Scrophularia nodosa Family: Scrophulariaceae Part used: aerial parts, root The genus contains over 200 species, which are mainly perennials. The erect stems are usually square with opposite leaves and bear lobed flowers, so can be confused with members of the Lamiaceae family. Distinguishing features of Scrophularia species are the terminal branched flowerheads and the characteristic staminodes (enlarged non-fertile stamens) and seed cases. The Flora of Turkey gives 56 Scrophularia species, including Scrophularia nodosa. Scrophularia nodosa L. is a native, herbaceous perennial found in damp places. It is widespread in Europe. Smooth, erect, four-sided stems (50-120 cm) with acute stem-angles, bear serrate, opposite leaves with short petioles without stipules. Stalked clusters of small, tubular, five-lobed, greenish purple-brown flowers with a large upper lip occur in July. Under the upper lip is a tongue-shaped staminode. It is pollinated by wasps and the seeds are enclosed in small clusters of hard, brown, egg-shaped capsules. The root is white and tuberous. Other species used Water figwort Scrophularia auriculata L. is a similar plant that is found in wetter places. The stems are taller and more stout with Read more [...]
Archive for category Figwort'
The common thread throughout the authors is the use of figwort for swellings, in particular enlarged cervical glands, and externally for swollen haemorrhoids. The recommendations of Dioscorides (IV 94) are only for external usage. He advises use of the leaves and stems to dissolve indurations (hardenings), tumours, scrofulous swellings of the glands, swellings of the glands and tumours of parotid glands. He gives an application as a plaster with vinegar twice daily, or the decoction as a rinse, and a plaster with salt for spreading ulcers, gangrenes and putrid humours. Translations vary and the term ‘induration’, hardening of the skin, could be linked with swollen glands under the skin, chronic inflammatory skin disease, abscesses or boils. Similar recommendations for external use as a plaster with vinegar are given by Fuchs and Mattioli, with reference back to Pliny, who states that it disperses lymph swellings, scrofula and parotid swellings. Mattioli gives the reference but it is not clear whether this does refer to an entry on figwort as we were not able to confirm this in the edition we used. Fuchs quotes Paul of Aegina as recommending figwort to soften and disperse hard swellings and use of a cataplasm (plaster) Read more [...]
Most recommendations for use of the root are for external usage. Mattioli gives a recipe: the root is collected in autumn, cleaned, pounded with fresh butter and put in a moist place in a covered earthen pot. It is to be left for 15 days and then the butter gradually melted on a slow fire, strained, and applied to bruises, injuries, burns, strumas, tumours and painful joints. This same recipe is given by Bauhin, Gerard and Parkinson. Gerard specifies use in ‘hard kernels’ and ‘haemorrhoid veins, or piles which are in the fundament’. Bauhin further recommends an application of the powdered root to haemorrhoids. Miller gives the same recommendation but no preparation. Parkinson gives a second ointment which he advises for scabs and lepra (the word lepra means a scaly condition of the skin in Greek). It is made using boiled roots or leaves with oil and wax. The term ‘axungia’ is used, which can be a soft animal fat, such as goose fat or the fat around the kidneys, which suggests that in current practice we would use a cream base rather than an ointment. Faivre (2007) gives a similar recipe from Quebec, Canada using 10 g leaves dried to a powder stirred into 10 g suet or beef fat melted with 20 g lard or pig fat and cooled. Later Read more [...]
Figwort is mainly used now internally but Renaissance authors describe external and internal use together. Bauhin recommends a preparation from the root for hard tumours of the glands described as scrofula, since figwort helps by softening a tubercle caused by freezing cold humours. Parkinson recommends the decoction of figwort taken and the bruised herb applied to dissolve congealed, clotted blood after wounds, both internal and external, the kings evil and other ‘knobs and kernels’. Gerard, Parkinson and Miller recommend figwort for scrofula in any part of the body, swellings and painful swelling of haemorrhoids if used inwardly or outwardly, as also cancerous stubborn ulcers. Bauhin gives the advice of 1 drachm (4 g) of root in a drink for worms in the belly but this is not repeated by other authors. Before moving on to a discussion of usage as an alterative, it is worth looking at the description of the qualities of figwort given by the authors and the interpretation of the term scrofula. Fuchs states that figwort dries, thins and disperses, and the bitterness of taste indicates that it is of thin parts. Dodoens describes figwort as hot and dry in the third degree and of subtle parts, and Gerard repeats it as Read more [...]
Wren, followed by the National Botanic Pharmacopoeia, gives the actions of alterative, diuretic and anodyne. Figwort is considered not ‘of paramount importance as an internal remedy”. Priest & Priest repeat Cook’s description as a gently stimulating and relaxing alterative with lower abdominal and pelvic emphasis, but emphasize the deobstruent action on enlarged and engorged lymph glands, for mammary tumours and nodosities and enlarged glands, and externally for haemorrhoids. Deobstruent is a term used to describe the action of removing obstructions to flow, and they suggest the addition of hepatics and more stimulating diuretics. In more recent years, figwort is used as a more general alterative for all skin conditions. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends it for chronic skin disease, eczema, psoriasis and pruritus. Although I have used this plant for 20 years, I had not previously grown it and was unaware of the tuberous roots until reading Dodoens. Going outside, digging a plant and finding the root was quite a shock. In addition, although suggested by recent authors, I have not used it externally. For example, Chevallier recommends external usage in healing wounds, burns, haemorrhoids and ulcers, and Read more [...]
Recent research has led to recommendations for increased use in inflammatory disease, especially in arthritis. This recommendation relies on the iridoid glycoside content. Iridoids are found in many Scrophularia species and an iridoid of special interest in Scrophularia species is harpagoside. This is amongst the active constituents of devil’s claw Harpagophytum procumbens, widely used in arthritis to reduce pain and inflammation. The use of Harpagophytum procumbens is of conservation concern because it is collected in the wild in the Namibian desert. Sesterhenn et al (2007) propose that Scrophularia nodosa could be a useful substitute as they found that the concentration of harpagoside in the leaves is similar to that in tubers of Harpagophytum procumbens. Faivre (2007) argues that the high concentration of harpagoside in a standardized fluid extract prepared from fresh plant material alongside the aucubin found in Scrophularia species but not in Harpagophytum procumbens, and the associated phenolic acids such as ver-bascoside, make Scrophularia nodosa a significant herb in the treatment of functional and arthritic joint disease. Faivre (2007) claims that it is very well tolerated and particularly useful in exacerbations Read more [...]