Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus)

Greater Celandine Overview:

Greater celandine is a member of the poppy family with a lot of similarity to California or opium poppy. The alkaloids present in greater celandine are similar, but different to the alkaloids used to make opium, morphine, and heroin. These alkaloids, including chelerythrine, offer similar analgesic support as the opioids, but through a different mechanism. They are often used to wean people off opiates and eventually off pain medications altogether.

All poppies have a characteristic latex in their stems and leaves, which is often the source of medicine in this family of plants. Greater celandines latex is a potent antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, and antibacterial making it useful for a range of topical skin infections. The latex is also thought to inhibit the growth of skin cancer cells when used topically, to which there has been an increasing level of interest in the medical research community.


Herbal Actions:


  • Alterative
  • Hepatoprotective [1, 14, 15]
  • Choleretic [10, 12]
  • Cholagogue
  • Analgesic
  • Bitter
  • Diuretic
  • Purgative
  • Spasmolytic
  • Anti-neoplastic
  • Mild laxative
  • Antinflammatory


  • Vulnerary
  • Antifungal
  • Antiviral
  • Anti-neoplastic

Main Uses:

Greater celandine is used topically to treat a range of infections conditions including warts, herpes, skin lesions, shingles, and has been used on skin cancers in the past.

Internally greater celandine is used as a hepatic herb to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder. It is useful for a range of liver conditions such as jaundice, hepatic congestion, biliary dyspepsia, bilious migraine headaches, hepatitis, gallstones, and indigestion. It is also used to treat gastric spasms, and general pain due to some potent analgesic compounds in the leaves and stems.


Daily Dosage

Liquid Extract

Ratio: 1:2

1-2 mL

Weekly Dosage

Liquid Extract

Ratio: 1:2

7-15 mL


Part Used

Aerial parts

Family Name



Northwest Africa


North America


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Constituents of Interest

  • Chelerythrine
  • Chelidonine
  • Berberine
  • Sanguinarine

Common Names

  • Chelidonium
  • Greater Celandine (Latin)
  • Chelidonii herba
  • Bai qu cai (China)
  • Swallow wort

Botanical Info:

Greater celandine is a member of the poppy family of plants, which includes about 42 genera and 775 different species.

Members of the poppy family are all lactiferous, producing a letax which can range from milky to powdery and can be white or colored. This latex is often a source of medicine, as is the case with greater celandine and other medicinal members including the opium poppy.


Level Of Research:


Clinical Applications Of Greater Celandine:

Greater celandines analgesic effects are fairly reliable. It can be used for general pain similarily to california poppy, and can also be used to wean people off opiates gradually. It is especially useful for this as the alkaloids present in greater celandine appear to offer similar benefit, but are less addictive. More research is needed on how this works however.

Greater celandine is also useful as a hepatic and bitter principle to stimulate the liver and gallbladder, improve digestion and appetite, and gastric or colic spasms.

Topically greater celandine is useful for treating warts, viral outbreaks of herpese simplex, HPV, or Varicella zoster, as well as fungal infections such as athletes foot, bacterial infections like Staphylococcus, and parasitic infections including ringworm.



Do not use greater celandine with impacted gallstones, or with significant prexisting liver conditions. It may be too stimulating to the liver to be used in these cases.


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For a list of references, visit the full greater celandine monograph.