Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Greater Celandine/Svaleurt

Chelidonium majus

Greater Celandine is a herb, native to Europe and western Asia and introduced widely in North America.
The lesser celandine belongs to the same order (Ranunculales) as the greater celandine, but belongs to the buttercup family, whereas the greater celandine belongs to the poppy family.It is considered an aggressive invasive plant in natural areas (both woods and fields).The herb is about 50 cm tall with lightgreen leaves and yellow flowers from April till September. The Greater Celandine grows wild in several places in Denmark, probably feral from the earlier cultivation in the herbal gardens. It thrives best in half shadow in a moist earth, especially under hedges and small trees.

Legend :
According to a Greek legend the swallows use the juice of the herb to smear into the eyes of their blind young ones. The birds' sight was sharpened, and they could see far away. Because of  this assumed ability the plant was used in eye diseases. The name Chelidonium was given to it, because it was used by the alchemists, who considered the plant to be a basic elelement in the making of gold - and they called it donum coeli, which means "Heaven's gift".

Caused by the yellow-orange juice in the plant it was according to the signature-learning used as a means against jaundice.The juice turns brown when it dries upon the skin, this looks like jaundice. The latex is  known to stain clothes.It was formerly used by gypsies as a foot refresher; modern herbalists use its purgative properties. Greater celandine acts as a mild sedative which has been used historically to treat asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough. The herb's antispasmodic effect improves bile flow in the gallbladder and has been reputed to treat gallstones and gallbladder pain. As far back as Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides (1st century CE) this herb has been recognized as a useful detoxifying agent. The root has been chewed to relieve toothache.                                                                 
view from church yard
 Wart Treatment:
An old home remedy is still in use today, namely to smear the juice upon warts - and they will disappear. The slightly caustic plant-juice irritates the skin and remove warts after repeatedly treatments. In Russia and in other countries it is used as a herbal aid in removing warts, papillomas and other skin malformations. It is also used in the mole and wart remover Wart Mole Vanish. See also Bloodroot, which has similar chemical composition and therapeutic use as greater celandine, particularly in warts and moles treatment.

feral plants and relicts like digitalis  and celandine are  often seen  at church dikes

The juice turns red, when it is exposed to oxygen and is used in dyeing silk fabrics yellow. The fermented juice gives an indigo-blue colour, which is also used in dyeing fabrics.

The sap strengthens the eye-sight, and if it was dripped into the eyes, people could see far away - several kilometers!  But it is also known to give irritation of both eyes and skin.

Today's research:
The whole plant is toxic in moderate doses, but there are numerous therapeutic uses when used at the correct dosage. The alkaloids are known to cause immobilization in mice after being taken orally or injected. The alkaloids are also noted to stimulate the heart and lungs of frogs, cats and dogs, raising the blood pressure and widening the arteries.Stains on skin of the fingers are sometimes reported to cause eye irritation after rubbing the eyes or handling contact lenses. When any part of the plant causes eye irritation, wash it out with clear water and when needed seek medical help.

church yard corner with ivy.
Source: Anemette Olsesen, Danske klosterurter, 2001 ; Politikens florabog.

photo Himmerland July 2007: grethe bachmann


Teresa Evangeline said...

How did I miss this post? I love the churchyard view of the roof tops and the corner with ivy.

Thyra said...

Hej Teresa! It was so strange that day because I had looked out for this church every time we were in Himmerland. I was on a biking tour 20 years ago in a warm summer and had a rest on a hill by a church. It was exactly this place. So I found it again.