Celandine: A Solar Herb


Celandine (Chelidonium majoris) is a plant ruled by our fiery star, the sun. In the early spring Celandine pokes up alongside crocuses. It’s leaves, a deep purple green, tentatively unfurl; reaching for the first warmth of the year. Once the sun’s heat has warmed the soil enough for its neighbouring plants are easing sprouts above ground, niffing the air for frost, Celandine is already forming buds for yellow flowers that will bloom until late August. Celandine truly loves the sun!

Counters the Effects of Saturn

Celandine, unlike other plants from the poppy family, carries heat. Culpepper, the famous astrologer/humoral physician from the 1660’s considered Celandine to the hot and dry to the 3rd degree. For this reason, herbalists in Culpepper’s time used celandine’s solar medicine as an anti-dote to Saturn’s cold nature. Being under the influence of Saturn, one suffers with an excess of black choler, later termed black bile.


Using Galen’s, a Greek physician who lived sometime between 130 and 210 AD, humoral model of medicine, Culpepper diagnosis of an excess of black bile was based on a patient struggling with constipation, liver congestion, aches and pains throughout their joints, perhaps experiencing constriction in their breathing and generally feeling cold. Under the influence of Saturn and excess black bile the patience is moody, cynical, has difficulty sleeping and feels alone. The humoral herbalist says a person presenting with these signs and symptoms is a melancholic.


Celandine’s warmth and ability to move stagnancy from the body, as warming herbs tend to do, is one of the go to herb for the melancholic who feels stuck. If they have gall bladder pain due of pour bile production in the liver, Celandine is a first choice herb. Celandine is a choleric. A choleric increase the bile production in the liver.

Celandine Protects Joy and Releases Heat from the Liver

Ancient Celt herbalists have a slightly different way of defining melancholy. They would say the person has lost their joy. Celandine growing wild in the hedgerow across the British Isles, it’s sunny yellow flowers a signature of the sun, was gathered and offered bring the return of joy to the heart. (They also recommended it to remove freckles.)


Let’s consider this from a Traditional Chinese Herbalist (TCM) point of view.

Celandine has a pronounced effect on the liver. Remember it is choleric. A TCM practitioner associates congestion in the liver with excess heat. The liver is, after all, a very bloody place and where blood gathers, as with inflammation, there is heat. Heat naturally rises. TCM teaches that rising heat is associated with anger and frustration; consider the expressions hot head or blowing your top. Again a moody, irritable disposition will be eased with Celandine.


With traditional western medicine classification of Celandine as a hot herb, it would seem to be contra-indicated when the liver carries extra heat. It isn’t for a short period of time. Celandine, in small doses over a week, will open up congestion in the liver causing excess heat to be released downward, dispersed through the gallbladder with bile. As the liver cools down, anger eases allowing joy to enter the heart. A joyous heart is a much better protection than an angry liver.


Current research demonstrates Celandine limits the effects of toxins, known for causing liver cancer. It has also been shown to reduce elevated liver enzymes when there has been an overuse of acetaminophen. [1]


As for protection: a joyous heart is a much better protection than an angry liver.



[1]  International Journal of Herbal Medicine 2015, 3 (1): 10-27

The Luminaries – The Eyes, Sun and Moon

In Medical Astrology, the eyes are called the Luminaires as are the sun and moon in the heavens. In eastern meditation traditions, both Tibetan and Hindu, one imagines the sun over one eye and the moon over the other. After the practicing in this way for a period of time, imagine the sun over the other eye and the moon over the eye where the sun was. This ancient meditation balance our brain hemispheres as well as the yin and yang energies in the body. Below is a short verse in from a larger meditation practice called 21 Tara where this meditation on the sun and moon is referred to:


            Homage to you whose eyes, the sun and moon,
            Radiate with pure brilliant light
            Uttering HARA twice and TUTTARA
            Dispels extremely fearful plagues.


Traditionally Celandine has affinity for the eyes. John Gerard’s Herball (1597) states that "the juice of the herbe is good to sharpen the sight, for it cleanseth and consumeth away slimie things that cleave about the ball of the eye and hinder the sight and especially being boiled with honey in a brasen vessell."


Culpepper praises Celandine, “I can prove it doth both my own experience,…,that most desparate sore eyes have been cured by only this medicine.”[1]


There is no current research that supports these early claims however, it does not mean that they are not effective. Current herbalists believe that both Culpepper and Gerard referred to glaucoma, an eye condition caused when the ducts that drains the naturally occurring fluid in the eye are blocked. This results in pressure on the optic nerve, distorting vision, even causing blindness. Celandine, decocted in goat’s milk is used as eye drops to release the blockage in the duct, allowing the fluid to drain.


