Centaury

Scientific Name(s): Centaurium erythraea Rafn. Family: Gentianaceae

Common Name(s): Centaury , minor centaury , lesser centaury , centaury herb , centaurri herba , common centaury , feverwort , filwort , bitter herb , red centaury , Christ's ladder , centaury gentian

Uses

Centaury has been used to treat snakebite, fever, anorexia, jaundice, and GI complaints such as bloating, dyspepsia, and flatulence. It also has been used as a sedative and topically for freckles and spots. It is reputed as an aromatic bitter and tonic and acts on the liver and kidneys to “purify the blood.”

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Dosing

There is no recent published clinical evidence to guide dosage of celery. The German Commission E monograph calls for 1 to 2 g of herb daily, while other uses for dyspepsia specify as much as 6 g. 1

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There are no known adverse reactions.

Toxicology

There are no known reports of toxicity. Because safety of centaury taken during pregnancy has not been established, its use during this time is best avoided. 2

Botany

Centaurium consists of approximately 40 species (annuals or biennials) that can vary according to area, size, and other situations. Examples include C. spicatum (Australian species), E. latifolia (broad-leaved centaury), and the German species of C. pulchellum (dwarf centaury) and C. vulgare . The last 2 have similar effects to C. erythraea but are more scarce and, therefore, not used for medicinal purposes.

Centaury is a small, annual herb, native to Europe and naturalized in the US. It thrives in boggy meadows as well as in dry dunes. Its stiff, square stem is quite distinctive and ranges from approximately 7 to 30 cm in height. The root is fibrous and woody. The plant has pale green, oval leaves, a capsule fruit, and light pink to red flowers. The whole herb ( Centaurii herba ) is used in medicine. The dried preparation is easily identified by red particles (dried flower), among the pale green leaf matter. 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 Synonyms are Erythraea centaurium , C. umbellatum Gilbert, C. minus Moench.

History

Genus Erythraea is derived from the Greek erythros , relating to the red color of the flowers. The genus was formerly called Chironia , from Centaur, Chiron. Hippocrates describes centaurium, under the Greek Kentareion and according to legend, Chiron (founder of medicine) used centaury to heal a wound inflicted by a poisoned arrow. 6 , 8

Macer mentions centaury in the 10th century. Culpepper describes how the plant is safe but bitter, mentioning the plant's ability to kill worms and treat dropsy, snakebite, and other wounds. It was used by Saxon herbalists in a similar manner, along with treating fever, hence the name “feverwort.” 6 Traditionally, centaury has been used for anorexia and dyspepsia. 2

Chemistry

C. erythraea contains several iridoid constituents, responsible for the bitter characteristics of the plant. The bitter taste can be detected in dilutions of 1 part centaury:3500 parts water. 5 Gentiopicroside, one of the major iridoids, is present in approximately 2% concentration. 2 Gentiopicroside has been determined by high-pressure liquid chromatography in plants in the Czech and Slovak Republics. 9 This constituent also has been studied by other methods. 10 Centapicrin 11 and centauroside 12 are other bitter secoiridoid glucosides present. Another bitter principle, erythrocentaurin, is found in the plant and reddens with sunlight. 6 Other bitter components include erytaurin, 5 swertiamarin, dihydrocornin, 13 , 14 amarogentin, amarogentrin, gentiopicrin, and gentioflavoside. 6 , 15 , 16 , 17 Centaury constituents are very similar to those of gentian, also containing gentiopicroside, amarogentin, swertiamarin, and others. 18

Alkaloids present in centaury include gentianine, 19 gentioflavin, 20 gentianin, 17 and gentianidine. 2 Alkaloids common to the family Gentianaceae have been reported. 21

Xanthones also have been found in centaury, including tetraoxygenated xanthones, 22 eustomin, and demethyleustomin. 23 , 24 Other xanthones present include 1,6,8-trihydroxy-3,5,7-trimethoxyxanthone, 25 methylbellidifolin, methylswertianin, 26 and several others. 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 Xanthone biosynthesis studies report enzyme substances benzophenone synthase, 32 xanthone 6-hydroxylase, 33 and 3-hydroxybenzoate: coenzyme A ligase. 34 , 35

