Tibetan Gentian is a medicinal plant originating in the Himalayas. Its western counterpart, G. lutea, is known as Yellow Gentian, native to central and southern Europe. Both plants are likely best known for the use of their root as bitter tinctures, which often end up in cocktails as ‘bitters’ (typically associated with the popular Angostura bitters). They also appear in bitter digestive liquors and medicine bitters, thought to combat indigestion and increase liver functions. Gentians are so bitter as to be the scientific standard upon which bitterness is measured. The family and genus names can be traced to the Ancient King Gentius of Illyria, who was said to be first to discover the medicinal uses of the Gentiana plants. In traditional Chinese medicine, Tibetan Gentian is a remedy against jaundice, arthritis, and constipation. They are used medicinally for reduction of pain and fever in Tibetan traditional medicine. Its leaves can be used as a digestive tea. Though it usually produces a lovely cream-colored flower in its second year of growth, Tibetan gentian is most cultivated as a medicine plant rather than ornamental.
In Tibet, the soot of this species was used in the production of inks for Buddhist thangka paintings. Much easier to cultivate than its European cousin, Tibetan gentian is an indispensable addition to a medicine garden.