FUMITORY (šāhtara), term used for two species of plants of the genus Fumaria in Persia, Fumaria officinalis and Fumaria parviflora. Fumaria parviflora is distributed from Europe and North Africa through the Near and Middle East to Central Asia. The annual, wild herb is very often found in Persia and Afghanistan. The plant is bitter and slightly acrid.

Aqua fumitory, i.e., ʿaraq-e šāhtara, is obtained from the whole plant by water distillation. About 1 kg of fumitory soaked in 12 liters of water overnight is distilled to yield about 7 liters of aqua of fumitory. It is mainly used for flavoring sherbets.

Fumitory was highly prized in traditional medicine; it was known as šāhtaraj in Arabic and identified with the qofnoṣ (Gk. kápnos) of Dioscorides. Following Galen, it was regarded as an astringent and used as a diuretic, stomach tonic, and epiphoric (Bīrūnī, pp. 386, tr. 345).



Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī, Ketāb al-ṣaydana fi’l-ṭebb, ed. and tr. H. M. Said and R. E. Elāhī as al-Biruni’s Book on Pharmacy and Materia Medica, Karachi, 1973, text, pp. 386-87, tr. pp. 345-46.

Moḥammad-Ḥosayn ʿAqīlī Ḵorāsānī Šīrāzī, Qarābāḏīn-e kabīr wa maḵzan al-adwīa, Tehran, n.d., p. 259.

W. Dymock, A History of the Principal Drugs of Vegetable Origin Met with in British India, 3 vols., London, 1890-93, I, pp. 114-16.

Moḥammad-Moʾmen Ḥosaynī Tonokābonī, Toḥfat al-moʾmenīn (Toḥfa-ye Ḥakīm Moʾmen), Tehran, n.d., p. 527.

Schlimmer, repr., p. 293.

ʿA. Zargarī, Gīāhān-e dārūʾī-e Īrān, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1360 Š./1981, pp. 112-16.

(M. H. Bokhari and W. Frey)

Originally Published: December 15, 2000

Last Updated: January 31, 2012

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