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Gentiana verna
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Gentianaceae
Genus: Gentiana

See text.

Gentiana /ˌɛniˈnə/[1] is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the gentian family (Gentianaceae), the tribe Gentianeae, and the monophyletic subtribe Gentianinae. With about 400 species it is considered a large genus. They are notable for their mostly large, trumpet-shaped flowers, which are often of an intense blue.[2]

The genus name is a tribute to Gentius, an Illyrian king who may have been the discoverer of tonic properties in gentians.[3]


This is a cosmopolitan genus, occurring in alpine habitats in temperate regions of Asia, Europe and the Americas. Some species also occur in northwestern Africa, eastern Australia, and New Zealand. They are annual, biennial, and perennial plants. Some are evergreen, others are not.

Many gentians are difficult to grow outside their wild habitat, but several species are available in cultivation. Gentians are fully hardy and can grow in full sun or partial shade. They grow in well-drained, neutral to acid soils rich in humus. They are popular in rock gardens.


Many beverages are made with gentian root.[4] It is used to produce gentian, a distilled beverage produced in the Alps. Some species are harvested for the manufacture of apéritifs, liqueurs, and tonics.

Gentian root is a common beverage flavouring for bitters. The soft drink Moxie contains gentian root.[5] The French liqueur Suze is made with gentian. Americano apéritifs contain gentian root for bitter flavoring.[6] It is an ingredient in the Italian liqueur Aperol. It is also used as the main flavor in the German after-dinner digestif called Underberg, and the main ingredient in Angostura bitters.

Pharmacological uses[edit]

Gentian is used in herbal medicine to treat digestive problems, fever, hypertension, muscle spasms, parasitic worms, wounds, cancer, sinusitis, and malaria,[7] although studies have shown no efficacy beyond that of a placebo.[8][9][10]

Gentiana punctata leaves and roots have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally and externally as liqueur or tea for treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, skin, locomotor system, liver and bile, for paediatric problems, fever, flu, rheumatism and gout.[11]


The emblem of the Minamoto clan

The Gentian flower was used as the emblem of the Minamoto clan, one of the four great clans that dominated Japanese politics during the Heian period and went on to establish the very first Shogunate in the aftermath of the Genpei War.



Gentians have oppositely arranged leaves, sometimes in a basal rosette. The trumpet-shaped flowers are usually deep blue or azure, but can be white, cream, yellow, or red. Many species are polymorphic with respect to flower color, bearing flowers of different colors. Blue-flowered species predominate in the Northern Hemisphere, with red-flowered species dominant in the Andes, where bird pollination is probably more often favored by natural selection. White-flowered species are scattered throughout the range of the genus but dominate in New Zealand. Most flowers are pentamerous, with 5 lobes in the corolla and 5 sepals. A few species have 4 to 7 flower parts. The corolla has folds called plicae between the lobes. The style is short or absent. The ovary is mostly sessile and has nectary glands.

List of accepted species[edit]


Formerly placed here[edit]


Chemical constituents[edit]


  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  3. ^ Jepson, W. L. A Manual of the Flowering Plants of California.
  4. ^ Strewe, L. Ethnobotany of gentians. Gentian Research Network.
  5. ^ Orchant, R. Moxie: The distinctively different soda that New England loves. The Huffington Post. March 1, 2013.
  6. ^ Quinquina & Americano by Brand. Vermouth 101.
  7. ^ Gentian. WebMD, LLC.
  8. ^ Edzard Ernst (24 August 2010). "Bach flower remedies: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials". Swiss Medical Weekly. 140: w13079. PMID 20734279. doi:10.4414/smw.2010.13079. 
  9. ^ Walach H, Rilling C, Engelke U (2001). "Efficacy of Bach-flower remedies in test anxiety: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial with partial crossover". J Anxiety Disord. 15 (4): 359–66. PMID 11474820. doi:10.1016/S0887-6185(01)00069-X. 
  10. ^ Pintov S, Hochman M, Livne A, Heyman E, Lahat E (2005). "Bach flower remedies used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children — a prospective double blind controlled study". European Journal of Paediatric Neurology. 9 (6): 395–398. PMID 16257245. doi:10.1016/j.ejpn.2005.08.001. 16257245. 
  11. ^ Vogl, S; Picker, P; Mihaly-Bison, J; Fakhrudin, N; Atanasov, A. G.; Heiss, E. H.; Wawrosch, C; Reznicek, G; Dirsch, V. M.; Saukel, J; Kopp, B (2013). "Ethnopharmacological in vitro studies on Austria's folk medicine--an unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 149 (3): 750–71. PMC 3791396Freely accessible. PMID 23770053. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. 
  12. ^ "The Plant List: Gentiana L.". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanic Garden. 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2016. 
  13. ^ English Names for Korean Native Plants (PDF). Pocheon: Korea National Arboretum. 2015. p. 477. ISBN 978-89-97450-98-5. Retrieved 16 December 2016 – via Korea Forest Service. 
  14. ^ "The Plant List: A working list of all plant species". 


External links[edit]