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Greater celandine, like other members of the Papaveraceae (poppy) family, contains alkaloids as its major constituents. These include chelidoxanthine, chelidonine, and coptisine. Greater celandine extracts have been shown to stimulate production of bile and pancreatic digestive enzymes in human studies.11
Animal and test tube studies have shown that the alkaloids and whole plant extract can relieve gallbladder spasms and stimulate an under-active gallbladder.12, 13 Test tube and animal studies have also shown celandine extracts and purified alkaloids to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties.14, 15, 16 They have also shown greater celandine’s ability to protect animal livers from toxic substances.17, 18
A double-blind trial found that a standardized extract of greater celandine could relieve symptoms of indigestion (such as abdominal cramping, sensation of fullness, and nausea) significantly better than a placebo.19 The trial used an extract standardized to 4 mg of chelidonine per capsule and gave 1–2 tablets three times daily for six weeks. An earlier, preliminary trial also found the same extract reduced symptoms in people with indigestion.20
Preliminary reports from Russia and China have reported that a tincture of greater celandine applied topically was useful for warts.21 However, these results have not yet been confirmed by double-blind clinical trials.
Several reports describe Eastern European clinical trials using semi-synthetic derivatives of greater celandine alkaloids for people with cancer.22 This injectable product goes by the name Ukrain®. The findings on this drug cannot be applied to greater celandine because the alkaloids have been modified from their original form.
One explanation for the variable results obtained from using greater celandine is improperly prepared, dried extracts.23 Drying extracts quickly at high temperature is necessary to preserve the alkaloids.24 Extracts standardized to a content of 4 mg chelidonine per capsule are recommended to be taken three times per day.25 Alternatively, one may mix 1–3 ml tincture into water and sip slowly 10–30 minutes before eating. Topical applications should consist of either concentrated tinctures or the fresh yellow latex. Herbalists and doctors recommend applying fresh latex once per day to warts and allowing it to dry in place.26
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.