This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
MEDICINAL PART. The leaves.
Description. -- Fumitory is an annual, glaucous plant, with a sub-erect, much branched, spreading, leafy and angular stem, growing from ten to fifteen inches high. The leaves are mostly alternate. Culpepper, who knew the plant which is now used, better than anybody else, said that "at the top of the branches stand many small flowers, as it were in a long spike one above another, made like little birds, of a reddish purple color, with whitish bellies, after which come small round husks, containing small black seeds. The root is small, yellow, and not very long, and full of juice when it is young." The fruit, or nut, is ovoid or globose, one-seeded or valveless. The seeds are crestless.
History. -- Fumitory is found growing in cultivated soils in Europe and America, and flowers in May, June, and July. The leaves are the parts used. Culpepper recommended the whole plant, but the modern decision is to use the leaves, gathered at the proper times, alone. They have no odor, but taste bitter under all circumstances. They are to be used when fresh, and possess the same qualities as Culpepper affixes to the fresh root, viz.: malate of lime and bitter extractive principles.
Properties and Uses. -- Its virtues are chiefly tonic, and those who suffer from diseases of the stomach know too well that a tonic, if properly defined, is, simple as it may be, one of the most important remedies for human ailments nature has provided. Its chief value is found in its action upon the liver. It is used, in combination, with excellent effect in cutaneous diseases, liver complaints, such as jaundice, costiveness, scurvy, and in debility of the stomach. An infusion of the leaves is usually given in a wineglass (full) every four hours. The flowers and tops have been applied, macerated in wine, to dyspepsia, with partial good effect.