This pretty little herb is named after Chiron, the Centaur of Greek mythology, who was known throughout the ancient world for his exceptional healing skills. Even though he was an immortal God, he had a unique gift of empathy for human suffering, as he himself suffered an incurable wound, which accidentally had been inflicted on him by means of an arrowhead that bore the deadly poison of the Hydra. Centaury herb came to Chiron’s aid and so the ancients praised it as a miraculous wound herb and for its efficacy in treating snake bites. In German, Centaury, is known as ‘Tausendguldenkraut’, which literally translates to ‘1000 guilder herb’, a reference to its preciousness. Sadly, this valuable herb has nearly been gathered to extinction and is now protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The commission E approves Centaury as a stomachic, to ease digestive discomfort and to stimulate the appetite. Accordingly, in modern herbal practice it is mostly used as a digestive system tonic. Culpeper praises it as a deobstruent, and says that it possesses the power to clear obstructions from the entire digestive tract, stomach, liver, gall bladder and spleen. He also says that ‘it expels the dead foetus, brings on women’s courses and eases the pain of the womb’. The ancients’ uses of Centaury as a wound herb and first aid remedy for snake bites have today become all but forgotten.