Lesser Celandine – Ficaire fausse-renuncule
The first part of the Latin name, ‘Ranunculus’ comes from the Latin word, ‘rana’, which means frog. An apt name as the plants grow near water. The small roots of Lesser Celandine resemble haemorrhoids (piles) or figs, hence the name ficaria, ‘ficus’ meaning fig. Rembert Dodoens, a Flemish physician and botanist (1517-1585), who worked as a personal physician to the Emperor of Austria and became in 1582 professor of medicine at the University of Leiden in The Netherlands, knew that treating wart-like growths on cows with Lesser Celandine cured the ailment. He then concluded that Lesser Celandine might have the same success in treating humans suffering from piles.
Lesser Celandine is a perennial, indigenous in Europe and western Asia and was introduced into North America. It is one of the early spring flowering plants. The leaves are heart-shaped, fleshy and dark green in colour. The flower petals (8 to 12) are bright, shiny yellow. The roots have many small fibrous bulbs. It grows in wet, shady spots.
In herbal medicine the whole plant is used. The above ground parts should be harvested in March and dried. The roots can be dug up in autumn. It is an astringent, slightly bitter herb that is used specifically for haemorrhoids. People with a sensitive skin have to be careful using this plant, it can irritate the skin and even cause wounds.
To treat piles: melt 120 g of vaseline, add 30 g of the dried plant material, stir. Cover and let it slowly simmer for 45-60 mins. Sieve the mixture and leave it to cool before use.
It is a country custom to eat the fresh leaves of Lesser Celandine. It is a very astringent herb and can only be eaten before flowering, it becomes too astringent to eat after flowering.
Bibliography: Kruidenleer Deel 1 – Chris Raes; Mediterranean Wild Flowers – Marjorie Blamey/Christopher Grey-Wilson; RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs – Deni Bown