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Botanical Description & Habitat

Fumaria officinalis


Common Names

Common fumitory
Earth smoke
Hedge fumitory

Throughout Europe, waste grounds, along roadsides, arable fields, gardens, vineyards.

Medicinal Parts
The flowering plant, or bush is gathered from May to September, dried.

Historical Properties & Uses

Fumitory has been used since the time of Greeks as a stomachic, laxative and diuretic. From those distant times, right on up through modern folklore, fumitory has acquired and maintain solid reputation for being useful in the treatment of skin eruptions, and for general use as a tonic aperient and diuretic.

In the United States and Germany, it is regarded as one of the best cholagogues, or bile promoters. It is used to treat gallbladder and liver ailments. In Germany, fumitory is one of the most frequently prescribed liver tonics. Larger doses are used as a laxative and diuretic. Fumitory is often combined with other herbs.

In Britain, fumitory is used mainly as a topical agent, as indicated above, for a variety of skin disorders, including rashes, eczema, dermatitis, scabies, exanthema, etc.

Fumitory has approval status by the German Commission E for spastic discomfort in the gall bladder and GI tract.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Fumitory is an Excellent Biliary Tonic
Fumitory contains several alkaloids, the main one being fumarine. Research has shown fumitory alkaloids are spasmolytic. Their effect on the bile duct is profound. In subjects with a very low capacity for bile production, a simple fumitory tea has increased bile production enormously. On the other hand, in subjects with hyperactive bile production, the product inhibit bile flow, and in normal subjects, the tea had no effect--a true biliary tonic.

In humans with biliary colic and chronic dyskinesia of the bile duct, fumitory acts as an excellent regulating agent. Use of fumitory reduces epigastric pain, eliminates headaches, nausea and vomiting, and makes the patient better able to tolerate rich foods.

In Britain, the external uses of fumitory, as discussed in the folklore section, are commonly employed by practitioners.

Fumitory May be a Good Treatment for Allergy and Asthma
Nowhere in common Western folklore is there mention of fumitory as a treatment for allergy, maybe because it can be such a potent eye irritant when burned. Yet, there are compelling reasons why it should be useful in this respect. First, fumitory belongs to a class of plants which are actually a subset of the family Papaveraceae, which contains the opium poppy and other plants with potent alkaloids. Indeed, one of the alkaloids of opium, known as protopin, is identical to fumarine. This same alkaloid is found in corydalis cava, the other important fumitory of the West (fumitories, however, do not contain morphine or other narcotic alkaloids). Protopine may produce bradycardia (the slowing down of the heart rate and pulse) and could be use in treating irregular and high heart beats.

Afghanistan is the only country in which fumitory is used to treat asthma. A research paper from that country in 1973 was the first to report anti-asthma properties in fumitory. It was inspired by folklore claims for a fumitory remedy called Shatara. A simple fumitory tea was able to counteract the effects of histamine under several different circumstances. The antihistaminic, or anti-asthmatic, property of fumitory should be studied more closely.

Fumitory Possesses Anti-inflammatory Activity
In screening trials involving dextran- and serotonin-induced edema, two of the alkaloids of fumitory, protopine (fumarine) and fumoficinaline, showed significant anti-inflammatory activity. The compounds were ineffective against agar-induced edema. Both alkaloids decreased vascular permeability.

Fumitory has Cardiovascular Properties
Research has found fumitory has a strong vasodilating effect on the blood vessels of isolated rabbit ear, a positive inotropic effect on heart muscle and a moderate hypotensive effect. Further, water extracts have been shown to provoke a biphasic hypotensive effect, as the final restoration of blood pressure to initial values occurred after 4-6 hours; other extracts, though hypotensive, do not have the biphasic effect. An alkaloid-free alcohol extract has the strongest hypotensive effect; a 1% solution of this extract in a dose of 0.2ml/kg decreased the blood pressure of cats by almost 70%. This research suggests another good use for fumitory preparations has not as yet caught on.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions
Fumitory, due to its cathartic activity, may potentiate anticoagulant therapy by reducing absorption of vitamin K from the gut. It may also inhibit absorption of dextrose from the intestines.

This cathartic may increase intestinal transit time of digitalis glycosides, inhibit their absorption and cardiac action. But cathartic-induced hypokalmia increases toxicity and potency of absorbed digitalis.

