This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics - Vegetable Kingdom", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica And Therapeutics: Vegetable Kingdom.
Active Ingredients. - Chelidonium root contains two alkaloids. One of these is chelidonine, C19H7N3O3, which crystallizes in colorless, glittering tables, with two atoms of water that can be driven off by a heat of 212° F. It has a bitter taste, leaving an after-feeling of irritation and alkaloid reaction. It is insoluble in water; in the crystalline form it is also nearly insoluble in ether and in alcohol; it is more soluble in fixed and volatile oils. Solutions of its salts, when tested with alkalies, let fall the chelidonine as a voluminous cheesy deposit, which gradually becomes horny - an exceedingly characteristic test. It is not quite certain how far this alkaloid can be called an active ingredient of Chelidonium. The other alkaloid is sanguinarin, or chelerythrine (already described under Sanguinaria), as to the activity of which there is no doubt whatever.
Physiological Action. - Chelidonium undoubtedly possesses the qualities of a narcotic irritant, but exact experiments are altogether lacking as to the physiological action of the juice itself. Of sanguinarine we have already spoken; of chelidonine the only exact account is given by Probst and Reuling. These observers agree that up to the dose of five grains it produces no poisonous effect either on animals or on man; while the sanguinarine found in the same plant proved fatal to rabbits in doses of 1/3 grain. The symptoms were like those obtained with the tincture in Orfila's experiments, and death occurred in ten minutes.
Therapeutic Action. - The popular repute which celandine formerly enjoyed was chiefly as an aperient, a diuretic, and a sudorific. It was also considered a powerful deobstruent, and employed with that view in jaundice, acute and chronic hepatitis, gall-stones, and other hepatic affections; also in haemorrhoids, and in pneumonia with hepatic complications. It has been supposed useful in opacity of the cornea. As a nervine remedy it has been employed in paralysis, for spasmodic coughs, and neuralgia (Dr. Buchmann). It has also been recommended for eczema and herpes. All this, however, must be deemed vague; and although celandine might in all probability be made a useful remedy, further exact researches are required for this purpose. (From personal experience we would be disposed to place the drug by the side of podophyllum and iris versicolor, as capable of energetically affecting the liver.)
Preparations And Dose. - No officinal preparation; we have always employed a tincture made by macerating the fresh root in twice its weight of alcohol, dose mv. - xx. (.30 - 1.20).