Scientific name: Centaurium erythraea, C. majus, C suffuticosum, C umbellatum, C minus

Common names: Centory, Feverwort

Ayurvedic names:

Chinese names:

Bangladesh names:  Centaury

Arabic names:    أغافة (agaafah)

Rain Forest names:

Family: Gentianaceae

Approximate number of species known:

Common parts used: Leaf, flower, whole herb

Collection: Mid-summer to early autumn


Height: 4 to 20 inches

Actions: Aromatic, bitter, cholagogue, diaphoretic emetic, galactogogue, hepatic, sialogogue, stomachic, tonic

Known Constituents: Glycosides incluging gentiopicrin and erthrocenturine, nicotinic acid, oleanolic acid

Constituents Explained:


A cylindrical satem that is hollow and light green to dark brown.  It has vertical ridges and forms branches off the upper part of the stem.  When reduced to a powder it is usally greenish-yellow or brown.

Traditional Use:

An all round herb Used to stimulate appetite and to strengthen digestion. At too high a dose it can produce vomiting.

Has been used on the skin to remove defects in appearance.

Clinical Studies:

Small centaury (Centaurium erythraea Rafin.) is a herbal species with a long use in traditional medicine due to its digestive, stomachic, tonic, depurative, sedative and antipyretic properties.

This species is reported to contain considerable amounts of polyphenolic compounds, namely xanthones and phenolic acids as the main constituents. Although the antiradicalar activity of some pure polyphenolic compounds is already known, it remains unclear how a complex mixture obtained from plant extracts functions against reactive oxygen species.

Thus, the ability of small centaury infusion to act as a scavenger of the reactive oxygen species hydroxyl radical and hypochlorous acid was studied and compared with that of green tea (Camellia sinensis L.).

Hydroxyl radical was generated in the presence of Fe3+-EDTA, ascorbate and H2O2 (Fenton system) and monitored by evaluating hydroxyl radical-induced deoxyribose degradation. 

The obtained results demonstrate that small centaury infusion exhibits interesting antioxidant properties, expressed both by its capacity to effectively scavenge hydroxyl radical and hypochlorous acid, although with a lower activity against the second than that observed for green tea.


Valentao P, Fernandes E, Carvalho F, Andrade PB, Seabra RM, Bastos ML. “Hydroxyl Radical And Hypochlorous Acid Scavenging Activity Of Small Centaury (Centaurum Erythraea) Infusion. A Comparative Study With Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis).” 2003

Source material:


Other names: centaury gentian, century, red centaury, filwort, century, Christ’s ladder, feverwort

Latin name: Erythraea centaurium

Family: Gentianaceae

Common part used: herb and leaves

This plant is originally from Europe and North America. The centaury plant grows on the most uneasy and chalky soils, though for some reason it is not adapted for cultivating in gardens. For that reason it is collected from its wild state. The plant has medicinal value and used widely as a remedy for various health issues. 

It is an annual plant, with a woody root and square stem. Usually it is not high, only up to thirty centimeters. The leaves are smooth on the surface, shiny and pale green in color. The leaves at the base and along the stem have different shapes: the lower ones are broad and wedge-shaped, and the upper ones are without stalks, lance-shaped and pointed. 

The flowers are reddish-pink, in the shape of the stars. There are five stamens in the flower, and anthers twisted in an interesting way. The flowers love the light, and therefore open in the morning and up to midday, and they do not open at all if the weather is too hot. Sometimes, though rather seldom, the flowers of the centaury plant can be white in color.   

The plant is used for medicinal purposes, mostly tonic, aromatic and stomachic. It is valued for its ability to purify the blood and to provide a good influence on liver and kidneys. It is excellent as a remedy for rheumatism. A few glasses of centaury tea taken daily will increase the appetite and improve the digestion processes. 

The fresh plant, being smashed, is good to apply to wounds, scratches, irritations of skin and sores, it speeds up the healing process and has a mild antiseptic effect.