By Janelle Eklund
Pale blue sky peaks through fluffy translucent clouds. Sunlight filters through them, brightening the fluffy whiteness, casting subdued warm light to earth. A slight breeze flows through bare stem silhouetted trees bowing to the breath of early spring warmth.
Even though it is still a few months from emergence the gentian comes into my mind's eye this Easter Sunday. Delicate slender purple flowers point toward the sky in small clusters flowing from the stem at the leaf bases. These 'fingers' remind me of folded hands in prayer as they reach toward the heavens.
I have seen gentian living in the field by my house and also in wetter areas near rivers where they were very tall and stately.
The tiny thin roots of gentian are extremely bitter, contain vitamins C, A, and zinc, and can be used medicinally to help digestion issues - if you can get passed the bitterness. It can be made into a syrup, infused tea or tincture. If you dry the roots they need to be dried quickly to retain the medicinal qualities. Use with caution because too much can cause nausea and vomiting. If you have ulcers, high blood pressure, or are pregnant or nursing do not use.
"Gentius King of Illyria claimed to have been cured of malaria by the bitter tonic made from the juice of the plants, hence the name." - Martha Louise Black, Yukon Wild Flowers (1940)
Give praise for the increasing light of spring warming the earth in preparation to awaken plant life and infuse our spirits with healing.
From my light to yours-
References: The Boreal Herbal by Beverley Gray; Plants of the Western Boreal Forest & Aspen Parkland by Johnson, Kershaw, MacKinnon, Pojar.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.