Description: Natural Order, Gentianaceae. Botanically allied to the frasera and sabbatia. Genus GENTIANA: Annual herbs, smooth, with opposite leaves and a bitter juice. Flowers solitary or cymose. Calyx four to five-cleft; corolla large, tubular, four to five-cleft, convolute to the right in the bud, with plaited folds at the sinuses. Stamens as many as the lobes of the corolla, inserted on the tube; style short or none; stigmas two, persistent. Fruit an oblong pod, two-valved, innumerable small seeds. G. LUTEA: Stem erect, round, three or four feet high. Leaves opposite, sessile, oval, acute, two to four inches long, rather smooth, bright-green, five-nerved, lower ones narrowed almost to a petiole. Flowers pedunculated, in whorls in the axils of the upper leaves; corolla brilliant yellow, nearly rotate, an inch and a half long, deeply divided into six lanceolate segments; calyx tubular, short, yellowish, almost like a transparent membrane, splitting on one side as the flower expands. It is the largest and most brilliant of all the gentians, and is found in abundance along the mountain ranges of central Europe.
The root of this gentian is perennial, large, an inch or more in thickness, pale-brown and wrinkled on the outside, yellow or faintly reddish yellow within, and rather spongy. It comes to market in either longitudinal or transverse slices. Its taste is intensely bitter; and its virtues are extracted by water and alcohol. Numerous analyses of it have been made, showing its bitter principle lo be soluble in water and diluted alcohol, bat not in alcohol; and also yielding sugar, a fixed oil, and other substances. With tannic acid, it forms a nearly insoluble precipitate.
Properties and Uses: Gentian root is one of the purest bitter tonics, intense and permanent in taste and action, with a distinct share of relaxant properties, but the stimulant quality predominating. It is not usually nauseating, ‘ut is generally well received by the stomach, notwithstanding its extreme bitterness. It actively promotes appetite and digestion, braces the circulation slowly but effectually, and gives firmness to the stomach, alvine canal, gall-ducts and uterus. It is best fitted for languid conditions, and states of general debility: under which circumstances it is one of the most serviceable of all our tonics–not only for passive forms of indigestion, but in chronic biliousness, amenorrhea, constipation, worms, and other maladies incident to general feebleness of the tissues. It slowly promotes the action of the bowels, and has proven of much service for the period of remission in agues. Large doses, such as are too frequently advised, over-excite the stomach and give a feeling of oppression; at the same time increasing the force of the circulation, and even irritating the bowels. It has unjustly been accused of narcotism. Sensitive persons are sometimes nauseated by it; and it is not suited to irritable conditions of either the stomach, bowels, or uterus, and is most appropriate for lymphatic temperaments. Applied externally, it often acts well on degenerate, scrofulous; and phagaedenic ulcers. Its intensity makes it advisable to combine it with aromatic adjuvants, and with milder tonics; but it should not be combined with astringents. The various species of gentian indigenous to America, as will presently be described, are fully equal to this long-known and highly-valued European species. Dose of the powder, from five to fifteen grains, three times a day. It is seldom given in this form.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Compound Infusion. Bruised gentian, half an ounce; orange peel and coriander seeds, each one drachm. Pour on four fluid ounces of diluted alcohol; and after three hours add twelve fluid ounces of cold water. Strain in twelve hours. This is the Edinburgh and United States formula, of which a fluid ounce may be given as a dose. It keeps moderately well. It is customary to combine it with half its own volume of the compound infusion of senna and some cardamon, for evacuant and tonic purposes in constipation and dyspepsia. I have found much advantage in combining two ounces of this infusion with half an ounce of the sirup of juglans, of which the dose may be half a fluid ounce or more three times a day.
II. Compound Tincture. Gentian, two ounces; orange peel, one ounce; cardamon seeds, half an ounce. Macerate for fourteen days in two pints of diluted alcohol. Or the crushed materials may be macerated, and then treated in a percolator. This also is a preparation of the U. S. Pharmacopoeia, of which the usual dose is a fluid drachm. It is too intense for continued use; and a much more acceptable compound tincture can be made by treating one ounce each of crushed gentian and liriodendron, and half an ounce each of orange peel and coriander, with two pints of thirty percent alcohol; the dose of which would be from one to two fluid drachms. A Wine Tincture is also made by treating half an ounce of gentian, one ounce of yellow cinchona, two drachms of bitter orange peel, and one drachm of canella, with four fluid ounces of diluted alcohol and two pints of Sherry wine. Dose from half to a whole fluid ounce. It is suited only to very languid conditions. It is also tinctured with rhubarb, though to poor advantage. The Extract is a strong preparation, seldom used. The article can be combined most suitably with such relaxant tonics as eupatorium, anthemis, or liriodendron; or with such relaxing alterants as arctium, celastrus, or euonymus.
III. Fluid Extract. A pound of crushed gentian is macerated with seventy per cent. alcohol, and percolated till twelve fluid ounces have passed, which are set aside; percolation continued with diluted alcohol till two more pints have passed, which are evaporated on the water-bath to four fluid ounces, mixed with the first product and filtered. Dose, ten drops to half a fluid drachm. This article enters into various combinations with cinchona, quassia, euonymus, and other tonics and alterants.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com