Yellow Gentian

Part of the plant used for medicinal purposes: the gentian root (Gentianae radix)(Gentianae radix)

Other common names: bitter root, pale gentian.

Description and harvesting

The Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea L.) is a slow-growing perennial plant that can live up to 50 or 60 years. The basal rosette with leaves that grows during the first few years forms the stalk with blossoms only after 10 years. The plant has a strong root system, lanceolate leaves and yellow inflorescence. The plant is a protected species in many countries, including Slovenia. It is a species of the Gentianaceae family, the same as the Centaury, for example. It is native to alpine meadows (Mount Snežnik) and can be found on uncultivated ground by the bushes. The root of the plant, which has already blossomed and is at least three years old, is harvested in the spring. After harvesting, the root, which can weigh up to four kilograms, is carefully cleaned, cut and rapidly dried. It has a very bitter taste and an aromatic and characteristic odour. Despite being protected, it is still harvested from the wild by many people – care should be taken not to confuse the Yellow Gentian with the poisonous White Hellebore (Veratrum album L.), which can for example be found on Mount Krim in Slovenia, because poisoning with the White Hellebore requires seeking medical help.

Constituents and medicinal use

The gentian root contains several bitter constituents: secoiridoids (such as gentiopicrin), aryl glycosides (amarogentin) and dissacharides (gentiobiose).
Amarogentin, the strongest bitter compound known, is found in the root of the plant in amounts as low as 0.049 to 0.084%. Amarogentin is so bitter that even if diluting 1 part of it with 58 million parts of water, the bitter taste of amarogentin would still be present. This is described with the bitter value; that of amarogentin is 58 million, while the bitter value of gentiopicrin is “only” 12000. The root also contains other compounds: pectins, some volatile oil, phytosterols and compounds which form hydrogel when in a contact with water, thereby enabling the root to swell strongly in water. Today, the root is most commonly used to stimulate appetite, promote the secretion of gastric fluid and bile, and help with flatulence, since the bitter substances contained in the plant increase salivary and gastric secretion through the stimulation of the taste buds. The highly bitter compounds of the Yellow Gentian enhance secretion in sinus epithelia, hence its use in tea blends as help to clear a stuffy nose in case of a cold or allergy by thinning mucus and helping it drain. In addition, a headache, if accompanying the sinus epithelia and airways inflammation, may stop.
The Yellow Gentian is contraindicated in gastric or duodenal ulcer and increased gastric fluid secretion. It should not be used during pregnancy.

Monk Simon Ašič’s product containing the yellow gentian root:


1. Kukman J. Domača lekarna patra Simona Ašiča. Priročnik za nabiranje zdravilnih rastlin. Celjska Mohorjeva družba, Celje, 2014.
2. Galle-Toplak Katja. Zdravilne rastline na Slovenskem. Založba Mladinska knjiga, Ljubljana, 2002.
3. Kreft S. Sodobna fitoterapija. Slovensko farmacevtsko društvo, Ljubljana, 2013.
4. Bohinc P. Slovenske zdravilne rastline. Mladinska knjiga, Ljubljana, 1985.

Gentiana lutea L.

Product containing the yellow gentian root:

Yellow Gentian