General: plant height: 5-40 cm tall. Growth habit: annual or biennial, from small, fleshy roots. Stems: erect, simple to freely branched, lightly angled, usually hairless.
Leaves: basal leaves several, mostly oblanceolate, 5-40 mm long. Stem leaves opposite, in 5-8 pairs, from lance-shaped to oblong or ovate, clasping-based or not, as much as 6 cm long and 3 cm broad.
Flowers: pale bluish to purple, 1-2 cm long, solitary to several in clusters from leaf axils, with 4 or 5 spreading or erect, slightly pointed lobes. Flowers with bractlets at base or with stalks 3-20 mm long. Corolla lobes about 1/2 the length of the tube, with slender fringes from base, 1/2-3/4 of the lobe length. Calyx 1/3-1/2 the length of the corolla, lobed 2/3-4/5 of its length, often more deeply cleft on one side, the lobes unequal, from linear to lance-shaped.
Fruits: capsules, slightly exceeding the persistent corolla, with seeds ovoid to spherical, yellow, nearly smooth.
Meadows and moist areas in general, foothills to alpine zone, in w., c. and s. parts of MT. Also from AK to Mexico and in Eurasia.
Northern gentian is one of several that can be used as a source of the medicinal gentian root. Gentian has a long history of use as a herbal bitter in the treatment of digestive disorders. It is especially useful in states of exhaustion from chronic disease and in all cases of debility, weakness of the digestive system and lack of appetite. It is one of the best strengtheners of the human system and is an excellent tonic to combine with a purgative in order to prevent its debilitating effects. The root is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, a bitter tonic, and has agents that destroy and expel worms from the intestines, that increase bile flow to the intestines, promote or assist the flow of menstrual fluid, reduce fever, and which give strength and tone to the stomach. It is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. It is quite likely that the roots of plants that have not flowered are the richest in medicinal properties. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Doubt', 'Depression' and 'Discouragement''.
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