Common Names

Celandine , Greater or common celandine
Botanical Name
Chelidonium majus

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What is it?

In herbal medicine we use the leaves and flowers of Celandine, a long–lived plant related to the Poppy family that grows erect, slender branching stems. The flowers of Celandine are small and distinctive and the sap of the stems is an intense yellow and gives a hint to just how potent a herb this is.




How has it been used?

In Russia and the Baltic States Celandine is known as ‘chistotel bolshoy’, chistotel meaning cleansing and bolshoy meaning very strong,

Hispanic cultures use Celandine for liver disease, indigestion, gall bladder complaints, hepatitis, eczema and other chronic skin problems.

Celandine is widely used in Asian herbal medicine as a natural anti-inflammatory and detoxifying medicine, also for bronchitis and whooping cough.

European documents going back to the middle ages show Celandine being used to cleanse the blood, cure jaundice and to treat gallstones and indigestion.


Science on Celandine

Note that the following excerpts from clinical studies have looked at some ways that the action of Celandine can be measured in human pathology. It clearly has potent actions on the liver and can be very effective in treating disease but I think the far greater benefit of Celandine is in areas that cannot be so well tested; i.e. in how it may promote clean blood and good health...

~ In a controlled trial Celandine showed good to very good results in over two thirds of patients treated for cholangitis (infection of the bile duct) inflammation of the gallbladder with gallstones and inflammation of the gall bladder without gall stones. The daily dose was 3 mls of a fresh plant tincture. (Neumann-Mangoldt P. Med Welt 1977;28(4):181-185)

~ Celandine along with the herb St Mary's thistle was shown to increase bile flow and secretions from the pancreas in a placebo-controlled trial. (Baumann JC, Heintze K, Muth HW. Arzneim-Forsch 1971;21(1):98-101)

~ Celandine extract had an 80% success rate in treating patients with chronic bronchitis and Celandine syrup cured 71% and improved a further 23% of 500 cases of whooping cough in infants and children. (Chang HM, But PP. Pharmacology and applications of Chinese materia medica, vol 1, World Scientific, Singapore, 1987 pp 390-394)

~ A decoction of Celandine was taken for two weeks by patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus and it was found to cause significant degeneration of the cancerous tissue. This particular trial compared Celandine by itself as well as against and with the drug cyclophosphamide and with 'controls'. and the degeneration of the cancer was found to be best with the herb by itself. (Staniszewski A, Slesak b, Kolodzief J et al.Drugs Exp Clin Res 1992; 18(suppl):63-67)

~ Laboratory studies have shown that Celandine extract decreased experimentally induced liver injury indicating that it has a protective action for the liver. In other laboratory studies Celandine was shown to inhibit the proliferation of human keratinocytes showing it may have an application for psoriasis. Lastly oral administration of Celandine significantly reduced stomach tumour in experimental models.

Safety of Celandine

I've made some more detailed comments on this in the personal section below but in brief Celandine is a powerful and potentially dangerous herb that should not be used during pregnancy, breast-feeding or in the treatment of the very young or elderly. If someone wanted to self-medicate with Celandine I would strongly encourage them to build up the dose gradually and not to underestimate its strength!


Personal experiences

I have tremendous respect for the power of this little plant and for its potential to do us great good if used wisely. I honestly do not know of a stronger remedy to cleanse the liver and, given how deeply and how often poor liver health is implicated with chronic sicknesses I've personally seen Celandine change the lives of many hundreds of people over the years.

There are three key points to grasp if you will make use of this great herb. The first is that the quality and freshness of the starting material is absolutely vital. There is plenty of stale Celandine available in the herbal marketplace and the only good thing to say about that is that you can at least be sure it won't do you any harm (because it has lost most of its potency!) In my own practice we use a mixture of half fresh Celandine that we grow ourselves along with half from an organic dried Celandine that we import from a trusted supplier - we then extract and combine the fresh and dried extracts together and it is very potent!

The second key point is dosage. Too little will of course deliver and inadequate result but as with so many of our powerful herbs it is equally important not to use too much. This is a medicine that, if used to excess can cause actual liver harm and the commercial products supplied to practitioners in Australia and New Zealand are legally obliged to carry a warning on their label warning to this affect!

