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Common Fumitory

Fumaria officinalis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Papaveraceae (Poppy)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres long
Fields, gardens, walls, wasteland.

Pink, 4 petals
Pink with dark tips, growing in stalked spikes, tubular and 2-lipped. Individual flowers up to 1cm and usually more than 20 in one spike.
Long globular achene, 1 seeded, notched tip.
Bipinnate leaves with narrowly lobed, slender leaflets. The leaves alternate along their stems and are stalked.
Other Names:
Beggary, Drug Fumitory, Earth-smoke, Fume-of-the-Earth, God's Fingers and Thumbs, Hedge Fumitory, Snapdragon, Wax Dolls.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Fumaria officinalis is a species of flowering plant in the Papaveraceae family. It is native to Europe and western Asia and commonly known as common fumitory. It is an annual or biennial plant that typically grows to 20-50 cm tall. The leaves are delicate and divided into many small, finger-like segments. The flowers are pink or white and grow in dense clusters at the top of the stem. It blooms from spring to summer. Fumaria officinalis has a history of use in traditional medicine, particularly for treating skin conditions such as eczema, and for its diuretic and laxative effects. However, it is also toxic in high doses and should be used under medical supervision.


Common Fumitory, also known as Fumaria officinalis, is a plant species that belongs to the family Papaveraceae. It is a common weed found in many parts of the world, including Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Despite its status as a weed, Common Fumitory has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries.

Appearance and Distribution

Common Fumitory is an annual plant that grows up to 50cm tall. It has a slender stem that is slightly hairy, and its leaves are delicate and finely divided, giving the plant a feathery appearance. The flowers of Common Fumitory are small, pinkish-purple, and arranged in racemes or clusters. They have a distinctive shape, with a spur-like projection at the base of the petals.

Common Fumitory is found in a wide variety of habitats, including cultivated fields, waste ground, and hedgerows. It prefers moist, shaded areas, and is commonly found growing alongside other weeds such as chickweed and shepherd's purse.

Medicinal Properties

Common Fumitory has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It was traditionally used to treat a wide range of ailments, including skin diseases, digestive disorders, and respiratory problems. The plant contains several active compounds, including alkaloids, flavonoids, and organic acids, which are thought to be responsible for its medicinal properties.

One of the most important medicinal uses of Common Fumitory is as a liver tonic. The plant is believed to stimulate the production of bile and improve liver function, making it useful in the treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders. Common Fumitory is also used as a diuretic, helping to increase urine production and flush toxins from the body.

Other traditional uses of Common Fumitory include the treatment of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, as well as respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis. The plant has also been used to improve digestion and relieve constipation.

Modern Uses

Although Common Fumitory is still used in traditional medicine, it is not widely used in modern medicine. However, research has shown that some of the active compounds found in the plant may have potential therapeutic benefits.

For example, studies have shown that the alkaloids in Common Fumitory may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, making them useful in the treatment of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. The flavonoids in the plant have also been found to have antioxidant properties, which may help to protect against cellular damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.


Common Fumitory is generally considered safe when used in moderate amounts for short periods of time. However, like all herbal remedies, it can have side effects and interactions with other medications. People with liver or gallbladder problems should avoid using Common Fumitory, as it may worsen these conditions. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid using the plant, as there is not enough evidence to determine its safety in these populations.

Common Fumitory is a plant species that has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Although it is considered a weed, it has several potential therapeutic benefits, particularly in the treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders. However, more research is needed to determine its safety and efficacy in modern medicine. As with all herbal remedies, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using Common Fumitory.

More Information

Research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms by which Common Fumitory exerts its medicinal effects. However, some studies suggest that the alkaloids found in the plant may have a choleretic effect, meaning that they stimulate the production and secretion of bile by the liver. This may explain why Common Fumitory is traditionally used to treat liver and gallbladder disorders.

The flavonoids in Common Fumitory are believed to have antioxidant properties, which means they can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Common Fumitory is also used as a food source for some animals. It is particularly attractive to birds such as finches and buntings, which feed on the plant's seeds.

Overall, Common Fumitory is a fascinating plant species with a rich history of medicinal use. While more research is needed to fully understand its potential therapeutic benefits, it is clear that this humble weed has much to offer in terms of natural medicine. Whether used in traditional or modern medicine, Common Fumitory remains a valuable and important plant species.

In addition to its medicinal and ecological value, Common Fumitory has also been used in traditional folklore and mythology. In ancient Greece, the plant was associated with the goddess Demeter, who was the goddess of agriculture and fertility. The plant was believed to have the power to help crops grow, and was used in fertility rituals.

In medieval Europe, Common Fumitory was associated with the devil and was believed to have magical powers. It was used in spells and potions, and was believed to be able to protect against evil spirits and curses.

Today, Common Fumitory is still used in some cultures for spiritual and ceremonial purposes. In India, the plant is used in Ayurvedic medicine and is believed to have a purifying effect on the body and mind.

In conclusion, Common Fumitory is a fascinating plant species that has played an important role in human culture and medicine for centuries. While it may be considered a weed by some, it has much to offer in terms of ecological, medicinal, and cultural value. With ongoing research into its potential therapeutic benefits, it is likely that Common Fumitory will continue to be an important plant species for many years to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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