Chelidonium majus is a perennial herb native to Western Asia and Europe which has also been introduced in areas of North America. These days it can commonly be seen growing along the waysides.
It is commonly referred to as Greater celandine but is also known around the world as swallowwort or nipplewort. It is an important plant in Chinese traditional medicine with a very long history of medicinal use. In China, the herb is known as Bai Qu Cai – 白屈菜.
It actually belongs to the same family as the poppy.
Greater celandine is a relatively small plant which grows from 40 cm to around 120 cm in height. It has pinnate leaves and yellow petals around a centimeter in length.
It flowers from the late spring until summer. It is not always appreciated and is actually considered to be an invasive and aggressive plant in some natural areas. It is used to make herbal supplements which have proven effective in treating conditions including liver complaints, kidney disease, and digestive problems.
It is also indicated for gallbladder pain, and to help ease inflammation in conditions like gout, arthritis.
There is also recent research to show that it can be effective against skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. (1)
Properties of Chelidonium Majus
The Greater celandine plant contains a variety of alkaloids and flavonoids which gives it excellent antioxidant potential.
The highest concentration of these alkaloids can be found in the root although they are still present in the entire plant in smaller concentrations.
Other beneficial compounds contained in the plant include berberine, stylopine and chelidonic acid.
According to traditional use and the limited amount of available research, the Greater celandine plant boasts a range of therapeutic properties including anti-inflammatory, mild diuretic, analgesic, antimicrobial and sedative abilities.
Traditional uses of the Herb
Greater celendine has been used traditionally to treat a wide range of illnesses. however, there is very little evidence that the herb is effective for these conditions and there are some real concerns about the plant’s safety. The plant’s many traditional uses include the following:
- heart conditions like angina and atherosclerosis
- high blood pressure
- arthritis and gout
- menstrual symptoms
Chelidonium Majus Benefits
Greater celandine has been used for centuries to treat a variety of health conditions. Today, it is still used to deal with an impressive number of complaints including the following:
1. Liver Protection and Gallbladder Health
Greater celandine has depurative properties which essentially means that it can be used to purify and cleanse the liver. It can be used as an effective part of a detoxification program because of its ability to eliminate waste and toxins out of the system.
Greater celandine has natural liver protective properties which not only help to support proper liver health and function but also protect the liver from cellular damage.
It is popularly used as a natural remedy for liver disease and to reduce liver inflammation or congestion. It may be an effective treatment for fibrosis and the prevention of jaundice.
It may also help to stimulate the gallbladder and keep the organ working properly. Problems with the gallbladder are known to cause numerous other issues like indigestion.
Greater celandine is known to help stimulate the production and the flow of pancreatic enzymes and bile which in turn helps prevent inflammation, infection, and diseases like hepatitis.
Germany’s regulatory body – the Commission E has approved Greater celandine as a treatment for indigestion, however, those with liver disease or other liver problems should consult a doctor before going ahead with this herbal remedy.
Greater celandine might be useful when it comes to treating digestive issues that result in cramping, bloating or feelings of nausea. This herbal extract can help relieve cramping and ease indigestion.
It helps the body to produce more bile and other digestive enzymes responsible for effective digestion and can even be used to naturally deal with stomach ulcers.
While there is no scientific evidence to back it up, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence available to suggest that greater celandine can be used to deal with irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic inflammatory conditions of the stomach.
While it has been used traditionally to treat digestive troubles, it must be noted that the potential side effects of the plant include stomach upset, diarrhea and ulcers. It is very important to speak to a doctor before using the herb internally.
3. For Eczema
The juice of the plant has been used traditionally to treat a range of skin conditions and recent preliminary research has demonstrated that it may well be effective against atopic dermatitis.
A study which was published in 2011 tested the effects of greater celandine on rats with eczema. The researchers found that treatment with Greater celandine had a significant effect. It greatly reduced the severity of various symptoms of eczema including inflammation and itching.
They concluded that the plant had the potential to treat atopic dermatitis however it is not known whether the herb would have a similar effect on humans. (2)
While the research results are promising, it is important to note that the topical use of the herb may have a number of adverse side effects. These include burning, blistering and contact dermatitis, make sure that you speak with a doctor before using the herb topically and stop using it if immediately if you experience any averse reactions.