Cathartic-induced hypokalemia potentiates muscle relaxants. In addition to the specific interactions listed, the cathartic action of this herb tend to hasten the passage of all oral medications through the gut and thereby inhibit their action.

In sub-laxative and sub-emetic doses this herb should have no drug interactions. At higher doses, interactions similar to those involving diuretics and cathartics may occur.

Fumitory, insofar as its diuretic action increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride, may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuremic effects of glucose elevating agents.

Possible Interactions
Laxative-induced diarrhea may result in decreased absorption of isoniazid the same is true with sulfisoxazole, but it appears to be a clinically unimportant interaction effect.

The use of diuretics may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs.

The antiinflammatory activity of this herb can be seriously inhibited by phenobarbital and certain other sedatives and hypnotics (chloral hydrate, meprobamate, etc.), as well as beta-adrenergic blocking agents (propanolol).

Colchicine may increase sensitivity or enhance the response to this herb. Fumitory and sparteine may have synergistic oxytocic activity.

Cyclopropane or halogenated hydrocarbon anesthetics may sensitize the myocardium to the cardiotonic effects of this herb, though the chances are very few of this happening.

Fumitory is synergistic with parenteral calcium salts, pancuronium, succinylcholine, rauwolfia alkaloids, ephedrine, epinephrine, and other adrenergic agents.

The inotropic action of this herb may be reduced by propranolol, but the effects of the two substances on av are additive.

Laxative induced increased speed of intestinal emptying may result in decreased absorption of vitamin K and/or anticoagulants.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

The name is derived from Latin fumus, meaning smoke, from the fact getting in the way of the burning plant will irritate the eyes, due to the presence of the irritating alkaloid fumaric acid.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Use three times daily

Liquid Extract
Use 2-5ml of 1:1 in 25% alcohol

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

6 g of the herb.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.


Barre, Y. Migraines et fumaria officinalis. Sem. Therapeutique, 43(5), 307-308, 1967.

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Cahen, R., M. Sautai, S. Taurand & S. Luc. Etude pharmacologique de fumeterre officinalis L.-toxicite: action cardiovasculaire, respiratoire et hepato-biliare. Therapie, 19(2), 357-394, 1964.

Dil, A.H. Antihistamine activity of fumarine. Therapie, 28(4), 767-774, 1973.

Dubarry, JJ: Clinical study on the use of fumitory nebulizer in hepato-biliary pathology. J. med. Board, 1967, 144(6):918.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Dec, 1991.

Giroux, et. al. Therapie, 21. 889. 1966. Chem. Abstracts, 65, 9585, 1966.

Lagrane, E. Effect of spray dried product of fumaria officinalis on experimental gallbladder lithiasis in mice. Annales Pharmaceutiques Francaises, 31(5), 357-362, 1973.

Molokhova, L.G., M.L. Suslina, S.B. Datskovskii & B.A. Figurkin. Tr. Perms. Gos. Med. Inst., 118, 26, 1973. Chem Abstracts, 157854t, 1973.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Murav'eva, D.B. Isolation of fumaritine from drug fumitory. Khimya I Meditsina, 8(11), 32-34.

Petkov, Tsonev, Raynova & Penova. Pharmacological studies of some Bulgarian plants with hypotensive and smooth muscle actions. Proceedings of the Postgraduate Medical Institute, 15(3), 169-174, 1968.

Raynova, L, I. Tsonev, V. Petkov & M. Penova. On the hypotensive action of fumaria officinalis. Experimentalna Medizina i Morfologia, 7(2), 107-113, 1968.

Raynova, Tsonev, Petkov, Penova, Ivancheva & Marinov, On the active principles and pharmacodynamics of the plants fumaria officinalis and geranium marorrhizum. Proceedings of the Postgraduate Medical Institute, 16(1), 119-125, 1969.

Tariverdieva, S.A. Proceedings of the All-Union Pharmaceutical Conference in Baku, Leningrad: Medizin, 1964, pp. 448-450.

Torck, M. Flavonoids of fumaria officinalis. Annales Pharmaceutiques Francaises, 29, 591, 1971.


Fumaria officinalis

? Southwest School of Botanical Medicine


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