Fumitory - Encyclopedia




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FUMITORY, in botany, the popular name for the British species of Fumaria, a genus of small, branched, often climbing annual herbs with much-divided leaves and racemes of small flowers. The flowers are tubular with a spurred base, and in the British species are pink to purplish in colour. They are weeds of cultivation growing in fields and waste places. F. capreolata climbs by means of twisting petioles. In past times fumitory was in esteem for its reputed cholagogue and other medicinal properties; and in England, boiled in water, milk or whey, it was used as a cosmetic. The root of the allied species (Corydalis cava or tuberosa) is known as radix aristolochia, and has been used medicinally for various cutaneous and other disorders, in doses of io to 30 grains. Some eleven alkaloids have been isolated from it. The herbage of Fumaria officinalis and F. racemosa is used in China under the name of Tsze-hwa-ti-ting as an application for glandular swellings, carbuncles and abscesses, and was formerly valued in jaundice, and in cases of accidental swallowing of the beard of grain (see F. Porter Smith, Contrib. towards the Mat. Medica. .. of China, p. 99, 1871). The name fumitory, Latin fumus terrae, has been supposed to be derived from the fact that its juice irritates the eyes like smoke (see Fuchs, De historia stirpium, p. 338, 1542); but The Grete Herball, cap. clxix., 1529, fol., following the De simplici medicina of Platearius, fo. xciii. (see in Nicolai Praepositi dispensatorium ad aromatarios, 1536), says: "It is called Fumus terre fume or smoke of the erthe bycause it is engendred of a cours fumosyte rysynge frome the erthe in grete quantyte lyke smoke: this grosse or cours fumosyte of the erthe wyndeth and wryeth out: and by workynge of the ayre and sonne it turneth into this herbe."

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