Common Figwort

This genus contains about 200 species of annuals, perennials, and occasionally subshrubs, found in temperate regions and on mountains in the tropics. Few are ornamental, though the variegated form of Scrophularia auriculata (Water Figwort) is widely grown as a marginal aquatic. In France, S. nodosa is known as herbe du siège since the tubers were eaten by Cardinal Richelieu's starving troops during the siege of La Rochelle (1627-8). Scrophularia nodosa is an example of the Doctrine of Signatures, the nodular roots revealing it as a remedy for swollen glands and tumors. Culpeper wrote that "a better remedy cannot be found for the king's evil" (The English Physician Enlarged, 1653). "King's evil" was a term used for scrofula (tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands), hence the name Scrophularia. Its constituents include aucubin, a mild laxative that increases excretion of uric acid from the kidneys, and anti-arthritic compounds harpagoside and harpagide, as in Harpagophytum (See, Devil's Claw). Scrophularia auriculata, from W Europe, and the American S. marilandica have similar properties. The use of S. ningpoensis in Chinese medicine dates back to the later Han dynasty (CE25-220).

Perennial with tuberous rhizomes and ovate, pointed, toothed leaves, to 12cm (5in) long. Small green-brown flowers are borne in panicles in summer, followed by ovoid capsules.

Common Name:
Common Figwort
Botanical Name:
Scrophularia nodosa
Native Location:
Moist to wet soil in sun or partial shade. Plants may be damaged by larvae of the figwort weevil.
By seed sown in autumn or spring; by division in spring; by basal cuttings in spring; by softwood cuttings in summer.
Roots (S. ningpoensis) are lifted in autumn and dried for use in decoctions. Plants (S. nodosa) are cut when flowering and dried for use in infusions, liquid extracts, ointments, poultices, and tinctures.
40cm-1.2m (16-48in)
15-38cm (6-15in)
Parts Used:
Whole plant
A diuretic, alterative herb that is mildly laxative, relieves pain, and stimulates the liver, heart, and circulation.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for chronic skin diseases (such as eczema, psoriasis, pruritis), mastitis, swollen lymph nodes, and poor circulation. Externally for skin diseases (including fungal infections), wounds, burns, ulcers, and skin inflammations. Combines well with Rumex crispus (See, Curled Dock) for skin diseases.
Contraindicated for heart conditions.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limites. Pg 364