Figwort: External Use Of The Bulbous White Root

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 texts give external usages. Cook does not specify the part but recommends use of an ointment in lard for burns, inflammation, sore nipples, ringworm, eczema and piles. Wren gives usage internally and externally of the leaf and a poultice of leaves for all cutaneous eruptions including ‘so called’ scrofula, abscesses and wounds. The National Botanic Pharmacopoeia repeats the external usage for scrofulous sores, abscesses and gangrene. Use of a fomentation is advised for sprains, swellings, inflammations, wounds and diseased parts. Priest & Priest include external use on haemorrhoids. An ethnobotanical survey of 88 people in villages in the northwest Pyrenees, Spain found that the whole plant of Scrophularia auriculata is used externally as an antiseptic and for inflammation.

Figwort: Constituents

Iridoid glycosides

Harpagoside 1.05% (leaves), aucubin 0.43% (leaves), catalpol (trace) (root and aerial part, wild, Germany).

Harpagide, aucubin, catalpol (commercial, Germany).

Scrophuloside A2-A8.

Eighteen acylated iridoid glycosides: aucubin, harpagide, catalpol glycosides and 8 new.

Seeds, catapol-type glycosides: scopolioside A, scrophuloside A4, scrovalentinoside (wild, Ireland).

Scrophularia auriculata L. subsp. pseudoauriculata, iridoid glycosides: scrovalentinoside, scropolioside A; saponins: verbascosaponin A, verbascosaponin; phenylethanoid glycoside: verbascoside (wild, Spain).

Phenylpropanoids

Phenylethanoid glycosides: seven known and two new.

Flavonoids

Diosmin, acacetin rhamnoside.