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Centaurium erythraea Rafn. Centaury, Feverwort

Family: Gentianaceae
Description: “Variable, small biennial with a basal rosette and elliptic, veined leaves up to 5cm long. 5-petalled pink flowers are borne in dense clusters on long branched stalks in summer. H 15-24cm, S7-15cm. Fully hardy.” (Bown, 1995: 104)
Habitat: Native to dunes and dry grasslands in Europe and SW Asia (as above).
Harvest: “Flowering plants are cut in summer” (Bown, 1995: 257)

Part used: Herb
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 0.5-3ml tds, Fluid Extract 25%: 1-2ml tds, Dried: 2-4g tds (AD)

-antifebrile (Wren, 1988)

Organ system: Digestive

Indications (Wren, 1988):
-Disorders of upper digestive tract;
-dyspepsia [indigestion];
- liver and gallbladder complaints [may use as supplement to aid general digestion -GT];
-to stimulate appetite (as Gentiana)

Contra-indications: None found

Key Constituents (Wren, 1988):
-Bitter principles: secoiridoids (glycosides), incl. sweroside, gentiopicroside
-Alkaloids; gentianine, gentianidine, gentioflavine
-Xanthone derivatives
-Phenolic acids

Pharmacology (Wren, 1988): Action in reducing fever thought to be due to phenolic acid content. Gentiopicroside shown to stimulate gastric secretion in animals.
Toxicology: No studies found

History: Its name derives from the Centaur, Chiron, the great healer in Greek mythology, who is supposed to have cured himself from an arrow wound, poisoned with the blood of the hydra, with the herb; erythrea is Greek for “red” -the colour of the flowers The ancients named it Fel terrae, “gall of the earth”, due to its extreme bitterness and was among their ‘fifteen magical herbs’. Saxon herbalists, in the manner of Chiron, prescribed it for snakebites and poisoning and also to bring down fevers- hence the common name of Feverwort. (Smith, 1977)

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“it opens obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, helps the jaundice, and eases the pain in the sides and hardness of the spleen…It is very wholesome, but not very toothsome.” Culpeper, 1653 (Culpeper, 1995: 63)

“A most excellent tonic and strengthener, which will assist the heart, is an infusion of half-an-ounce each of Centaury and Raspberry leaves and a teaspoonful of Cayenne pepper…” William Smith (1977: 43)

Bel Charlesworth Medical Herbalist

Bel Charlesworth MNIMH
Medical Herbalist

BSc Herbal Medicine

Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists since 2003

Tel: 07775 920079

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