Gentiana. U. S. (Br.)
Gentian. Gentian. [Yellow Gentian Root]
"The dried rhizome and roots of Gentiana lutea Linne (Fam. Gentianaceae)." U. S. "Gentian Root is the dried rhizome and root of Gentiana lutea, Linn" Br.
Gentianae Radix, Br.; Gentian Root, Bitter Root, Fel Root; Radix Gentianae Rubrae (vel Luteae vel Majoris); Gentiane (Racine), Fr. Cod.; Racine de Gentiane (de Gentiane jaune), Gentiane jaune, Fr.; Radix Gentianae, P. G.; Enzian, Enzianwurzel, Bitterwurzel, Rother Enzian, G.; Genziana, It.; Genciana (Raiz de), Sp.
Gentiana lutea or Yellow Gentian is among the most remarkable of the species which compose this genus, both for its beauty and great comparative size. From its thick, long, branching, perennial rhizome, an erect, round stem rises to the height of three or four feet, bearing opposite, sessile, ovate, acute, five-nerved leaves of a bright-green color, and somewhat glaucous. The lower leaves, which spring from the root, are narrowed at their base into the form of a petiole. The flowers are large and beautiful, of a yellow color, peduncled, and placed in whorls at the axils of the upper leaves. The calyx is monophyllous, membranous, yellowish, and semi-transparent, splitting when the flower opens, and reflected when it is fully expanded; the corolla is rotate, and deeply divided into five or six lanceolate, acute segments; the stamens are five or six, and shorter than the corolla. The plant grows among the Apennines, the Alps, the Pyrenees, and in other mountainous or elevated regions of Europe. It is stated by Bourquelot and Herissey that in order to develop the deep colored fracture preferred by many druggists the root is frequently submitted to fermentation by heaping it up into a mass which becomes heated. Gentian root which has thus been treated is said to yield 27 per cent. less extractive than does that which has been properly dried. Further, even in the best commercial dried root the sucrose, gentianose and gentiopicrin of the fresh root are present only in extremely small amounts. (J. P. C., 6,16, 513.)
Several other species possess analogous virtues, and are used for similar purposes. The roots of G. purpurea L. and G. punctata L., inhabiting the same regions as G. lutea, and of G. pannonica Scopoli, growing in Austria, are said to be often mingled with the official, from which they are scarcely distinguishable. In fact the German Pharmacopoeia permits the use of the rhizome and roots of these three species. The G. macrophylla of Pallas is used in Siberia.
G. quinquefolia L. (G. quinqueflora Lam.), growing throughout the Northern and Northwestern States, is said to be much used in domestic practice. In Europe the rhizome of the G. asclepiadea L. is often admixed with the official rhizome. According to Vogi, they can be detected by the abundance of lignified prosenchymatous elements and stone cells, the genuine powder containing scarcely any lignified elements other than large reticulated vessels. (O. Z., 1903, 141.)
One indigenous species G. Catesbaei (now G. Elliottii Chapm.), growing in the Southern States, formerly had a place in the secondary catalogue of the U. S. Pharmacopoeia, and is reputed to be but little inferior to the official species.
This plant, popularly called blue gentian, has a perennial, branching, somewhat fleshy root, and a simple, erect, rough stem, rising eight or ten inches in height, and bearing opposite leaves, which are ovate-lanceolate, acute, and rough on their margin. The flowers are of a palish-blue color, crowded, nearly sessile, and axillary or terminal. The divisions of the calyx are linear-lanceolate, and longer than the tube. The corolla is large, ventricose, plaited, and divided at its border into ten segments, of which the five outer are more or less acute, the five inner bifid and fringed. The number of stamens is five, and the stigmas are bifid. The capsule is oblong, acuminate, with two valves, and a single cell. G. Elliottii Chapm. grows in the grassy swamps from Virginia to Florida, where it flowers from September to December. It may be given in powder in the dose of from fifteen to thirty grains, or in the form of extract, infusion, wine or tincture.
