Centaurium erythraea-Centaury

Family: Gentianaceae

Other Names: Century, Feverwort, Centaurium minus, Centaurium umbellatum, Erythraea centaurium, Bitter Herb, Lesser Centaury

hazardsmallCentury may cause mild abdominal discomfort and cramps. Contraindicated in patients with peptic ulcers. Safety during pregnancy and lactation has not been established.

Habitat: Native to Europe, including the British Isles, Western Asia, North Africa and naturalized in N. America. Open woods, meadows and dry grasslands, often on chalky soils.


Centaurium erythraea, Century, is a ANNUAL/BIENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in). It is in flower from Jun to October, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles, self. The plant is self-fertile.

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.


Prefers a well-drained sandy loam with some peat and a sunny position . It avoids wet or rich soils . Plants are not easy to grow in a garden . The flowers only open in fine weather and close at midday . Although the growing plant is scentless, if the cut stems are immersed in warm water for 24 hours a most penetrating odour will be observed on distillation . A very variable plant, some botanists divide it into a number of separate species.


Seed – sow February to May in situ or as soon as it is ripe in situ. Germination is usually rapid.

Collection: The foliage should be collected at the time of flowering, which is from July to September. Dry it in the sun.

Culinary uses:

Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Condiment.

The plant is used as a flavouring in bitter herbal liqueurs and is an ingredient of vermouth.

Centaurium_Erythraea_BotanicalMedicinal Uses of Centaury:

Actions: Bitter, hepatic,appetizer, aromatic, bitter, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, emetic, weakly febrifuge, stomachic, tonic.

Part Used: Dried aerial parts.
Indications:It may be used whenever a digestive and gastric stimulant is required. It is indicated primarily in appetite loss (anorexia) when it is associated with liver weakness. Centaury is a useful herb in dyspepsia and in any condition where a sluggish digestion is involved.

One of the most useful bitter herbs, centaury strengthens digestive function, especially within the stomach. By increasing stomach secretions it hastens the breakdown of food, it also stimulates the appetite and increases bile production. The plant needs to be take over a number of weeks and an infusion should be slowly sipped so that the components (their bitterness can be detected at a dilution of 1:3,500) can stimulate reflex activity throughout the upper digestive tract. The whole herb is appetizer, aromatic, bitter, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, emetic, weakly febrifuge, hepatic, stomachic and tonics, purifies the blood and is an excellent tonic for the digestive system. Externally, the fresh green herb is said to be a good application to wounds and sores. It is often used in combination with other herbs such as camomile (Chamaemelum nobile), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and marshmallow (Althaea officinalis). The whole plant is harvested when in flower and can be dried for later use.

The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Weak willed’, ‘Too easily influenced’ and ‘Willing servitors’. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of liver and gall bladder ailments.

The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Centaurium erythraea for dyspeptic complaints, loss of appetite.


In dyspepsia it combines well with Meadowsweet, Marshmallow Root and Chamomile. In anorexia nervosa it is indicated with Burdock Root and Chamomile.

Preparations & Dosage of Centaury:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes. Drink one cup half an hour before meals.

Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Other uses:


A long-lasting bright yellowish-green dye is obtained from the flowers.

centaury fairyEsoteric uses of Centaury:

Counter magick herb; snake removing. Adds power to any magickal workings. Used to repel anger and hurtful energy.

The Chemistry:


  • Secoiridoids. These glycosides are the so-called “bitter principles” and include sweroside, its m-hydroxybenzoylesters centapicrin, desacetylcentapicrin, the related glucosides decentapicrin A, B & C, gentiopicroside (=gentiopicrin), swertiamarin.
  • Alkaloids: gentianine, gentianidine, gentioflavine
  • Xanthone derivatives such asl, [[alpha]]8-dihydroxy-3, 5, 6, 7-tetramethoxyxanthone
  • Phenolic acids including protocatechuic, m– andp-hydroxbenzoic, vanillic, syringic, p-coumaric, ferulicand caffeic
  • Triterpenes; [[beta]]-sitosterol, campesterol, brassicsterol, stigmasterol, [[alpha]]-and [[beta]]- amyrin, erythrodiol.
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