Figwort (Scrophularia radix), also known as carpenter’s square, is a medicinal herb with a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). There are about 200 species of plants in the figwort family Scrophulariaceae. The most common variety used medicinally is Scrophularia radix, known in Chinese as Xuan Shen.
What Is Figwort?
All 200 varieties of figwort are native to the open woodland areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The common name “figwort” actually comes from the use of this plant as a treatment for hemorrhoids, which were once referred to as “figs.”
Figwort plants are tall plants with flowers that are either green, purple, or yellow. Figwort has also been given the common name carpenter’s square because of its distinct four-sided stems. These plants are a popular pollinator plant that attracts bees and other beneficial pollinators. They have also been used for centuries for various medicinal purposes.
The name scropularia comes from the medical term “scrofula” which is a name for a type of infection in the lymph glands of the neck. This points to one of figworts primary uses as an herbal medicine, which is to support the health of the lymphatic system and to help relieve swollen lymph glands.
What Is Figwort Used For?
Figwort has a variety of medicinal uses. Typically, it is the root of the plant that is used for medicine. Among its most common uses is as a medicinal herb for the lymphatic system. Figwort root is known to benefit the lymphatic system in numerous ways, helping to improve the flow of lymph fluid, to clear blockages and relieve stagnation, and to help reduce swelling of the lymph nodes.
Figwort root is also commonly used for skin conditions such as acne, itching, eczema, psoriasis and hemorrhoids, among others. Some people also use figwort root as a substitute for devil's claw, as the two herbs contain similar chemical compounds.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, figwort root, or Xuan Shen, is considered a sweet, bitter, salty, and slightly cold herb that influences the lungs, stomach, and kidney. It is said to cool the blood and nourish Yin energy, as well as purge fire or excess heat and resolve toxicity.
What Are the Benefits of Figwort Root?
Figwort root has a variety of benefits and uses. Below are some of the most common figwort root benefits:
Figwort Root May Benefit the Lymphatic System
Figwort derives its scientific name Scrophularia from the word scrofula—which is an old term for lymphatic infections connected to tuberculosis. In this condition, the infected lymph nodes of the neck swell to form hard, bulging lumps beneath the skin.
Figwort was the go-to herb for treating this condition of lymphatic infection, and it continues to be used today as one of the best herbs for the lymphatic system.
As a medicinal herb, figwort has alterative properties. Alteratives are a class of herbs that work to restore normal balance and function of the body’s systems and organs. They are thought to work primarily by purifying the body of toxins and influencing the circulatory and lymphatic systems.
Alteratives are said to “alter the constitution and composition of blood and lymph by restoring the correct removal of cellular waste and encouraging the uptake of nutrition by the cell.”
The circulatory system pumps blood throughout your body, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to all of your cells and tissues, and also carries toxins and wastes from the cells and tissues to be expelled through respiration.
The lymphatic system is known as the waste system of the body. It gathers toxins in a fluid known as lymph that are then released by the body through sweat, urine, and feces. It is a key part of our immune system and without it we could not survive.
Unlike the circulatory system where the heart acts as the pump, the lymphatic system only moves in one direction—upward and away from gravity. As the lymph system tries to fight gravity, it can easily become clogged. In order for lymph fluid to circulate, the lymphatic system depends on other things to help it drain like movement, deep breathing, diet, and herbs.
Figwort is one herb that can help stimulate lymphatic movement. By influencing the lymphatic system, figwort can support the natural detoxification of the body, helping to remove impurities and stagnant infections and to clean the lymph nodes.
Figwort Root May Help Treat Skin Conditions
Figwort is often used to treat chronic skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. This is largely attributed to its influence on the lymphatic system. Many skin conditions are linked to toxicity in the body. If the lymphatic system is clogged, toxins can store in the system, leading to inflammation and skin eruptions.
Figworts action on the lymphatic system can help to detoxify the body and potentially clear up skin conditions related to toxicity and inflammation. For skin conditions, a figwort root extract is typically used. Figwort root extract psoriasis and eczema benefits are enhanced by therapeutic extraction processes that can concentrate the active compounds in the herb, making it more potent than the health benefits of figwort root tea, capsules or powders.
