Greater Celandine

Greater Celandine

A genus containing a single species of perennial that in general appearance resembles the closely-related Himalayan poppies (Meconopsis species). Chelidonium majus (greater celandine) is found along banks, hedgerows, and walls, usually on waste ground near human habitation. Its foliage contains a distinctive, bright orange sap, containing enzymes that have proteolytic effects (cause the breakdown of proteins). It is dabbed onto the skin, directly from the plant, as a traditional treatment for warts and corns, and has a long history of use for eyesight problems, such as cataracts. According to Pliny (23-79CE), swallows used the orange sap to clear their eyes, hence the common name, swallow wort. On the other hand, the Doctrine of Signatures stated that, because the sap resembled bile in color, the herb was a remedy for liver disorders.

Perennial with branched, brittle stems, and divided, slightly glaucous, pale green leaves, 10-25cm (4-10in) long, that exude orange sap when damaged. Four-petaled yellow flowers, 2-2.5cm (¾-1in) across, appear from spring to autumn, followed by linear capsules, containing black seeds with a white crest.

Common Name:
Greater Celandine
Other Names:
Swallow wort, Tetterwort
Welsh Name/Translation:
Llym u llygaid (sharp of eye)
Botanical Name:
Chelidonium majus
Almost any soil, including clay, in sun or shade.
By seed soen in spring; by division in spring. Chelidonium majus and its variant self-seeds readily.
Flowering plants are cut in summer and used fresh in infusions or tinctures, or as juice. Sap is used fresh; the properties are largely lost on drying.
Native Location:
Temperate and subarctic Eurasia, naturalized in N America.
30-60cm (1-2ft)
20-45cm (8-18in)
Flore Pleno
Has double flowers.

Var. laciniatum
Has deeply cut leaves.

Laciniatum Flore Pleno
Is smaller than the species, with deeply cut leaves and small, ragged flowers. First recorded at Heidelberg, Germany, c.1590.
Height: 25-38cm (10-15in)
Width: 15-38cm (6-15in).
Parts Used:
Whole plant, sap
A cleansing, anti-inflammatory herb that improves bile flow, stimulates the uterus and circulatory system, and acts as an anti-spasmodic, diuretic, and laxative.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for inflammation of the gall bladder and bile duct, jaundice, hepatitis, gout, arthritis, and rheumatism; remittent fevers, smasmodic cough and bronchitis; skin eruptions, ulcers, and cancer (especially of skin and stomach). Excess causes sleepiness, skin irritation, irritant coughing, and difficulty in breathing. Not given to pregnant women. Externally for eye inflammations and cataract, bruises and sprains, warts, ringworm, psoriasis, eczema, and malignant tumors. Also used in Chinese medicine (as bai qu cai) and homeopathy for similar complaints. For use by qualified practitioners only.
This herb is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
Celestial Influence:
Magical Attributes:
Brings joy, cures depression.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown. Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 165
Celtic Plant Magic by Jon G. Hughes Copyright © 2003 Jon G. Hughes, and Destiny Books pg. 82