I can't give dosage suggestions that will apply to another preparation of Celandine with a different potency but to give you an idea of my approach I generally start with around 6 to 10 drops once a day and build up to around 20 drops a day. This varies a lot and with some people whom I have perhaps already been working with and feel I know them well enough I will simply put the amount I feel will be best in with other herbs so they are getting a strong daily dose right from the beginning (usually not more than 1 or 2 mls a day, sometimes double that in people with hardy constitutions or particularly gnarly health issues).

The length of time to use Celandine is equally crucial as getting the therapeutic dose right. Celandine is not the herb you just keep using month after month as that too would likely end in harm. I think that somewhere around 6 weeks is the average time I use Celandine, sometimes less, sometimes more.

The third key point is that you have to keep the diet clean whilst using Celandine. So long as it is a fresh and potent medicine and the dosage is right then you are definitely going to get a cleansing reaction from the body in general and the liver in particular with this herb. If there is still a lot of junk food, excess sugar, excess alcohol etc. going in at the same time then it will be like you are trying to drive your system forwards with Celandine on the accelerator whilst your diet is still pressing on the brake - your progress is likely to be slower and maybe somewhat jerky! A clean diet (more info about what I mean by that here) along with plenty of fresh, clean water is the way to make good things happen fast with Celandine...

All this said it should still be carefully noted that Celandine is quite likely to provoke a palpable cleansing reaction in a person who uses it for more than just a few days and in sufficient dosages. People experience this in different ways but it is clear that it is the herb that is provoking this change and that it can be a little challenging until we go through a needed shift towards a more active and healthier liver function. Day 4 or 5 is when it most commonly shows up the most but then the processing time that reaction needs to take place can happen in as little as a day or as much as a week, sometimes more..

I'm sorry that I can't be more specific about the timing but I can say something more about what I mean by a 'reaction' or a 'change'. Physically it is commonly a kind of achey malaise such as you might feel with a mild flu, sometimes there are headaches or increased bowel elimination at the same time. Emotionally there can be spikes of frustration that boil out and leave you with a somewhat low, flat mood. In the old days they called this feeling 'liverish' and they were not wrong. The liver is the part of the body in which we process more than just physical toxins. People get a lot lighter on their feet and their mood when they complete a course of Celandine, it's palpable.

For anyone reading this who might be studying herbal medicine or who maybe just wants to deepen their understanding and relationship with these great plant allies then there is an ancient, rather excellent practice I encourage you to pick up whereby you take a small dose of Celandine tincture and then listen closely to your body's responses to it with a quiet and receptive mind. Celandine is not the most bitter herb in the world but it is certainly the gift that keeps giving in terms of its long, lingering (and admittedly rather challenging!) taste that sits in the back and sides of the mouth and keeps sending its signals long after you have swallowed. If you do this and listen closely to your body and your intuition I am sure that you, like a great many others before you, will be able to feel for yourself just how remarkably a potent herb Celandine really is.

Celandine combines particularly well with Juniper berry when one wants to convey a deep cleansing influence on the whole body via the liver and the kidneys simultaneously. Celandine also combines especially well with the other great liver and blood purifying herbs Dandelion root and Burdock and it has been seen very many times that a combination of these herbs has helped to turn around chronic health problems that have defied all manner of drugs, diets or other alternative approaches.


Constitutional note

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Celandine is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?

The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are more hot or cool and at the same time more dry or damp; more info about this here.

There is an old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Celandine can particularly offer its benefits when a potent cleansing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing' - something that is discussed here and shown in a chart here.

Excerpt from Felter & Lloyd's Kings Dispensatory from 1898

Celandine is one of the best of remedies for biliary blockage, the result of liver congestion, and for jaundice due to obstruction of the bile ducts.

Prof. Scudder, who conceived a very favourable opinion of this remedy, favoured the use of small doses of Celandine where the tongue was somewhat pallid and enlarged and the skin sallow or full.

Migraine, bilious headaches, supraorbital neuralgia, bilious dyspepsia and other gastric and intestinal disturbances due to faulty action of the liver are well treated with it.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in my clinic but ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area are here.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd