Fumaria officinalis

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Fumaria officinalis
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Papaveraceae
Genus: Fumaria
Species: F. officinalis
Binomial name
Fumaria officinalis

Fumaria officinalis, the common fumitory, drug fumitory or earth smoke, is a herbaceous annual flowering plant in the poppy family Papaveraceae. It is the most common species of the genus Fumaria in Western and Central Europe.


It is an herbaceous annual plant that grows weakly erect and scrambling, with stalks about 10–50 cm (3.9–19.7 in) long. It has slender green leaves.[1] Its pink 7–9 mm (0.28–0.35 in) flowers appear from April to October in the northern hemisphere,[2] or May to September in the UK.[1] They are two lipped and spurred, with sepals running a quarter the length of the petals.[2] The plant commonly has more than 20 and up to 60 flowers per spike.[3] The fruit is an achene containing one seed. It is approximately globular, slightly wider than high and with an apical notch.[3] It contains alkaloids, potassium salts, and tannins and is also a source of fumaric acid.[citation needed]


It was first formally described by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in his seminal publication 'Species Plantarum' on page 700, in 1753.[4][5]

There are 2 known subspecies:

  • Fumaria officinalis subsp. cilicica (Hausskn.) Lidén
  • Fumaria officinalis subsp. wirtgenii (Koch) Arcang.[4]


Flower and leaves of Fumaria officinalis

The "smoky" or "fumy" origin of its name comes from the translucent color of its flowers, giving them the appearance of smoke or of hanging in smoke, and the slightly gray-blue haze color 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, and 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.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is native to temperate regions of North Africa, Europe and parts of Western Asia.[7]


It is found in North Africa, within Macaronesia, Canary Islands, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. Within Western Asia it is found in the Caucasus, Cyprus, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Siberia, Syria and Turkey. In eastern Europe, it is found within Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine. In middle Europe, it is in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland. In northern Europe, in Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and United Kingdom. In southeastern Europe, within Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. Also in southwestern Europe, it is found in France, Portugal and Spain.[7]


It was traditionally thought to be good for the eyes, and to remove skin blemishes.[citation needed] In modern times herbalists use it to treat skin diseases, and conjunctivitis;[citation needed] as well as to cleanse the kidneys.[citation needed] However, Howard (1987) warns that fumitory is poisonous and should only be used "under the direction of a medical herbalist."[8]

Chemical constituents[edit]

Fumaria officinalis

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.[9]


  1. ^ a b Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain. Reader's Digest. 1981. p. 37. ISBN 9780276002175.
  2. ^ a b Fitter, Richard; Fitter, Alastair; Blamey, Marjorie (1974). The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe. London: Collins. p. 78. ISBN 0-00-219057-5.
  3. ^ a b Murphy, R.J. (2009). Fumitories of Britain and Ireland. BSBI Handbbok No. 12. London: Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. ISBN 9780901158406.
  4. ^ a b "Fumaria officinalis L. is an accepted name". theplantlist.org. 23 March 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Papaveraceae Fumaria officinalis L." ipni.org. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  6. ^ The Names of Plants, Fourth Edition, Gledhill, D. (1985–2008). The Names of Plants. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 443. ISBN 978-0-521-86645-3.
  7. ^ a b "Taxon: Fumaria officinalis L." ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  8. ^ Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies (century, 1987). pp142-3.
  9. ^ Vrba, J.; Vrublova, E.; Modriansky, M.; Ulrichova, J. (2011). "Protopine and allocryptopine increase mRNA levels of cytochromes P450 1A in human hepatocytes and HepG2 cells independently of AhR". Toxicology Letters. 203 (2): 135–141. doi:10.1016/j.toxlet.2011.03.015. PMID 21419197.