Although I have never used Celandine either on myself or a patient in this manner, it cannot help but see the parallel between opening the eye duct through releasing blockage and Celandine’s contemporary effectiveness at dissolving gallstones while relaxing the bile duct to facilitate easeful passage of the resulting sentiment.


[1]  Culpepper’s Complete Herbal

Celandine and Swallows

Celandine was once referred to as Swallow Wart. It was believed that swallows hatched from the egg unable to open their eyes. It was not until one of the parent birds placed a piece of Celandine onto the fledgling’s eyes that they were able to open them and see.


Others say that the swallow itself once carried in its beak a leaf of celandine to anyone who could not see. It is from the swallow that the herbalist of old learned how to heal eyes. 


Other say that Celandine was once named for swallows because in some parts of the world, Celandine blooms with their return, April and early May. The swallow’s return brought the sun’s warmth and new growth. Seeing a swallow was believed to be lucky, foretelling the arrival of abundance and success. Killing a swallow was considered to be very unlucky.


There is an interesting story from the First Nations people. It is said that the swallow carried fire to humans. It is for this reason that the swallow’s tale is forked. It was burnt along the way. Again, we have this theme of warmth and light. Was the fire the swallow carried from the sun?

Celandine’s Orange Latex

Break off any part of a living Celandine plant, leaf, stem, root, seed pod, and a bright orange latex will ooze from the wound. The orange latex is caustic, it burns. Is this another signature for being part of the sun’s medicine, a burning orange liquid? Most of celandine’s medicine is found in the latex.


Celandine, like other members of the poppy family, is high in a variety of alkaloid, many of which are medicinal. Here is a simple review of the alkaloids contained in Celandine’s thick sticky latex.


Berberine and MSRA

For this familiar with phytochemistry you may recognize berberine. It is the highly anti-microbial plant constituent also found in Golden Seal, Barberry and Oregon Grape Root. Berberine is so anti-microbial that is kills of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MSRA, one of the most common anti-biotic resistant bacteria that currently plaques hospitals.[1]

Sanguinarine and Cancer

This alkaloid is also found in the famous cancer herb Blood Root. Blood Root is the primary herb in the traditional black salve that is used to burn away and draw out cancer lesions. The sanguinarine in Celandine has been cause the death of cancer cells (apoptosis) in lymphoblastic leukemia and colon cancer. Sanguinarine has potential for liver, breast, prostate, lung, pancreatic and bladder cancer. [2]

Chelidonine and Alzhiemers

This powerful alkaloid inhibits an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase or Ache that participates in the buildup of plaques in the brain associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Chelidonine also inhibits butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE), an enzyme believed to be involved in furthering the damage to the brain caused by the plaques. [3]

The Total Alkaloids and Viruses

Celandine has approximately 46 named alkaloids that make up much of its medicine. Currently, Celandine’s anti-viral activity is attributed to the complex, synergetic relationships between these alkaloids. Celandine has shown to be effective against both the herpes simplex virus, HIV

and warts.[4]


[1] International Journal of Herbal Medicine 2015, 3 (1): 10-27

[2] International Journal of Herbal Medicine 2015, 3 (1): 10-27

[3] International Journal of Herbal Medicine 2015, 3 (1): 10-27

[4] International Journal of Herbal Medicine 2015, 3 (1): 10-27

Gathering Celandine

Traditionally Celandine’s aerial parts, leaves and flowers, were gathered while the sun was in Leo and the moon in Aries. (the moon in Aries more than likely refers to Celandine’s caustic nature) Although Celandine blooms all summer, by late July, early August, when the sun is in Leo, it’s growth is not as vigorous as early summer. This is where it gets interesting.


Alkaloids, the primary medicinal constituents in the Celandine, are highest in new plant growth. If a plant is putting out new roots, leaves or flowers, that is the part of the plant that will have the highest level of alkaloids. If a herbalist wants to make a medicine high in alkaloid, she harvests new plant growth. However, because alkaloids are some of the strongest medicine a plant makes, if she gathers the plant after it has completed its initial growth spurt there will be fewer alkaloids.


Don’t you want the strongest medicine? Not really. The stronger the medicine the more challenging it is to control side effects, particularly with potentially toxic constituents like alkaloids.


Final Words

There is so much more that could be said about Celandine. Its tendency to take over gardens, its effectiveness against migraine headaches, its anti-fungal actions, how a syrup of Celandine calms whooping cough. But we have run out time here. Spend some time with this plant, it will grow pretty much anywhere, and it will bless you like a summer’s day.

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