Centaury Benefits

Latin Name

Centaurium erythraea

Also Known As

Lesser Centaury, Centaury Herb, Centaurri Herba, Common Centaury, Feverwort, Filwort, Bitter Herb, Red Centaury, Christ's Ladder, Centaury Gentian


North Africa, Asia, Europe

Parts Used

Aerial parts

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

One of the classic “bitter herbs”, Centaury is a relative of the gentians and grows abundantly in the wild. It has a long history of traditional use as a digestive tonic and was also used to treat fevers – hence the name “feverwort”.

It has been extensively used in teas, tonics, digestive bitters and herbal liqueurs. Centaury was also a popular ingredient in shampoo, gently cleansing to the hair and said to enhance the natural radiance of white and platinum blonde hair.

Centaury Benefits

Digestive Health

Centaury contains the bitter glycosides, amarogentin, gentiopicroside and swertiamarin, compounds that stimulate secretion of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Its bitter action stimulates the entire digestive reflex allowing for optimal absorption and uptake of nutrients. It helps to rebalance stomach acid, improve protein metabolism, and specifically improves the absorption of calcium, iron and vitamin B12 as well as helping to improve acid reflux by toning the oesophageal sphincter.

Centaury is especially indicated in appetite loss due to anorexia when it is associated with liver weakness. It is recommended by the "German Commission E" for people with poor appetite, especially during convalescence from a long illness.

If taken as a herbal tea infusion half an hour before meals, Centaury helps with heartburn, gas pains in the intestines and stomach, bloating, constipation and colic.

Liver Health

The bitter compounds found in Centaury can help stimulate bile production, helping the liver flush away toxins with more speed and ease.  Increased bile production will also help the liver process fats, boost energy and increase the body’s ability to assimilate fat soluble vitamins.

Centaury is especially indicated for use in cases of dyspepsia and diarrhoea, accompanied by liver and bile impairments that are caused by an unbalanced diet. It combines well with Barberry bark for the treatment of jaundice.

Kidney Health

Centaury also strengthens the kidneys and is useful for bladder control in elderly people. It stimulates kidney function which in turn will enhance waste elimination, balance the body’s hormones that regulate blood pressure, control the production of red blood cells and protect against the formation of kidney stones.

Fever Reducer

As one of its nicknames “feverwort” suggests, Centaury helps to stimulate perspiration which in turn helps to cool the body. This diaphoretic action is helpful in breaking fevers - it forces the body to not only cool down but to also release several harmful toxins through the skin.

Skin and Hair

There is some anecdotal evidence that Centaury flower extract can bring back the colour to greying hair – however this has not been scientifically verified. It can be used as a natural treatment for head lice and dandruff.

With strong astringent qualities, Centaury can be used as a skin toner that can reduce the appearance of enlarged pores, whilst toning and tightening the skin. It was also traditionally used to fade freckles and lighten the skin.

Typical Use

Centaury Tops Tea

Use 1-2 teaspoons of Centaury Tops Tea per cup of boiling water and steep for 3-10 minutes depending on taste. Then strain and serve.

Centaury Tincture

Can be added to water or fruit juice and taken when required.

Traditionally Taken: 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.

Folklore and History

The name "Centaury" harks back to the centaur Chiron, the wounded healer of Ancient Greek legend, who used it to successfully heal a wound caused by a poisoned arrow.

The ancients named the plant Fel Terrae, or "Gall of the Earth" for its extreme bitterness. The old English name of Felwort is equivalent in meaning to this, and is applied to all the plants of the Gentian family. The Anglo-Saxons used it for snakebite and other poisons, and for bringing down fevers.

The English botanist and herbalist, Culpeper, described Centaury as "very wholesome, but not very toothsome", alluding to its extreme bitterness. The German herbalist Father Sebastian Kneipp recommended Centaury for melancholy and for calming the nerves. It was also an ingredient of "Portland Powder", a treatment for gout.


Chemical constituents: phenolic acids Including ferulic and sinapic acids. Centaury also contains amounts of sterols as brassicasterol and stigmasterol and two secoiridoid glycosides, swertiamarin and sweroside. 


Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

May cause mild abdominal discomfort and cramps. Contraindicated in persons with peptic ulcers.

Please contact your healthcare practitioner if you are taking prescription medications.