Figwort (botanical name Scrophularia nodosa) is used in the form of a cleansing herb by both cultures in the East as well as the West. There was a time when figwort was called the scrofula plant (this has given the plant its botanical name) and was employed to heal pus filled wounds, abscesses, and also scrofula (also referred to as the ‘King’s Evil). In fact, scrofula is the tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands present inside the neck. Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th century English herbalist and physician, had named the herb ‘throatwort’, as figwort was used for treating this condition. The Chinese herbalists, on the other hand, use the root of S. ningpoensis, a species related to figwort, in the form of a primary medication for treating ‘fire poison’ - the type of pus-filled conditions that are linked to the herb in western nations.
Despite the fact that the figwort has a very unpleasant taste as well as smell, history says that in 1627-1628, the French city La Rochelle was seized by Cardinal Richelieu for 14 months, the Protestant battalion inside was forced to eat nothing but figwort. As a result of this, the French named the herb l’herbe du siege.
Although figwort is a very old therapeutic herb, it is only now that the scientists are identifying a number of its constituents by means of biochemical analysis. Figwort was familiar to the early pharmacists who called it ficaria major and prescribed this herb for treating haemorrhoids. In addition, herbalists also referred to figwort as scrophularia, as it was used for treating scrofulous conditions, for instance tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands as well as other ailments that were marked by eruptions and swellings.
Similar to its close family member foxglove, figwort also encloses a substance that is cardio active and works to fortify the heart, while slowing down the heart rhythm. Hence, if this herb is used internally by any person except a qualified medical practitioner, it may enhance the possibilities of precarious complications. In addition, figwort also possesses potent and potentially harmful laxative as well as emetic properties.
Aerial parts, root.
Figwort promotes the detoxification of our body by helping to get rid of the toxic substances from the body. Hence, this herb may be employed effectively for treating a variety of skin disorders. Figwort is helpful in healing chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema when it is taken internally in the form of an infusion or applied topically to the affected areas. When applied topically, this herb is also useful for hastening the healing wounds, burn injuries, ulcers and haemorrhoids. Traditionally, figwort has been used for treating swellings as well as tumours and, in Europe herbalists still continue to use the herb for these purposes. Figwort also possesses mild diuretic properties, and is known to be useful for expelling worms from the body.
The entire figwort plant possesses anodyne, anti-inflammatory, alternative, diuretic, slightly purgative as well as tonic properties. The leaves and roots of figwort are harvested during the summer when the plant is in bloom. These parts are dried up for use afterward. A decoction prepared from the herb is applied topically to swellings, sprains, inflammations, burn injuries and other similar conditions. The decoction is also known to be effective for curing persistent skin disorders, gangrene and scrofulous sores. You may apply figwort leaves fresh or the leaves can also be used to prepared a salve. This herb is also used internally to treat conditions like chronic skin disorders (including psoriasis, eczema and pruritis); weak blood and lymphatic circulation; distended lymph nodes as well as mastitis.
Figwort is a very effective herb for treating hepatic diseases (disorders related to the liver), dropsy and also in the form of a common de-obstruent (medications that help to remove obstructions) to the glands when it is used in the form of syrup or an infusion. It is also useful for healing bruises, ringworm, tender swellings, piles, mammae inflammation, eruptions on the skin and itching when it is used superficially in the form of an ointment. The root of figwort is used to prepare a decoction and is consumed liberally to replenish the lochial discharge (vaginal discharge following childbirth) when it is held back as well as to ease pain that accompanies difficult menstruation. Therefore, it is needless to reiterate that figwort possesses several useful as well as active therapeutic attributes.
Habitat and cultivation
Figwort (S. nodosa) is indigenous to Europe, North America, and Central Asia. This plant grows excellently in places that are wet and soggy; along the banks of rivers, beside ditches and in open forest lands. The herb is collected during the summer months when the plants are in bloom.
Figwort plants can flourish in total sunlight as well as semi-shade. Plants belonging to this species are also able to endure very low temperatures, as a minimum of -15°C.
Figwort is generally propagated by means of its seeds that are ideally sown in a cold frame either during spring or in autumn. When the seedlings have grown large enough to be handled, take them out of the cold frame and plant them in separate pots/ containers. They may be transplanted outdoors during the ensuing summer. In case you have lots of seeds, you may also sow them directly in situ outdoors during spring or autumn.
Alternately, figwort may also be propagated by means of root division undertaken in spring. While you may plant the comparatively large divisions directly into their permanent locations outdoors, it is advisable that the smaller root divisions should first be grown in a cold frame in a partially shaded place. When the new plants are properly established, you may plant them outdoors during the summer.
Figwort may be used as an infusion or tincture.
Infusion: Prepare the infusion by adding anything between one and three teaspoonful of dried up figwort leaves to one cup (250 ml) of boiling water and allow it to steep for about 10 to 15 minutes. It is advised that you drink this infusion thrice daily.
Tincture: The tincture prepared from figwort should be taken in dosage of 2 ml to 4 ml thrice daily.
Side effects and cautions
Figwort or any preparation made from the herb is strictly prohibited for pregnant women.
Collection and harvesting
The leaves and stems of figwort, which possess therapeutic properties, are collected when the plant is in bloom during June to August.
For treating problems related to the skin, figwort may be blended well with burdock root and yellow dock.
The fresh leaves of figwort are also used to prepare an anti-scrofulous ointment. The ingredients required to prepare this ointment are as follows:
Shred the fresh figwort leaves and dry them in a frying pan till they turn into powder. Next, add the two types of fat mentioned above and stir the mixture gently till it blends completely. Pour the blend into the glass jar and allow it to cool. This preparation can be used for three months provided you store it in a refrigerator.
Notwithstanding the unpleasant odour and green color of the ointment, it is highly useful for healing conditions like cysts, abnormal indurations, adenitis (inflammation of lymph nodes and glands), weeping eczema and diseases caused by fungal infections.