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Use of foxglove: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews


Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews

Bessen, H. A. Therapeutic and toxic effects of digitalis: William Withering, 1785. J.Emerg.Med. 1986;4(3):243-248. View abstract.

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Friedman, P. L. and Smith, T. W. Foxglove and Fab: immunological approaches to digitalis intoxication. Int.J.Cardiol. 1983;3(2):237-240. View abstract.

Fujii, Y., Ikeda, Y., and Yamazaki, M. High-performance liquid chromatographic determination of secondary cardiac glycosides in Digitalis purpurea leaves. J Chromatogr. 10-6-1989;479(2):319-325. View abstract.

Hollman, A. Drugs for atrial fibrillation. Digoxin comes from Digitalis lanata. BMJ 4-6-1996;312(7035):912. View abstract.

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Krikler, D. M. The foxglove, “The old woman from Shropshire” and William Withering. J Am.Coll.Cardiol. 1985;5(5 Suppl A):3A-9A. View abstract.

Lacassie, E., Marquet, P., Martin-Dupont, S., Gaulier, J. M., and Lachatre, G. A non-fatal case of intoxication with foxglove, documented by means of liquid chromatography-electrospray-mass spectrometry. J Forensic Sci 2000;45(5):1154-1158. View abstract.

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Lugt, C. B. and Noordhoek-Ananias, L. Quantitative fluorimetric determination of the main cardiac glycosides in Digitalis purpurea leaves. Planta Med 1974;25(3):267-273. View abstract.

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Purple Foxglove

(Digitalis purpurea LINN. )

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Steadman Shorter’s Medical Dictionary, Poisons & Antidotes: Digitalis

Botanical: Digitalis purpurea (LINN.)

Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae

—Synonyms—Witches’ Gloves. Dead Men’s Bells. Fairy’s Glove. Gloves of Our Lady. Bloody Fingers. Virgin’s Glove. Fairy Caps. Folk’s Glove. Fairy Thimbles.

(Norwegian) Revbielde.

(German) Fingerhut.

—Part Used—Leaves.

—Habitat—The Common Foxglove of the woods (Digitalis purpurea), perhaps the handsomest of our indigenous plants, is widely distributed throughout Europe and is common as a wild-flower in Great Britain, growing freely in woods and lanes, particularly in South Devon, ranging from Cornwall and Kent to Orkney, but not occurring in Shetland, or in some of the eastern counties of England. It flourishes best in siliceous soil and grows well in loam, but is entirely absent from some calcareous districts, such as the chain of the Jura, and is also not found in the Swiss Alps. It occurs in Madeira and the Azores, but is, perhaps, introduced there. The genus contains only this one indigenous species, though several are found on the Continent.

Needing little soil, it is found often in the crevices of granite walls, as well as in dry hilly pastures, rocky places and by roadsides. Seedling Foxgloves spring up rapidly from recently-turned earth. Turner (1548), says that it grows round rabbitholes freely.

—Description—The normal life of a Foxglove plant is two seasons, but sometimes the roots, which are formed of numerous, long, thick fibres, persist and throw up flowers for several seasons.

In the first year a rosette of leaves, but no stem, is sent up. In the second year, one or more flowering stems are thrown up, which are from 3 to 4 feet high, though even sometimes more, and bear long spikes of drooping flowers, which bloom in the early summer, though the time of flowering differs much, according to the locality. As a rule the flowers are in perfection in July. As the blossoms on the main stem gradually fall away, smaller lateral shoots are often thrown out from its lower parts, which remain in flower after the principal stem has shed its blossoms. These are also promptly developed if by mischance the central stem sustains any serious injury.

The radical leaves are often a foot or more long, contracted at the base into a long, winged footstalk, the wings formed by the lower veins running down into it some distance. They have slightly indented margins and sloping lateral veins, which are a very prominent feature. The flowering stems give off a few leaves, that gradually diminish in size from below upwards. All the leaves are covered with small, simple, unbranched hairs.

