In this series of articles I explore each plant from a multidimensional perspective: medicinal, aromatic, and psycho-spiritual. I aim to bridge scientific information with traditional lore and metaphysical musing, ultimately sharing my own experience with the plant spirit and what I’ve intuited about how to use its essence.
We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.LUCIANO DE CRESCENZO
Fumitory, from Latin fumus terrae or “smoke of the earth”, is an old world plant that has long been used medicinally around the world. Classified in the Papaveraceae (poppy) family, the genus Fumaria contains about 60 species. For this article, I’ll only focus on two: Fumaria officinalis (a.k.a. Common Fumitory, Drug Fumitory, Earth Smoke) and Fumaria capreolata (a.k.a. White Ramping Fumitory, White Fumitory).
Here in Northern California I’ve observed White Ramping Fumitory grow during all but the hottest months of the year, flowering in both spring and fall. I find it scattered around my yard and garden, climbing or leaning itself on plants, fences or other structures, usually where there is shade and dappled sunlight. I see Common Fumitory much less, sometimes along the sides of country roads. Calflora.org lists Common Fumitory as a non-native annual that is an invasive species, while White Fumitory is a non-native perennial – not yet considered invasive but being watched.
Fumitory leaves look similar to Cilantro or Parsley but the flowers of both species have an interesting ethereal display, with the only obvious difference being the color of their petals. White Fumitory flowers are white of course, but in addition, each petal has slightly translucent wings and deep red tips. Common Fumitory flower petals graduate from a light pink to a dusky pink with the same deep red tips. These flowers embrace a sort of multi-dimensional verticality as the lower petals point down, the middle petals point out and the upper petals point skyward. When I look at them I think of arms or angel wings raising up to the heavens.
Common Fumitory has a long history of use as a tonic, primarily for skin problems. The 17th century physician Nicholas Culpepper documented that it was used to “open obstructions of the liver and spleen”, and to “clarify the blood from saltish, choleric and other humors which cause leprosy, scabs, tetters, itches and other outbreaks of the skin” (Potterton, 1983).
Modern herbalists continue to use Common Fumitory, taken internally, for eczema-like skin conditions and acne (Potterton, 1983; Hoffman, 2003), as well as in an eyewash for conjunctivitis. Herbalist David Hoffman notes that its use for skin problems is likely related to general cleaning via the kidneys and liver. (Hoffman, 2003).
1898 RECIPE FOR PHARMACISTS AS FOUND IN THE “PRACTICAL DRUGGIST AND PHARMACEUTICAL REVIEW OF REVIEWS”
For a non-toxic plant that has been “recognized by herbalists since the dawning of the Age of Pisces” (Beyerl,1998), Common Fumitory is strangely absent from many modern herbal repertoires. White Fumitory is not referenced in traditional nor modern herbals. However, it appears that Common Fumitory is called Drug Fumitory for a reason, as it is well known by both modern medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. It is a “component of several phyto-pharmaceuticals, mainly used to treat functional diseases of the hepatobiliary system discernible as colicky pains affecting the gallbladder, biliary system, and gastrointestinal tract” (Noureddine, 2013).
Interestingly, there is a noticeable uptick in recent medical research, with different countries having interest in their own localized species:
- Fumaria capreolata (White Fumitory) was shown to have intestinal anti-inflammatory effects on colitis (Bribi et al, 2016-May), as well as general anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in mice (Bribi et al, 2016-Aug).
- Fumaria parviflora leaves were found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects while studied in the treatment of arthritis, colitis and other inflammatory diseases in mice (Rizvi et al, 2017).
- Fumaria schleicheri extracts were found to have anticonvulsant activity while studied for its potential in the treatment of epilepsy in mice (Prokopenko et al, 2015).
Of interest to researchers are the many isoquinoline alkaloids in Fumaria species, particularly Protopine.
Some sources state that there have been no reports of side effects or drug interactions for Common Fumitory (Hoffman, 2003), but another source notes several side effects (low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting) and provides a list of drugs that may interact with Fumitory (Grossberg/Fox, 2007).
The aerial parts are best collected when the plant is in flower (Hoffman, 1990). Note: I frequently see Fumitory growing next to Poison Hemlock – the leaves are similar and much intertwined – so make sure you know how to ID both properly.
