Greater Celandine


Chelidonium majus-Greater Celandine

Family: Papaveraceae

Other names: Chelidonium haematodes, Chelidonium laciniatum, Chelidonium luteum, Chelidonium umbelliferum, Devil’s Milk

Habitat: Most of Europe, including Britain, east to N. Asia. Rubble, damp ground, banks, hedgerows and by walls, nearly always close to human habitation.

hazardsmallThe whole plant is poisonous. It is of very low toxicity and this is greatly reduced by drying the plant. The stem juice is highly irritating and allergenic, it may cause paralysis. Large doses cause sleepiness, skin irritation, respiratory tract irritation, violent coughing and dyspnoea. It also stains the urine bright yellow and may cause ulcers. May cause burning sensation in the mouth, nausea and vomiting. Avoid contact with eyes. Concerns of liver toxicity so avoid in those with liver disease. Not recommended during pregnancy and for children under 12.

Greater Celandine was once a widely used medicinal herb which has now fallen from favour. At therapeutic doses it is an excellent remedy for treatment of diseases of the gallbladder including gall stones. At higher doses this plant is poisonous, causing powerful purging of the digestive tract. It may be used as an anti-spasmodic remedy for stomach pain. Externally the orange latex from the stem is used in the treatment of verrucae, skin tumours, warts and tinea. It has been found that the alkaloid chelidonine inhibits inhibits mitosis so may be beneficial in treating cancer.

By Opioła Jerzy (Poland) (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Greater Celandine:

Chelidonium majus; Greater Celandine is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles, self.The plant is self-fertile.

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation of Greater Celandine:

Succeeds in any soil other than boggy conditions. Prefers a rich soil of a woodland nature. Shade tolerant. Plants grow well on walls if they are given a semi-shaded position and a pocket of soil into which to root. A short-lived perennial, but it self-sows freely and can easily become a weed. It quickly colonizes waste ground and thin woodland areas. Once established, the plant is very difficult to eradicate.

By Antti Bilund (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsGreater Celandine plant cut to show orange sap.

Propagation of Greater Celandine:

Seed – sow in situ February to May or August to November. Germination usually takes place within 1 – 12 months. The plant self-sows freely and should not need much encouragement. Division in March. The plant bleeds profusely so this method is not recommended!

Collection of Greater Celandine:

The plant is harvested in the spring as it comes into flower, it is best used fresh, but can also be dried for later use. The roots can also be used, these are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.

Culinary uses of Greater Celandine:

Edible Parts: Leaves,  Oil.
Edible Uses: Oil.

Leaves – cooked in small quantities. They contain small amounts of toxic alkaloids. The leaves are boiled with clean earth, the mixture is left overnight and then thoroughly washed in several changes of water. Very much a famine food, to be used when all else fails!!

Greater_Celandine,Chelidonium_Majus_botanicalMedicinal uses of Greater Celandine:

Acrid,  Alterative,  Anodyne,  Antispasmodic,  Cancer,  Cholagogue,  Diaphoretic,  Diuretic,  Hydrogogue,  Narcotic,  Ophthalmic,  Purgative,  Stomachic,  Warts.

Greater celandine has a long history of use as a medicinal herb. Traditionally it was employed as an ophthalmic to treat and clear the eyesight whilst in modern herbal medicine it is used more as a mild sedative, antispasmodic and detoxifying herb, relaxing the muscles of the bronchial tubes, intestines and other organs. The latex is much used externally to treat warts. Caution should be employed, especially when the plant is used internally however, because it contains toxic alkaloids. The leaves and the sap are acrid, alterative, anodyne, antispasmodic, caustic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, hydrogogue, narcotic, purgative. They are used in the treatment of bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma, jaundice, gallstones and gallbladder pains.  The plant has anticancer properties and is analgesic. It is an important component of a stomach ulcer drug. The plant has an abundant acrid bright-orange sap that stains the skin strongly and is powerfully irritant. It is used as an external treatment to get rid of warts, ringworm and corns and has also been used to remove films from the cornea of the eye. The plant contains the alkaloid chelidonine, which is similar to the alkaloid papaverine found in poppies. This alkaloid has antispasmodic and sedative effects on the bile ducts and bronchi. However, results have been inconsistent, especially if the preparation is not fresh. The plant also contains the alkaloid sparteine, which restores normal rhythm to feeble arrhythmic myocardia. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Chelidonium majus; Greater Celandine, for liver and gallbladder complaints.

Preparation and dosage of Greater Celandine:

Tea: 2 teaspoons of herb or one teaspoon of root in a cup of water cover and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 10 mins. Take one cup full twice a day. Please note it is dangerous to exceed this dosage.

Tincture: 1-2 ml of tincture three times daily.

Other uses of Greater Celandine:


Plants rapidly form a ground cover, but should only be used in wild places because of their invasive nature. Seed contains 50 – 66% of a fatty oil.



Esoteric uses of Greater Celandine:

Cures depression, brings victory and joy, assists in legal matters. Serves as a protective ward when worn. Carry to increase self-confidence when facing adversaries. Use in ritual work when you feel trapped in undue negativity. Note: Deadly poison, use with caution.


The Chemistry:

Root: Alkaloids including chelidonine, chelerythine, coptisine, protopine, chelidonic acid, essential oil, saponin, yellow latex with carotenoid latex.

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