2. The Diseases of the Liver

Chelidonium is the only plant, indigenous to this country, which possesses a yellow juice. That the colour of this juice led to its use in liver diseases on the lines of the doctrine of Signatures….

Jaundice, Gall-stones, Enlargements, Tumours, and Cancer, and their Treatment.


IF anyone shall maintain that Jaundice is not a greater disease of the liver, but a minor one, I shall reply, Then such a one has never had the curious complaint. Jaundice was the indirect efforts at independent thought in medicine; it was in this wise:- A student was working with Professor H with the microscope while he had a bad cold in his head-in the hot trickling dewdrop stage-and finding that microscopizing under the circumstances was not an easy matter, he said to his professorial friend, “What’s good for a cold in the head?”

“Oh,” said he, “sniff up cold water into your nostrils- that’ll cure it quickly.”

Studiosus set his microscope aside; went home. Once there, forthwith sniffed cold water most diligently into his nostrils, and cured the said coryza there and then. A sweet cure! as the sequel shewed.

The next day he had the beginning symptoms of catarrhal jaundice, and in two days the affection was well-established.

Professor H. was again consulted, and said he must give up hospital work at once, and take a holiday in the hills.

Being conversant with all the facts of the case, it occured to me that as catarrhal jaundice was due to a catarrh of the gall-ducts, just as the coryza was a catarrh of the nose, so if we could only get at the gall-ducts as readily as at the nostrils, we might wash them out also, and thus cure the jaundice, as the coryza had been cured.

I have had a certain number of colds in the head to treat during the years that have since elapsed, but I have never recommended Professor H.’s plan of sniffing cold water into the nostrils, believing a catarrh of the nose to be less bad than a corresponding state of the gall-ducts. This simple narration really touches at the very foundations of all curing : The young man was not well; nature sought to rid his organism of something harmful to his organismic self; she set up a watery discharge from a small portion of the mucous lining of the body, near the surface and not otherwise too much functionally occupied. This hot running from the nose was really a curative expression of the organism. (The young man had been long living and working in the most foul atmosphere of dissecting rooms and hospital wards). The cold water stopped it (the flux, not the disease,) and then nature fell back upon the liver, as she so often does.

Centrifugal fluxes and discharges should not be lightly stopped.

Why the flux? Whence the discharge? Let the questions of the why? and whence? be answered as we go along. Here I merely insist upon the elementary truth that a morbid process having a, perhaps, time-honored name, may be nevertheless no disease at all, but merely a means of cure set up by nature herself, and that there are diseases which it is disadvantageous or dangerous to cure, that is to cure in the sense in which the verb to cure is commonly used in English by the thoughtless. Of course to effect a really radical cure of any primary disease can never be other than a gain to the individual.


CURED BY Chelidonium majus.

A good many years since I was summoned to see a country gentleman for sudden indisposition. It was a rather tedious railway journey, and a humble friend of the family, anxious to enlighten me, told me that the squire had the “Yeller Janders.” Yellow the patient was, indeed, and the colour was from jaundice! There were the usual symptoms- constipation, scanty urine of a dark yellow browny colour, and debility with depression of spirits. Chelidonium majus in small material doses, put matters right in a few days, leaving the patient, however, weak.

“What medicine have you been giving my husband?”

“A new remedy.”

“What’s it’s name.”

“Chelidonium majus.”

“What’s the English of that?”

“The greater Celandine.”

“Then it is not by any means a new remedy, for it is in my old Herbal, in which it is recommended for jaundice.”

And so it was: the use of the greater Celandine in jaundice has trickled down to us through the ages from the primary source of the doctrine of signatures.

Of Chelidonium majus, I would say that it is in this country the greatest liver medicine we have and there is, in all conscience, no lack of hepatics. Some of my early success in practice was due to my use of Chelidonium.

It came about thus: I went to see and important lady for a well-known physician in the north, he being too busy to attend, but said lady strongly objected to new doctors. She took a look at me- as I subsequently learned- from a position where she herself was invisible to me, and did not like the look of me. So I was sent away with many apologies from the daughter. Her hepatalgia was easier just at that moment; she would wait till her own physician would come.

A few days later the pain in her right side became unbearable, and said physician again sent me. This time I was admitted and found her in very great pain in the hepatic region; she had it at intervals for very many years- about thirty years, if I remember rightly. The liver was very much enlarged and the pains very acute; there was no jaundice, the tongue mapped.