Folklore & Magick
Folk Names: Fumitor, Beggary, Earth Smoke, Fumiterry, Fumus, Fumus Terrae, Kaphnos, Nidor, Scheiteregi, Tauben-kropp, Vapor, Wax Dolls
Recognized for its ability to purify and cleanse, Fumitory has curious associations with the Underworld as well: “It was believed to have been created out of the gases rising from the bowels of the earth and has a history of use in exorcisms. An excellent herbe to use on Hallow’s Eve, fumitory is among the better incenses for dispelling all negative energies. Fumitory lends itself to rituals of purification, such as preparation of a new residence before moving in and unpacking.” (Beyerl, 1998)
“An infusion of fumitory sprinkled around your house and rubbed onto your shoes once a week will draw money to you quickly.” (Cunningham, 1985)
SHAKESPEARE MENTIONED FUMITORY IN KING LEAR
I find it interesting that an herb that is physically detoxifying to the body is also magickally associated with dispelling negative energies and even exorcisms. It makes sense if one thinks about toxins as form of negative energy that is foreign to the body.
Plant Spirit Experience
When I make a flower essence, I start by cultivating a relationship with the plant. This roughly consists of:
- Noticing it while out on a walk, while visiting a nursery, or even just driving by it – I get the sensation that certain plants call out to me (in the spring this can be overwhelming!).
- Finding a nearby wild specimen of if possible, and/or purchasing the plant or seeds and planting it. In both cases I begin to talk to it by saying hello every time I pass by.
- When the plant is flowering and has a certain “aura” about it, I approach it with reverence and ask if it wants to be made into medicine. If this is an herb I may have already done this by harvesting leaves during their growth cycle. I listen with my heart to see what the plant conveys, and in almost all cases I intuit an enthusiast “yes”.
- I perform a simple ceremony, calling the directions and giving the plant an offering (tobacco, cornmeal, a bead, or a piece of my hair).
- I collect the best flowers into a small bowl filled with pure water and let it sit in the sun for a few hours near the plant.
- Meanwhile, I sit and write all my impressions – the appearance of the plant, what the plant “signature” evokes, what I might already know about it, what emotions I’ve noticed since I started the ceremony, memories and thoughts that surface, and then that may morph into automatic writing. I ask the plant several times what it wants me to know about it and finally, how people should use the flower essence. I keep writing whatever streams into my consciousness until the process feels complete.
- I may also do a shamanic journey to meet the spirit of the plant on another plane – in which case that will be at a different time than the flower essence “session”.
I generally don’t do any plant research, other than identification, before making an essence so I can be as clear of a “channel” as possible. It’s fun to see how close my observations map to herbal, aromatic, culinary, medical, energetic and folk information that has been published. My impressions almost always align with some or all of the published energetic aspects, so that makes me confident that my “receivings” are trustworthy.
The Fumitory plant I have befriended is of course Fumaria capreolata, the White Ramping Fumitory that is happily growing around my yard.
Sitting with this luminous plant, I am immediately reminded of angels and spirits. The blood red tips on the white petals have me contemplating beings that were once human but have passed over and are now incarnate. Not as ghosts stuck on this plane, but as deceased loved ones that watch over us in the way that angelic beings do.
I sense the presence of these spirits and am temporarily overcome by feeling the veil between the worlds get thinner. An understanding dawns on me that these entities are not high up in heaven/space as we might imagine them “up there”, rather they are still right here with us but just in an overlaying dimension.
I am struck by the thought that this our destiny – to watch over others once we have crossed the veil. And since we are multidimensional beings, I suspect there are fragmented parts of us are already doing this now. Pieces of our soul may perhaps be “out there” not just watching over others, but our own selves as well. We might actually be our own spirit guide. I suddenly feel the weight of this responsibility, but there is also a joyousness and feeling of empowerment, even pride. Fumitory shimmers in the breeze, confirming our multidimensional status and our potential, telling me that yes, we can simultaneously act as angels for both ourselves and others, right now, physically in this dense reality and metaphysically in others. It’s a big concept, and I had some trouble immediately wrapping my mind around it as the information came at me all at once in a download fashion. Usually these kinds of information “downloads” make perfect sense at the time but are harder to unpack later. In this case, I could tell my mind was resisting the information as it was coming through and I think that anxiety about this responsibility, this sudden sovereignty, was getting in the way. It has taken some time and further “conversations” with Fumitory to become more comfortable, but the message has repeated itself. I have not yet done a shamanic journey with Fumitory, but I can tell already that this plant will be a great ally for me.
