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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.



CENTAURY, EUROPEAN
GENTIANACEAE
aka Bitter Bloom, Bitter Clover, Bitter Herb, Bitter-Rose, Centory, Chironia, Fel Terrae, Feverwort, Gentian, Lesser Centaury,
Red Centaury, Steps of Christ, Tausendguldenkraut (Ger), Thousand Golden Leaves, Wild Succory

(Centaurium erythraea syn Erythraea centaurium) (Centaurium minus) (Centaurium umbellatum)
image 1 Image
ALSO SEE: American Centaury



CONTRAINDICATED: NOT taken when an overacid disgestive problem exists. NOT taken when an ulcer is present.

CONTAINS: Bitter glycosides, flavonoids, gentiopicrine, gentianine, erythrocentaurine, valeric acid, nicotinic acid compounds, oleanic acid, essential oil, resin, wax.



A glabrous annual or biennial to 20 inches tall, native to Eurasia and North Africa (naturalized in North America) which is found in damp meadows and forest clearings. LEAVES, pale green, small and shiny, appear in a basal rosette, being ovate to elliptic and 2 inches long by 3/4 inch wide; the stem leaves are smaller and narrower. STEM is stiff, square, erect, yellowish, fibrous, woody, hollow when mature, and branched near the top. FLOWERS, pink to pink-purple (although yellow and white forms exist), are extremely bitter, star-like in corymbs with 5-cleft corollas and 5 stamens; the calyx being 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch as much as the corolla lobes; the anthers twist themselves around after pollination, thus distinguishing themselves from the genus Gentiana; flowers open after noon and only if the weather is good, then close at night..

The name Centaury may be derived from the Greek centaur and herbalist, Chiron, who used the plant to heal his own wounds. The genus name Erythraea is taken from the Greek 'erythros' meaning 'red'. Was called 'Fel Terrae' by the Ancients, meaning 'gall of the earth' due to its intense bitterness.

Astrologically ruled by the Sun.

PROPAGATION: By SEED in spring.
NEEDS: Sandy neutral to alkaline soil in sun.
PART USED: Flowers mainly, but the whole above-ground portion is utilized as well.
HARVEST: Plants while in flower.
SOLVENT: Alcohol, water.
RELATED SPECIES:
CANCHALAGUA (C. chilensis): Native to the southwest coast of North America.



USES

MEDICINAL:
Alterative, diaphoretic, digestive aid (increases gastric juices), liver and gall bladder stimulant, cholagogue, appetite stimulant, mild nervine, sialogogue, emetic (strong decoction), febrifuge; affects liver, kidneys and stomach. Has also been used as a tonic (light infusion) and blood builder. Has been used similarly to Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea). Through the ages it has gained a reputation as being valuable for those who lead a sedentary life and are not given to much outdoor exercise.
Has been used for stomach problems, gas, bloating, colic, heartburn, constipation, liver and gall bladder problems, kidney problems (including stones), hepatitis, jaundice, high blood pressure, diabetes, anorexia, postviral syndrome, convalescence, intestinal worms (including tapeworm, it being said that the worm cannot maintain its hold on the mucous membrane of its host when Centaury is taken), snakebite, fevers, intermittent fevers, and malaria. A hot infusion has been used for rheumatism. Has been combined with Roman Chamomile, Meadowsweet, and Marshmallow for dyspepsia. Has been combined with Barberry and Yellow Dock for jaundice. The ROOT has been used occasionally for heartburn. Has been combined with Burdock root and Chamomile for anorexia.
In Russian folk medicine the tea or extract (made from vodka) has been used for high blood pressure and liver and gall bladder problems.
In Folk Medicine has been combined in equal parts with St.Johnswort and taken warm at bedtime to strengthen the bladder of the elderly and to prevent children from wetting the bed.
The tea has been used for constipation, gas, heartburn, colic, delayed menses, and anemia. Has also been used as part of a weight reducing regimen.
The juice of the plant has been used as a wash to clear vision; has also been applied to wounds to help heal.
A decoction has been used as a rinse to destroy headlice and other body vermin.
Was once the base ingredient of a specific remedy for gout called Portland Powder.
In England various colors of the flower are ascribed to the treatment of different conditions: Red varieties being used for blood diseases; the Yellow for liver diseases; the White for diseases involved with watery discharge and phlegm.

