Fumitory – characteristics, cultivation and use

flower of fumitory
flower of fumitory

Fumitory may be unknown to many. In natural medicine, the plant belonging to the poppy family has been used for many years for complaints of bile ducts and stomach cramps. The alkaloids contained in fumitory have an antispasmodic and bile-flow regulating effect.

Profile of fumitory:

Scientific name: Fumitory officinalis (Papaveraceae)

Plant family: poppy family

Other names: common fumitory, drug fumitory, earth smoke

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: June – September

Harvest time: July – October

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, shoots

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: nutrient-rich and permeable soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: psoriasis, eczema, biliary disorders, biliary colic, indigestion, stomach cramps

Use as aromatic herb: no use

Plant characteristics and classification of fumitory

Origin and Occurrence of fumitory

The area of origin of fumitory can not be narrowed down exactly. However, it is certain that the plant is at home in the northern Mediterranean as well as in Central and Western Europe. The plant has a high ecological tolerance and is therefore spread almost worldwide. It occurs wild in both North and South America as well as in North Africa and Asia. It is very rare in tropical areas.

Fumitory can be found mainly in nutrient-rich locations. Good opportunities offer dumps, fallow and wasteland as well as the edges of agricultural fields.

Plant order of fumitory

Fumitory (Fumitory officinalis) belongs to the poppy family. Occasionally, it is also referred to as common fumitory or earth smoke. The plant is directly related to other poppy species such as the poppy or the California gold poppy. The genus of fumitory includes about 50 species.

Characteristics of the fumitory

Plant

The common fumitory is a typical herbaceous plant that grows only once a year. It usually reaches stature heights between 15 and 50 cm (6 and 20 in) and grows upright. The plant tends to form shallow roots, which are usually thin and of whitish to light brown color. The roots themselves usually have only a few short root hairs.

Leaves

The leaves have a gray-green to bluish-green color, which are eponymous for plant. The slightly greyish color appears as if the leaves had been smoked briefly. The shape of the leaves is clearly pinnated with a smooth or clearly rounded leaf margin, as the leaves grow alternately on the edged and also gray to blue-green stems.

Flowering

The heyday of the common fumitory is usually expected between mid-June to early September. There, the plant produces blue-red, pink or purple flowers, which in each case grow more and more on a racemose inflorescence. Its flowers are always hermaphrodite and can reach up to one centimeter (0.4 in) in length. The tip of the flower crown shows a much darker color.

Ripeness

After fertilization of the flowers, which is usually done by insects, the flowers form up to 3 mm (0.12 in) long nut fruits. These show a clear emargination. Each nut fruit carries only one seed.

fumitory with pink, purple flowers
fumitory with pink, purple flowers

Fumitory – sowing, cultivation and care

The common fumitory is used in most cases as a medicinal plant. However, some gardeners also enjoy the magnificent flowers of the plant, which is why it is occasionally cultivated. Basically, the cultivation is easy, but sowing can sometimes be a game of patience.

Location

Common fumitory tolerates both sunny and partially shaded locations. Preferably, however, are more sunny locations, which usually promise better growth.

Soil

The soil should be nutrient-rich, humus-rich and well-drained.

Sowing

The dark brown seeds can be sprinkled directly into the field in spring from April. Pre-culture is not necessary and not recommended. The sowing depth should be between 3 and 5 cm (1.2 and 2 in). Fumitory is a dark germ! The planting distance between the plants should be at least 20 cm (8 in), otherwise there would be too much nutrient competition. After a germination period of about 20 to 30 days, the first plantlets appear. It is quite possible that a bigger proportion of the seed does not sprout. Occasionally, some seeds germinate only the following year.

Pot culture

Fumitory can easily be kept as a pot culture. For this a commercial herbal soil will do. Since the plant roots only shallow, a pot or bucket with a maximum depth of 10 cm (4 in) is sufficient.

Fertilizing

If a good nutrient-rich soil is available, additional fertilization is usually unnecessary. If the plants are to grow again at the same location in the following year, smaller amounts of compost, which is superficially processed under the soil, are sufficient. Potted cultures often require a phosphorus-containing fertilizer before flowering, which can be added with irrigation water at the beginning of June.

Watering

Fumitory has a rather moderate water requirement. The plant has a fairly high tolerance: both short-term dry phases and wet phases are usually tolerated easily. In the garden, the herb need no special treatment. The plants can be poured as normal. For prolonged periods of hot weather, however, it may be beneficial to water the plants in the evenings.

Diseases and pests

Due to its ingredients, fumitory is rarely the target of harmful insects. Occasionally, aphids may occur, but in most cases they are not a problem. In case of unfavorable site conditions or more serious care mistakes, downy mildew can occur. These show up on the underside of leaves usually in the form of yellowish-gray to bluish-gray evidence. Cause are usually too small planting distances or too much moisture.

Wintering

The common fumitory is an annual plant, so overwintering is not required.

leaves of fumitory
leaves of fumitory

Use of fumitory

Fumitory as a kitchen herb

The herb is not used in the kitchen.

Fumitory as a medicinal herb

The herb has a long tradition as a medicinal plant. The plant has been used since ancient times. In recent years, the plant has been studied more intensively, so that the scientific medicine partly relies on fumitory preparations. The main application of the medicinal plant are mainly functional complaints of the digestive system.

In herbal books of the Middle Ages, fumitory was already described intensively. The plant was used for both internal and external complaints. It was recommended with constipation of the liver, as a cholinergic agent and for diarrhea. Mainly tea infusions were described, which were prepared in part with other medicinal herbs such as the viper’s bugloss. Externally, its indications were used for clear eyes as well as scabies.

Fumitory can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • biliary colic
  • constipation
  • depression
  • eczema
  • hemorrhoids
  • hypochondria
  • liver weakness
  • migraine
  • skin problems
  • skin inflammation
  • worms

Medicinal properties

  • antispasmodic
  • blood purifier
  • diuretic
  • sweaty

The most common way to apply fumitory is tea. Since the ingredients of the plant are not completely unproblematic, it is best to use it in mixed teas, so you do not take such large amounts of fuming.

Preparation of a fumitory tea

Time needed: 10 minutes.

This is how to prepare a fumitory tea by yourself

  1. put one to two teaspoons of fumitory in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. let steep for 10 minutes

  4. drink in small sips

  5. from this tea you drink one to three cups daily.

As with all powerful herbs, you should take a break after six weeks of continuous use and temporarily drink another tea with a similar effect. Afterwards you can drink fumed tea again for six weeks. The break avoids any unwanted long term effects and the desired fuming efficiency is maintained and does not diminish through habituation.

Inwardly use

Fumitory can be used internally, as a tea or tincture against bile weakness and liver problems. In addition, it helps against constipation and other digestive problems. Added to this is the use against migraines, headaches and depressive moods.

Externally use

Externally, you can apply fumitory tea in the form of envelopes, baths or washes. With this type of application you can relieve eczema. The herb also helps against dermatitis when used externally.

Side effects

When used properly, side effects are rarely expected. Excessive use of the alkaloids in the plant can cause abdominal pain and nausea.

Disclaimer:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy fumitory – What is there to consider?

Gardeners, who would like to plant the herb in the garden or on the balcony, are likely to find what they are looking for, especially in online trading with special seed traders. Fresh plants are rarely offered. Occasionally one can find on seasonal plant markets. The price for a package of seeds is about 3 EUR/$.

A relatively large number of traders offer dried fumitory leaves. The prices vary between 3 and 8 EUR per 100 grams / 3.5 oz. The quality varies quite a bit. Especially for healing purposes, however, only shredded leaves should be included.

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