Powdered gentian is not infrequently adulterated with ground olive stones, ground peanut shells, and even quassia root. These are all readily detected by means of their lignified tissues, which may be seen through the use of the microscope. Gadd and Gadd assert (P. J., 1905, xxi, p. 439) that adulterations of Gentian are most readily detected by means of the microscope, but that good evidence of quality is also furnished by the yield of extract, which should be about 40 per cent.
Properties.—As found in commerce, gentian is in pieces of various dimensions and shapes, usually of considerable length, consisting sometimes of longitudinal slices, sometimes of the rhizome and root cut transversely. They are twisted, wrinkled externally, sometimes marked with close transverse rings of a grayish-brown color on the outside, yellowish or reddish within, and of a soft, spongy texture. It is officially described as occurring "in nearly cylindrical, sometimes branching pieces, of variable length, from 5 to 35 mm. in thickness; externally yellowish-brown, the rhizome portion annulate, the roots longitudinally wrinkled; fracture short and uneven when dry, but tough and flexible when damp; internally yellowish-brown, the bark from 0.5 to 2 mm. in thickness, separated from the somewhat spongy, woody portion by a dark brown cambium zone; odor strong, characteristic; taste slightly sweetish, then strongly and persistently bitter. The powder is light brown or yellowish-brown, consisting chiefly of parenchymatous cells with fragments of scalariform or reticulate tracheae; starch grains few or none. Stone cells and sclerenchymatous fibers are absent. Gentian yields not more than 6 per cent. of ash." U. S.
"Parenchymatous tissue of rhizome and root abundant, containing small oil globules and minute crystals of calcium oxalate but not more than an occasional starch grain; vessels reticulated; no sclerenchymatous cells or fibres. Characteristic odor; taste at first slightly sweet but afterwards bitter. When 5 grammes of the powdered root are macerated with 100 millilitres of water for twenty-four hours, shaken occasionally and filtered, 10 millilitres of the filtrate yield on evaporation in a flat-bottomed dish not less than 0.165 gramme of residue dried at 100° C. (212° F.). Ash not more than 6 per cent." Br.
Kromayer, in 1862, first obtained the bitter principle of gentian in a state of purity, and gave it the name of gentiopicrin, and the formula C20H31O12. This principle has been found in many other species of the genus Gentiana and seems to be a characteristic principle of the genus. It is a glucoside, crystallizing in colorless needles, which readily dissolve in water. It is soluble in 95 per cent. alcohol, but: in absolute alcohol only when aided by heat; it does not dissolve in ether. A solution of sodium hydroxide forms with it a yellow solution. Under the influence of diluted acids, gentiopicrin is resolved into glucose and an amorphous yellowish-brown neutral substance named gentiogenin. Fresh gentian roots yield about one-tenth per cent. of gentiopicrin. Another constituent is gentianin or gentisin, C14H10O5. It forms tasteless, yellowish prisms, subliming with partial decomposition at a temperature over 300° C. (572° F.) sparingly soluble in alcohol, and with alkalies yields intensely yellow, crystallizable compounds, easily decomposed by carbon dioxide. Von Kostanecki (A. J. P., 1891, p. 192), by boiling gentisin with hydnodic acid, succeeded in demethylating it, and so obtained gentisein, C13H8O3, which crystallizes with 2H2O in fine straw-colored needles; these become anhydrous at 100° C. (212° F.). A triacetyl derivative was then formed from this gentisein. Gentisin is therefore the methyl ether of gentisein, and can be written
