Circa 1910 estimated
Gentiana 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 recognized for their mostly large, trumpet-shaped flowers, which are often of an intense blue.
Gentian root has a long history of use as an herbal bitter and is an ingredient of many proprietary medicines. The used parts includes the dried, underground parts of the plant and the fresh, above-ground parts. The root, which can be over 5 cm (2.0 in,) and thick has few branches, is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. Caution should be exercised as to its use, because it is endangered, and the closely related Centaurium erythraea shares many of its constituents and actions.
The genus name is a tribute to Gentius, an Illyrian king who may have been the discoverer of tonic properties in gentian.
Gentian (also: Gentian spirit or Gentian schnapps) is a distilled alcoholic beverage originating from the Alpine region and which is produced with gentian root, water, and sugar.
Many curative properties are attributed to this aromatic and bitter spirit; it is often taken for digestive problems.
Despite the perception that the spirit is produced with gentian flowers (which are depicted in the labeling by many producers), Gentian is actually produced using gentian root, most commonly the yellow gentian, which is a larger variety. Less commonly, the roots from other flowers from the Gentian genus are used, such as the purple gentian, brown gentian, or spotted gentian. The harvesting of gentian from the wild is strictly controlled; as a result, fields are planted with the specific purpose of being harvested.
The alcoholic strength of Gentian must be at 37.5°