DOSE:
TRADITIONAL DOSES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY!
All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
INFUSION = 1 oz of dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water; steeped 10 minutes; taken a wineglassful at a time 1/2 hour before meals as a digestive aid and for anorexia. OR, 1 tsp in a cup of boiling water, taken a mouthful at a time over the course of a single day for other conditions.
DECOCTION = Use infusion strengths of herb to water and simmer for 20 minutes; taken 1 tsp at a time.
TINCTURE = 1 tsp before meals
LIQUID EXTRACT = 1/4 to 1/2 tsp daily, OR 1 to 2 grams.

HOMEOPATHIC:
Used for fevers.

BACH FLOWER REMEDIES:
Centaury is said to be for the 'human doormats' among us; those who are weak of will and allow themselves to become subservient and imposed upon, and have difficulty saying 'no'.

VETERINARY:
Used as part of a larger regimen for jaundice in dogs.
Centaury was an old rememdy for curing liver fluke in farm animals. 1 oz of Centaury was mixed with fat and flour and made into balls; 1 oz was given daily. For faintness after birthing the pills have been made with honey and flour, but NO FAT.
Used for digestive ailments in farm animals.
For cleansing sore mouths in farm animals, one handful of herb has been brewed in 1 pint of water, then 1 Tbsp of honey added, and 4 Tbsp given twice daily. This same brew has been used as an external wash for wounds.

COSMETIC:
The infusion and decoction have been used as a lotion to remove freckles and age spots.

OTHER:
Was considered a 'lucky' herb by the Irish who brought it into their homes for good luck during the period of time between the Annunciation and the Assumption feast dates of the Blessed Virgin.
In ancient England it was one of the 15 herbs of Magic and reputed to be all-powerful against evil spirits.


CENTAURY, AMERICAN
GENTIANACEAE
aka Bitter Bloom, Rose-pink
(Sabatia angularis)
image 1Image

A native of North America (more commonly found in the southwestern regions), this annual grows to 3 feet with opposite branches. It is distinguised from its relative, the European Centaury, by having longer corolla lobes and deeply 2-lobed styles. The LEAVES are ovate to oblong to 1½ inches long. FLOWERS are usually single at the ends of the branches, being rose-pink with a greenish eye.

PART USED: Mainly flowers, but whole above-ground plant as well.
SOLVENT: Alcohol, water.
RELATED SPECIES:
QUININE FLOWER (S. Elliottii): The root used the same as American Centaury. Native to the southeastern United States.
S. campestris: Native to the southwestern United States.



USES

MEDICINAL:
Tonic, stimulates peripheral circulation, febrifuge, diaphoretic, vermifuge (including tapeworm, it being said that the worm cannot maintain its hold on the mucous membrane of its host when Centaury is taken).
Has been used for rheumatism and joint pain.
The infusion has been taken hot for delayed menses.
The dried powdered herb (1/2 to 1 dram) has been used to expel worms, OR, 2 to 6 grams of the extract.

DOSE:
TRADITIONAL DOSES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY!
All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
GRAINS = 30 to 60
INFUSION = 1 tsp of dried herb to 1 cup of boiling water; steeped 10 minutes. Taste is bitter and can be combined with Ginger, Mint, or Cardamom. Has been taken a mouthful at a time every hour or two during remission periods of intermittent fevers and less often during chronic conditions.

HOMEOPATHIC:
A tincture of the root is used for: viral colds, diarrhea, eye inflammation, fever, home-sickness, flu, loss of eyesight.




©2005 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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