Gentian, greater yellow gentian, felwort, or the European chincona gentiana lutea Lin. Sp. Pl. 320. The stalk is unbranchcd and jointed; the leaves oblong, acuminated, ribbed, and set in pairs at the joints; the flowers in clusters at the top of the stalk, of a pale yellow colour, somewhat bell shaped, and deeply cut into five segments; the seeds contained in oblong capsules; the root moderately long, slender, branched, brownish on the outside, and of a deep gold colour within; its pith woody, though more spongy than the rest of the root. It is perennial, a native of the mountainous parts of Germany, Switzerland, and France, from whence the dried roots arc brought to us; but the plant is found wild in England.
Sometimes the thora valdensis of Ray, or aconitum pardalianches of Bauhine, is sold for the gentian. It is known from the true gentian by a paler colour externally, having longitudinal wrinkles; its texture is closer than that of gentian; whitish within, and not bitter; but when chewed only mucilaginous. It is the ranunculus thora Lin. Sp. Pl. 775.
The best roots of gentian are of a middling size, of a lively yellow colour, tough, and most free from fibres. The older and larger roots are more porous; the younger and slender more compact.
Neumann obtained from 3 xvi. of the root, by means of rectified spirit 3 vij. ss. of resinous extract; and from water, 3 ix. of a gummy one. The London college directs the watery extract (see Chamaemeli ex-tractum); but the spirituous is preferable: the dose may be from gr. x. Э ij. or 3 i. In distillation, spirit carried nothing over, and water too little to deserve notice.
It is a strong pure bitter, and by any agreeable addition is rendered very grateful to the stomach. Of all the preparations, the infusion in cold water is the most pleasing and active; but when a warm stomachic is required, the tincture of gentian is to be preferred.
The febrifuge virtues of the gentian root have been supposed equal to those of the Peruvian bark, but in many cases it has failed; yet when joined with galls and tormentil roots in equal parts, and given in proper doses, gentian has cured intermittents in Scotland. (See Cullen's Materia Medica.) It is, however, one of the principal bitters now employed by physicians; and as such medicines are supposed to be not only tonic and stomachic, but also anthelmintic, emmenagogue, antar-thritic, and febrifuge, this root has as good a claim to these numerous virtues as any other. Bitters are supposed to relieve dyspeptic complaints, though arising from debility of the stomach, more effectually than bark, chiefly from their not producing any stricture on infarcted viscera. When applied as a tent in wounds, it does not render the lips callous; so that it is often used with advantage for imbibing the moisture in issues, which it also dilates. See Lewis's Materia Medica. Raii Historia. Neumann's Chemical Works.
The officinal preparations of this medicine are the extract above noticed; the compound tincture of gentian prepared as follows:
Gentians incisae et contusae p. ij. corticis ex-terioris aurant. Hispalensium exsiccati i. seminum cardamomi minoris contusorum demptis capsulis ss. spt.vinositenuioris lb ij. Digestforeightdays,andstrain.
This is an elegant composition, a warm stomachic, and not injured by keeping: it was formerly the tinctura amara Pharm. Lond.
The compound infusion of gentian is made by macerating six drachms and a half of gentian, half an ounce of fresh lemon rinds, and a drachm of dry orange peel in twelve ounces of hot water for an hour. It was the infusum amarum of the former Pharmacopoeia; but two drachms and a half of the gentian root are omitted in the present edition. It is a light pleasant bitter, strengthens the stomach, and restores the appetite: two ounces may be taken twice a day, and some cordial carminative tincture should be added if necessary
Vinum amarum, Ph. Edin. is prepared by adding gentian root ss. Peruvian bark j. Seville orange peel dried 3 ij. canella alb. j. to four ounces of proof spirit, two pints and a half of Spanish white wine. The ingredients should be macerated in the spirit for twenty-four hours, and the wine then added: after three days it may be strained. This is considered a very useful and elegant stomachic medicine.
Gentiana minor, Gentiana cruciata, Lin. Sp. Pl. 334, and cross wort gentian. It grows in Hungary on hills and in dry meadows, but is rarely brought to us.
Gentiana alba. See Laserpitium.
Gentiana amarella, Lin. Sp. Pl. 334, resembles the gentian, but is in taste intensely bitter.
Gentiana asclepiadea, Lin. Sp. Pl. 329, scarcely differing in medical powers from the other species.
Gentiana centaurium. See Centaurium minus.
Gentiana nigra. See Orf.oselinum apii folio.
Gentiana purpurea, Lin. Sp. Pl. 329, Purple gentian; cursuta.
The stem is erect, simple, smooth, strong, succulent, about a foot in height; lower leaves nearly elliptical, ribbed, entire; upper leaves, in pairs, sheath like, concave, embracing the stem, pointed, ribbed, inclosing the flowers; flowers, large, purple, standing in whorls, upon short peduncles; calyx, a deciduous spatha; corolla, bell shaped, purplish, plicated, divided at the limb into five ovated dotted segments; filaments, commonly five, of the length of the germen, and furnished with conical anthers; germen, oblong; style, cleft, points reflex, furnished with blunt stigmata; capsule, ovate, two celled, containing numerous small seeds; roots perennial, cylindrical, slender, branched, externally brown, internally yellow. It is a native of the Alps, introduced into this country by Saussure in 1768; is a strong bitter, greatly resembling in appearance and taste the gentian, but in no degree superior, though used by some practitioners of Edinburgh for more than forty years. Dr. Home considers it as a variety of the gentiana lutea.