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Digitalis purpurea

Digitalis purpurea & D. lanata (Scrophulariaceae)

FOXGLOVE, WITCHES' GLOVES, FAIRY CAPS

 

Until the late 18th century, the value of foxglove leaves as a heart remedy went unrecognized. Now, extracted digoxin from D. lanata is widely prescribed in orthodox medicine for heart failure and irregular heart beat.

 

European herbalists used the leaves of Digitalis purely for the healing of wounds and skin diseases. It was only when an English doctor, William Withering, discovered that foxglove was the active herb in a folk recipe for dropsy that its value in the treatment of heart disease was recognized. Today, glycosides are extracted from D. purpurea and D. lanata by the pharmaceutical industry to produce the heart drugs digitoxin and digoxin respectively. Native to western Europe, the plants are biennial with a rosette of thick, downy, oval leaves, out of which rises a spike of purple (D. purpurea) or white (D. lanata) trumpet-like flowers in midsummer.

 

PARTS USED

Leaves.

 

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

Cardioactive glycosides, including Purpurea glycosides A and B giving rise to digitoxin and gitoxin in D. purpurea, and lanatosides A, B, and C giving rise to digitoxin, gitoxin and digoxin in D. lanata.

 

ACTIONS

Increases the efficiency of the heart beat; increases urine production.

 

MEDICINAL. USE

Widely prescribed throughout the world for heart failure and to regulate heart beat. In most countries only the extracted pharmaceutical drugs are used, although the leaf has been shown to be less toxic and to be required in smaller doses.

 

PREPARATIONS

Leaf extract, pharmaceutical preparations.

 

CAUTION

Use only under the guidance of a qualified practitioner. 

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