Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dauwegropp - Fumitory

Fumaria officinalis - Source: WikiMedia
This herb can probably come in handy for quite a few of us right now, given how itchy our skin is from the heat, salt, and general roughness of winter.

Fumitory (tax: Fumaria officinalis) is known in Deitsch as "der Dauwegropp," which translates literally to "dove's (or pigeon's) craw." 

Disclaimer: This information is for educational and discussion purposes only. Nothing in these posts is intended to constitute, or should be considered, medical advice or to serve as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider. Feverfew may thin the blood, so people on blood thinners should be careful with its use. Also, as the herb is used in inducing menstruation, pregnant women should avoid using this herb. As always, your health is your responsibility. Consult with a doctor before using any herbal remedy or preventative.

When taken internally (under a professional's care as it can be toxic when taken in excess), Fumitory has a bitter taste. Andrew Chevallier (213) states that an infusion of the aerial parts stimulates and detoxifies the liver and the gallbladder, and it is also diuretic and somewhat laxative. The most common uses are for chronic itchy skin and disorders such as eczema (Flecht). These uses Chevallier describes are consistent with Deitsch uses historically and currently.

NOTE: Excessive internal consumption of Fumitory can be toxic. Do not use internally without professional/medical supervision.

Sauer's Uses (Mostly impractical or not advised)

Deitsch botanist Johann Christopher Sauer (146-147) lists off quite a few uses for Fumitory, all related to skin disorders, such as scall (Schibbe), mange (Raede), itch (Gretz), bites (Bisse), a fear of leprosy (Aussatz), and the "French Pox" (syphilis). Several forms of venereal disease fell under the Deitsch name Franzos, including syphilis and gonorrhea. The current distinctions, though, are syphilis = Beesi Grankheet ("mad sickness") and gonorrhea = Wieschdi Grankheet ("cruel sickness").

As a general protective tonic to the heart, liver, and spleen, he states that one should "chop and infuse Fumitory in goat's mil and drink a tumblerful ever morning during the month of May" (146). This is said to cure itching. The milk of black goats would likely be preferred as it was not an uncommon custom to value particularly black goat milk during the Colonial Era. This factoid appears in quite a few traditions and remedies throughout our lore.

For the mange, itch, and bites, Sauer recommends distilled water (hydrosol) of Fumitory taken in six-Loth doses (1 Loth = approximately 16 g, so 6 Loths = approximately 96 g) before breakfast for several weeks in succession.

For scall and fear of leprosy, he recommends a Quint (1/5 of a US gallon) of Theriaca Andromachi (Venice Treacle) in six Loths of Fumitory water every month. They must also mix four Loths of Fumitory water with two Loths of Hops (Hoppe) water and consume each morning and evening for at least three weeks during the fall and spring.

Sauer also states that snuffing (snuff = Schnupf) the distilled water of Fumitory will "clean the brain of phlegm and restore smell" (147).
As for the "French Pox," the juice of Fumitory is to be pressed from the fresh herb, and four Loths are to be consumed each morning and evening daily for five to six weeks (146). Note: For this affliction, instead of consuming Fumitory juice, please see a doctor and get a shot!

Perhaps the most practical of all of Sauer's listed uses for Fumitory is a tincture made using brandy. He recommends 25-40 drops each morning and evening for several weeks. This is more in line with the tinctures that are currently commercially available.

Ointments, Lotions, Shampoos

Probably the most common use for Fumitory currently is in the form of ointments. The most traditional application of the ointment is for cradle cap (Deitsch: die Millichgruscht) but can be extended to seborrhoic dermatitis elsewhere on the body. Thus, a Fumitory hydrosol or a drop or two of the essential oil can be added to lotions or shampoos. Fumitory-infused oils can serve as a base salve to which other anti-fungal essential oils can be added. Some folks have reported that 1/3 cup of Aloe Vera with four drops each of Lavender, Tea Tree, and Fumitory essential oils can help to ease itchiness when applied to the skin.


Fumitory has a long history of being used as a smudging herb or to chase away not only evil spirits and baneful wights but also many friendly spirits. It is one of very few herbs that is said to be able to prevent an Elfschuss (Elf-shot, which, in Deitsch lore is not necessarily actually from an Elf) by deterring the shooter from coming near its target. Although I have not tried this yet, it may be that Fumitory spirits could serve as a mediator between the shooter and the target.

The herb is warm, yet also rather stoic and businesslike in its personality, which may be related to the reasons that lore from neighboring cultures associates Fumitory with money.


Brendle, Thomas R. and Claude W. Unger. Folk Medicine of the Pennsylvania Germans. Proceedings of the Pennsylvania German Society 45. Norristown, PA, 1935.

Chevallier, Andrew.
 Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, p. 252. New York: Dorling and Kindersley, 2000.
Weaver, William Woys. Sauer's Herbal Cures: America's First Book of Botanic Healing. New York: Routledge, 2001.