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Chelidonium majus - L.

Common Name Greater Celandine, Swallow Wort, Greater Celandine
Family Papaveraceae
USDA hardiness 5-8
Known Hazards The whole plant is poisonous[7, 10, 19]. It is of very low toxicity and this is greatly reduced by drying the plant[65]. The stem juice is highly irritating and allergenic, it may cause paralysis[222]. Large doses cause sleepiness, skin irritation, respiratory tract irritation, violent coughing and dyspnoea[268]. It also stains the urine bright yellow and may cause ulcers[268]. May cause burning sensation in the mouth, nausea and vomiting. Avoid contact with eyes. Concerns of liver toxicity so avoid in those with liver disease. Not recommended during pregnancy and for children under 12 [301].
Habitats Rubble, damp ground, banks, hedgerows and by walls[7, 17], nearly always close to human habitations[4].
Range Most of Europe, including Britain, east to N. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Chelidonium majus Greater Celandine, Swallow Wort, Greater Celandine

Chelidonium majus Greater Celandine, Swallow Wort, Greater Celandine


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Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Chelidonium majus is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to August, and the seeds ripen from July to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Chelidonium haematodes. Chelidonium laciniatum. Chelidonium luteum. Chelidonium umbelliferum.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade; Ground Cover; Hedgerow; North Wall. In.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil
Edible Uses: Oil

Leaves - cooked in small quantities[177]. They contain small amounts of toxic alkaloids[179]. The leaves are boiled with clean earth, the mixture is left overnight and then thoroughly washed in several changes of water[179]. Very much a famine food, to be used when all else fails!![K].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Acrid  Alterative  Anodyne  Antispasmodic  Cancer  Cholagogue  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  
Hydrogogue  Narcotic  Ophthalmic  Purgative  Stomachic  Warts

Greater celandine has a long history of herbal use[4]. 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[254]. 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[7, 21]. The leaves and the sap are acrid, alterative, anodyne, antispasmodic, caustic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, hydrogogue, narcotic, purgative[4, 7, 9, 21, 46, 165, 238]. They are used in the treatment of bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma, jaundice, gallstones and gallbladder pains[254]. The plant is harvested in the spring as it comes into flower, it is best used fresh[7], but can also be dried for later use[9]. The roots can also be used, these are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[9]. The plant has anticancer properties and is analgesic[4, 218]. It is an important component of a stomach ulcer drug[218]. The plant has an abundant acrid bright-orange sap that stains the skin strongly and is powerfully irritant[4]. It is used as an external treatment to get rid of warts, ringworm and corns[13, 187, 222, 244] and has also been used to remove films from the cornea of the eye[4]. 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[244]. The plant also contains the alkaloid sparteine, which restores normal rhythm to feeble arrhythmic myocardia[207]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Chelidonium majus for liver and gallbladder complaints (see [302] for critics of commission E).

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Plants rapidly form a ground cover, but should only be used in wild places because of their invasive nature[200]. Seed contains 50 - 66% of a fatty oil[74]. No more details given.

Special Uses

Ground cover

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Woodland garden. Succeeds in any soil other than boggy conditions[1, 111, 233]. Prefers a rich soil of a woodland nature[1, 31]. Shade tolerant[31]. Plants grow well on walls if they are given a semi-shaded position and a pocket of soil into which to root[219]. A short-lived perennial[187], but it self-sows freely and can easily become a weed[200]. It quickly colonizes waste ground and thin woodland areas[233]. Once established, the plant is very difficult to eradicate. Special Features: North American native, Naturalizing, Attractive flowers or blooms.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ February to May or August to November. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 12 months[164, 200]. The plant self-sows freely and should not need much encouragement. Division in March[111]. The plant bleeds profusely so this method is not recommended[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Maliya Price   Tue Jan 3 2006

Great source of info - I have a bottle of Chelidonium tincture and couldn't remember why I'd ever bought it. Now I know! Thank you.

sanjay kumar juneja   Sat Feb 28 2009

any uses in a reformed alcoholic,doses and frequency?Regards.

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