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Centaury

Botanical name: Centaurium minus

Centaury.jpg

© Martin Wall

Parts used and where grown

This small grassland plant is native to Eurasia. The leaves, stems, and flowers of centaury are used medicinally.

Centaury has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
1Star

Hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid)

Indigestion

Loss of appetite

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Centaury is one of the mainstays of European folk herbalism as a tonic for the digestive tract.1 It was also used as a general tonic for people who had fevers.

Active constituents

Centaury contains bitter glycosides that stimulate secretion of stomach acid and digestive enzymes as well as activity of the entire digestive tract.2 Centaury is recommended by the German Commission E for people with poor appetite and indigestion.3 One preliminary animal study showed the herb had anti-inflammatory and fever-lowering effects.4

How much is usually taken?

Centaury is generally taken prior to a meal. A tea is made by adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of the herb to one cup of hot water and allowing it to steep for 15 minutes.5 The tea should be sipped slowly. The bitter taste can be covered up by adding ginger tea. Alternately, capsules can be used in the amount of 1 to 2 grams three times per day before a meal.6

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Centaury could theoretically worsen the conditions of peptic ulcer disease, elevated stomach acid levels, heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease, diarrhea, or acute inflammation of the intestinal tract, such as Crohn’s disease, and should be avoided in such cases. Centaury is otherwise safe.7 The safety of centaury in pregnancy and breast-feeding is unknown.

At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with centaury.

References:

1. Weiss RF. Meuss AR, trans. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1988:39–40.

2. Weiss RF. Meuss AR, trans. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1988:39–40.

3. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:106.

4. Berkan T, Üstünes L, Lermioglu F, Özer A. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic effects of an aqueous extract of Erythraea centaurium. Planta Med 1991;57:34–7.

5. Weiss RF. Meuss AR, trans. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1988:39–40.

6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:106.

7. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:106.

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