Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
Centaury, Centaurium erythraea also sometimes labeled Centaurium minus, C. umbellatum, C. vulgare or Erythraea centaurium, is also called bitter herb, common centaury, European centaury, lesser centaury and feverwort. The plant once known as greater centaury is the greater knapweed, although it is not related and the flowers are completely different. The cornflower is also sometimes called centaury, but again, the two plants are not related.
Centaury is a hardy annual/biennial which reaches a height of 18 inches (25cm). It will grow in any type of soil, even if this is low in nutrients. It prefers sun or dappled shade, and will not grow in full shade.
Centaury is one of the flavorings used in the fortified wine, vermouth, which is an essential ingredient in martini cocktails. It is extremely bitter and has little or no scent.
Centaury is not suitable for use during pregnancy.
The standard infusion can be used as a general tonic, a treatment for disorders of the liver and gall bladder, and to wash wounds and sores. It is a natural antiseptic. Applying fresh green leaves to wounds and sores is also helpful, so if you’re picking brambles or handling other thorny plants and get scratched, they make a good field dressing. If taken over a long period, centaury is an aid to weight loss.
A stronger infusion can be used as a lotion to lighten freckles.
Centaury Bach flower remedy is used for people who are easily led and can’t say no.
As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, centaury must be grown organically to avoid its active constituents being corrupted by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.