(adapted from Wayside MedicineBackyard Medicine For All, p76)

Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis) is a perky, pretty weed of field and wayside, a member of the poppy family, but with less sedative or analgesic strength. The common name references its appearance as ‘smoke of the earth’ (fumus terrae), because from a distance a mass of the silvery grey leaves can look hazy or smoky.

It has an ancient healing reputation in both Western and Eastern herbal traditions, especially for treating the liver, stomach, skin and eyes, and has been called a unique gallbladder herb.

Fumitory is much used in France as a spring tonic, a weight-loss aid and as a choloretic (bile-stimulating) herb. The general use of the plant as a liver herb is recorded in an English couplet, quoted below.

Another old verse reflects a former use, with the gathered above-ground parts of fumitory boiled in milk to make a lotion that lightened freckles and sunburn (‘scare the tan from Summer’s cheek’).

Get water of fumiter liver to cool
And other the like, or go die like a fool.
– anon, quoted in Gabrielle Hatfield, Hatfield’s Herbal (2007)

Whose red and purple mottled flowers
Are cropped by maids in weeding hours
To boil in water milk or whey
And scare the tan from Summer’s cheek.
– anon, quoted in Hilda Leyel, Herbal Delights (1937)

Fumitory vinegar

Vinegar is a good solvent for an alkaloid-rich plant such as fumitory. You will need a quantity of dried fumitory.

Choose a clean glass bottle of the size appropriate to your needs, and stuff with the dried plant. Then fill up with white wine or apple cider vinegar. Leave to macerate in a sunny place for a week, then strain off into another bottle.

This vinegar should retain its potency for a year.

Take 1 tablespoonful in the morning for any liver or gallbladder problem.

A fumitory tea will have similar properties, though the bitterness is less moderated as compared to the vinegar.