Name: Throatwort (Scrophularia nodosa)
Otherwise known as: Figbalm, Rosenoble
Habitat: A perennial herb member of the Scrophulariaceae family growing to about 1.5m in rich, moist, woodland areas of Europe and North America. It is a flimsy plant with a thick, swollen rhizome, and pointed stem-leaves with green and purple summer flowers that transform into small, round seed capsules. Excessive doses will cause tachycardia.
What does it do: Its generic name is derived from scrofula (tuberculosis of the lymph glands in the neck), otherwise known as The King’s Evil, so-called because it was believed that the affliction could be cured by the laying of hands on the body by the ruling monarch.
It was a favoured herb of the Celtic people and used to treat skin eruptions and improve milk flow in nursing mothers and is part of Celtic mythology that believed hanging the plant over the cattle bier would ensure a plentiful supply of milk.
Culpeper, states ‘…without peer, for the ‘King’s Evil, or any knobs, kernels, bunches or wens, growing in the flesh where-so-ever, and for the piles’.
Early American settlers used the plant to treat topical and hepatic disorders, gangrene, dropsy and secondary stage syphilis. The Native American Ohlone shamen of California, treated goitre and hypotension with extracts from the root.
The plant contains flavanoids, irridoids and phenolic acids, which render it alterative, diuretic, lymphatic, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory and a cardiac stimulant. It is now a herbal treatment for skin eruptions, scrofulous eczema, psoriasis, pemphigus (itching fluid filled blisters), swollen glands, piles, appendicitis, and lumps in the breast, mastitis, topical ulcers, boils, burns, and slow healing wounds.
A research programme conducted by Professor Monique Simmonds of the Jodrell laboratory at Kew is investigating the ability of the plant to cure jungle ulcers. It was found that the irridoids in the plant stimulate the production of fibroblasts, the cells in connective tissue that synthesise collagen, which is essential for wound healing. Irridoids, are the plant chemicals that protect against infection and insect activity.
Alexander McCowan is author of The World’s Most Dangerous Plants