Greater Celandine

Chelidonium majus

Description

This pretty perennial herb with its vivid yellow flowers is indigenous to Europe, Asia and North Africa and is now naturalised throughout North America. When broken, its stems and leaves exude an orange-coloured juice that stains the hands and has a disagreeable smell. Greater celandine was used as a medication in the Middle Ages and is also mentioned by the early Roman author and naturalist Pliny, who claimed that the plant’s name, Chelidonium, stems from the Greek chelidon (a swallow) because it comes into flower when the swallows arrive and fades when they leave. The juice of celandine was used to remove the opaque film that may cover the cornea of the eye, and a drink steeped from the plant was supposed to be good for the blood. Other early alchemists believed that celandine’s yellow colour indicated that it was good to ‘superstifle the jaundice’. Modern herbal practitioners prescribe celandine as a mild sedative, antispasmodic and detoxifier to relax the muscles of the bronchial tubes, intestines and other organs.

Parts used

The entire plant is used to create herbal remedies.

Constituents

The main active ingredients in celandine are the alkaloids (nitrogen-containing compounds) chelidonine, which has an antispasmodic and sedative effect on the bile ducts and bronchi; chelerythrin, which is both narcotic and poisonous; homochelidonine A and B; protopine; sanguinarine and berberine (both strong antiviral and antimicrobial agents); and chelidoxanthin.

Medicinal uses

Greater Celandine
Studies in humans have shown extracts of greater celandine to stimulate the production of bile and pancreatic digestive enzymes and, indeed, the German Commission E has approved Chelidonium majus for liver and gallbladder complaints. Test tube and animal studies have shown greater celandine’s ability to protect the livers of animals from toxic substances.

Greater celandine is prescribed to:

  • Help protect the liver and treat liver disease.
  • Treat spasms of the bile duct and gastrointestinal tract, such as irritable bowl syndrome.
  • Help clean the gallbladder.
  • Stimulate bile secretion in cases of hepatitis, jaundice and gallstones.
  • May soothe symptoms of indigestion and a sense of fullness.
  • May soothe spasms in the bronchial tract.
  • In Russia, celandine is regarded as useful in cases of cancer.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Celandine is a toxic plant, although its toxicity is greatly reduced when it has been dried. Overdoses can cause dizziness, stomach cramps and colic and it has been suggested that too much will cause liver toxicity. Avoid celandine if you have liver disease or are pregnant and do not give to children. Always consult your medical practitioner before embarking on a course of herbal remedies.

Flora Force Products containing Greater Celandine

Domestic & culinary uses

Celandine is not recommended as a culinary ingredient.

Cultivation

Chelidonium majus is a perennial that does well in most types of soil, as long as the ground is moist. Be careful though, as the plant self-sows freely and can easily become a weed, colonising gardens and open areas. Once established, the plant is very difficult to eradicate.

Photo credits

  1. By Emőke Dénes (kindly granted by the author)
[CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
  • By Antti Bilund (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.