Spotting a patch of tiny beautiful pink blooms while walking I took a closer look. Using my PlantNet app on my mobile phone it was easy to see that they were centaury flowers. I always double check when I get home to ensure that the PlantNet app is correct and this time it certainly was.
These low growing beauties are easy to miss because they grow so near to the ground. In fact they only grow up to 24 cm in height. Centaury is in bloom and ready for harvest in the summer and can be seen from July to September. Look for them in grassy areas, sand dunes, heaths and woodland.
If you don’t have a plant app identify centaury by looking for 5 petals of pink flowers growing in clusters, and a basal rosette of oval leaves. Basal leaves grow on the lowest part of the stem and rosette refers to a tight cluster of these leaves forming a circle.
Interestingly the beautiful pink flowers close during the afternoon because they are a member of the genitan family.
If your new to foraging take a look at my “Foraging Tips for Beginners” post;
Centaury Names and Folklore
The name centaury comes from Chiron who was a centaur in Greek mythology. Centaurs are mythical creatures with an upper human body and the lower body of a horse.
Apparently Chiron discovered the healing powers of centaury when using it to cure a fatal wound. This wound was made by an arrow poisoned with the blood of Hydra, and in Greek mythology Hydra was a many-headed serpent . Chiron was famous for his wisdom and knowledge of herbal medicine.
Other names that centaury is also known by include;
- Christ’s Ladder or Christi Scali because of its resemblance to an old style ladder which tapers at the top. This is because centaury’s leaves decrease in size up the stem.
- European Centaury because it is native to Europe.
- Feverwort because it was traditionally used to treat fevers.
There are various herbal preparations for centaury but because I only have a few of the flowers, this time I dry them for tea.
To do this I wash the flowers using a strainer and leave them on my draining board until the water evaporates. Next I lay and spread the leaves onto kitchen roll. I also cover them over with further kitchen roll because I do not like them to get dusty. Finally I place them somewhere where they will not be disturbed while they dry. This should take a week or two.
Once the flowers are dry I make a tea by;
- Boiling a cup of bottled water.
- Adding 1/2 a teaspoon of dried herb to the cup of boiling water.
- Cover the cup with a tea plate and leave it to infuse for 15 minutes.
- Strain and serve.
Drink 1/2 a cup.
Once dry I store my herbs in brown paper bags or jars with lids. The jars are put in a cupboard away from direct sunlight. These are labelled with herb name, storing date, expiry date, uses, and dosages. Its also helpful to add instructions on how to make the tea. I put an expiry date of one year on my dry herbs.
Uses for Centaury Tea
Centaury tea may support the body in the following ways;
- As a mild sedative.
- Strengthen digestive function and in particular a weak stomach.
- Increase stomach secretions and this quickens the breakdown of food.
- Increase bile production.
- Stimulate the appetite.
- Ease heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting.
- Take the tea daily for 2-3 months for tapeworms.
- As a liver tonic.
- Use for kidney stones.
- Take for high blood pressure.
Alternatively a tincture can be made by;
- Placing one part centuary herb and two parts vodka into a clean bottle or jar. Use dry or fresh herb but wash them first.
- Macerate for 8 days in a dark cupboard. This is the process of softening the herb while soaking it in liquid.
- Label with name, alcohol content and ratio, date of preparation, and date when ready to strain.
- Strain into a fresh jar using a conical funnel and cheesecloth.
- Throw the herb away.
- Label the new jar with name, type of alcohol content and ratio, straining date, expiry date, uses and dosages. I put on an expiry date of two years.
Take 1 wineglass full for liver and gall bladder problems.
Need to take centaury over several weeks.
Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. Therefore only try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction.
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.
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