Phenolic acids present in centaury include protocatechuic, hydroxybenzoic, vanillic, syringic, beta-coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, caffeic, and palmantinic acids. 2 , 17 Monohydroxy- and 2,5-dihydroxy terephthalic acids also have been identified in C. erythraea . 36

Triterpenoids found in centaury are alpha- and beta-amyrin, crataegolic and oleanic acids, erythrodiol, and sitosterol. 2 Other sterols present include beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol, and brassicasterol. 8

Other components found in the plant include flavonoids, fatty acids, alkenes, waxes, resins, and essential oil. 2 , 17

Uses and Pharmacology

Traditionally, centaury has been used as a remedy for snakebite, anorexia, and GI complaints such as bloating, dyspepsia, and flatulence. 2 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 18 , 37 It is reputed to be an aromatic bitter and tonic, and acts on the liver and kidneys to “purify the blood.” 6 One report confirms diuretic activity in rats. 38 This bitter herb enhances production of gastric secretions, which stimulates appetite and improves digestion. 17 Long-term use of the herb is required for the tonic effects on the stomach to fully develop. 5 Centaury has been used to treat fever. 2 , 5 This property was found to be due to phenolic acids present. 2 , 39 Centaury also is used for the treatment of jaundice, 40 as a sedative, 2 and as a topical application for freckles and spots on the skin. 17 Use of centaury as an anthelminthic and febrifuge has been reported. 40 Little research is available to support these traditional uses.

Anti-inflammatory/antipyretic
Animal data

Centaury is known to have anti-inflammatory effects in rats. 2 Anti-inflammatory and antipyretic, but not analgesic actions, of aqueous extracts of the plant have been shown in several animal models. 41

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of centaury as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Other uses

Constituent gentiopicrin possesses antimalarial properties. 2 Certain xanthones demonstrated strong antimutagenic actions against several strains of Salmonella typhimurium . 23

Dosage

There is no recent published clinical evidence to guide dosage of celery. The German Commission E monograph calls for 1 to 2 g of herb daily, while other uses for dyspepsia specify as much as 6 g. 1

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

The German Commission E lists contraindications or side effects of centaury as “none known.” 37

Toxicology

Newall confirms “no reported side effects or toxicity data” relating to the plant as well. Because safety of centaury taken during pregnancy has not been established, its use during this time is best avoided. 2