I mixed some Chelidonium majus and had it given pretty frequently: it eased the pain more promptly than ever the pain had been relieved before, and finally cured it altogether. Her whole life was changed. To make amends for having refused to see me on my first calling upon her she presented me with a piece of plate, and sent me subsequently very many of her suffering friends.

So einflusserich was this venerable dame that I feel her practical influence to this very day.

This cure, and its gratifying results to a struggling young doctor, fixed my attention a good deal upon Chelidonium, and upon liver affections, which are everywhere so common; and it has been my lot to relieve or cure a very large number of liver diseases- and from this wide experience I now write.

My first real acquaintance with Chelidonium was from Dr. Richard Hughes’s “Pharmacodynamics,” a work to which I owe so much, and which I sincerely commend to all who wish to understand the actions of drugs.

I would not be too sure of my botanic knowledge, but I have an idea that Chelidonium is the only plant, indigenous to this country, which possesses a yellow juice. That the colour of this juice led to its use in liver diseases on the lines of the doctrine of Signatures the historically competent will hardly deny. That it has a specific affinity for the great gall-organ anyone may verify for himself if he will take a few drachms of the mother tincture in divided doses. It is kindly and gentle in its action which action is fully set up with only a very minute dose, but in as much as my more intimate knowledge of it comes to me from the Rademacherians, I have generally used it in small material doses.

It will be interesting to give Rademacher’s experience with Chelidonium.

He used it as an organ remedy, or in other words on the homoeopathic principle in its elementary form of specificity of – ————————————————————- the organopathy of the Hohenheimians and the specificity of seat of the homoeopaths, in my work entitled “Diseases of the Spleen and Their Remedies Clinically Illustrated” that I may fairly refer my readers hereto in lieu of going over the same ground again here.

RADEMACHER’s USE OF Chelidonium.

Rademacher, with the charming simplicity of really great knowledge, tells us in regard to Chelidonium, that he had long despised it is worthless, and confessedly to his shame, for he remarks that it was a celebrated hepatic remedy in olden times. (See his Erfarhrungs sheillehre, p. 163.)

He then enters into a long dissertation upon its action and comes to the conclusion that it affects the “inner liver.” He says a physician need have no great experience to know that the disease of the liver that in its perfected form shews itself as jaundice, has endless gradations that in every day life and in medical speech are not regarded as jaundice. Still the very slightest degree of the jaundice affection shews itself in the urine by its pale gold colour, and in the skin, particularly in that of the face, by its more or less dirty look. And where there is but little gall in the motions and no icteric discolouration of the skin, it follows that we have in such cases to deal with not merely an obstruction to the outflow of the gall into the duodenum, but with that unknown organ by which the gall is prepared from the blood; this gall-making organ is ill so that bile is not duly prepared at all, and therefore none can be either poured out or absorbed into the skin, or cast out by the urine. This is what Rademacher calls the “inner liver,” not indeed as an anatomical expression, but as a figure of speech to convey to the mind a more or less accurate and concrete conception of the sphere of action of the Chelidonium majus.

This conception of the true sphere of action of Chelidonium is, I think, correct. The cases cited by Rademacher are mostly “bilious fevers.”

Where the gall ducts are alone implicated he considers Nux vomica the right remedy. Hence Chelidonium would be indicated in alcoholism as well as in jaundice when the affection is primary to the “inner liver.”

Rademacher’s favorite mode of using it is the simple juice of the plant with just as much alcohol as will clarify and preserve it. His dose was at one time one scruple of his tincture a day, but in chronic cases of liver affections he subsequently came down to two or three drops a dose, given four or five times a day. He even came down to one-drop doses diluted in half-a- cupful of water, till at last he thinks he might be accused of copying the homoeopathic posology of “Mr. Hahnemann!” He tells us however, (“Erfarhrung sheillehre,”p. 176), that he first appreciated the curative value of small doses from Helmont, drugs might have great curative effects.

But Rademacher confesses that he at first did not clearly perceive the importance of the small dose until he had got rid of his earlier and more gross views, and came from diligent observation to get concise views of primary organ diseases as they really exist in nature. In a foot note (p. 176), he protests that the small dose cannot be correctly spoken of as “homoeopathic,” but as being the property of Paracelsus, and refers to the eleventh chapter of the fifth book of Hohenheim’s “Chirurgische Schriften,” De Causis et origine luis Gallicoe, which he recommends his readers to peruse attentively, and concludes thus… “wenn sie dieses gethan, werden sie wol nicht mehr von homoopathischen Arzeneigaben sprechen, sondern sie werden begreifen, dass die Wahrheit-unwag und unmessbare Arzeneigaben konnen, wenn das durch Krankheit veranderte Verhaltniss des Korpers zur Aussenwelt sich dazu eigene, wundervolle Heilwir kungen aussern-mit der sogenannten homoopathischen Theorie gar nicht in Beruhrung kommt.”

