Figwort/Scrofula (Xuan Shen)

Botanical Name: Western – Scrofula nodosa, S. marylandica, S. aquatic. Eastern – S. ningpoensis

The botanical name for figwort, Scrophularia, comes from scrofula, a form of tuberculosis that the herb is famous for treating. It is a mild, yet highly effective herb, best known for clearing toxicities in the lymph and skin. It dissolves swellings and tumors of all kinds, including scrofula. It can stimulate the uterus, regulate menses, and release a retained placenta. Figwort is an excellent example of an herb that promotes cleansing not through elimination but through actually cleansing the blood, tissues, lymph, and skin. It is an effective cleanser for the glands.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – More Than One Figwort.

Below is an overview of figwort, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of figwort.

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Name: Figwort/Scrophula

Also Known As: Scrophularia, Knotted Figwort, Late Figwort, Woodland Figwort, Rosenoble, Throatwort, Carpenters Square, Kernelwort, Escrophularia, Heal-all Scrofula Plant

Organs/Systems: Lungs, Skin, Heart

Key Actions: Detoxing, Mild laxative, Analgesic, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, Circulatory Stimulant, Diuretic, Heart Stimulant, Anodyne, Laxative, Emetic, Antimicrobial, Heart Tonic, Sedative, General Tonic

Medicinal Uses: Lowers Blood Pressure, scrofula, tuberculosis, burns, abscesses, wounds, skin eruptions, hemorrhoids, gangrene, ulcers, eczema, psoriasis, expels worms, cleanses the blood, treats rheumatic conditions, lymphatic disorders, stimulates the liver and heart, improves blood circulation, stimulates the uterus, regulates menses, and releases a retained placenta.


Pin Yin: Xuan Shen (“Dark Root.”)

Also Known As: As Hei Shen, Yuan Shen, Hei Xuan Shen

Meridians: Kidney, Lung, Stomach

Key Actions: Clears Heat, Cools Blood, Nourishes Yin, Drains Fire, Relieves Toxicity, Softens nodules

Medicinal Uses: Used when Heat enters the Blood level of warm-febrile diseases (Yin and Xue stages) causing bleeding, dry mouth, purplish tongue, and other similar deficient Heat symptoms. Treats fever conditions with constipation, irritability, and dry cough. Treats swollen or red eyes, and especially extreme cases of sore throats. Treats neck lumps due to Phlegm-Fire, sore throat pain, mastitis, goiter, poor circulation, swollen tonsils or lymph nodes, scrofula, and swelling. Speeds the healing of eczema, burns, abscesses, wounds, hemorrhoids, gangrene, ulcers, chicken pox, impetigo, cold sores, shingles, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Expels worms.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

The genus Scrophularia of the family Scrophulariaceae comprises about 200 species of herbaceous flowering plants commonly called figworts. They all share square stems, opposite leaves, and open two-lipped flowers forming clusters at the end of their stems. The leaves are heart-shaped or oval and dark green. The bisexual flowers have 5 united sepals and 5 united petals, usually 2-lipped with 2 lobes up and 3 lobes down. The flowers are green with red-brown upper lips and small green sepals. Figwort can grow up to three feet tall with a horizontal rhizome with bulbous, tuber-shaped joints.

Found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but mostly in Asia, there are only a few species in Europe and North America. The plant still grows wild in Europe and Western Asia, including Iran It thrives in woodlands, riverbanks, hedgerows, and along ditches.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Western – Stem, Leaf Eastern – Root.

Flavors/Temps: Salty, Sweet, Bitter, Acrid, Cold

Caution: Safe when used as directed. Large doses can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Not recommended for pregnant, nursing mothers, or children. Figwort is a heart stimulant, so if you have heart disease or irregular heart rate, be sure to consult your healthcare provider.

Key Constituents: Catechin, Thiamin, Quercitrin, Tannin, Palmitic acid, Silicic acid, Ursolic acid, Flavonoids (Including Apigenin, Glycosides, Kaempferol, Quercetin) Vitamin C and K, Triterpenes (Including Alpha-amyrin, Euscapic acid), Volatile oils

History/Folklore: The name, Scrophularia, comes from scrofula, a form of tuberculosis associated with an infection in the lymph nodes of the neck, that the herb is famous for treating. The common name, figwort, derives from its popular use for treating hemorrhoids, which was once called “figs.” According to the “Doctrine of Signatures” if an herb resembles a specific body part then the herb can be considered for treating that condition or body part. The resemblance of the bulbous shape of the plant’s rhizomes to swollen glands led to it being used to treat scrofula. It remains one of the best medicinal plants for treating swelling and tumors. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is called “The King Herb” for treating cancerous tumors.

The disease scrofula has been known since antiquity. Pulmonary tuberculosis alone accounts for most tuberculosis cases. Cervical tuberculosis is usually the result of an infection in the lymph nodes, known as lymphadenitis. Modern science has confirmed that today 95% of mycobacterial cervical infections in adults are caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Extrapulmonary scrofula is mostly observed in immunocompromised individuals. Traditionally, the herb scrofula has been a key herb for treating these types of conditions. The use of surgery has played an increasing role in today’s medical approach, however, this too is decreasing as a method of choice as it has been fraught with persistent disease and complications, placing the focus back on the herb as an important tool for treatment of these kinds of conditions.

The species S. aquatic (water figwort) and S. marylandica (American figwort) are used in the same way as S. nodosa (figwort, also called knotted figwort. Figwort(S. nodosa) is commonly found throughout England.) While similar in habitat, figwort differs from water figwort in the form of its roots and has more distinctly heart-shaped leaves than the water figwort.

Mainly used as a detoxifier, figwort is a good diuretic and blood-cleansing herb. It has mild laxative and analgesic (pain-suppressing) properties. It helps stimulate the liver and heart and improve blood circulation. In Iran, 60 species can be found, where it is used as a heart stimulant and diuretic. Figwort has also been used effectively to expel worms. Externally the herb can help speed the healing of burns, abscesses, wounds, skin eruptions, hemorrhoids, gangrene, ulcers, eczema, and psoriasis. Used to treat skin disorders the herb is often combined with yellow dock (Rumex crispus).


The constituents harpagoside and harpagid, found in figwort, are being studied for their ability to soothe joint pain. Whenever there is a buildup of toxins as in rheumatic conditions, lymphatic disorders, or skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis, figwort is considered for use in treatment.

Compresses soaked in an infusion of figwort can be used to treat eczema skin inflammations and fungal infections.

Figwort has been used as a substitute for the herb devil’s claw (harpagophytum) as the two herbs contain similar constituents.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the herb is dried-fried in salt to enhance the plant’s Yin-nourishing properties.

Good quality is big, thick, and hard with a thin skin and a black color. Typical dosing is 9-30 grams.

Did you know?


The name “scrofula” is a form of tuberculosis, a disease that several species of this herb are famous for treating effectively.


Unpleasant Aroma

The plant has an unpleasant aroma and bitter taste.

Fun fact!

Related to Foxglove

Figwort is closely related to foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). Both plants contain cardiac glycosides that affect the heart. Figwort contains fewer of these compounds than Foxglove, but if you have heart problems consult your healthcare provider.

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