Chelidonium majus. Great Celandine.
Nat. Ord. — Papaveraceae. Sex. Syst. — Polyandria Monogynia.
Herb and Root.
Description. — This plant, sometimes known as Tetterwort, is an evergreen perennial, with a stem from one to two feet in Light, branched, swelled at the joints, leafy, round, smooth. The leaves are smooth, spreading, very deeply pinnatifid ; leaflets, in from two to four pairs, from one and a half to two and a half inches long, and about two-thirds as broad, the terminal one largest, all ovate, cuneately incised or lobed ; the lateral ones sometimes dilated at their lower margin near the base, almost as if auricled ; color of all a deep shining green. Flowers bright-yellow, umbellate, on long, often hairy stalks. Umbels thin, axillary, pedunculate. Calyx tawny, often hairy. Petals four, entire, yellow, and very fugacious. Stamens numerous. Capsules long, torulose, two-valved, one celled. Seeds black and shining, each with a whitish deciduous crest.
History. — Celandine is indigenous to Europe, and is extensively naturalized in the United States, growing in waste places, and flowering throughout the summer. The whole plant is very brittle, and exudes when broken, an orange-colored, fetid juice, the taste of which is intensely bitter and acrid, occasioning a sense of burning in the mouth and fauces, which lasts for some time. The root is more powerful than the stems, and is usually preferred. Drying diminishes its activity. It yields its virtues to alcohol or water. Analysis has detected in this plant, a deep-yellow, bitter, resinous substance, an orange colored, nauseous, and bitter gum-resin, mucilage, albumen, free malic acid, silica, and various salts. More recently a peculiar acid has been detected in it, termed Chelidonic acid ; an alkaline principle, forming neutral red salts with acids, which are narcotic and poisonous, denominated Chelerythine ; it is a gray powder, and excites violent sneezing when snuffed into the nostrils ; another alkaline principle, bitter, insoluble in water, and forming crystallizable salts, called Chelidonin, (C40 H20 N3 O6); and lastly a neuter, yellow, crystallizable, bitter principle, termed Chelidoxanthin.
Chelerythin may be obtained by forming a strong ethereal tincture of the celandine root ; through this pass muriatic acid gas, and dry the precipitated muriate which is insoluble in ether. Then dissolve it in hot water, filter, precipitate by ammonia, dry the precipitate, dissolve it in ether, decolorize by animal charcoal, again precipitate by muriatic acid gas, and decompose the muriate, by ammonia, as before.
Properties and Uses. — Stimulant, acrid, alterative, diuretic, diaphoretic, and purgative. Used internally in decoction or tincture, and externally in poultice or ointment, for scrofula, cutaneous diseases, and piles. Likewise useful in hepatic affections, and is supposed to exert a special influence on the spleen. As a drastic hydragogue it is fully equal to gamboge. The juice when applied to the skin produces inflammation and even vesication, and has long been known as a caustic for the removal of warts, also applied to indolent ulcers, fungous growths, etc., and is useful in removing specks and opacities of the cornea, and in curing ringworms. Dose of the powdered root, from half a drachm to one drachm ; of the fresh juice, from thirty to forty drops, in some bland liquid ; of the tincture, from one to two drachms ; of the aqueous extract, from five to ten grains.
Off. Prep. — Decoctum Chelidonii.