The herb greater celandine ( Chelidonium majus ), a relative of the poppy, contains an orange-colored juice that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It has been applied topically for eye and skin problems, and taken internally for bronchitis, jaundice, indigestion, cancer, and whooping cough. However, traditional herbalists appear to have missed one major problem with this herb: it can damage the liver.
In Europe, it is commonly believed that minor gall bladder problems are a cause of indigestion. On this basis, celandine was approved in 1985 by Germany’s Commission E as a treatment for what we would call dyspepsia , or non-specific digestive distress. While there is some supporting evidence for this use, 4-6 in view of the safety risks associated with celandine (see Safety Issues ), we do not recommend using it for this purpose (or any other).
Very preliminary evidence hints suggests that constituents of celandine may also have cancer preventive and antimicrobial properties. 7-9
Celandine has also traditionally been advocated as a topical treatment for warts . However, there is no reliable evidence that it is effective for this purpose.
A typical dosage of greater celandine extract is standardized to supply 4 mg of the substance chelidonine three times daily. 4 However, we suggest that you do not use it at all. (See Safety Issues.)
For the treatment of warts, greater celandine is applied directly to the wart and allowed to dry there.
Numerous case reports indicate that use of celandine can lead to severe, potentially fatal liver injury. 10-14
It should be noted that most people who use greater celandine do not develop liver problems. It may be that certain individuals have an especially high level of susceptibility. However, since it is not possible to determine in advance who would be at risk, we recommend that until more is known the internal use of greater celandine should be avoided entirely.
2. Hiller KO, Ghorbani M, Schilcher H. Antispasmodic and relaxant activity of chelidonine, protopine, coptisine, and Chelidonium majus extracts on isolated guinea-pig ileum [letter]. Planta Med . 1998;64:758–60.
4. 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.
6. Niederau C, Gopfert E. The effect of chelidonium- and turmeric root extract on upper abdominal pain due to functional disorders of the biliary system. Results from a placebo-controlled double-blind study [in German]. MedKlin . 1999;94:425–430.
8. Nowicky JW, Staniszewski A, Zbroja-Sontag W, et al. Evaluation of thiophosphoric acid alkaloid derivatives from Chelidonium majus L. (Ukrain) as an immunostimulant in patients with various carcinomas. Drugs Exp ClinRes . 1991;17:139-143.
12. Crijns AP, de Smet PA, van den Heuvel M, Schot BW, Haagsma EB. Acute hepatitis after use of a herbal preparation with greater celandine ( Chelidonium majus ) [in Dutch] [published correction appears in Ned TijdschrGeneeskd . 2002;146:544]. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd . 2002;146:124–8.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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