Among many of the prescription medications used to treat heart-related ailments, the common ingredient in them is known as Digoxin, which is ironically derived from a poisonous flower by the name Foxglove.
Botanical Name and Family of Foxglove
The botanical name of Foxglove is Digitalis purpurea. It belongs to the Plantaginaceae or the plantain family and has been referred to as Purple Foxglove, Witch’s Glove, Bloody Fingers and Common Foxglove.
What Is Foxglove?
Foxglove is a flowering plant that is native to both western and eastern Europe, but it is found all over the world. This plant is grown predominately in the wild in mountainous and forest areas.
It is characterized by tubular flowers of vivid purple or white color, making it a popular ornamental plant. The aerial parts of the plant are used in medicine, but because they are highly toxic, this herb is to be used only under strict medical supervision.
Ancient folklore says that this plant earned its name because fairies used to give foxglove blossoms to foxes to use as gloves, so they could move quietly to prevent them from getting caught by farmers as they stole their chickens.
It is also said that medieval witches cultivated foxglove to use as an ingredient in potions created to cast spells on people. Nevertheless, you can’t deny the medicinal uses of this plant.
Active Ingredients Found in Foxglove
Foxglove contains glycosides such as digitoxin and digoxin.
Health Benefits of Foxglove
Foxglove is used mainly to treat congestive cardiac failure and the edema that occurs in this condition. It has also been used to deal with atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, epilepsy, asthma, muscle spasms, constipation and to heal burns and wounds.
Aside from the mentioned benefits, foxglove has also been used for the following:
- Bleeding disorders
- Brain health
- Relieving headaches
- Reducing inflammation
- Promoting heart health and preventing heart disorders
- Improving skin conditions
How to Use Foxglove
Digoxin is extracted from foxglove and used under strict medical supervision only. Foxglove is also available in different forms, including powdered leaves, extracts, tinctures, infusions and grains. Because this plant is highly toxic, it’s recommended to be used under medical supervision.
Foxglove has many benefits that can improve our health from the inside out, but although it is safe in a narrow therapeutic dose range, overdose can lead to toxicity that causes blurring of vision, nausea, dizziness, muscle weakness, confusion, excessive urination, irregularity in heart function and even death.
Because of this, it is always best to make sure you speak to your primary care physician before considering to add any new herbal treatment into your daily lifestyle.
Rahimtoola SH. Digitalis therapy for patients in clinical heart failure. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/01.CIR.0000132477.32438.03
2. Reddy AB. Digitalis therapy in patients with congestive heart failure. Int J of Pharm Sci Rev and Res. August 2010: 3(2); 90-95