Ranunculus ficaria (L)Synonyms and Common names: Ficaria ranunculoides (Moench.), pilewort, small celandine, smallwort, figwort, brighteye, butter and cheese
German = Scharbocks-hahnenfuss, French = Ficaire, Italian = Scrofularia minore, Spanish = Celidonia
Description: Ranunculus ficaria is a common perennial indigenous to Britain, Europe and western Asia. The leaves are mostly radical, the petioles up to 15cm long, and the lamina up to 4cm long and 5cm broad, ovate, cordate or reniform. Bright yellow solitary flowers on long peduncles appear in spring, and have three sepals and 8-12 lanceolate petals, each with a nectary at the base. The fleshy roots, up to 3cm long, are oblong or club-shaped.
Parts used: the tubers and sometimes the whole plant
Collection: the tubers are unearthed in May and June.
Constituents: Saponins (based on hederagenin and oleanolic acid), anemonin and protoanemonin, tannin
Actions: astringent, locally demulcent
Indications: haemorrhoids. Specifically indicated for internal or prolapsed piles with or without haemorrhage by topical application as an ointment or suppository.
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: As suggested by this herb’s common name, it has a traditional use in the treatment of piles, both as an internal remedy and in the form of an ointment or suppository. Nowadays, it is used only externally because of its acrid nature. The saponins are locally anti-haemorrhoidal, an action enhanced by the astringent tannins. The saponins have a fungicidal action. Protoanemonin in the fresh plant is antibacterial and a strong local irritant but it is not found in the dried material where its dimer anemonin is inactive.
Caution: External use only is recommended.
Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)
Regulatory Status: GSL Schedule 1
Dried plant: 2-5g or by infusion
Liquid Extract: 1:1 in 25% alcohol 2-5ml
Ointment: 3% in suitable base
Ointment B.P.C. (1934) 30% fresh plant in benzoinated lard
Suppositories B.P.C. (1934)
Additional Comments: According to the Doctrine of Signatures, the tubers of this plant resembled piles. In the Western Isles of Scotland they were believed to resemble a cow’s udder, and they were hung in cow byres to ensure high milk yields. Wordsworth was so fond of the flowers that he had them carved on his tomb. Although known as lesser celandine, this herb is not related to greater celandine, Chelidonium majus.
Bartram, T. 1995 Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine, 1st edn.,Grace Publishers, Bournemouth.
BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.
Chevallier, A. 1996 The Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants, Dorling Kindersley, London.
Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.
Grigson, G. 1996 (2nd.edn.) The Englishman’s Flora, Helicon Publishing, Oxford.
Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.
Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.
Polunin, M. and Robbins, C. 1992 The Natural Pharmacy, Dorling Kindersley, London.
Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.
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Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH
Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK
Last updated 3rd March 2013 ©Purple Sage Botanicals