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Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa)
Image by OldMuzzle [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

Here is a very interesting nugget of information. One of my favourite herbs for helping reduce inflammatory joint conditions such as arthritis, is Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens). Devil’s claw grows in the extremely harsh environment of the Kalahari and Namibian deserts, and is harvested by the rural folk far out in the desert. It is so successful therapeutically that in France and Germany, it is being considered as an alternative to non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs. But as is often the case – its success is its downfall, and the plant is slow growing and endangered.

However, right here in Britain, we have a common weed, which looks nothing like Harpagophytum, and yet has a similar concentration of harpagosides – one of the natural chemicals that we find in Devil’s Claw which has the anti-inflammatory effect.

This has led scientists to propose that Scrophularia nodosa (Figwort) could be a useful substitute to Devil’s Claw.(1),(2)

Moreover, Scrophularia is also a diuretic and has a detoxifying action on the body, making it even more appropriate for treating arthritis naturally. What is particularly nice about using Scrophularia over Harpagophytum is that with Devil’s Claw you have to harvest the tuber – which is extremely stressful for the plant, whereas with Figwort you are harvesting the leaves of a common weed, thereby having very little negative environmental impact.

I do warn you to always consult a Medical Herbalist, because for example, in this case, Figwort can also stimulate the heart, so caution is needed. Having said that, scientists suggest that Scrophularia is well tolerated and is particularly useful for psoriatic arthritis – a condition which can be difficult to treat.

(1)^ Occurrence of iridoid glycosides in in vitro cultures and intact plants of Scrophularia nodosa L. Sesterhenn K, Distl M, Wink M. Plant Cell Reports 2007 Mar;26(3):365-71. doi: 10.1007/s00299-006-0233-3

(2)^ Use in arthritis? in Chapter 28 – Scrophularia nodosa, figwort. pp.297-306 in: The Western Herbal Tradition. Graeme Tobyn, Alison Denham and Margaret Whitelegg. Churchill Livingstone, 2011. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-443-10344-5.00033-1