Botanical: Centaurium erythraea
Family: Gentianaceae (gentian)
Other common names: Centaury Gentian, Century, Centory, Red Centaury, Filwort, Feverwort, Lesser Centaury, Christ's Ladder, Canchalagua, Bitter Herb, Common Centaury
Centaury has been used mainly as a tonic for the gastrointestinal tract that helps to expel excess gas and relieve bloating, heartburn, dyspepsia, poor appetite, constipation and colic. Centaury is also believed to cleanse toxins from the liver, kidneys and gallbladder, as well as purify the bloodstream.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Centaury includes several varieties that are native to Europe, North Africa and the Americas, and all are used mainly to improve the gastrointestinal system. It is an annual or biennial with a fibrous, woody root that puts up a stiff, erect stem from a rosette base which may grow to a height of twenty inches (depending upon the species and geographic location) and bears pale green, smooth, lance-shaped leaves crowned by flat clusters of rose-colored, star-like flowers. The plant will survive in both dry and moist pastures, fields and waste places in neutral-to-alkaline soil in full sun and loves light. Centaury's botanical and specific names, Erythraea, are derived from the Greek word, erythros, which means "red," obviously referring to the color of the flowers, and the names Centaurium and Centaury come from "Chiron," the half-man, half-horse centaur of Greek mythology, who was famous for his skill with herbal medicines after he cured himself of a wound received from a poisoned arrow. In ancient times the plant was primarily used to draw out snake poisons and infections, induce sweating, and as a treatment for fevers. Centaury was recognized as a drug in the United States National Formulary, a reference book for pharmacists, and many people have enjoyed its medicinal qualities when taken as an aperitif wine (vermouth) to aid the proper digestion of food. The whole herb is generally collected in the wild in July, when just breaking into flower and dried for use in herbal medicines. The plant's slight odor disappears when dried. Some of the constituents in Centaury include a bitter principle (erythro-centaurin), a bitter glucoside (erytaurin), valeric acid and wax.
Centaury is considered wonderful tonic with many applications. It is a digestive aid that stimulates gastric secretions and is an aromatic stomachic that is used to strengthen stomach function and treat gastrointestinal disturbances. Its intensely bitter principle greatly helps to relieve dyspepsia, languid digestion and indigestion with heartburn after eating, flatulence pains in the intestines and stomach, bloating from excess gas, constipation and colic. (It is wise to take Centaury prior to eating to offset or relieve digestive complaints.)
Further supporting its digestive qualities, Centaury helps to improve the appetite and has been recommended to help strengthen the digestive system and appetite during a slow convalescence. It is also believed to be helpful in cases of anorexia and other situations involving poor appetite.
Centaury is considered a cholagogue or agent that will stimulate bile production and flow from the gallbladder and works as a tonic to strengthen both the liver and gallbladder, easing such complaints as jaundice and hepatitis. It also helps to remove toxins from the liver and gallbladder and thus purify the blood. The stimulation of bile also facilitates the digestion of foods.
As a diaphoretic, Centaury is said to stimulate perspiration; and as such, the herb will help to cool the body, lower fevers and help expel toxins from the body through the skin. The herb is said to be good for intermittent fevers and other feverish illnesses and was once used to treat malaria.
Centaury is also believed to strengthen kidney function and is thought to be beneficial in controlling the bladders of elderly people and others with bedwetting and urinary control problems.
Centaury has been used to expel worms from the intestines, and when used externally, it is thought to have antiseptic properties that destroy body vermin and lice. External use also includes treating dandruff and skin blemishes and as an application to heal wounds and sores.
Pregnant women should not use Centaury Herbal Supplement. Overuse (many times the recommended dosage) will produce vomiting.