Common centaury is an annual or biennial plant, up to 40 cm tall. The root is peg-shaped, small and branched. The stem can be one or more, upright, four-sided, branched at the top. Root leaves inverted ovate, smooth edge with five veins, rosette. Stem leaves - arranged oppositely, elongated ovate, with five veins, entire edge, pointed.
The flowers are pink, rarely white, five-lobed, collected in clusters. Fruit - a narrow, elongated seed box, up to 10 mm long. Seeds are small, elongated, brownish in color. Blooms in June and July, often flowering continues until September. The seeds ripen in September. In the first year, the plant develops only rosette leaves.
Beautiful centaury - up to 20 cm tall, four-sided stem with sharp grooves, branched from the base. The leaves do not form a root rosette. Flowers bright pink. In Latvia, it is included in the lists of protected species and is extremely rare, mostly in coastal areas.
Other centaury are not used for medicinal purposes, basically only the two mentioned are used.
The above-ground part of Common centaury is used for medicinal purposes. The plant is harvested at the beginning of flowering. The plant is collected together with the leaves of the rosette by cutting it off. The collected Common centaury is dried on sieves, in well-ventilated and shaded places or in forced dryers, not exceeding a temperature of 45C. Drying the plant in the sun is not allowed.
The medicinal properties of Common centaury are related to the active substances found in it. Bitter substances - iridoid glycosides (erytaurine, genciopicrin, etc.) were found in Common centaury . Their amount is on average 0.3% (it can also reach 2.4%). The flavone glycoside centaurein is also found in the plant; alkaloids geniacin, erythricin etc. (0.6-1%), oleic acid, vitamin C, phenolcarbonic acids, xanthones. Common centaury also contains mucilage, resins, waxes, essential substances, phytosterols, flavonoids (luteolin, apiin, apigenin, etc.), nicotinic acid.
Common centaury is a bitter herb. Decoctions, infusions and extracts irritate the receptors of the tongue, stimulate the secretory activity of the digestive glands, increase intestinal peristalsis, and cause a slight diarrhea effect. Common centaury relieves gall bladder irritation.
The effect of Common centaury is not based only on bitter substances, but also on phenol carbonate acids, which stimulate the evacuator function of the stomach, they promote the healing of bile, they have antibacterial properties, as well as diuretic properties.
Common centaury also helps in cases of nerve exhaustion (burnout), its preparations act on the sympathetic autonomic nervous system, stimulating the function of the heart and blood circulation. This plant is useful to use after long infectious diseases to regain strength.
The effect of Common centaury can be observed only with long-term use. Short use will give the impression that it does not work.
In rare cases, an aqueous extract of Common centaury seeds is also prepared as an anti-inflammatory and temperature-reducing agent.
The iridoid glycoside gentiopicroside also works as an anti-inflammatory, but in addition it also has an antifungal effect.
All types of helminths, on the other hand, are affected by the alkaloids present in the plant.
Xatones and phenolcarbonic acids have antimutagenic and antiradical effects. The antiradical activity of Common centaury is also associated with hydroxycinnamic acid esters (Valentao P. 2001).
Common centaury is usually not used alone, but is used as a component of various herbal mixtures - it is used in complexes.
In folk medicine, Common centaury is used as infusions, extracts and decoctions to improve the functioning of the digestive organs. It is used to improve appetite, as well as anorexia, dysentery, jaundice, malaria and diabetes. Heart diseases are also treated with it.
In folk medicine, Common centaury is also used in the treatment of gynecological ulcers and uterine bleeding.