For Anxiety and Sleeping Problems
According to traditional usage, Greater celandine can be used as a mild sedative and anti-anxiety treatment. It has narcotic properties and therefore should not be taken in large doses.
In smaller doses, it can be used to ease anxiety and tension and because of its analgesic ability, might help relieve pain. A combination of these properties means that it may be suitable for people having trouble sleeping.
Greater celandine has been traditionally used as a remedy for gum disease and toothache. Studies conducted in vitro have revealed that an extract of the plant exhibited a powerful antibacterial activity against several strains of bacteria including Streptococcus mutans.
The researchers believed that its antibacterial abilities were related directly to the plant’s chelerythrine content. (3)
Other studies have found that Greater celandine is effective against viruses such as the herpes simplex virus. (4)
Tinctures made with greater celandine have been applied topically for centuries to treat a variety of chronic skin conditions and to eliminate skin infection.
It has been used successfully to remove warts and corns and to treat ringworm and eczema.
Recent clinical experiments performed in China and Russia have revealed that Greater celandine tinctures exhibited strong antiviral abilities when applied to warts, skin tags, and other skin complaints.
The search for a novel solution to this devastating disease continues unabated and researchers are leaving no stones unturned. Greater celandine is one of many plants that have been researched for their anti-cancer potential and early signs are promising.
There is some evidence that when greater celandine is injected into patients with several types of cancer that it can improve survival rates. (5)
Other studies have shown that taking greater celandine orally may have an anti-tumor effect on patients with cancer of the esophagus.
However, it should be stated here that the studies have come under criticism because of their poor design. While the results have been promising, until more rigorous testing is conducted, we will not know for sure how effective the plant may be against cancer.
As well as the uses discussed above, greater celandine has been used for the following conditions:
Unfortunately, we have no research to conclusively prove that the plant is an effective remedy for these conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is celandine used for?
Greater celendine has been used traditionally to treat a number of digestive issues including IBS, constipation, gastroenteritis and stomach upset. it is also used to boost the appetite. There is some early evidence from laboratory research that suggests the plant has anti-cancer potential by destroying cancer cells through apoptosis. It is also used to treat the liver and gallbladder. Topically, the herb is used to treat conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis.
Is celandine poisonous?
Greater celendine is considered to be a toxic plant. It contains corrosive juices and is high in toxic alkaloids. because of this, its use as a medicine has to be carefully controlled. In many countries, the use of the plant is restricted and highly regulated. Drying the plant reduces its toxicity but it is generally not recommended for internal use unless under strict supervision.
Where does celandine grow?
Greater celandine, known scientifically as Cheldonium majus, is native to woodlands of Asia and Europe. It can now be seen growing in north America where it was an introduced species. You may see the plant growing along waysides.
Like so many other herbal remedies, just because it is natural, does not mean you should not be very careful when taking it. In fact, greater celandine contains toxic alkaloids and comes with some fairly strong warnings. There are a number of potentially severe side effects from the internal use of the herb, It is important that you only use the herb under strict medical supervision.
Side Effects From Internal Use Include :
- heartburn, stomach pain, stomach ulcer, diarrhea
- irritation to the respiratory tract and persistent coughing
- nerve paralysis
- sleepiness as a result of narcotic alkaloid content
- long term use may cause liver and kidney damage
Side Effects from Topical Use Include :
- contact dermatitis
- skin ulcers and blisters
- skin burns
- burning or stinging in the mouth and nausea if it is used orally in gargles
- Pregnant women should avoid taking this herb as should those who are breastfeeding.
- There is not sufficient evidence regarding its safety for children and it should be avoided.
- People with liver disease should only use the herb under the supervision of their doctor.
- One of the compounds found in greater celandine known as chelerythrine can cause sleepiness.
- Greater celandine or Chelidonium majus must not be confused with lesser celandine which is a completely different plant with entirely different health applications.
Greater celendine may have a number of potential uses for health including digestive benefits, liver and gallbladder health benefits. Preliminary studies suggest it may also have some anti-cancer potential. However, the evidence for the plant’s benefits remains limited.
There are also many real concerns about the safety of the plant. While drying the plant reduces its toxicity, it should only be used under expert supervision.
Because if the limited evidence regarding its benefits and the major concerns over the plant’s safety, the use of the herb can not be recommended at this time.