Greater celandine grows primarily in Europe and Asia, although it has been introduced in North America. The leaves and small yellow flowers of greater celandine are used as medicine. Although the roots and rhizomes of the plant have also been used medicinally, most clinical trials have used the above-ground parts of the plant collected at the time of flowering.1
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3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
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Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
4 to 8 mg chelidonine in a standardized herbal extract three times per day
One study found that a standardized extract of greater celandine could relieve indigestion symptoms (such as abdominal cramping, sensation of fullness, and nausea) significantly better than placebo.
Caution: Based on several reports of liver toxicity from greater celandine, it connot be recommended as a treatment for indigestion.5
Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.6 As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury.7 Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.
A double-blind study found that a standardized extract of greater celandine could relieve symptoms of indigestion (such as abdominal cramping, sensation of fullness, and nausea) significantly better than placebo.8 The study employed an extract standardized to 4 mg of chelidonine per capsule and gave 1–2 tablets three times daily for six weeks. However, recent reports of hepatitis following intake of greater celandine have raised concerns about its safety for treating indigestion.9
Refer to label instructions
Herbalists sometimes recommend the use of topically applied greater celandine in treating warts.
Herbalists have sometimes recommended the use of greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) for the topical treatment of warts.10 The milky juice from the fresh plant is typically applied to the wart once daily and allowed to dry.
European herbal traditions regard greater celandine as a valuable remedy for the topical treatment of warts.2 It was also a folk remedy for cancer, gout, jaundice, and a variety of skin diseases. The famous French herbalist Maurice Mességué used greater celandine extensively in hand and foot baths and teas for many conditions, particularly those affecting the liver.3 In eastern Asia it was also valued as a treatment for peptic ulcer.4
Greater celandine, like other members of the Papaveraceae (poppy) family, contains alkaloids as its major constituents. These include chelidoxanthine, chelidonine, and coptisine. Greater celandine extracts have been shown to stimulate production of bile and pancreatic digestive enzymes in human studies.11
Animal and test tube studies have shown that the alkaloids and whole plant extract can relieve gallbladder spasms and stimulate an under-active gallbladder.12 , 13 Test tube and animal studies have also shown celandine extracts and purified alkaloids to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties.14 , 15 , 16 They have also shown greater celandine’s ability to protect animal livers from toxic substances.17 , 18
A double-blind trial found that a standardized extract of greater celandine could relieve symptoms of indigestion (such as abdominal cramping, sensation of fullness, and nausea) significantly better than a placebo.19 The trial used an extract standardized to 4 mg of chelidonine per capsule and gave 1–2 tablets three times daily for six weeks. An earlier, preliminary trial also found the same extract reduced symptoms in people with indigestion.20
Preliminary reports from Russia and China have reported that a tincture of greater celandine applied topically was useful for warts.21 However, these results have not yet been confirmed by double-blind clinical trials.
Several reports describe Eastern European clinical trials using semi-synthetic derivatives of greater celandine alkaloids for people with cancer.22 This injectable product goes by the name Ukrain®. The findings on this drug cannot be applied to greater celandine because the alkaloids have been modified from their original form.
One explanation for the variable results obtained from using greater celandine is improperly prepared, dried extracts.23 Drying extracts quickly at high temperature is necessary to preserve the alkaloids.24 Extracts standardized to a content of 4 mg chelidonine per capsule are recommended to be taken three times per day.25 Alternatively, one may mix 1–3 ml tincture into water and sip slowly 10–30 minutes before eating. Topical applications should consist of either concentrated tinctures or the fresh yellow latex. Herbalists and doctors recommend applying fresh latex once per day to warts and allowing it to dry in place.26
Use of fresh plant products may cause stomach upset.27 Topical use has been associated with intense itching and a rash in one case.28 Greater celandine should be avoided during pregnancy and in children under age 12.29 A recent report of ten women in Germany suffering from acute hepatitis following supplementation with a standardized extract of greater celandine (dosage was not given) suggest this herb should be avoided by people with hepatitis or impaired liver function. Greater celandine should be used cautiously and under the supervision of a healthcare professional until more is understood about its potential liver toxicity.30
1. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985, 84–8.
2. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 113.
3. Mességué M. Of Men and Plants. New York: Macmillian Co, 1973.
4. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 113.
5. Stickel F, Pöschl G, Seitz HK, Waldherr R, Hahn EG, Schuppan D. Acute hepatitis induced by Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus). Scand J Gastroenterol 2003;38:565–68.
6. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed, Berlin: Springer, 1998, 168–73.
7. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425–6.
8. Ritter R, Schatton WFH, et al. Clinical trial on standardized celandine extract in patients with functional epigastric complaints: Results of placebo-controlled double-blind trial. Comp Ther Med 1993;1:189–93.
9. Benninger J, Schneider HT, Schuppan D, et al. Acute hepatitis induced by greater celandine (Chelidonium majus). Gastroenterol 1999;117:1234–7.
10. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 337.
11. Baumann JC. Effect of Chelidonium, Curcuma, absinth and Carduus marianus on the bile and pancreatic secretion in liver diseases. Med Monatsschr 1975;29:173–80 [in German].
12. Hiller KO, Ghorbani M, Schilcher H. Antispasmodic and relaxant activity of chelidonine, protopine, coptisine, and Chelidonium majus extracts on isolated guinea-pig ileum. Planta Med 1998;64:758–60 [letter].
13. Hriscu A, Galesanu MR, Moisa L. Cholecystokinetic action of an alkaloid extract of Chelidonium majus. Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Lasi 1980;84:559–61 [in Romanian].
14. Vavreckova C, Gawlik I, Muller K. Benzophenanthridine alkaloids of Chelidonium majus; I. Inhibition of 5- and 12-lipoxygenase by a non-redox mechanism. Planta Med 1996;62:397–401.
15. Sokoloff B, Saelhof CC, Takeuchi Y, Powella R. The antitumor factors present in Chelidonium majus L. I. Chelidonine and protopine. Growth 1964;28:225–31.
16. Molochko VA, Lastochkina TM, Krylov IA, Brangulis KA. The antistaphylococcal properties of plant extracts in relation to their prospective use as therapeutic and prophylactic formulations for the skin. Vestn Dermatol Venerol 1990;(8):54–6 [in Russian].
17. Mitra S, Gole K, Samajdar K, et al. Antihepatotoxic activity of Chelidonium majus. Int J Pharmacognosy 1992;30:125–8.
18. Mitra S, Sur RK, Roy A, Mukherjee AS. Effect of Chelidonium majus L on experimental hepatic tissue injury. Phytother Res 1996;10:354–6.
19. Ritter R, Schatton WFH. Clinical trial on standardized celandine extract in patients with functional epigastric complaints: Results of placebo-controlled double-blind trial. Comp Ther Med 1993;1:189–93.
20. Kniebel R, Urlacher W. Z Allgemeinmed 1993;69:680–4.
21. Bone K (ed). Chelidonium--A medicinal poppy. MediHerb Professional Newsletter 1996;49:1–3.
22. Susak YM, Zemskov VS, Yaremchuk OY, et al. Comparison of chemotherapy and x-ray therapy with Ukrain monotherapy for colorectal cancer. Drugs Exptl Clin Res 1996;22:115–22.
23. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985, 84–8.
24. Bone K (ed). Chelidonium--A medicinal poppy. MediHerb Professional Newsletter 1996;49:1–3.
25. Ritter R, Schatton WFH. Clinical trial on standardized celandine extract in patients with functional epigastric complaints: Results of placebo-controlled double-blind trial. Comp Ther Med 1993;1:189–93.
26. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985, 84–8.
27. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds). American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997.
28. Etxenagusia MA, Anda M, Gonzalez-Mahave I, et al. Contact dermatitis from Chelidonium majus (greater celandine). Contact Derm 2000;43:47.
29. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds). American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997.
30. Benninger J, Schneider HT, Schuppan D, et al. Acute hepatitis induced by greater celandine (Chelidonium majus). Gastroenterol 1999;117:1234–7.
Last Review: 05-01-2013
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