One of the most bitter of the bitter digestive tonics, gentian, is appropriately called “bitter root.” Legend has it that the medicinal qualities of European Gentian were first discovered by Genitus, King of the Illyrians (180-167 BCE), during the time of a great plague. Genitus is said to have prayed to the gods that if he shot a single arrow into the air, that it would return to the earth at a plant that would save them. Which led to the discovery of the plant now called Gentian.
The famous German “father of natural healing” Sebastian Kneipp highly valued Gentian for its “strengthening and support of stomach secretion and nerves.”
Today bitters preparations are more popular in China and Europe than ever, and it is estimated that Germans take some 40 million doses daily. And not just because they recognize the medicinal qualities, but because they like them.
Gentian combines well with other bitters, aromatics and citrus peel. A nice combination is adding it to dandelion root and leaf, cardamom and orange peel extracts.
I generally make herbal tinctures as “simples,” or one ingredient formulas, to combine them later and leave my creative options open.
Gentian Bitters Recipe
¼ c (1 oz) Gentian Root, chopped
1 c (8 oz) decent Bourbon
Place both in a clean, lidded jar and allow to infuse for 24 hours. Strain.
Pour into a small bottle. Amber glass dropper bottles are readily available at places like Amazon. Label it (important! You will forget what’s in it. I speak from experience!) That’s it. Really!