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Fumaria officinalis, which is also known as fumitory or earth smoke, is a rarely used herb in contemporary alternative medicine. This plant is believed by some North American and European herbalists to possess pain relieving, astringent, detoxifying, bile salt stimulating, laxative, sudorific, diuretic, digestive, liver stimulating, sedative, skin healing and anti-parasitic properties. Nonetheless, some German and French alternative medical practitioners consider the plant to be their medicine of choice for the purification of the blood. Other applications for the Fumaria officinalis include the treatment of acne, poor digestion, eczema, upset stomach, gallbladder conditions, parasitic infection, muscle spasticity, bacterial infection, water retention, constipation, hypothyroidism and sclerosis of the liver.
Fumaria officinalis is rich in pharmacologically active constituents, no single one of which can be considered responsible for all of its medicinal properties. Most research has focused on the isoquinoline alkaloids sinactine, bulbocapnine, sanguinarine, protopine, canadine, N-methylhydrastine, coptisine, fumaritine, corydaline, fumariline, dicentrine, fumaricine, cryptopine, some of which are potentially toxic when administered in high doses. The results from a preliminary study on the use of Fumaria officinalis alkaloids for the treatment of cardiovascular inflammation and cardiac arrhythmia have been promising, although relatively large doses of protopine and fumoficinaline were required to be effective. A 15-day trial of the herb in diabetic rats found that using the plant resulted in statistically significant reductions in creatinine, blood glucose and cholesterol when compared with the control group.
Fumaria officinalis extracts have also been investigated in the management of the symptoms of psoriasis. The German prescription drug Fumaderm®, used as a treatment for the condition, was developed from a chemical derived from the plant. Monomethyl fumarate is believed to work by inhibiting effects on keratinocyte reproduction and stimulating effects on an anti-inflammatory mediator profile in human white blood cells.
The most promising findings have been in the use of the plant or its extracts for the treatment of various hepatic and hepatobiliary disorders. Several studies have found that chemicals within the plant inhibit hepatic damage and help reduce the blockage of bile ducts. Extremely favorable results have been found with the use of the proprietary formulation Oddibil® in the treatment of biliary dyskinesia and cholecystopathy, with one study finding 80% and 70% improvement in the respoective patient populations. The United States Food and Drug Administration, however, has not made any judgements as to the safety or efficacy of Fumaria officinalis or any of its preparations in the treatment of any medical condition.
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