FUMITORY CLIMBING OVER AND INTERTWINING WITH CALENDULA
In summary, the concept that we are all spiritual beings and will transcend our human form between each lifetime and eventually for good as we ascend densities is validated by Fumitory. Our spirits will always carry a reminder of our human forms, signified by the blood red tips of the white petals that look like angel wings (so we remember what it was like to have a body). When we are carnate here on earth we tend to forget we are a spirit and need the opposite reminder – the role of Fumitory is to remind us of our spirit/body entanglement.
Flower Essence Benefits
Combining the information I receive directly from the plant with relevant research, I develop a clear picture for indications and usage of the flower essence.
Fumitory shows us that we have multidimensional allies (ancestors, spirits, angels, non-incarnate soul family, and even ourselves) that help us and watch over us. Traditionally, the herb was used to ward off evil spirits. The Fumitory flower essence helps us see and sense spirits, so we can see those that may not be acting in our best interest and we can then invoke protections or ask our allies to help us do so.
The flower essence helps us gets us in touch with our non-physical self, perhaps moving through dimensions. The herb is also excellent for liver and skin conditions so the flip side – the way the flower essence balances – is that fumitory helps us to be more comfortable in our own skin. It helps us get out of our body (while never forgetting we have one) as well as getting back in and being comfortable in our embodiment. If we are imbalanced in either direction it brings us back into equilibrium.
Transition and Transformation
As a plant that grows along hedges, Fumitory helps with any kind of transition, including death. It can guide us to where we need to go and assist with the acceptance of change, reminding us that death is part of life and a beautiful rite of passage that we will all go through. The flower essence is good for grief work as well as deep psychological work involving ego.
Fumitory flower essence is indicated for imbalances signified by:
- Feeling alone and unsupported
- Thinking one is haunted or cursed
- Not being comfortable in one’s own skin
- Trouble connecting to one’s higher self
- Fear of change, fear of death
- Fear of sovereignty over one’s self
These statements and products have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.
- Grieve, M. (1931). A Modern Herbal. Retrieved on March 20, 2017 from http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/f/fumito36.html
- Hoffman, David (1990). Holistic Herbal. Hammersmith, London: Thorns
- Hoffman, David (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press
- Grossberg, G., Fox, B. (2007). The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide. New York: Broadway Books
- Beyerl, P. (1998). A Compendium of Herbal Magick. Custer, WA: Phoenix Publishing.
- Harrison, K. (2011). The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook. San Francisco, CA: Wieser Books.
- Cunningham, S. (1985). Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn
- Noureddine, B., Yacine, B., Maiza, F. (2013). Evaluation of erythrocytes toxicity and antioxidant activity of alkaloids of Fumaria Capreolata. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences 4(2):P770-P776 · June 2013
- Rizvi, W., Fayazuddin, M., Singh, O., Syed, SN., Moin, S., Achtar, K., Kumar, A. (2017). (Rizvi et al, 2017). Anti-inflammatory effect of Fumaria parviflora leaves based on TNF-α, IL-1, IL-6 and antioxidant potential. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2017 Jan-Feb;7(1):37-45.
- Prokopenko, Y., Tsyvunin, V., Shtrygol, S., Georgiyants, V. (2015) In Vivo Anticonvulsant Activity of Extracts and Protopine from the Fumaria schleicheri Herb. Sci Pharm. 2016; 84(3): 547–554.
- Bribe, N., Algieri, F., Rodriguez-Nogales, A., Vezza, T., Garrido-Mesa, J., Utrilla, MP., Del Mar Contreras, M., Maiza, F., Segura-Carretero, A., Rodriguez-Cabezas, ME, Gálvez, J. (2016-May). Intestinal anti-inflammatory effects of total alkaloid extract from Fumaria capreolata in the DNBS model of mice colitis and intestinal epithelial CMT93 cells. Phytomedicine. 2016 Aug 15;23(9):901-13. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2016.05.003. Epub 2016 May 12.
- Bribi, N., Algieri F., Rodriguez-Nogales, A., Garrido-Mesa, J., Vezza, T., Maiza, F., Utrilla, MP., Rodriguez-Cabezas, ME., Gálvez, J. Antinociceptive and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Total Alkaloid Extract from Fumaria capreolata. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:736895. doi: 10.1155/2015/736895. Epub 2015 Aug 16.