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Class V. PentandRIA. Order II. Digynia.
one-celled, with two longitudinal receptacles. Spe. Char. Corolla, five-cleft, rotate, virticillate. Calyx, spathace
The root is perennial, cylindrical, slender, branched, externally brown, or dark, and internally of a pale yellowish color; the stem is erect, simple, smooth, strong, succulent, and rises from twelve to eighteen inches in height; the lower leaves are nearly eliptical, ribbed, and entire; the upper leaves stand in pairs, sheathlike, they are concave, pointed, ribbed, and embrace the stem, enclosing the flowers; the flowers are large, purple, and stand in whorls, upon short peduncles,; the calyx opens lengthwise, and falls off late in the autumn; the corolla is bell-shaped, purplish, plicated, and divided at the limb into five ovate dotted segments; the filaments are most usually five, about the length of the germen, and furnished with long, erect, tapering anthers; the germen is oblong; the style is cleft with reflexed points, and furnished with a blunt stigma; the capsule is ovate, two-celled, and contains numerous small seeds.
This species of gentian is a native of the Alps, and was first introduced into England for cultivation by Professor de Saussure in the year 1768, since which time it has found its way into France, Spain, and some parts of the United States, Rafensque says it is
found growing wild in great abundance from Carolina to Alabama, and West Kentucky, in glades and open plains, it is also cultivated in hot houses and gardens, but chiefly as an ornament.
The root alone is the part medicinaly employed, and so exactly resembles that of the yellow or common officinal Gentian, that it is almost impossible to distinguish them apart; and in some countries where the latter is scarce, the former is employed in its stead.
Medical Properties and Uses. The medical character of this plant is to be regarded precisely the same as that of the gentiana lutea, which is now so universally used as a bitter. This root ranks high as a tonic, and also possesses sudorific, anticeptic, corroborant, and cathartic properties. It appears to have been in constant use from the earliest times; but its virtues (as is frequently the case with other remedies) were held in too high estimation by the ancients. As a tonic it may be administered with the best effects in dyspepsia, particularly where there is weakness of the stomach : also in debilitated states of the constitution, brought on from various causes, or in diseases which exhaust the power of the system, as diarrhea, dropsy, fevers, hysteria, scrofula, worms, &c. Many dyspeptic complaints, though arising from debility of the stomach, are more effectually relieved by bitters than by peruvian bark: and hence may be infered their superior tonic powers on the organs of digestion.
Gentian Bitters. Take of Gentiana purpurea, Purple Gentian one ounce; Panax quinquefolium, Ginseng two ounces; Chelone glabra, Balmony quarter of an ounce; Aurantii cortex, Orange peel one and a half ounces; put this into one gallon pure wine, let it stand for two or three days, when it is ready for use. Dose, half a wine glass full, taken usually before eating. This I have found to be one of the most valuable bitters in use, as a strengthening tonic, nothing can claim its superior. Those who are reduced from general debility, or other causes, would do well to try this remedy. The dose of the powder of the root is from five to ten grains,