Common and folk names
- • Bitterherb
- • Centaury Gentian
- • Lesser Centaury
- • Red or Pink Centaury
- • Feverwort
- • Filwort
- • Christ’s Ladder
Parts of Plants Used
Dark green= the most popular and common use
The European Centaury is an annual or biennial plant in the Gentianaceae family, with a light-coloured root and a leaf rosette at the base. Leaves are smooth and a shiny pale green with undivided edges. The lowest leaves are broader than the others, oblong or wedge shaped, narrow at the base, blunt at the end and formed into a rosette at the base of the plant.
The plant has small, pink, five-petalled flowers in clusters at the top of the stems. The blooming period is from July to September.
It is widespread in Europe, parts of North Africa and West Asia and introduced to North America. It is found in damp meadows, pastures and in thinly wooded areas. It grows favourably in moist forest clearings, light thickets, roadsides, field margins and mountain slopes up to 1400 metres. It can be found frequently in meadows and dry grasslands.
The plant is assessed as Least Concern according to the Red Data List criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Used to cleanse the blood and kidneys
- Used for relief of indigestion and colic
- Used to ease gastric and liver diseases
- Used as a blood purifier
- Used as a powerful antioxidant
- Used to relieve muscular rheumatism
- Used to aid treatment of wounds and sores
- Used to stimulate stomach and intestinal glands
- Used to boost appetite
Used to remove skin blemishes
• flavouring in bitter herbal liqueurs
• an ingredient of vermouth
• medicinal tea
• lung support spray
• food supplement tincture
• herbal digestive drops
• herb/flower extract
• powdered in tablets
• ingredient for skincare products
• shampoos and hair conditioners
• antiseptic products
• a long-lasting bright yellowish-green dye
- Named after the mythical Centaur, Chiron, who was said to have discovered medicinal properties of the plant to treat himself for an arrow wound.
- In the Latin name, the word Erythraea is derived from the Greek “erythros” (red), from the colour of the flowers.
- It is listed as one of the 'Fifteen magical herbs of the Ancients'.
- Within a poem of the 10th century by Mercer, there is mention of Centaury as being powerful against evil spirits.
- Centaury tastes extremely bitter and, hence, people in ancient times called it Fel Terrae meaning the ‘Gall of the Earth'.
- The flowers of centaury are etched on the tomb of the renowned English poet William Wordsworth, who was an admirer of nature. Wordsworth considered the centaury flowers that only open up during the day time and shut in the evening like the rising sun
- The early Celts believed that Centaury brought good luck
- Early herbal medicine practitioners in Scotland often prescribed the use of the herb to heal snake bites as well as other venoms.
- During the Middle Ages many people believed that centaury was a supernatural herb that helped drive away evil spirits.
The 17th Century English botanist Nicholas Culpeper described the herb as “extremely healthy, but not very pleasant to taste”.