Herbs of the Canary Islands: Teide Figwort is a medicinal herb

Figwort is a medicinal herb of Tenerife and the Canary Islands

There are two species of Figwort found growing on Tenerife and another type found in Gran Canaria, another island in the Canary Islands. The Teide Figwort (Scrophularia glabrata) comes from Mt Teide and the highlands of the island and is also found on La Palma in the mountains there.

A second species that grows in Tenerife is S. smithii, and this one is found in the evergreen laurel forests in the north of the island. S. calliantha is an endemic species of Figwort that comes from Gran Canaria.

The Figworts are medicinal herbs but because they stimulate the heart should be avoided by people with heart disease or who are suffering from high blood pressure.

Figwort in a Tenerife forest

Figwort (Scrophularia smithii)
Figwort (Scrophularia smithii)

Description of the Figwort

Figworts are shrubs and are characterised by having square stems, double-toothed leaf margins and clusters of small greenish flowers that in the species glabrata have dark red or purplish lips.

Scrophularia nodosa is common species of Figwort that grows in the UK and much of Europe, as well as parts of Asia and North America. It has strong and unpleasant smell which is attractive to wasps and flies that pollinate the plant.

It was called "Throatwort" by the famous herbalist Culpeper, who thought that knots on its rhizome resembled swollen glands. Thus, under what was known as the "Doctrine of SIgnatures", which held that a herb that resembled a part of the body should be used to treat that specific part, the Figwort was employed as a remedy for scrofula that was a disease of the lymph glands of the neck.

Medicinal properties of the Figworts

The Canary Islands Figworts have been used in traditional folk medicine to treat skin disorders, inflammations and infections. They are also particularly recommended as remedies for haemorrhoids and fistulas.

The herb is good for curbing any bleeding that is occurring and is prepared in the form of a catplasm, or by making an infusion of leaves and stems. Sometimes this can be done by boiling in white rum to add strength to the herbal remedy.

A decoction obtained from the roots of the Canary Island Figworts has diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat lymph gland problems.

Tenerife flora: Teide Figwort and Red Viper's Bugloss on Mt Teide

© 2011 Steve Andrews

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