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The herb greater celandine ( Chelidonium majus), a relative of the poppy, contains an orange-colored juice that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It has been applied topically for eye and skin problems, and taken internally for bronchitis, jaundice, indigestion, cancer, and whooping cough. However, traditional herbalists appear to have missed one major problem with this herb: it can damage the liver.
Test-tube and animal studies provide weak evidence that greater celandine may both stimulate and relax the gall bladder. 1 2 In Europe, it is commonly believed that minor gall bladder problems are a cause of indigestion. On this basis, celandine was approved in 1985 by Germany’s Commission E as a treatment for what we would call dyspepsia , or non-specific digestive distress. While there is some supporting evidence for this use, 3 4 in view of the safety risks associated with celandine (see Safety Issues ), we do not recommend using it for this purpose (or any other).
Very preliminary evidence hints suggests that constituents of celandine may also have cancer preventive and antimicrobial properties. 5 6 Celandine has also traditionally been advocated as a topical...
Numerous case reports indicate that use of celandine can lead to severe, potentially fatal liver injury. 7 8 9 10 It should be noted that most people who use greater celandine do not develop liver problems. It may be that certain individuals have an especially high level of susceptibility. However, since it is not possible to determine in advance who would be at risk, we recommend that until more is known the internal use of greater celandine should be avoided entirely.