This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Centaurium Minus Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. &C. B. Gentiana Centaurium Linn. Lesser centaury: a small plant, with three-ribbed, somewhat oval leaves, set in pairs on the stalks; which divide, towards the top, into several branches, bearing umbel-like clusters of bright red, funnel-shaped flowers, cut into five acute segments, followed by little oblong cap-sules full of very small seeds. It is annual, grows wild in dry pasture grounds, and flowers in July.
The leaves and tops of centaury are strong bitters, of scarcely any smell or particular flavour. The seeds also are very bitter; the petala of the flowers, and the roots, almost insipid. The flowery tops are generally made choice of, and are of considerable estimation in the present practice as corroborant stomachic bitters.
The active parts of this plant are dissolved readily both by water and rectified spirit, the herb, after infusion in sufficient quantities of either menstruum, remaining insipid: infusions of the leaves in water are of a paler or deeper brownish colour, according as they are less or more saturated; to rectified spirit, the fresh leaves give a green, the dry a dark brownish red tincture. All these liquors are sufficiently elegant bitters.
(a) Memoires de l'acad. des scienc. de Berlin, torn. ix.
Water takes up, along with the bitter, a large quantity of an insipid mucilaginous sub-stance, whereas rectified spirit seems to dissolve little more than the pure bitter part. Hence, on infpiffating the two solutions to the same consistences, the watery extract proves much less bitter than the spirituous, and its quantity above four times greater: according to Car-theufer's experiments, an ounce of the herb yields with water above half an ounce of extract, but with spirit scarcely two scruples.