The flowers are bell-shaped and tubular, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, flattened above, inflated beneath, crimson outside above and paler beneath, the lower lip furnished with long hairs inside and marked with numerous dark crimson spots, each surrounded with a white border. The shade of the flowers varies much, especially under cultivation, sometimes the corollas being found perfectly white.

In cultivated plants there frequently occurs a malformation, whereby one or two of the uppermost flowers become united, and form an erect, regular, cup-shaped flower, through the centre of which the upper extremity of the stem is more or less prolonged.

The Foxglove is a favourite flower of the honey-bee, and is entirely developed by the visits of this insect. For that reason, its tall and stately spikes of flowers are at their best in those sunny, midsummer days when the bees are busiest. The projecting lower lip of the corolla forms an alighting platform for the bee, and as he pushes his way up the bell, to get at the honey which lies in a ring round the seed vessel at the top of the flower, the anthers of the stamens which lie flat on the corolla above him, are rubbed against his back. Going from flower to flower up the spike, he rubs pollen thus from one blossom on to the cleft stigma of another blossom, and thus the flower is fertilized and seeds are able to be produced. The life of each flower, from the time the bud opens till the time it slips off its corolla, is about six days. An almost incredible number of seeds are produced, a single Foxglove plant providing from one to two million seeds to ensure its propagation.

It is noteworthy that although the flower is such a favourite with bees and is much visited by other smaller insects, who may be seen taking refuge from cold and wet in its drooping blossoms on chilly evenings, yet no animals will browse upon the plant, perhaps instinctively recognizing its poisonous character.

The Foxglove derives its common name from the shape of the flowers resembling the finger of a glove. It was originally Folksglove – the glove of the ‘good folk’ or fairies, whose favourite haunts were supposed to be in the deep hollows and woody dells, where the Foxglove delights to grow. Folksglove is one of its oldest names, and is mentioned in a list of plants in the time of Edward III. Its Norwegian name, Revbielde (Foxbell), is the only foreign one that alludes to the Fox, though there is a northern legend that bad fairies gave these blossoms to the fox that he might put them on his toes to soften his tread when he prowled among the roosts.

The earliest known form of the word is the Anglo-Saxon foxes glofa (the glove of the fox).

The mottlings of the blossoms of the Foxglove and the Cowslip, like the spots on butterfly wings and on the tails of peacocks and pheasants, were said to mark where the elves had placed their fingers, and one legend ran that the marks on the Foxglove were a warning sign of the baneful juices secreted by the plant, which in Ireland gain it the popular name of ‘Dead Man’s Thimbles.’ In Scotland, it forms the badge of the Farquharsons, as the Thistle does of the Stuarts. The German name Fingerhut (thimble) suggested to Leonhard Fuchs (the well-known German herbalist of the sixteenth century, after whom the Fuchsia has been named) the employment of the Latin adjective Digitalis (from Digitabulum, a thimble) as a designation for the plant, which, as he remarked, up to the time when he thus named it, in 1542, had had no name in either Greek or Latin.

The Foxglove was employed by the old herbalists for various purposes in medicine, most of them wholly without reference to those valuable properties which render it useful as a remedy in the hands of modern physicians. Gerard recommends it to those ‘who have fallen from high places,’ and Parkinson speaks highly of the bruised herb or of its expressed juice for scrofulous swellings, when applied outwardly in the form of an ointment, and the bruised leaves for cleansing for old sores and ulcers. Dodoens (1554) prescribed it boiled in wine as an expectorant, and it seems to have been in frequent use in cases in which the practitioners of the present day would consider it highly dangerous.

