Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Syn. fl. germ. helv., ed. 2, 3: 1017 (1845).
2n = 48
Common ramping-fumitory, wall fumitory (En). Fumeterre, fumeterre des murs (Fr). Fumária das paredes, salta-sebes (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Fumaria muralis is indigenous in western Europe and northern Africa, and has been introduced in some localities of tropical Africa: Réunion, Mauritius and southern Africa. In Réunion and Mauritius it is naturalized. It has also been introduced in the Americas and Australia.
In Réunion and Mauritius a decoction of the plant added to a bath is used to treat eczema, acne, ringworm, scurvy, itch and wounds. It is also used as an eye bath to treat conjunctivitis. It is used internally as a tonic and stimulant, being credited with blood purifying, bile secretion regulating, liver stimulating, laxative, purgative, antidiabetic and hypocholesterolaemic properties. A syrup made from the whole plants of Fumaria muralis is administered to children suffering from gastroenteritis. Fumaria spp. have been used for similar purposes in Europe, with Fumaria officinalis L. as the most important species. Phytopharmaceuticals based on Fumaria are traditionally used to enhance renal and digestive elimination functions and as a choleretic.
Several isoquinoline alkaloids have been isolated from Fumaria muralis. One of them, fumarophycine, has antioxidant activity. The isoquinoline alkaloid sanguinarine has been isolated from the related Fumaria officinalis. This compound is toxic, but also possesses strong antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has been suggested that it could serve as a drug for the management of hyperproliferative skin disorders, including skin cancer. Another alkaloid in Fumaria officinalis is protopine, which is a spasmolytic, anticholinergic, anti-arrhythmic and antibacterial.
Straggling annual herb with flexuous stems up to 50(–80) cm long, glabrous and slightly glaucous. Leaves alternate, bipinnately compound, petiolate; stipules absent; leaflets with ovate to oblong-lanceolate lobes. Inflorescence a stalked, bracteate raceme, seemingly opposite the leaves, up to 15(–20)-flowered. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic; pedicel short; sepals 2, lateral, 2.5–5 mm × 1.5–3 mm, toothed; corolla 9–12 mm long, consisting of a spurred upper petal, 2 inner ones and a lower one, pink, blackish red at tips; stamens 6, in 2 bundles of 3; ovary superior, 1-celled. Fruit a small globose nut c. 2 mm in diameter, smooth, 1-seeded.
Fumaria comprises about 60 species, most of them native to Europe. Only a single species is indigenous in tropical Africa: Fumaria abyssinica Hammar, which occurs from eastern D.R. Congo east to Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia, and south to Tanzania. There are no uses known for this species. Apart from Fumaria muralis, Fumaria officinalis L. has been introduced locally in Africa, e.g. in South Africa. The two species are difficult to distinguish, Fumaria officinalis having narrower leaflet lobes, slightly smaller flowers and slightly rough fruits; they have been much confused. The small size of the flowers as reported for the plants in the Indian Ocean islands raises doubts about the identification as Fumaria muralis.
Fumaria muralis occurs in fields, gardens and waste places.
Fumaria muralis may behave as a weed, e.g. in sugar cane and vegetables in Réunion and Mauritius, and in wheat and barley in South Africa. The plants are collected from the wild for medicinal purposes when the need arises.
Genetic resources and breeding
Fumaria muralis spreads as a weed in several regions of the world; it is certainly not threatened by genetic erosion.
Although internal applications of Fumaria spp. have a long tradition, they are not supported by valid clinical trials. Caution is needed because of the toxicity. External usage against skin complaints seems more promising, but more pharmacological studies are needed to confirm activity and safety. Fumaria spp. are not obvious candidates for promotion as medicinal plants in tropical Africa because most of them are not indigenous and occur only very locally.
• Exell, A.W., 1960. Fumariaceae. In: Exell, A.W. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 1, part 1. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. p. 181.
• Gurib-Fakim, A., Guého, J. & Bissoondoyal, M.D., 1997. Plantes médicinales de Maurice, tome 3. Editions de l’Océan Indien, Rose-Hill, Mauritius. 471 pp.
• Lavergne, R. & Véra, R., 1989. Médecine traditionelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques à la Réunion. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 236 pp.
• Sousek, J., Vavreckova, C., Psotova, J., Ulrichova, J. & Simanek, V., 1999. Antioxidant and antilipoperoxidant activities of alkaloid and phenolic extracts of eight Fumaria species. Acta Horticulturae 501: 239–244.
• Adhami, V.M., Aziz, M.H., Mukhtar, H. & Ahmad, N., 2003. Activation of prodeath Bcl-2 family proteins and mitochondrial apoptosis pathway by sanguinarine in immortalized human HaCaT keratinocytes. Clinical Cancer Research 9(8): 3176–3182.
• Bruneton, J., 1995. Pharmacognosy, phytochemistry, medicinal plants. Technique & Documentation Lavoisier, Paris, France. 915 pp.
• Marais, W., 1980. Papavéracées. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Julien, H.R. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Familles 31–50. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 5 pp.
• van Wyk, B.E., van Heerden, F. & van Oudtshoorn, B., 2002. Poisonous plants of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 288 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2006. Fumaria muralis Sond. ex W.D.J.Koch. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
obtained from B. Wursten
obtained from B. Wursten
obtained from B. Wursten