Native to the alpine and sub-alpine pastures of southern and central Europe, gentian is a perennial aromatic herb with countless medicinal uses.

The root and rhizome are unearthed in late summer and autumn in their second or third year, before the plant is mature enough to flower. They are then sliced and dried slowly, which allows the characteristic odor, color and taste to develop over time.

Gentian root is one of the strongest bitters. It embodies the best of bitters’ known characteristics: stomachic, cholagogue, choleretic, sialagogue, secretagogue, appetite stimulant, and digestive tonic. Gentian has produced excellent results in the treatment of several forms of digestive disease. The herb has antibacterial properties, and several of its components are anti-inflammatory. It generally stimulates the digestive system and produces a mild rise in blood pressure.

Here’s how it works: as soon as it is absorbed by the mucous membranes of the mouth, it begins to take action. The secoiridoid bitter principles stimulate gustatory receptors in the taste buds, causing a reflex increase in the secretion of saliva, gastric juice and bile, thereby stimulating the appetite. It also accelerates the emptying of the stomach and improves gastric tone, so that heavy food is more easily digested. Gentian contains no tannin, so there is no astringent or irritant effect. One of its alkaloids, gentianine, has been shown to be anti-inflammatory. The fresh leaves placed on wounds and inflammations act as a refrigerant, and even make soothing footbaths.

Non-scientifically speaking, Of course, medicinal herbs always go down smoother and taste a hell of a lot better when taken the Italian way– that is when sipped as a liqueur or after dinner drink.The taste is at first sweet and then bitter: the perfect ending to a satisfying Abruzzese meal.