Culpepper says it is of:
‘a gentle, cleansing nature and withal very friendly to nature. The Herb is familiarly and frequently used by the Italians to heal any fresh or green wound, the leaves being but bruised and bound thereon and the juice thereof is also used in old sores, to cleanse, dry and heal them. It has been found by experience to be available for the King’s evil, the herb bruised and applied, or an ointment made with the juice thereof, and so used…. I am confident that an ointment of it is one of the best remedies for a scabby head that is.

Strangely enough, the Foxglove, so handsome and striking in our landscape, is not mentioned by Shakespeare, or by any of the old English poets. The earliest known descriptions of it are those given about the middle of the sixteenth century by Fuchs and Tragus in their Herbals. According to an old manuscript, the Welsh physicians of the thirteenth century appear to have frequently made use of it in the preparation of external medicines. Gerard and Parkinson advocate its use for a number of complaints, and later Salmon, in the New London Dispensatory, praised the plant. It was introduced into the London Pharmacopoeia in 1650, though it did not come into frequent use until a century later, and was first brought prominently under the notice of the medical profession by Dr. W. Withering, who in his Acount of the Foxglove, 1785, gave details of upwards of 200 cases, chiefly dropsical, in which it was used.

A domestic use of the Foxglove was general throughout North Wales at one time, when the leaves were used to darken the lines engraved on the stone floors which were fashionable then. This gave them a mosaiclike appearance.

The plant is both cultivated and collected in quantities for commercial purposes in the Harz Mountains and the Thuringian Forest.


—Cultivation—The Foxglove is cultivated by a few growers in this country in order to provide a drug of uniform activity from a true type of Digitalis purpurea. It is absolutely necessary to have the true medicinal seeds to supply the drug market: crops must be obtained from carefully selected wild seed and all variations from the new type struck out.

The plant will flourish best in welldrained loose soil, preferably of siliceous origin, with some slight shade. The plants growing in sunny situations possess the active qualities of the herb in a much greater degree than those shaded by trees, and it has been proved that those grown on a hot, sunny bank, protected by a wood, give the best results.

It grows best when allowed to seed itself, but if it is desired to raise it by sown seed, 2 lb. of seed to the acre are required. As the seeds are so small and light, they should be mixed with fine sand in order to ensure even distribution. They should be thinly covered with soil. The seeds are uncertain in germination, but the seedlings may be readily and safely transplanted in damp weather, and should be pricked out to 6 to 9 inches apart. Sown in spring, the plant will not blossom till the following year. Seeds must be gathered as soon as ripe. The flowers of the true medicinal type must be pure, dull pink or magenta, not pale-coloured, white or spotted externally.

It is estimated that one acre of good soil will grow at least two tons of the Foxglove foliage, producing about 1/2 ton of the dried leaves.


—Preparation for Market—The leaves alone are now used for the extraction of the drug, although formerly the seeds were also official.

No leaves are to be used for medicinal purposes that are not taken from the twoyear-old plants, picked when the bloom spike has run up and about two-thirds of the flowers are expanded, because at this time, before the ripening of the seeds, the leaves are in the most active state. They may be collected as long as they are in good condition: only green, perfect leaves being picked, all those that are insect-eaten or diseased, or tinged with purple or otherwise discoloured, must be discarded. Leaves from seedlings are valueless, and they must also not be collected in the spring, before the plant flowers, or in the autumn, when it has seeded, as the activity of the alkaloids is in each case too low.

If the fresh leaves are sent to the manufacturing druggists for Extract-making, they should be in 1/2 cwt. bundles, packed in aircovered railway cattle-trucks, or if in an open truck, must be covered with tarpaulin. The fresh crop should, if possible, be delivered to the wholesale buyer the same day as cut, but if this is impossible, on account of distance, they should be picked before the dew falls in the late afternoon and despatched the same evening, packed loosely in wicker baskets, lined with an open kind of muslin. Consignments by rail should be labelled: ‘Urgent, Medicinal Herbs,’ to ensure quick delivery. The weather for picking must be absolutely dry – no damp or rain in the air and the leaves must be kept out of the sun and not packed too closely, or they may heat and turn yellow.

