Herb: Greater Celandine

Latin name: Chelidonium majus

Family: Papaveraceae (Poppy Family)

Medicinal use of Greater Celandine:

Greater celandine has a long history of herbal use. 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 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. 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.

Description of the plant:


50 cm
(1 foot)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Rubble, damp ground, banks, hedgerows and by walls, nearly always close to human habitations.

Edible parts of Greater Celandine:

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!!.

Other uses of the herb:

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. No more details given.

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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Rubble, damp ground, banks, hedgerows and by walls, nearly always close to human habitations.

Known hazards of Chelidonium majus:

The 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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.