Marsh Gentian (commonly called and known as English Gentian) is a plant which must not be confounded with the Gentian Root commonly sold in our shops under that name, as English Gentian is an entirely different plant, possessing superior properties to the ordinary root of the shops. It is a plant which ought to be far better known than it is at the present time, made more use of, and kept in every Herbalist's shop in Great Britain. But I am sorry to say that it is only known to Botanists and a very few practising Herbalists. However, here is a description of the plant:—Root tapering to a very fine point, with fine fibres branching from it, yellow on the outside and greenish white inside; stem square, from 2 to 10 inches high; leaves sessile, obtuse; flowers large, deep blue, few on each stem, with five broad, pale-greenish lines, campanulate, stalked. It is a perennial, it flowers in July, August, and September, and may be found in the North of England and Scotland growing in moist pastures, swamps, and on some hillsides.
In the Linnean system of classification it belongs to class five, Pentandria, order second, Digynia; and in the natural order Gentianaceae. The number of the therapeutic principles are four, namely, alkaloid, resin, resinoid, and neutral. The properties are alterative, diuretic, resolvent, astringent, diaphoretic, chologogue, and sialogogue; anthelmintic, and in strong doses an emetic and laxative. The diseases in which its employment is indicated are as follows:—Stomach disorders, torpid liver, affections of the mesenteric gland, dry skin, cold chills, affections of the spleen and portal veins, loss of appetite, sick headache, dropsy, rheumatism, scrofula, syphilis, gonorrhoea, fevers and general debility, haemorrhage, etc. English Gentian exercises an especial influence on the mucous surfaces running throughout the whole body; its action in this respect is so manifest that when employed in such cases of affections of the mucous surfaces its action cannot be mistaken, as it proves so beneficial. Upon the liver it acts with equal certainty and efficacy. And in affections of the spleen, mesenteric glands, and abdominal viscera generally, as a chologogue and a deobstruent it has scarcely an equal. It is an efficient and reliable remedy in scrofula and glandular diseases generally. In cutaneous eruptions, indigestion, debility, chronic diarrhoea and dysentery, constipation, piles, and all morbid and critical discharges. English Gentian may also be employed in cases of leueorrhoea, and it is of singular efficacy when that complaint is complicated with hepatic aberration. The dose is from 1 to 2 ozs. of the decoction three to four times a day, before meals, with increased quantity if more of a laxative effect is needed. The decoctions, combined with Purple Loosestrife, Marshmallows, and Chickweed, in equal proportions, may be used as an injection to the womb. This treatment will also be found useful in haemorrhage from the womb, prolapsus uteri, etc. The same will be found extremely valuable as an injection in all cases of female gonorrhoea, gleet, urethral Inflammation, vaginitis, and cystitis. English Gentian is of inestimable value in the treatment of chronic derangement of the liver and portal circulation. It seems to exercise an especial influence over the portal veins and hepatic structure generally, resolving biliary deposits, removing obstructions, promoting secretion, and giving tone to the various functions. It is eminently chologogue, and may be relied upon with confidence for the relief of hepatic torpor. Also as a general remedy in the treatment of piles, combined with Bur-Marigold, Yarrow, and crushed Ginger, one ounce each, and boiled in four quarts of water down to two quarts, then sieved. While hot, add 3 lbs. of best black treacle; stir up until all is well mixed, and when cold it will be fit for use. Dose, a small teacupful three or four times a day, before meals. It will be found there is no better remedy, as the writer of this, article has cured many inveterate cases by causing the above to be administered; but perseverance is highly essential in the cure of chronic cases. English Gentian will be found also of considerable value as a remedy when administered for intermittent and low fevers. It has been employed to a considerable extent, and in the majority of cases successfully. It has also been found to be most reliable in those cases in which the prolongation of the disease depended upon a disordered condition of the functions of the liver. The administration of a thorough dose of Mountain Flax to relieve the bowels, followed by the judicious use of English Gentian, has been found to effect a radical cure in many cases. When a stimulant is required, it may be combined with Garden Angelica, Yarrow, crushed Ginger, Cayenne Pepper, Red Sage, or Composition Powder. In many derangements of the urinary apparatus, English Gentian will be found to answer an admirable purpose when combined with common Plantain leaves. In chronic inflammation of the bladder it may be deemed one of the most reliable agents. It should be given in full and repeated doses of half a teacupful every three hours, in congestion of the ureters, chronic suppression of the urine, and gravelly affections it will be found highly useful, combined with Marshmallows, Comfrey, Yarrow, or Buchu Leaves; also in incontinence of the urine and diabetes. As a tonic in the convalescing stages of fevers, pneumonia, dysentery, and other acute diseases, particularly when a strengthening property is needed, English Gentian is peculiarly appropriate. It promotes digestion and assimilation, and obviates constipation, and gives tone to the depurating functions generally. English Gentian is considered by the older inhabitants residing in Rossendale Valley as a powerful tonic and antiseptic. As a stomachic in dyspeptic complaints it has proved very beneficial by increasing and strengthening the powers of the stomach and digestive organs. It was in the year 1858 that the writer of this article first became acquainted with English Gentian. Since that time he has had many opportunities of testing its value, and in his opinion as a tonic and general strengthener there is not its equal either in the British or foreign pharmacopoeias.
Common Plants and their Uses in Medicine was written by Richard Lawrence Hool, F.N.A.M.H., in 1922.