The odour of the fresh leaves is unpleasant, and the taste of both fresh and dried leaves is disagreeably bitter.

Foxglove leaves have in some places been recklessly gathered by over-zealous and thoughtless collectors without due regard to the future supply of the plants. The plant should not be roughly treated and never cut off just above the root, but the bottom leaves should in all cases be left to nourish the flower-spikes, in order that the seed may be ripened. In patches where Foxgloves grow thickly, the collection and redistribution of seed in likely places is much to be recommended.

The dried leaves as imported have occasionally been found adulterated with the leaves of various other plants. The chief of these are Inula Conyza (Ploughman’s Spikenard), which may be distinguished by their greater roughness, the less-divided margins, the teeth of which have horny points, and odour when rubbed; I. Helenium (Elecampane), the leaves of which resemble Foxglove leaves, though they are less pointed, and the lower lateral veins do not form a ‘wing’ as in the Foxglove, the leaves of Symphytum officinale (Comfrey), which, however, may be recognized by the isolated stiff hairs they bear, and Verbascum Thapsus (Great Mullein), the leaves of which, unlike those of the Foxglove, have woolly upper and under surfaces, and the hairs of which, examined under a lens, are seen to be branched. Primrose leaves are also sometimes mingled with the drug, though they are much smaller than the average Foxglove leaf, and may be readily distinguished by the straight, lateral veins, which divide near the margins of the leaves. Foxglove leaves are easy to distinguish by their veins running down the leaf.

There is no reason why Foxglove leaves, properly prepared, should not become a national export.

Digitalis has lately been grown in Government Cinchona plantations in the Nilgiris, Madras, India. The leaves are coarser and rather darker in colour than British or German-grown leaves, wild or cultivated, but tests show that the tincture prepared from them contains glucosides of more than average value.


—Constituents—Digitalis contains four important glucosides of which three arecardiac stimulants. The most powerful is Digitoxin, an extremely poisonous and cumulative drug, insoluble in water, Digitalin, which is crystalline and also insoluble in water; Digitalein, amorphous, but readily soluble in water, rendering it, therefore, capable of being administered subcutaneously, in doses so minute as rarely to exceed of a grain; Digitonin, which is a cardiac depressant, containing none of the physiological action peculiar to Digitalis, and is identical with Saponin, the chief constituent of Senega root. Other constituents are volatile oil, fatty matter, starch, gum, sugar, etc.

The amount and character of the active constituents vary according to season and soil: 100 parts of dried leaves yield about 1. 25 of Digitalin, which is generally found in a larger proportion in the wild than in the cultivated plants.

The active constituents of Digitalis are not yet sufficiently explored to render a chemical assay effective in standardizing for therapeutic activity. The different glucosides contained varying from each other in their physiological action, it is impossible to assay the leaves by determining one only of these, such as Digitoxin. No method of determining Digitalin is known. Hence the chemical means of assay fail, and the drug is usually standardized by a physiological test. One of our oldest firms of manufacturing druggists standardizes preparations of this extremely powerful and important drug by testing their action upon frogs.

—Preparations—The preparations of Foxglove on the market vary considerably in composition and strength. Powdered Digitalis leaf is administered in pill form. The pharmacopoeial tincture, which is the preparation in commonest use, is given in doses of 5. 15 minims, and the infusion is the unusually small dose of 2 to 4 drachms, the dose of other infusions being an ounce or more. The tincture contains a fair proportion of both Digitalin and Digitoxin.


