This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
MEDICINAL PART. The root.
Description. -- This plant has a long, thick, cylindrical, wrinkled, ringed, forked, perennial root, brown externally, and yellow within, with a stem three or four feet high, hollow, stout, and erect; leaves ovate-oblong, five-veined, pale, bright green; the blossoms are large, of a bright yellow, in many-flowered whorls; and the fruit is a capsule, stalked oblong, and two-valved.
History. -- This plant is common in Central and Southern Europe, especially on the Pyrenees and Alps, being found from 3,000 to 5,000 feet above the level of the sea. The root affords the medicinal portion, and is brought to America chiefly from Havre and Marseilles. It has a feeble aromatic odor, and a taste at first faintly sweetish, and then purely, intensely, and permanently bitter. It imparts its virtues readily to cold or hot water, alcohol, wine, spirits, or sulphuric ether.
Properties and Uses. -- Is a powerful tonic, improves the appetite, strengthens digestion, gives force to the circulation, and slightly elevates the heat of the body. Very useful in debility, exhaustion, dyspepsia, gout, amenorrhoea, hysteria, scrofula, intermittents, worms, and diarrhoea.
Dose. -- Of the powder, ten to thirty grains; of the extract, one to ten grains; of the infusion, a tablespoonful to a wineglassful; of the tincture, one or two teaspoonfuls.
GENTIANA CATESBEI, or the Blue, or American Gentian, has a perennial, branching, somewhat fleshy root, with a simple, erect, rough stem, eight or ten inches in height, and bears large blue flowers. It grows in the grassy swamps and meadows of North and South Carolina, blossoming from September to December. The root is little inferior to the foreign gentian, and may be used as a substitute for it in all cases, in the same doses and preparations.
GENTIANA QUINQUEFLORA, or Five-flowered Gentian, sometimes called Gall-weed, on account of its intense bitterness, is very useful in headache, liver complaint, jaundice, etc. The plant is found from Vermont to Pennsylvania, and a variety of it is common throughout the Western States. It grows in woods and pastures, and flowers in September and October. It may be regarded as a valuable tonic and cholagogue, and deserves further investigation of its therapeutic properties.
There is another kind of gentian (Gentiana Ochroleuca), known by the names of Marsh Gentian, Yellowish-white Gentian, Straw-colored Gentian, and Sampson Snake-weed. It has a stout, smoothish, ascending stem, one or two inches in height, its leaves two to four inches long, and three fourths to an inch and a half in width, with straw-colored flowers two inches long by three-quarters thick, disposed in a dense, terminal cyme, and often in axillary cymes. It is found in Canada and the Southern and Western States, though rarely in the latter, blossoming in September and October; the root is the officinal part, although the tops are often employed. They are bitter, tonic, anthelmintic, and astringent. Used in dyspepsia, intermittents, dysentery, and all diseases of periodicity.
To two ounces of the tops and roots pour on a pint and a half of boiling water, and when nearly cold add a half-pint of brandy. Dose, from one to three tablespoonfuls every half-hour, gradually increasing as the stomach can bear it, lengthening the intervals between the doses. It is also used for bites of snakes, etc.