Centaury plant - Erythraea Centaurium (Gentianaceae)

Medicinal Use of Centaury – Erythraea Centaurium (Gentianaceae)


Biennial herb growing to 9½ in (24 cm) with a basal rosette of leaves and 5-petaled pink flowers in clusters.

Habitat & Cultivation

Native to Europe and southwestern Asia, centaury is now found in temperate regions throughout the world. The plant is harvested in summer when just about to flower.

Parts used

Aerial parts.


Centaury contains many bitter constituents, including secoiridoids, also found in gentian (Gentiana lutea).

History & Folklore

In classical myth, the centaur Chiron used this herb to treat a poisoned arrow wound.

Medicinal Actions & Uses

One of the most useful bitter herbs, centaury has a relatively mild bitter action, stimulating appetite as well as digestive secretions from the salivary glands, stomach, intestines, and gallbladder. With increased digestive juices, food is processed and broken down more effectively, leading to better absorption of nutrients. For best results, centaury should be taken over several weeks. The preparation should be slowly sipped so that the components (detectable at a dilution of up to 1:3,500) can stimulate reflex activity throughout the upper digestive tract.