The history of Gentian: a medicinal plant

Many people commented on my GBBD post about the Gentian.  I’ve never grown this particular plant in my garden.  I picked it up the other day while shopping for Pansies at Lowes.  I was immediately attracted to the compact shape & large blue flowers so I bought three.  The tag stated that it was a annual but after much research I noted that it could be a perennial in my zone 7b garden.  It is supposibly hardy in zones 6-9.  The Gentiana is a genus of the Gentian family which consists of 400 species of plants.  It occurs in temperate climates of Asia, Europe & the Americas.  This species consists of annuals, biennials & perennials.  Some of them are evergreen.   The flowers are usually a deep blue but can come in other colors.  Blue is the color prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere while red is dominant in the Andes & the white is more common in New Zealand.  They prefer a well drained soil that is rich in humus & part shade-full sun conditions.  The species has been documented as far back as 180 BC and the roots were used medicinally in tonics.   Gentian is also used in flavoring such as bitters and the softdrink “Moxie” as noted in Wikipedia.  According to Botanical, “The name of the genus is derived from Gentius, an ancient King of Illyria (180-167 B.C.), who, according to Pliny and Dioscorides, discovered the medicinal value of these plants. During the Middle Ages, Gentian was commonly employed as an antidote to poison. Tragus, in 1552, mentions it as a means of diluting wounds.”   All in all a interesting plant with a long history of use in the garden.


18 responses to this post.

  1. You only stated that is was compact, do you know how big it will grow? I hope you continue to post the progress of this plant, blue flowers are very attractive. Thanks for sharing all the info that you do very informative.

    Sorry about that Darla. The size that this plant gets is about 4-6″ tall & 10″ wide. I will continue to update everyone on this plant, I hope it ends up being a perennial in my garden and if not at least a great annual (maybe a reseeder?). I like the blue bell shaped flowers too. You are very welcome, I’m glad I could share something interesting with you today. 🙂


  2. Thanks for posting about this PGL. I look forward to seeing how it does in your garden. Blue flowers are always a nice addition to any beds.

    You are welcome Susie. You can call me Racquel. 🙂 I will keep you updated on the progress of this new addition to my garden. I agree, blue is one of my favorite colors in the garden, especially in the fall.


  3. Your site is so educational and beautiful!

    Thank you for being you;)

    Thanks Adventure Girl, I’m glad you like my blog. 🙂


  4. Gentian blue is a stunning color in the garden, especially up close. I trust this beauty will thrive under your loving care. 😉

    Thanks Joey, I like the deep blue of this plant too. I hope it ends up being a great asset to my garden whether it turns out to be an annual or perennial. 🙂


  5. Posted by greenwalks on September 17, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I love Gentian blue but have heard it’s a hard one to keep going. If anyone can make it into a perennial, I’m sure it’s you!

    Thanks for the vote of confidence GW! 🙂 I will do my best to not let you down. lol


  6. Thanks for the background work, Racquel! I’ll keep you posted about how mine are doing.

    Do you know a good resource about feeds? When I signed up with FeedBurner so that I could join Blotanical, I screwed up something on Blogger so that my new posts don’t show up on my friends’ blogrolls. Is this why you switched to WordPress?

    You are very welcome Cosmos! Happy to provide some much needed info. I hope they are perennials but if not their a nice annual. 🙂

    Are you posts showing up on Blotanical? I know Stuart from Blotanical said that they will still having an issue with feedburner. Yes that is why I switched to WordPress, the drama of google was annoying. I’m quite happy with wordpress.


  7. Great info! Not a plant that I’ve tried. Thanks, Cameron

    You are very welcome Cameron.


  8. I wonder what poison it is an antidote for? Would be interesting to know how the King figured it out? I have been watching a bunch of ancient movies and I love this kind of stuff! Thanks for the history and I hope it does well for you.

    It didn’t say Tina, but that’s a good question. I thought the historical information was pretty interesting too, it’s amazing how long some of these plants have been in existence & the practical purposes they served in ancient medicine. Thanks Tina, I hope it does well too. 🙂


  9. Thanks for all that interesting information. I have been eyeing up these plants this week too! But I decided that my ground was probably to wet for it + it wasn’t on my planting list (lol). I think they are lovely.

    You are very welcome Karen. They are little beauties and good for you sticking to your planting list.


  10. You touch on something that’s interesting to me ~ medicinal/tonic uses for plants. Let us know next spring if your Gentian survives the winter for you.

    I’m glad my post was something you find interesting Kathleen and I will definitely keep you all updated on this plant in the future.


  11. Raquel, that is a very interesting plant. Love blue flowers. Sadly, I don’t have room for it.

    Thanks Deb. I’m glad you found the plant interesting and pretty. I wish you had room for it, it’s very small taking up only 8-10 inches of space. And it only gets 2″-4″ tall.


  12. Thank you for sharing this bit of information on this pretty plant. The next time I see it in a nursery I will now know a little bit more about it. I’m curious to see how it holds up for you as well as I am in zone 8a.

    You are very welcome Cynthia. If anything it will be a great new annual to add fall color other than pansies & mums. 🙂 But I will keep you in the loop, because if it survives this winter than it should definitely be hardy in your area too.


  13. Cool history of this plant! Thanks for an interesting post.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the history of this plant guyz! You are very welcome. 🙂


  14. I have one of these plants in a dark blue. Thanks for the info! Jean

    Mine is a dark blue too Jean, the camera flash & lighting outside faded the true color out. 🙂 You are very welcome for the info.


  15. […] employed as an antidote to poison. Tragus, in 1552, mentions it as a means of diluting wounds. -Perennial Garden LoverGentian Health Benefits in Our ClinicMany of the herbal formulas used here at Natchez Trace […]


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