general stomaches
Improving saliva production by stimulating the membranes of the mouth and taste buds
Helping with production of gastric juices and bile secretion
Supporting liver and gallbladder functions
For centuries, gentian root has been known as a liver tonic and supporter of detoxification, as evidenced by its strong bitter flavor. Gout, jaundice, dyspepsia and dysentery are some other conditions that it is used to naturally help treat. According to tradition, gentian taken with rhubarb is most effective at improving digestive symptoms, such as loss of appetite and nausea. One study found that giving patients 600 milligrams of gentian root daily helped relieve symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, heartburn, flatulence, constipation, appetite loss and vomiting. (7)

To support overall liver health, I recommend using it along with other liver-purifiers like dandelion root, also known as Taraxacum officinale. Dandelion root is often powdered and roasted for use as a coffee substitute or added raw to herbal teas. Both the root and leaves of dandelion have been shown to protect the liver, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, fight bacteria, and keep your eyes healthy.

2. Helps Fight Oxidative Stress and Chronic Disease
Like other nutrient-dense herbs, gentian has antioxidant properties that help to protect cells from free radical damage (also called oxidative stress). Its active compounds (more on these below) are also beneficial for protecting against infections and reducing damage to the arteries and smaller blood vessels. (8)

Gentian’s compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that seem to benefit the cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems. For example, isovitexin has been to be a natural anti-atherosclerotic agent that protects vascular smooth muscle tissue and increases cellular nitric oxide (NO) activity. (9) This is beneficial for prevention and treatment of arteriosclerosis, or hardening/thickening of the arteries. Gentian also has blood-pressure lowering effects.

There is also some preliminary evidence that constituents, including secoiridoidal, ridoid glycosides, gentiopicroside, xanthones, polyphenols and flavone, may help defend against cancer due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. (10)

3. Can Help Lower Inflammation and Pain
What are the benefits of gentian root if you have chronic pain? Active compounds found within this herb have been shown to fight inflammation and positively modulate pain pathways in the brain to decrease discomfort. It may also help reduce antibodies and autoimmune reactions that can lead to joint pain, fatigue and weakness. (11)

Gentian may also dilate blood vessels and help improve circulation, facilitating healing. This is why it is sometimes used to treat migraines, menstrual pains, stomach pains, muscle spasms and more. Additionally, a compound in gentian called erythricine has been shown to have sedative and muscle relaxant effects, reducing spasms and cramps. It may also help reduce high blood pressure and slow the heart rate in response to pain or stress. (12)

4. Helps Treat Wounds and Infections (Including Sinus Infections)
Gentian is applied to the skin for treating various types of wounds and fungal infections. It has been shown to kill harmful bacteria and improve blood flow to wounds or damaged tissue.

A number of studies have found that it has antimicrobiral and antifungal properties. Gentian is combined with other immune-boosting herbs (including elderberry/elderflower, verbena and sorrel) in a formula called Sinupret, which research studies have shown helps treat sinus infection symptoms (sinusitis). (13)

Compounds in this herb can also help inhibit bacteria that may cause other infections, such as leptospira, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, proteusbacillus vulgaris and Salmonella typhi. In addition to fighting bacteria, gentian has also been shown to help decrease fungal and yeast infections, such as those caused by Candida albicans. (14)

5. Supports the Nervous System
Gentian seems to benefit the central nervous system by helping relax muscle tension and acting as a natural sedative, yet at the same time it also helps fight fatigue. In animal studies, secoiridoid compounds found in gentian, including gentiopicroside, swertiamarine and sweroside, have been shown to lead to increased endurance and less muscular fatigue. (15)

Another herb that gentian can be used in combination with to support the nervous system is the adaptogen called licorice root, which has been used for centuries to treat fatigue, stress-related symptoms, coughs and colds, gastrointestional issues, and reproductive issues. Licorice root can actually help gentian be more effective. It’s often used in Chinese medicine as a “guide drug” since it helps enhance other herbs and remedies to make them most beneficial.