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Posted by Geoff Beaty on 23 September 2021

A bitter cholagogue and antispasmodic herb, used to treat spasms of the gastrointestinal tract and bile duct, celandine is said to clean the gall bladder and stimulate bile flow in cases of hepatitis, jaundice and gall stones.

It is often used as an example of the doctrine of signatures, the concept that a plant resembles the condition or part of the body that it can heal, because the bright, yellowy, orange sap resembles bile.

This sap is also used topically, twice daily, for viral warts and tinea. In his bestselling book, The New Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann says celandine combines well with barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) for gall bladder disease.

He also says it may be used as an antispasmodic remedy for stomach pain. 

Celandine was a favourite herb of the French herbalist Maurice Messegue (4 December 1921 to 16 June 2017), who primarily administered herbs as an external bath for the feet and hands.

He considered celandine the premier herb for the liver specifically for jaundice, hepatitis and swelling of the gallbladder. “My father introduced me to it. He used to say that it was both the best and the most wicked of herbs". He called it swallow wort and one day he showed me how the swallows took some of the sap to their little ones in the nest to protect them from blindness.

It was not till much later that I learned that the Greek word chelidon does in fact mean swallow.”

Ancient Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides, in De Materia Medica (first Century AD), states that celandine begins to blossom when the swallows arrive (spring) and withers when they depart (end of summer).

He also refers to a lore saying that swallows restore sight to their blind nestlings with use of celandine.

Incidentally the foremost medicinal use of celandine, described since the ancient times until the sixteenth century, was treating visual impairment and eye diseases (topically). 

As a member of the poppy family (Papaveraceae) celandine is sedative and can also relieve spasms of the organs.

Messegue recommended it for every case of insomnia as well as rheumatism, gout, kidney troubles, asthma, ‘bad’ nerves, chronic bronchitis, anxiety and serious allergies.

He also used it in compresses for herpes and as a vermifuge for ringworm and ‘uninvited guests’ in the digestive tract (Christine Thomas, Herbalist and Technical Writer for the Herbal Extract Company)

Author:Geoff Beaty
Tags:NewsPrevention & RecoveryCancerHerbal MedicineGallbladder


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • British Naturopathic Association