Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.
– Winnie The Pooh

It’s an interesting fact that some of the most valuable herbs are those considered “undesirable” ; that is to say, weeds. Indeed, the strange human obsession to control Nature and the unshakeable conviction that everything lies on the human shoulders fascinates me. For example, the whole idea of “maintenance”, while certainly useful if You’re trying to get Your orchard to produce as much fruit as possible, is really strange when applied to forests. And yet there is this constant pressure, shared by the majority of human race it seems, to interfere, to cut and fell and uproot and generally throw our weight about. Exactly how much good this does could be debatable, but only if You’re in an indulgent mood.

Plants such as stinging nettle, chase-devil or ribwort are commonly regarded as a nuisance, mostly because they are common and grow pretty much everywhere. Of course, if humans in general were taught more about their uses, they might see things differently. Sadly though, we are constantly taught about the value of gold and never about the value of tetterwort.

This common and unassuming plant, going by the Latin name of chelidonium majus (which is useful to distinguish it from the tetterwort of North America, Sanguinaria canadensis, also known as bloodroot) is a living, flowering proof of our strange, selective sense of worth. It needs no maintenance, no care, no human supervision. It grows wherever it can, and flourishes in most unexpected places. The leaves are a jolly, bright, somewhat yellowish-green and it sprouts small, brightly yellow flowers You might want to be looking out for. Because, despite being as unimpressive as a plant can get, it is definitely worth Your attention.

  • Medicinal uses

The whole plant contains a thick, yellow juice that oozes from the stems and dries very quickly when exposed to the open air. This juice is Your very good friend if You have any sort of skin problems : boils, warts, good old acne, everything that makes Your skin look abnormal can be cured by direct application of tetterwort juice. I have known many a despairing teenager who found a pimple on their great day – the school dance, the long awaited date – and could have used this amiable weed to end their suffering. There are some cases where tetterwort juice won’t help, such as scars,  but it’s still worth a try.

Of course, like any other herb, chelidonium has a limited lifespan. It can start as early as February and thrive well into autumn, thus giving us a nice supply of ever-fresh juice, but once it bears fruit the medicinal properties diminish greatly.  The juice itself cannot be stored separately, but the harvested herb can be dried for future use, and alcoholic tinctures made from both fresh and dried plants can still be very useful. For best results, a flowering plant should be harvested.

Internally, tetterwort can be used to help with liver diseases, but wrong dosages often result in digestive system irritation and even internal haemorrhage. I strongly advise against internal self-medication with this particular herb.

  • Magic uses

Some witches use greater celandine as a protective agent against direct “enemy action” – to shield from malevolent thoughts or spells. This is best done in witch bottles, which will then be kept sealed. Dried herb can also be used in herbal talismans, though it’s vital to keep them away from food, so don’t do this if You like Your protection powders to double as condiments. (I’ve also seen at least one website that advised to use it as a tea/infusion. Again, do not do this.)
Chelidonium maius is not fatally poisonous, for the most part, though it can be fatal in patients with pre-existing liver conditions. However, it can cause a lot of harm when ingested in too large quantities – liver damage, internal haemorrage and so on. It is used in liver medication, actually, but that’s in small doses carefully measured and pharmaceutically controlled. Us kitchen witches should just stick to the external application.