The following note from the Chemist and Druggist (December 30, 1922) is of interest here:
‘Cultivation of Digitalis

‘As is well known, for many years prior to the War digitalis was successfully cultivated on a large scale in various parts of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and indeed the Government actively promoted the cultivation of this as well as of other medicinal plants. B. Pater, of Klausenburg, gives a résumé of his experiences in this direction (Pharmazeutische Monatshefte, 7, 1922), dealing not only with the best methods for cultivating digitalis from the seeds of this plant, but also with his investigations into certain differences and abnormalities peculiar to Digitalis purpurea. Apart from the fact that, occasionally, some plants bear flowers already in the first year of growth, the observation was made that the colour of the flowers showed a wide scale of variation, ranging from the well-known distinctive purple shade through dark rose, light rose, to white. These variations in colour of the flowers of cultivated digitalis plants induced the author to undertake a study of the activity of the several varieties, based on the digitoxin content of the stem leaves collected from flowering plants. In the case of Digitalis purpurea with normal purple flowers, the content of purified digitoxin, ascertained by Keller’s method, averaged 0.17 per cent, while the leaves of plants bearing white flowers showed a slightly lower content, i.e. an average of 0.155 per cent of purified digitoxin. On the other hand, the plants with rose-coloured flowers were found to possess a very low content of digitoxin, averaging only 0.059 per cent. In the course of these investigations the fact was confirmed that the upper stem leaves are more active than the lower leaves.’


—Medicinal Action and Uses—Digitalis has been used from early times in heart cases. It increases the activity of all forms of muscle tissue, but more especially that of the heart and arterioles, the all-important property of the drug being its action on the circulation. The first consequence of its absorption is a contraction of the heart and arteries, causing a very high rise in the blood pressure.

After the taking of a moderate dose, the pulse is markedly slowed. Digitalis also causes an irregular pulse to become regular. Added to the greater force of cardiac contraction is a permanent tonic contraction of the organ, so that its internal capacity is reduced, which is a beneficial effect in cases of cardiac dilatation, and it improves the nutrition of the heart by increasing the amount of blood.

In ordinary conditions it takes about twelve hours or more before its effects on the heart muscle is appreciated, and it must thus always be combined with other remedies to tide the patient over this period and never prescribed in large doses at first, as some patients are unable to take it, the drug being apt to cause considerable digestive disturbances, varying in different cases. This action is probably due to the Digitonin, an undesirable constituent.

The action of the drug on the kidneys is of importance only second to its action on the circulation. In small or moderate doses, it is a powerful diuretic and a valuable remedy in dropsy, especially when this is connected with affections of the heart.

It has also been employed in the treatment of internal haemorrhage, in inflammatory diseases, in delirium tremens, in epilepsy, in acute mania and various other diseases, with real or supposed benefits.

The action of Digitalis in all the forms in which it is administered should be carefully watched, and when given over a prolonged period it should be employed with caution, as it is liable to accumulate in the system and to manifest its presence all at once by its poisonous action, indicated by the pulse becoming irregular, the blood-pressure low and gastro-intestinal irritation setting in. The constant use of Digitalis, also, by increasing the activity of the heart, leads to hypertrophy of that organ.

Digitalis is an excellent antidote in Aconite poisoning, given as a hypodermic injection.

When Digitalis fails to act on the heart as desired, Lily-of-the-Valley may be substituted and will often be found of service.

In large doses, the action of Digitalis on the circulation will cause various cerebral symptoms, such as seeing all objects blue, and various other disturbances of the special senses. In cases of poisoning by Digitalis, with a very slow and irregular pulse, the administration of Atropine is generally all that is necessary. In the more severe cases, with the very rapid heart-beat, the stomach pump must be used, and drugs may be used which depress and diminish the irritability of the heart, such as chloral and chloroform.

Preparations of Digitalis come under Table II of the Poison Schedule.


—Preparations and Dosages—Tincture, B.P., 5 to 15 drops. Infusion, B.P., 2 to 4 drachms. Powdered leaves, 1/2 to 2 grains. Fluid extract, 1 to 3 drops. Solid extract, U.S.P., 1/8 grain.

