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Greater Celandine

What You Need to Know About Greater Celandine

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Updated July 02, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) is a plant long used in herbal medicine and in traditional Chinese medicine. Available in supplement form, greater celandine is often said to fight cancer. Although research suggests that greater celandine may offer certain health benefits, there's also some evidence that it might be toxic to the liver.

Uses for Greater Celandine

Greater celandine 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.

Benefits of Greater Celandine

To date, research on the health effects of greater celandine is fairly limited. However, there's some evidence that greater celandine may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key study findings:

1) Cancer

A greater celandine extract shows potential as an anti-cancer drug, according to a research review published in BMC Cancer in 2005. For the review, investigators analyzed seven clinical trials on the use of a proprietary greater celandine extract (called Ukrain) in 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 treatment of 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).

2) 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.

Is Greater Celandine Safe?

There's some concern that 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.

Given the potential for liver damage, it's critical to consult your physician prior to using greater celandine (especially if you have a history of liver problems).

Side Effects of Greater Celandine

Greater celandine may trigger a number of side effects, including nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and fever.

Where to Find Greater Celandine

Widely available for purchase online, greater celandine is sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Should You Use Greater Celandine for Health Purposes?

Due to a lack of supporting research, greater celandine cannot currently be recommended for treatment or prevention of any health problem. If you're considering the use of greater celandine supplements, consult your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.

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.

Sources

Ernst E, Schmidt K. "Ukrain - a new cancer cure? A systematic review of randomised clinical trials." BMC Cancer. 2005 Jul 1;5:69.

Fik E, Wołuń-Cholewa M, Kistowska M, Warchoł JB, Goździcka-Józefiak A. "Effect of lectin from Chelidonium majus L. on normal and cancer cells in culture." Folia Histochem Cytobiol. 2001;39(2):215-6.

Gilca M, Gaman L, Panait E, Stoian I, Atanasiu V. "Chelidonium majus--an integrative review: traditional knowledge versus modern findings." Forsch Komplementmed. 2010 Oct;17(5):241-8.

Habermehl D, Kammerer B, Handrick R, Eldh T, Gruber C, Cordes N, Daniel PT, Plasswilm L, Bamberg M, Belka C, Jendrossek V. "Proapoptotic activity of Ukrain is based on Chelidonium majus L. alkaloids and mediated via a mitochondrial death pathway." BMC Cancer. 2006 Jan 17;6:14.

Moro PA, Cassetti F, Giugliano G, Falce MT, Mazzanti G, Menniti-Ippolito F, Raschetti R, Santuccio C. "Hepatitis from Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus L.): review of literature and report of a new case." J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jul 15;124(2):328-32.

Nadova S, Miadokova E, Alfoldiova L, Kopaskova M, Hasplova K, Hudecova A, Vaculcikova D, Gregan F, Cipak L. "Potential antioxidant activity, cytotoxic and apoptosis-inducing effects of Chelidonium majus L. extract on leukemia cells." Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2008 Oct;29(5):649-52.

Yang G, Lee K, Lee MH, Kim SH, Ham IH, Choi HY. "Inhibitory effects of Chelidonium majus extract on atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in NC/Nga mice." J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Nov 18;138(2):398-403.

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