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Gentian (long dan cao)

What is gentian? What is it used for?

Gentian is a small plant native to eastern Europe and Turkey. The root and berries are used medicinally, and are rich in B vitamins; vitamin F; niacin; inositol; and other trace elements. It is classified as a bitter; two substances contained in the plant (gentiopicrin and amarogentin) are among the most bitter substances found in nature.

Gentian has been used as a medicinal by various cultures for more than 3,000 years. Historically, it was used by Greek, Egyptian and Roman healers to increase appetite, cleanse sores, and treat stomach and liver ailments. As far back as the 1950s, scientists suggested that gentian inhibited the body’s feelings of fullness, suggesting it could improve a poor appetite. More recent studies have confirmed gentian’s effectiveness is treating appetite and indigestion, while independent case reports suggest that gentian can eliminate hiccups, especially those caused by drinking alcohol.

How much gentian should I take?

The German Commission E recommends taking 2-4 grams of whole gentian root daily, or 1-3 grams of a gentian tincture.

What forms of gentian are available?

Whole gentian root is available at some Asian markets and specialty stores. It is also sold in alcohol-based tinctures and fluid extracts. Gentian berries are sometimes ground and sold as a powder.

What can happen if I take too much gentian? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

While there are no known side-effects associated with taking gentian, it should not be used by patients who suffer from heartburn, gastritis or stomach ulcers, or who produce excessive stomach acid. There are currently no well-known drug interactions with gentian.

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• Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds.) The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, p. 135.
• Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, pp. 207-8.
• Herman JH, Nolan DS. A bitter cure. NEJM 1981;305:1654.
• Kondo Y, Takano F, Hojo H. Suppression of chemically and immunologically induced hepatic injuries by gentiopicroside in mice. Planta Med 1994;60:414-6.
• Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, pp. 40-42.




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