Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Ranunculales
Family Fumariaceae
Genus Fumaria
Species F. officinalis
Binomial name Fumaria officinalis

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the herb fumitory are Earth-smoke, Hedge Fumitory, Wax Dolls, Beggary, Fumus, Vapor, Nidor, Fumus Terrae, Scheiteregi, Taubenkropp and Kaphnos.


In the ninth century medical writing of the great Arab doctor and philosopher all kind fumitory is used medicinally as it still is today in the Middle East. In 1964 Castevetto suggested boiling fumitory with hops and other greens to make a kind of healthful concoction. Fumitory is an annual herb growing up to 30 inches tall with slender stems and many limp branches in cultivated soil in Europe and America. Its virtues are chiefly tonic, and those who suffer from diseases of the stomach know too well that a tonic, if properly defined, is, simple as it may be, one of the most important remedies for human ailments nature has provided.

Though Culpepper recommended the whole plant, but the modern decision is to use the leaves, gathered at the proper times, alone. They have no odor, but taste bitter under all circumstances. They are to be used when fresh, and possess the same qualities as Culpepper affixes to the fresh root. In the Greco- Roman world fumitory's name was kapnos, the Greek for smoke. According to both authorities, the plant got the name smoke from its sharp-tasting juice, which causes the eyes to tear as they would from smoke.


Fumitory is an annual, glaucous plant, with a sub-erect, much branched, spreading, leafy and angular stem, growing from ten to fifteen inches high.

The leaves are mostly alternate. The gray-green leaves are divided into triangular toothed leaflets. At the top of the branches stand many small flowers, as it were in a long spike one above another, made like little birds, of a reddish purple colour, with whitish bellies, after which come small round husks, containing small black seeds. The root is small, yellow, and not very long, and full of juice when it is young. The fruit, or nut, is ovoid or globose, one-seeded or valveless. The seeds are crestless. It is self-fertile, and sets every seed.


It is native to Europe and North Africa; fumitory also grows in Asia, North America, and Australia.


The fumitory is always said to thrive best in cornfields and gardens. The plant flowers almost throughout the summer in fields, gardens, and on banks, and in ditches, spreading with great rapidity.


Fumitory prefers light and well-drained soil in a sunny position. This plant can be a common weed in some gardens, self-sowing freely, though it is fairly easy to control by and weeding. The flowers are seldom visited by insects, but they are self-fertile and usually set every seed. Seeds are sown in spring in situ. There is normally very little need to sow this seed, the plant normally self-sows freely and should manage quite nicely by itself.

Parts Used


The flowering aerial parts and the herb of fumitory are most commonly used for its medicinal and commercial purposes.

Flowering Season

At the ends of the branches bloom elongated clusters of small, tubular, pink-purple, crimson-tipped flowers which is in bloom between May to September.

Pests and Diseases

Tulip fire is the major diseases affecting this crop. Apart from this occasionally it is also affected by aphids and powdery mildew.

Medicinal Applications


• A decoction makes a curative lotion for milk-crust on the scalp of an infant. The Japanese make a tonic from it.

• French and German physicians still prefer it to most other medicines as a purifier of the blood; while sometimes the dried leaves are smoked in the manner of tobacco, for disorders of the head.

• An ointment made from fumitory improved eyesight and prevented eyelashes that had been pulled out from growing again.

• Fumitory stimulates liver function, rid the body of impurities, and clear up certain skin infections.

• Recent research suggests that fumitory contains substances that act on the heart and on blood pressure.

• Fumitory is used in the treatment of skin problems such as eczema and acne.

• Fumitory may also be used as eyewash to ease conjunctivitis.

• It is used, in combination, with excellent effect in cutaneous diseases, liver complaints, such as jaundice, costiveness, scurvy, and in debility of the stomach.

• When gargled it helps to treat sores of the mouth and throat.

Commercial Applications

• The flowers are used to make a yellow dye for wool.

• The flowers and tops have been applied, macerated in wine, to dyspepsia, with partial good effect.


The herb fumitory is strongly said to be ruled by the planet Saturn.

Quotes from History

Physicians and writers from Dioscorides to Chaucer, and from the fourteenth century to Cullen and to modern times value its purifying power. Shakespeare makes several references to the herb.Dr. Cullen, among its good effects in cutaneous disorders, mentions the following 'There is a disorder of the skin, which, though not attended with any alarming symptoms of danger to the life of the patient, is thought to place the empire of beauty in great jeopardy; the complaint is frequently brought on by neglecting to use a parasol, and may be known by sandy spots, vulgarly known as freckles, scattered over the face.

Now, be it known to all whom it may concern, that the infusion of the leaves of the above described plant is said to be an excellent specific for removing these freckles and clearing the skin; and ought, we think, to be chiefly employed by those who have previously removed those moral blemishes which deform the mind, or degrade the dignity of a reasonable and an immortal being.'

According to the first - century A.D. naturalist Pliny, an ointment made from fumitory improved eyesight and prevented eyelashes that had been pulled out from growing again. Pliny's contemporary Dioscorides added that fumitory when taken internally worked as a diuretic. In Shakespeare's day fumitory was sold in apothecary shops under the Latin name fumus terrae ("earth-smoke"), and according to an herb book published at that time, an extract of the plant or a syrup made from its juice served to stimulate liver function, rid the body of impurities, and clear up certain skin infections.

Folklores and Myths

The name is said to be derived either from the fact that its whitish, blue-green colour gives it the appearance of smoke rising from the ground, or, according to Pliny, because the juice of the plant brings on such a flow of tears that the sight becomes dim as with smoke, and hence its reputed use in affections of the eye. According to the ancient exorcists, when the plant is burned, its smoke has the power of expelling evil spirits, it having been used for this purpose in the famous geometrical gardens of St. Gall. There is a legend that the plant was produced, not from seed, but from vapours arising out of the earth. Folk belief credits fumitory with a special power to confer long life.