088. Fumaria officinalis. Common Fumitory.

Botanical name: 

088. Fumaria officinalis. 088. Fumaria officinalis. C. Synonyma. Fumaria. Pharm. Edinb.
Fumaria officinarum et Dioscoridis. Bauh. Pin. p. 143.
Fumaria purpurea. Gerard. Emac. p. 1088.
Fumaria vulgaris. Park. Theat. p. 287. Raii Hist. p. 405. Synop. p. 284.
Fumaria foliis multifidis lobis subrotunde lanceolatis; fructibus monospermis. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 346. Hudson Flor. Ang. p. 270. Lightfoot Flor. Scot. p. 379. Curtis Flor. Lond. n. 112. Withering Bot. Arrang. p. 751.

Class Diadelphia. Ord. Hexandria. Lin. Gen. Plant. 849.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cal. dyphyllus. Cor. ringens. Filamenta 2, membranacea, singula Antheris 3.
Spec. Char. F. pericarpiis monospermis racemosis, caule diffuso.

The root is annual, slender, and fibrous: the stalk is spreading, smooth, somewhat angular, bending, much branched, and usually rises above a foot in height: the leaves are compound, doubly pinnated, pinnulae trilobed, of a pale green colour, and standing upon slender footstalks: the flowers are of a reddish purple colour, and grow in spikes, which arise from the axillae of the leaves: the bractae are linear, purplish, and placed at the base of the peduncles: the calyx is composed of two deciduous equal leafits, slightly indented at the edges: the corolla is oblong, tubular, gaping, or ringent, the palate projecting so as to fill up the mouth; the upper lip dilated at the tip, keel-shaped, hollow beneath, turned a little upwards at the margin, and at the base obtuse, and curled inward; the lower lip is nearly similar to the upper; the lateral petals cohere at the top, and form a quadrangular mouth, in which there are three divisions on the upper and lower part: the filaments are two, membranous, broad at the base, and each furnished with three yellowish anthers: the germen is oval: the style is filiform, about the length of the filaments, and crowned with a flattish downy stigma: the seed is roundish, and contained in a small heart-shaped pod. Fumitory is common in corn fields, and usually flowers in May.

By the Ancients this plant was named Capnos, [(greek) Dioscor. (greek) Gal. i. e. fumus — "Claritatem facit inunctis oculis,delachrymationemque, ceu fumus; unde nomen." Plin. L. 25. cap. 13. See also Galen. Simp. Lib. 7. p. 49.] from being thought to be peculiarly useful in dimness of sight, and other diseases of the eyes. The leaves, which are the part of the plant directed for medicinal use by the Edinburgh College, are extremely succulent, and have no remarkable smell, but a bitter somewhat saline taste. "The expressed juice, and a decoction of the leaves in water, inspissated to the consistence of extracts, are very bitter, and considerably saline; on standing for some time they throw up to the surface copious saline efflorescences, in figure somewhat resembling the crystals of nitre, to the taste bitterish and slightly pungent. A tincture of the dry leaves, in rectified spirit, yields, on inspissation, an extract less in quantity and bitterer in taste than either the watery extract or inspissated juice." [Lewis M. M. p. 315.] Fumitory has been supposed by several Physicians of great authority, [Aetius, Boerhaave, F. Hoffman, and many others. The juice of Dandelion and Fumitory is greatly commended by Leidenfrost in obstinate diseases of the skin. See Diss. de succis herb. &c. An infusion of the leaves is used as a cosmetic to remove freckles and clear the skin.] both ancient and modern, to be very efficacious in opening obstructions and infarctions of the viscera, particularly those of the hepatic system: it is also highly commended for its power of correcting a scorbutic and acrimonious state of the fluids; and has therefore been employed in various cutaneous diseases; when taken in pretty large doses it proves diuretic and laxative, especially the juice, which may be mixed with whey, and used as a common drink. Dr. Cullen classes this plant among the tonics; he says, "it is omitted in the London dispensatory, but retained in ours, and in every other that I know of. I have found it useful in many cases in which bitters are prescribed; but its remarkable virtues are those of clearing the skin of many disorders. For this it has been much commended; and I have myself experienced its good effects in many instances of cutaneous affections, which I would call Lepra. I have commonly used it by expressing the juice, and giving that to two ounces twice a day: but I find the virtues remain in the dried plant, so that they may be extracted by infusion or decoction in water; and the foreign dispensatories have prepared an extract of it, to which they ascribe all the virtues of the fresh plant." [M. M. vol. ii. p. 77.]

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.