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Fumitory

Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018

What is Fumitory?

Fumitory is an annual plant of somewhat variable characteristics, often resembling a bush, but also growing as a low, trailing shrub. It has gray, pointed leaves that, at a distance, give the plant a wispy appearance of smoke (hence the common name). The pink-purple flower blooms in spring. The flowering plant (aerial parts) traditionally has been used in herbal medicine. The climbing fumitory, or Allegheny vine, is a North American plant of another genus (Adlumia). Several genera of the family are native to South Africa.

Scientific Name(s)

Fumaria officinalis

Common Name(s)

Fumitory also is known as common fumitory, and earth smoke.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Fumitory has been known since antiquity and was described in herbals from the Middle Ages. Fumitory is a predominantly Mediterranean genus that once was used medicinally. Traditional preparation involved expressing the juice and evaporating it. In traditional medicine, the plant has been used to treat eczema and other dermatologic conditions. It has been used as a laxative and diuretic. Fumaria species are used in Turkish folk medicine as a blood purifier and an anti-allergic agent.

Miscellaneous uses

Fumitory has a long history of use in traditional medicine and has been investigated for its therapeutic potential in the management of cardiovascular and hepatobiliary disorders and psoriasis. Limited evidence suggests that fumitory may have cardiovascular benefits, but there is no clinical data to substantiate this claim. Fumaria extracts also may be useful in the management of disorders of the hepatobiliary tract. F. officinalis is approved in Germany for the colicky pain affecting the gallbladder and biliary system, together with the GI tract. F. officinalis is approved in Germany for the colicky pain affecting the gallbladder and biliary system, in addition to the GI tract. Furmaric acid esters have been used as a treatment for psoriasis for nearly 30 years, and there is renewed interest in this area by dermatologists. Research also reveals no clinical data regarding the use of fumitory for diabetes, although there is 1 animal study indicating its potential use in lowering glucose levels.

What is the recommended dosage?

None well documented.

Contraindications

None well documented.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Because of the lack of pharmacological and toxicity data for this plant, avoid use of fumitory during pregnancy and lactation.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

In 1 clinical study, adverse effects occurred in up to 69% of the patients, with GI complaints (56%) and flushing (31%) being the most common symptoms.

Toxicology

Fumitory is not associated with clinically important toxicity, but large quantities of other members of the family have caused fatal outcomes.

References

1. Fumitory. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2004. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 16, 2007.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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