A method of preparing the drug in a noninJurious manner is given in the Chemist and Druggist (December 30, 1922):
‘Digitalis Maceration

‘On preparing an infusion of digitalis leaves in the usual manner, one of the active principles, gitalin, is destroyed by the action of the boiling water. To obviate the possibility of destroying any of the active principles in the leaves, Th. Koch (Süddeutsche Apotheker-Zeitung, 63, 1922) has for some years past adopted the following procedure: 20 gm. powdered standardized digitalis leaves, 1000 gm. chloroform water (7.1000) and 40 drops of 10 per cent. Solution of Sodium Carbonate are shaken for four hours. The liquid is then passed through a flannel cloth, and, after standing for some time, filtered in the ordinary way, taking the precaution to cover the filter with a glass plate. The use of chloroform water as the solvent serves a threefold purpose: It promotes the solution of the gitalin present in the leaves, ensures the stability and keeping properties of the maceration, and prevents the occurrence of gastric troubles. The presence of Sodium Carbonate prevents the plant acid from reacting with the chloroform to produce hydrochloric acid. In this maceration no digitoxin is present, the principle which is assumed to exert a deleterious action on the heart as well as a cumulative effect.


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Bear in mind “A Modern Herbal” was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900’s. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.

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How do foxglove plants make heart medicine?

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Two studies mark early steps in the quest to understand how foxglove plants make medicinal compounds that treat heart failure.

Foxglove plants, common in many gardens, are known for the showers of bell-shaped flowers they produce.

“Foxgloves make these powerful compounds, but it takes two years to do so, and they don’t make them in a very large quantity. How can we improve this process?”

Plants belonging to this genus, Digitalis, also harbor a less visible asset, however: Chemicals called cardiac glycosides, which have been recorded to treat heart failure since the 1780s, says Zhen Wang, assistant professor of biological sciences at the University at Buffalo.

Wang’s research investigates how foxgloves create these medicinal compounds, with an eye toward improving the process. Farming foxgloves is time-consuming and labor-intensive, and Wang hopes to change that.

Specifically, her lab is investigating the chemical processes the plants use to create cardiac glycosides: what steps take place, what genes turn on, and what enzymes deploy.

Digitalis lanata, grown in a greenhouse. This species of foxglove plant makes digoxin, a chemical that is used sparingly to treat heart failure. (Credit: Zhen Wang/U. Buffalo)

“The reason why plants make so many natural products with medicinal properties is because they are also fighting diseases,” says Wang. “Plants aren’t like animals. They can’t run away when stresses come, so they cope with this by becoming the most extraordinary chemists on the planet.”

And yet, “How plants synthesize many natural products is largely unknown,” Wang says. “I want to understand how we can harness the power of nature to make the process of producing medicinal compounds more efficient and sustainable. Foxgloves make these powerful compounds, but it takes two years to do so, and they don’t make them in a very large quantity. How can we improve this process?”

Wang’s team recently published a pair of papers detailing the characteristics of cardiac glycosides in two foxglove species: Digitalis purpurea, a showy purple flower found in many gardens; and Digitalis lanata, which is grown for medicinal purposes.

“This kind of study is important because we first have to know the accurate structure of natural compounds before we can explore their medicinal effects,” Wang says.

In the first paper, published in the Journal of Chromatography A, the researchers describe methods for assessing the exact mass and structure of cardiac glycosides, and compares compounds found in Digitalis purpurea and Digitalis lanata.

In the second study, published in the journal Data in Brief, they expand on the first, providing additional data on characteristics of cardiac glycosides in both species.

“When we looked at the cardiac glycosides in each of them, we found drastic differences,” Wang says. “In the industrial strain that’s grown for medicine, you see much higher amounts of cardiac glycosides, with much more diversity. I think this just highlights the adaptation of plants and how versatile they are as chemists.”

“We can study all of the available compounds that are found in the plants and then come up with our own design of compounds that are safer and more effective.”

