Centaury





Of all the bitter appetising herbs which grow in our fields and

hedgerows, and which serve as excellent simple tonics, the

Centaury, particularly its white flowered variety, belonging to the

Gentian order of [97] plants, is the most efficacious. It shares in an

abundant measure the restorative antiseptic virtues of the Field

Gentian and the Buckbean. There are four wild varieties of the

Centaury, square stemmed, and each bearing flat tufts of flowers

which are more or less rose coloured. The ancients named this

bitter plant the Gall of the Earth, and it is now known as Christ's

Ladder, or Felwort.



Though growing commonly in dry pastures, in woods, and on

chalky cliffs, yet the Centaury cannot be reared in a garden. Of old

its tribe was called Chironia, after Chiron, the Greek Centaur,

well skilled in herbal physic; and most probably the name of our

English plant was thus originated. But the Germans call the Centaury

Tausendgulden kraut--the herb of a thousand florins,--either

because of its medicinal value, or as a corruption of Centum

aureum, a hundred golden sovereigns. Centaury has become

popularly reduced in Worcestershire to Centre of the Sun.

Its generic adjective erythroea signifies red. The flowers

open only in fine weather, and not after twelve o'clock (noon) in

the day. Chemically the herb contains erythrocentaurin--a bitter

principle of compound character,--together with the usual herbal

constituents, but with scarcely any tannin. The tops of the

Centaury, especially of that flore albo--with the light coloured

petals--are given in infusion, or in powder, or when made into an

extract. For languid digestion, with heartburn after food, and a

want of appetite, the infusion prepared with cold water, an ounce

of the herb to a pint is best; but for muscular rheumatism the

infusion should be made with boiling water. A wineglass of either

will be the proper dose, two or three times a day.





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