Fumaria (fumitory or fumewort, from Latin fūmus terrae, "smoke of the earth") is a genus of about 60 species of annual flowering plants in the family Papaveraceae. Fumaria species are important plants used as a herbal medicine. The genus is native to Europe, Africa and Asia, most diverse in the Mediterranean region, and introduced to North and South America and Australia. Fumaria indica contains the alkaloids fuyuziphine and alpha-hydrastine. Fumaria indica may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic potential.
Fumaria officinalis (common fumitory, drug fumitory or earth smoke) is a herbaceous annual flowering plant and the most common species of the genus Fumaria in Western and Central Europe. It has been introduced into and grows successfully in the New World and Oceania, becoming in many cases a rampant weed.
It is a herbaceous annual plant, which grows weakly erect and scrambling, with stalks about 10 to 50 cm long. Its 7 to 9 mm flowers appear from April to October in the northern hemisphere adn may be coloured pink or white with dark burgundy lips. They are two lipped and spurred, with sepals running a quarter the length of the petals. The fruit is an achene. It contains alkaloids, potassium salts, and tannins. It is also a major source of fumaric acid.
The "smoky" or "fumy" origin of its name comes from the translucent colour of its flowers, giving them the appearance of smoke or of hanging in smoke, and the slightly gray-blue haze colour of its foliage, also resembling smoke coming from the ground, especially after morning dew. The plant was already called fūmus terrae (smoke of the earth) in the early 13th century.
Two thousand years ago, Dioscorides wrote in De Materia Medica (Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς) and Pliny the Elder in Naturalis Historia that rubbing the eyes with the sap or latex of the plant causes tears, like acrid smoke (fūmus) does to the eyes. Its Greek name is kapnos (καπνός, for smoke) and the name fumewort now applies mostly to the genus Corydalis, especially the similar looking Corydalis solida (formerly Fumaria bulbosa), which was thought to belong to the same genus as fumitory.
It was traditionally thought to be good for the eyes, and to remove skin blemishes. In modern times herbalists use it to treat skin diseases, and conjunctivitis; as well as to cleanse the kidneys. However, it should be remembered that fumitory is poisonous and should only be used under the direction of a medical herbalist.
The plant contains isoquinoline alkaloids protopine and allocryptopine. Both protopine and allocryptopine increased CYP1A1 and CYP1A2 mRNA levels in human hepatocyte cells. The use of products containing protopine and/or allocryptopine may be considered safe in terms of possible induction of CYP1A enzymes.
In the language of flowers, fumitory signifies anger and the message it gives a recipient is: ‘I have expelled you from my thoughts.’ Sending fumitory foliage to someone means: ‘I do not wish to talk with you further at this time’.
This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.