The Health Benefits of Greater Celandine

Greater celandine in bloom

Sunniva Harte / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) is a plant commonly grown in Asia, Central and Southern Europe, and North America. An extract derived from the plant has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. Often touted as a natural treatment for cancer, greater celandine is also purported to fight health concerns ranging from asthma to atherosclerosis.

Although research suggests that greater celandine may offer certain benefits, there's also some evidence that it might be toxic to the liver and using it may cause other harmful side effects.

Health Benefits

In alternative medicine, greater celandine is said to boost the immune system and is touted as a natural remedy for a number of health conditions, including:

In addition, greater celandine is said to relieve pain, promote detox, stimulate the immune system, and fight cancer.

Research on the health effects of greater celandine is fairly limited. However, there's some evidence that greater celandine may offer certain benefits in the treatment of a few conditions.

Cancer

In laboratory tests on human cancer cells, scientists have found that greater celandine may fight cancer by inducing apoptosis, a type of programmed cell death involved in stopping the spread of cancer cells.

A greater celandine extract shows potential as an anti-cancer drug, according to a research review published in BMC Cancer in 2006. For the review, investigators analyzed seven clinical trials on the use of a proprietary greater celandine extract in the treatment of cancer.

Although the review's authors found that the extract had beneficial effects on several types of cancer, they caution that most of the trials were of poor quality and state that "independent rigorous studies are urgently needed" before greater celandine can be recommended in the treatment of cancer.

Eczema

Preliminary research indicates that greater celandine may help treat atopic dermatitis (a form of eczema). In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, for instance, researchers tested the effects of greater celandine on a group of mice with atopic dermatitis.

Results revealed that greater celandine significantly reduced the severity of several eczema symptoms, including itching and inflammation. However, it's unknown whether greater celandine might have the same effect on eczema in humans.

Authors of an extensive 2018 research review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology examined studies about the various uses of greater celadine. In concluding, they wrote "we are quite convinced that in the near future, at least some of the already known and evidence-based properties should and would find their place in officially recognized therapeutic procedures." They added, however, that much more research is needed regarding the safety and effectiveness of greater celadine.

Possible Side Effects

Little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of greater celandine and how it might interact with medication. Greater celandine may trigger a number of side effects, including nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and fever.

There is also some evidence that greater celandine could have serious adverse effects on the heart, raising the risk of ventricular arrhythmias.

Greater celandine may harm liver health. In a report published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2009, for instance, scientists warn that several cases of acute hepatitis have been linked to greater celandine consumption in previously published studies.

Also, a 2017 report published in the European Review for Medical Pharmacological Sciences concluded that the risks outweigh the potential benefits of greater celadrine use.

Given the safety concerns, it's critical to consult your healthcare provider prior to using greater celandine, especially if you have a history of liver problems. 

It's important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with greater celandine and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious health consequences.

Due to a lack of high-quality clinical trials and serious safety concerns, greater celandine cannot currently be recommended for treatment or prevention of any health problem, including cancer.

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Widely available for purchase online, greater celandine is sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements. It is almost always sold in extract form, although it is sometimes also sold as a tea.

There is not enough known about greater celandine to establish a safe or effective dose.

Also, keep in mind that supplements like greater celandine are largely unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to government standards, it is not legal to market a dietary supplement as a treatment or cure for a specific disease or to alleviate the symptoms of a disease. But the products are not tested by the FDA for safety or effectiveness.

In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances. Some consumers look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality. 

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