Medicinal plants

Lesser Celandine – Application & Treatment for Health


The yellow-flowered lesser celandine , also known as figwort, belongs to the buttercup family. Scharbock is a popular name for scurvy. This deficiency disease was successfully combated with the vitamin C-containing leaves. The botanical name is Ranunculus ficaria or Ficaria verna, as a synonym.

Occurrence & cultivation of lesser celandine

Carl von Linné first mentioned Ranunculus ficaria in writing in 1753 in his Species Plantarum. In addition, five subspecies of the plant are known. Ranunculus is the Latin diminutive of Rana, frog, and thus illustrates Lesser Celandine ‘s preference for damp, nitrogenous locations. Therefore, the plant is particularly common on boggy meadows and lakes. But it can also be found in bushes and hedges, deciduous forests and their edges. The plant even feels at home in shady spots in gardens and parks.

Native to northern and central Europe, it also thrives in northern Africa and Asia Minor, avoiding the extreme north. In spring, Ranunculus ficaria is usually the first green plant to appear in sparse forests. Occasionally it spreads out together with the related Anemone nemorosa, the white wood anemone, and forms a dense carpet. While the green leaves emerge from the ground as early as February, the yellow flowers are only visible from March and then bloom until May.

Many insects fly to the plant because of its bright color, but no seeds worth mentioning are formed. Propagation is vegetative, asexual, via brood tubers that sit on the lower leaves. They fall off in May, hibernate on the ground and germinate again the following spring. Heavy rains can wash out the brood tubers. Since they resemble grains of corn, it looks like it rained wheat. Hence they used to be called heavenly barley , heavenly manna , or heavenly bread .

During periods of food shortage, these bulbous tubers were dried along with the lesser celandine root tubers. Flour was ground from this and processed into bread. Lesser celandine is now used more as an ornamental than as a crop. The plant is popular as a ground cover because it hardly grows more than 20 centimeters high and spreads quickly.

Effect & Application

Lesser celandine used to be the first source of vitamins in spring for farmers. They knew about the high vitamin C content. Lesser celandine was also part of the travel provisions for seafarers, since the vitamin C protected them from scurvy , and there was hardly any fruit and vegetables available on board. The deficiency disease often ended fatally. Only with the discovery of lemon and sauerkraut as a source of vitamin C did the plant lose its importance.

Today, scurvy is no longer an issue, with very few exceptions – such as when there is a long-lasting famine. Nevertheless, the plant is still valued, although it only has a minor importance in naturopathy. Especially since the name Feigwurz , which was given to Lesser Celandine on the basis of the doctrine of signatures, was misleading. The appearance of the root bulb resembles that of a genital wart .

The healers of the Middle Ages tried to treat warts with the juice of the rhizome. The successes should not have been too great. Although there have been some reports of warts being burned away with the pungent sap of the root. Possibly a placebo effect. Because according to current scientific knowledge, the juice causes at most a burning sensation on the skin, the wart itself remains unaffected.

Importance for health, treatment & prevention

Despite everything, lesser celandine has its place in alternative medicine, especially since the high vitamin C content is undisputed. Since the plant spreads easily, there is no shortage of fresh herbs in spring. All parts of the herb can be used. Since Ranunculus ficaria contains slightly toxic substances, anemonin and protoanemonin, like all buttercup plants, it has a tart, sometimes quite sharp taste.

The degree of sharpness depends on the content of the toxins. These in turn depend on the location and the soil conditions. Large amounts of the raw plant should not be consumed. Otherwise, sensitive people may experience irritation of the mucous membranes, diarrhea and nausea . As a general guideline, the herb should not be eaten after flowering. When dried, the plants lose their toxicity to humans and animals.

With their spice, the leaves, fresh or dried, refine salads, quark, spreads and herbal mixtures. In a spring salad, the young leaves act against spring fatigue . The metabolism is boosted by their pungent substances. An invigorating drink can be made from pureed leaves, which gets a special flavor when mixed with milk. Together with other herbs such as bedstraw, groundweed , buckhorn and dandelion , lesser celandine is suitable for blood purification in spring. This mixture is part of the daily menu for four weeks as a tea, in salads, soups and sauces. The organism receives vitality and new impetus.

Roots, nodules and buds can be eaten raw or pickled. Especially popular: flower buds marinated in vinegar. They make a tasty substitute for capers. A tea made from dried leaves helps internally against skin impurities and is used externally for washing. Hemorrhoids are alleviated by a decoction of lesser celandine in a sitz bath. All parts of the plant can be used for juices, teas or bath additives.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.