Figwort Root May Lower Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural response of the body, and an essential function of the body’s immune system. However, when the body is inflamed for long periods of time as a result of negative dietary, lifestyle, or environmental factors, it can lead to chronic inflammation which has a number of negative health effects and can lead to serious, even fatal diseases.
Figwort contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds may help reduce inflammation levels in the body and help to alleviate chronic inflammation and the ill health that can be caused by it.
Figwort Root Is Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons. The uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. Free radicals can cause large chain chemical reactions in your body because they react so easily with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation and can be harmful.
Antioxidants can donate an electron to a free radical without making themselves unstable. This causes the free radical to stabilize and become less reactive.
Chemical analysis of figwort has identified numerous antioxidants that can help protect the body from free radical damage.
Figwort Root May Support the Liver
The liver is one of the most important and underappreciated organs in the human body. Without a functioning liver, the body cannot survive. The liver is our largest internal organ, and it performs over 500 different tasks for the body.
Anything that is consumed or ingested, whether it’s food, alcohol, medicine or toxins, gets filtered by the liver. Once in the liver, the liver does the incredible task of sorting out the substances consumed, distinguishing between important nutrients and harmful toxins. The liver is like the body's chemical factory. It takes the raw materials absorbed by the intestine and makes all the various chemicals that the body needs to function. The liver also detoxifies potentially harmful chemicals, breaking down and neutralizing many substances that can be toxic to the body.
This process can be taxing on the liver, especially if the liver is given the heavy burden of a large amount of toxins to neutralize, or if we ingest toxins on a frequent basis.
According to research, figwort also contains many antioxidants with hepatoprotective properties. These antioxidants can help to protect the liver from damage caused by toxins in the environment.
What Are the Active Compounds in Figwort Root?
The medicinal properties of plants are largely attributed to the bioactive compounds found within them. Figwort root contains numerous active compounds that exhibit medicinal effects, the most notable of which include glycoside esters, phenylpropanoid glycosides, saponins, and iridoids.
Is Figwort Safe?
Figwort has been used as an herbal medicine for hundreds of years. It is considered to be a safe herb; however, some people may have an allergic reaction to this plant. Some potential side effects that can occur from an allergic reaction, or from too high of a dose include light-headedness, nausea, weakness, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and vomiting.
It is recommended to avoid using figwort or figwort root if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as there is not enough information available to know if it is safe for these groups.
Benefits of Figwort Tea
Figwort tea has many potential health benefits, thanks to the various bioactive compounds found in the roots of the figwort plant. Here are some of the most notable benefits of figwort tea:
- Anti-inflammatory: Figwort tea has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce inflammation in the body. This can be especially beneficial for people with inflammatory diseases.
- Antioxidant: The antioxidants in figwort tea can help to protect the body from oxidative stress and free radical damage. This may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Immune-boosting: Figwort tea contains compounds that can help to boost the immune system and support overall health and well-being.
- Skin health: The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of figwort tea may also benefit the skin. Some people use figwort tea topically to help soothe and heal skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
How to Make Figwort Tea
To make figwort tea, follow these simple steps:
- Start by gathering fresh or dried figwort roots. If using fresh roots, wash them thoroughly and chop them into small pieces.
- Add the chopped figwort roots to a pot of boiling water. Use one teaspoon of dried roots or two teaspoons of fresh roots for every cup of water.
- Reduce the heat and let the tea simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Strain the tea and serve hot or cold.
Note: As with any herbal tea, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider before using figwort tea, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications.
Figwort tea is a popular herbal remedy with many potential health benefits. It is made from the roots of the figwort plant, which has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Figwort tea may help to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and support overall health and well-being. Figwort root has many uses as well, including pain relief, lymphatic system support, and respiratory health.
The medicinal benefits of figwort are attributed to the bioactive compounds in figwort, namely glycoside esters, phenylpropanoid glycosides, saponins, and iridoids.
Figwort is considered to be a safe herb; however, some people may develop a reaction to it. It is also recommended to avoid for breastfeeding or pregnant women, as there is a lack of available safety information for these groups.
As with any herbal remedy, it is important to use figwort tea under the guidance of a healthcare provider.