In other words… unweighable and unmeasurable doses of remedies can produce wonderfully curative effects when the condition of the body in regard to its environment have been altered by disease and thus rendered susceptible thereto, and thus have nothing at all to do with the so called homoeopathic theory.

But this only by the way, I am writing of the Diseases of the Liver; still it is pretty evident that Rademacher in his later days had become conscious that his own practice and teachings were leading him, nilly-willy, homoeopath-wards.


A lady of seventy, stout, and given to very little exercise, came under my observation, and on examination I found her severe and frequent right-sided pains were due to a swelled liver, which was tender in pressure. Skin and conjunctivae subicteric, motions containing but very little bile; urine on the contrary loaded with it. She was at the seaside and this it was, she said, that had upset her liver. Tongue coated, giddy, lowspirited, pulse intermittent, in somnia, lethargic, loss of appetite fear of death.

Chelidonium majus in small material doses resulted in complete recovery in ten days, when she returned home with regular pulse clear eyes and skin, and all the functions normal, and very decidedly of opinion that life, even at seventy years of age, is not at all a bad thing.


A young officer in the Army was invalided home from India for liver and lung disease and came to me.

I found his liver large and tender, the right lung engorged, his skin very muddy, bowels costive, and he was dreadfully depressed and weak. He was quite sure he was in consumption. The lung affection I regarded as consecutive to the engorgement of the liver, there being, in the words of Rademacher, a primary affection of the “inner” liver. Chelidonium in small material doses quite restored him to health in three weeks. In due course he returned to his regiment.


A middle-aged gentleman, a merchant, returned from the East Indies with very severe jaundice, which had resulted in considerable emaciation. The voyage home and a stay of some duration in the north had not mended matters. He was very depressed in spirits, almost the colour of mahogany, and the urine was very scant and brown-yellow. His bowels very constipated.

How quickly and pleasantly he was cured, he even now never tires of telling his Manchester friends.

I might tell of a lady who had severe and long-lasting jaundice and who was speedily cured by Chelidonium, and of a notable number of other cases of liver affections cured by it, but it is needless. What I have a already narrated will suffice.

I would however, just dwell upon the fact that Chelidonium will very frequently cure engorgements of the right lung even when it is concomitant of true Phthisis, but it has no influence over the general phthisical state, other than what pertains to, and results from the lower half of the right lung and liver. As an intercurrent remedy in the septic complications of Phthisis it is capable of rendering important service.

Like wise as an intercurrent remedy in gall stones it is useful, as is also Myrica cerifera, but both stand far behind Hydrastis in this affection.

My own conception of its true seat of action is that it affects the liver cells: Rademacher’s “inner” liver.

There are numerous affections of the liver that Chelidonium will not touch curatively at all, and therefore it must not be regarded as a liver cure-all, which it is not.

For instance, it affects the left lobe of the liver much less than does Carduus Marioe, to a consideration of which we will proceed after having first given a short account of Rademacher’s use of a combination of Chelidonium and Calcarea muriatica.

RADEMACHER’S USE OF Chelidonium AND Liq, Calcarioe muriat.

Our author tells us he is convinced that there exists in nature a liver disease that can only be cured by a mixture of Chelidonium and Liq. Calcarioe muriat.

This is his formula:-

Rx Liq. Calcariae muriat., 3zii.

Tinct. Chelidonii, 3i. M.

He administered fifteen drops in half-a-cupful of water five times a day. With this he cured many cases of grave fevers and hepatic affections that did not mend with either remedy by itself, but he tells us he knows of no reliable or characteristic indications for its choice.

I might add that muriatic acid once had a seemingly well- founded reputation as a liver remedy; and some still esteem it highly.


Certain remedies have very limited special spheres of influence and our power to cure diseases is largely conditioned by our knowledge of such spheres. I am increasingly impressed with the importance of knowing where the remedy acts by special elective affinity. As I have dealt with spleen affections by themselves, without making any special reference to Carduus marioe (the seeds are the officinal part), I will at once exemplify its action here.


