This short little flower has some vibrant blue and purple hues. It does well at a high elevation (i.e. 10,500 feet) and is a well-known gastrointestinal tonic. When I think of an old school tonic for the gut I think of gentian (GI tonic) and scutellaria (a nervine). The root of Gentian is often used and the plant is well known for its bitter properties (most have gentiopicrin a bitter glycoside). This is one the most used bitters served with alcoholic beverages. Is it a surprise that bitters are commonly added to old mixed drink recipes? There is a load of anecdotal evidence for this herb!
Perennial roots or tubers can be harvested in the late spring to early Fall. As with many perennial herbs harvested with good ethics – make sure there are plenty of other individual plants around to maintain a healthy population. It is quite rare to find Gentian at Beaver Ponds but does exist in some moist, acidic soil areas (i.e. near our active Beaver Pond). The beauty of the flower is captivating as is the historic use as one of the all time supreme stomach tonics. One of the classic bitter herbs that thankfully returns every year in the high country of Colorado. Another plant ally for those living at altitude.
Eric Chatt, N.D.