Bibliography

1. Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Boston, MA: American Botanical Council, 1998.
2. Newall C, et al. Herbal Medicines . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:67.
3. Osol A, et al. The Dispensatory of the United States of America . 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: JB Lippincott Co; 1955:1620.
4. Hocking G. A Dictionary of Natural Products . Medford, NJ: Plexus Publishing, Inc; 1997:168-169.
5. Weiss R, et al. Herbal Medicine . 2d ed. New York, NY: Georg Theme Verlag; 2000:52-54.
6. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/centau46.html .
7. http://www.jamart.com.br/plantas [in Spanish].
8. Low T, et al, eds. Magic and Medicine of Plants . Sydney, Australia: Reader's Digest; 1994:152.
9. Kaluzova L, et al. Determination of gentiopicroside in Centaurium erythraea by high-performance liquid chromatography. Ceska Slov Farm . 1995;44:203-205.
10. Glatz Z, et al. Determination of gentiopicroside in extracts of Centaurium erythraea and Gentiana lutea by micellar electrokinetic capillary chromatography. J Liq Chromatogr Relat Technol . 2000;23:1831-1839.
11. Sakina K, Aota K. Studies on the constituents of Erythraea centaurium (Linne) Persoon. Ι. The structure of centapicrin, a new bitter secoiridoid glucoside [in Japanese]. Yakugaku Zasshi . 1976;96:683-688.
12. Takagi S, et al. Studies on the constituents of Erythraea centaurium (Linne) Persoon. ΙΙ. The structure of centauroside, a new bis-secoiridoid glucoside. Yakugaku Zasshi . 1982;102:313-317.
13. Nikolova-Damayanova B, et al. Quantitative determination of swertiamarin and gentiopicroside in Centaurium erythrea and C. turcicum by densitometry. Phytochem Anal . 1996;7:140-142.
14. Do T, et al. Iridoids from Gentianaceae plants growing in Bulgaria. Planta Med . 1987;53:580.
15. Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants . Paris, France: Lovoisier Publ; 1995:490-491.
16. Schulz V, et al. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide to Herbal Medicine . 3d ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer; 1998:172-173.
17. http://hepatitis-central.com/hcv/herbs/fortheliver/centaury.html
18. http://www.friedli.com/herbs/centaury1.html
19. Rulko F, et al. Gentiana alkaloids. VΙΙ. Alkaloids of centaury ( Erythrea centaurium ). Diss Pharm Pharmacol . 1972;24:73-77.
20. Merekov N, et al. Minor alkaloids of Erythraea centaurium . Cr Acad Bulg Sci . 1967;20:441-444.
21. Rulko F, et al. Isolation and study of the structure of alkaloids from Gentianaceae plants. Pr Nauk Akad Med Wroclawiu . 1976;8:3-36.
22. Valentao P, et al. Tetraoxygenated xanthones from Centaurium erythraea . Nat Prod Lett . 2000;14:319-323.
23. Schimmer O, Mauthner H. Polymethoxylated xanthones from the herb of Centaurium erythraea with strong antimutagenic properties in Salmonella typhimurium . Planta Med . 1996;62:561-564.
24. Jankovic T, et al. Xanthone compounds of Centaurium erythraea grown in nature and cultured in vitro. Pharm Pharmacol Lett . 2000;10:23-25.
25. Neshta N, et al. New xanthone compound from Centaurium erythraea . Khim Prir Soedin . 1982;2:258.
26. Takagi S, et al. Studies on the constituents of Erythraea centaurium (Linne) Persoon. ΙΙΙ. Isolation and structure of xanthones. Yakugaku Zasshi . 1982;102:546-548.
27. Neshta N, et al. New xanthone compound from Centaurium erythraea . Khim Prir Soedin . 1983;1:106-107.
28. Neshta N, et al. New xanthone compound from Centaurium erythraea ΙΙΙ. Khim Prir Soedin . 1983;6:787.
29. Neshta N, et al. A new xanthone compound from Centaurium erythraea ΙV. Khim Prir Soedin . 1984;1:110.
30. Kaouadji M, et al. Polyoxygenated xanthones from Centaurium erythraea roots. J Nat Prod . 1986;49:358.
31. Beerhues L, et al. Differential accumulation of xanthones in methyl-jasmonate- and yeast-extract-treated cell cultures of Centaurium erythraea and Centaurium littorale . Planta . 1995;197:608-612.
32. Beerhues L. Benzophenone synthase from cultured cells of Centaurium erythraea . FEBS Lett . 1996;383:264-266.
33. Schmidt W, Peters S, Beerhues L. Xanthone 6-hydroxylase from cell cultures of Centaurium erythraea RAFN and Hypericum androsaemium L. Phytochemistry . 2000;53:427-431.
34. Barillas W, Beerhues L. 3-Hydroxybenzoate:coenzyme A ligase and 4-coumarate: coenzyme A ligase from cultured cells of Centaurium erythraea . Planta . 1997;202:112-116.
35. Barillas W, Beerhues L. 3-Hydroxybenzoate:coenzyme A ligase from cell cultures of Centaurium erythraea : isolation and characterization. Biol Chem . 2000;381:155-160.
36. Hatjimanoli M, et al. Monohydroxy- and 2,5-dihydroxy terephthalic acids, two unusual phenolics isolated from Centaurium erythraea and identified in other Gentianaceae members. J Nat Prod . 1988;51:977-980.
37. Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs . Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council; 1998:106.
38. Haloui M, Louedec L, Michel J, et al. Experimental diuretic effects of Rosmarinus officinalis and Centaurium erythraea . J Ethnopharmacol . 2000;71:465-472.
39. Lacroix R, Merad M, Lacroix J, et al. Algerian pharmacopeia. 2 plants with antipyretic properties: Pt ammoides and Erythraea centaurium [in French]. Tunis Med . 1973;51:327-331.
40. http://www.herbmed.org/Herbs/Herb31.htm .
41. Berkan T, Ustunes L, Lermioglu F, et al. Antiinflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic effects of an aqueous extract of Erythraea centaurium . Planta Med . 1991;57:34-37.

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