Hlasiwetz and Habermann showed, in 1875, that when gentianin was melted with potassium hydroxide it yielded phloroglucin, C6H3(OH)3, and dioxybenzoic acid, C6H3(OH)2COOH. The latter was at first called gentianic or gentisinic acid. Maisch believed that tannin is absent from gentian root, and states that the dark olive-green coloration observed when ferric chloride is added to its preparations is due to gentisic acid. (A. J. P., 1876.) Ville (A. J. P., 1877) and Davies (P. J., 1879) maintain that there is a small quantity of tannin in gentian root. Patch (A. J. P., 1876) found that an alcoholic solution of an ethereal extract of gentian yielded a dark-green coloration with ferric salts, but if the alcoholic solution were diluted with water it yielded no precipitate with gelatin. Subsequently (Proc. A. Ph. A., 1881) he showed that there was a principle associated with the resinous matter in gentian (but which was not isolated in a state of purity) that produced the reactions of a tannin, viz., a greenish-black color with ferric chloride, and precipitates with tartar emetic, cinchonidine sulphate, and gelatin. Louis Magnes found in the root, when perfectly dried at 100° C. (212° F.), 15 per cent. of glucose. When gentian is macerated in cold water, it undergoes the vinous fermentation, in consequence of the presence of this saccharine principle. From the fermented infusion a spirituous liquor is obtained by distillation, which, though bitter, and having an unpleasant odor, is said to be relished by the Swiss and Tyrolese. A. Meyer (Ph. Cb., May, 1882) obtained a sweet principle, which he called gentianose, C16H66O31, by precipitation of the filtered juice with alcohol, treatment with ether, and crystallization from alcohol. It does not reduce Fehling's solution. Infusion of gentian is precipitated by tannic acid and the soluble salts of lead, but is compatible with the salts of iron. Pectin, so frequently found in fleshy roots, exists in gentian. (Bourquelot and Herissey, Report de Pharm., 1898.) The yellow coloring matter of the root was investigated by E. V. Howell, who concludes that it is quercitrin. Tanret (P. J., lxxvi, p. 87) found two glucosides, gentiamarin and gentiin. He also states (B. G. T., 1905, p. 730) that in fresh roots the amount of gentiopicrin is about 1.5 per cent., but that it is destroyed in the process of drying so that dried roots contain only 0.1 per cent.
Uses.—Gentian has been known from the highest antiquity and is said to have derived its name from Gentius, a king of Illyria. Many of the complex preparations handed down from the Greeks and Arabians contain it among their ingredients. The ordinary preparations of gentian are, however, almost without physiological properties except their local effects on the mucous membrane of the alimentary tract. Moorhead (J. P. Ex. T., 1915, vii) has given a scientific rationale for the ancient empirical belief in the bitters, by showing that gentian markedly increased the gastric secretions in cachectic dogs. As a stimulant to gastric digestion gentian is perhaps the most popular of all bitters in the treatment of atonic dyspepsia, anorexia, and similar complaints. In overdose it acts as a local irritant and may occasion nausea or vomiting. The porous property of the roof causes it to expand with moisture and it has been employed as a substitute for the sponge tent to enlarge strictured passages. According to Tanret (B. G. T., 1905, p. 730) gentiopicrin is highly poisonous to the plasmodium and in doses of twenty to thirty grains (1.3-2.0 Gm.) is a useful remedy in malarial fevers; it might be pointed out in this connection that it would require between four and five pounds of dried gentian root to produce one dose of gentiopicrin.
Dose, fifteen to thirty grains (1-2 Gm.).
Off. Prep.—Extractum Gentianae, U. S., Br.; Fluidextractum Gentianae, U. S.; Infusum Gentianae Compositum, Br.; Tinctura Gentianae Composita, U. S., Br.; Elixir Gentianae (from Fluidextract), N. F.; Elixir Gentianae et Ferri (from Fluidextract), N. F.; Elixir Gentianae et Ferri Phosphatis (from Fluidextract), N. F.; Elixir Gentianae Glycerinatum (from Fluidextract), N. F.; Infusum Gentianae Compositum, N. F.; Pilulae Antiperiodicae (from Extract), N. F.; Pilulae Ferri, Quininae, Aloes et Nucis Vomicae (from Extract), N. F.; Pilulae Antiperiodica sine Aloe (from Extract), N. F.; Tinctura Amara, N. F.; Tinctura Antiperiodica, N. F.; Tinctura Antiperiodica sine Aloe, N. F.; Tinctura Rhei et Gentianae, N. F.; Tinctura Zedoariae Amara, N. F.; Vinum Aurantii Compositum, N. F.
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.