A young lady, of sixteen summers, was brought to me by her mother on the seventh of September, 1887, for severe attacks of vomiting that had lasted for three months. She was often roused rudely from her sleep in the morning with an attack of vomiting. Her constitution had been damaged by diphtheria, and eighteen months previously she had varicella. I treated the case symptomatically with great relief to the vomiting, but the pains in the abdomen became rather worse than better.

After I had given her my old favorite Nat. mur. 6 she was still further improved, but there the thing still was : I had relieved the symptoms but I had not cured the real primary seat of the same. I then did what might with advantage have been done before the treatment was begun, viz: I made a careful physical examination of the bare epigastrium and of the two hypochondria. With what result? The note in my case book taken at the time will enlighten us….. “Liver and spleen both very much enlarged so that they seem almost to fill the abdomen.”

Here I had to do with the severe and long-lasting vomiting which yielded partially to close symptomatic treatment but would not get quite well….. (Oh, how often are we in this unsatisfactory state); and a physical examination revealed the reason of my failure I had treated the case with remedies that were homoeopathic to the superficial symptoms, but NOT homoeopathic to the cause of those symptoms; the degree of homoeopathicity was not adequate though it went a long way towards it.

Here I fell back upon my Rademacherian experience with Carduus and gave five drops of the matrix tincture in a tablespoonful of water, night and morning, and this cured the enlargement both of Spleen and of Liver, and as this enlargement was the cause of the pains and vomiting, of course pains and vomiting likewise disappeared.

The only further abnormality which I could discover in the young lady after taking the Carduus marioe for about five weeks was an indurated condition of a few of the cervical glands of her left side: the side on which she had been vaccinated; Thuja occidentalis 30, in infrequent doses, cured these and patient has had no vomiting or any of its concomitants since. She continues well to date.

Although my own prescription of Carduus was from pure experience, there can be hardly any doubt that an adequate proving would shew its homoeopathicity to the case, inclusive of the enlargements of liver and spleen.

Riel’s proving of Carduus shews it to produce pathogenetically: “nausea, uneasiness, pain, vomiting, with inflation of the abdomen, &c.”

The generally improved appearance of the young lady after she had been a month under the Carduus was very striking, and repeatedly remarked upon, by friends who were not acquainted with the circumstances of her ill-health and its treatment at all.

The kind of liver enlargement which Carduus cures is in the transverse measurement.

By way of comparison I will now quite shortly exemplify the kind of enlargement of the liver which is cured by Chelidonium; it will be seen that the comparison is crude and mechanical, yet withal, I submit, not without practical value.


An independent gentlemen of thirty, usually resident in Paris, came over to London to consult me in the early part of the year 1886, and that for his liver and for dyspepsia. He had twice had jaundice in previous times. His symptoms were waterbrash, indigestion, constipation, attacks of intra-abdominal chilliness; he was very dusky, his urine had a strongly urinous smell. His liver reaches almost up to the right nipple.

An ounce of the tincture brought the liver back to the normal; the dose was five drops in water, two or three times a day, and sometimes once a day. But altogether he consumed nearly an ounce.

This is the kind of hepatic enlargement which Chelidonium rights in small material doses. But it did not restore the patient to complete health; why? For the simple reason that the increase in the perpendicular measurement of the liver was only a part of his complaint, the other bearings of the case being foreign to my present thesis. Suffice it to say that his liver was cured by the Chelidonium, and patient continues well in these (and now in the other) respects to the present time.

It is well to realize that an organ remedy while capable of curing an organ-disease, and all the concomitant symptoms which arise from the organ-disease, nevertheless can in the nature of things not cure the concomitant symptoms in the patient when these symptoms stand in no nexus with such organ-disease. Thus I treated a young lady for a liver disease and gave her successively Carduus, Chelidonium, Natrum sulphuricum, Taraxacum.

James Compton Burnett
James Compton Burnett was born on July 10, 1840 and died April 2, 1901. Dr. Burnett attended medical school in Vienna, Austria in 1865. Alfred Hawkes converted him to homeopathy in 1872 (in Glasgow). In 1876 he took his MD degree.
Burnett was one of the first to speak about vaccination triggering illness. This was discussed in his book, Vaccinosis, published in 1884. He introduced the remedy Bacillinum. He authored twenty books, including the much loved "Fifty Reason for Being a Homeopath." He was the editor of The Homoeopathic World.