Digitalis lanata is cultivated for medicine because it makes a cardiac glycoside called digoxin. This compound is toxic in large quantities, but it’s prescribed sparingly, in small doses, to treat heart failure and certain heart rhythm abnormalities.

Current methods for producing digoxin are cumbersome: Because each foxglove plant makes only a little bit of the chemical, farmers must grow the crop in huge quantities, Wang says. That uses up a lot of agricultural land. The wait time is also long.

“It takes two years, from the time you plant the seed to the time the leaves are ready to harvest, and then you have to dry it in the silo,” Wang says. “Then, the plant is crushed into powder, and the compound is extracted and purified using chemical processes.”

If Wang’s team can figure out, step-by-step, how foxgloves make cardiac glycosides, scientists could leverage that information to explore a variety of improvements.

Biologists could engineer fast-growing microbes, such as yeast or harmless strains of bacteria, to produce cardiac glycosides more quickly. Plant scientists could genetically engineer foxgloves to make larger amounts of digoxin, which would increase the efficiency of farms and free up land for other useful crops.

Medicinal chemists could also work to develop new drugs that are similar to digoxin but safer.

“We can learn from nature,” Wang says. “We can study all of the available compounds that are found in the plants and then come up with our own design of compounds that are safer and more effective. That’s why I think it’s important to not just focus on the current drug digoxin, but to expand our focus to all the compounds in the same class, the cardiac glycosides.”

Source: University at Buffalo

Digitalis: The flower, the drug, the poison

This old drawing depicting Digitalis purpurea, from a book by Gera-Untermhaus, Franz Eugen Köhler in 1887, although it is signed W. Müller (Photo is in public domain because it was published before 1923)

Digitalis is a genus of twenty species of flowers that grow wild in much of the eastern hemisphere, and are widely planted as ornamentals by gardeners like me in the U.S. Several species have been used medically for centuries, and are still the source for digoxin, a drug still used to treat cardiac arrhythmia. The medical use of digitalis was popularized by a British physician, William Withering, whose book, An Account of the Foxglove, was first published in 1785. 

Withering’s book contained as the frontispiece a drawing of the foxglove, or Digitalis purpurea, which has wide leaves with serrated edges and tall spikes bearing elongated bell-like purple flowers. Digitalis (finger-like) refers to the shape of the flowers. 

Withering advised to gather the leaves at about the time that blossoms are coming out. These were “dried, either in the sunshine or on a tin pan or pewter dish before a fire. If well dried, these rub down to a beautiful green powder.” Withering used the powder directly or made an infusion from it.

The leaves today are extracted to yield digoxin, a cardiac glycoside, a complex molecule with multiple carbohydrate type rings. Digoxin appears to inhibit the Na+/K+ ATPase pump in cardiac muscle cells, leading to excess intracellular Na+, which indirectly leads to an increase in calcium ions stored in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. The increased calcium levels support a more forceful contraction of cardiac muscle, allowing the heart to work more efficiently.

Although used as a heart drug today, Withering used digitalis for a wide variety of ailments, including anasarca (generalized edema), epilepsy, hydrothorax (fluid in the pleural cavities), ovarian dropsy, and phthisis pulmonalis (probably tuberculosis). Sometimes Withering used digitalis as a treatment of last resort, “…whilst I was less expert in the management of the Digitalis, I seldom prescribed it, but when the failure of every other method compelled me to do it… if the properties of that plant had not been discovered, by far the greatest part of these patients would have died.”

Not that digitalis is really a wonder drug. In fact, it is pretty toxic. According to Withering, “the Foxglove, when given in large and quickly-repeated doses, occasions sickness, vomiting, purging, giddiness, confused vision, objects appearing green or yellow; increased secretion of urine. ..slow pulse, even as slow as 35 in a minute, cold sweats, convulsions, syncope (unconsciousness), death.”

The visual aberrations caused by digitalis include a tipping of the color scale toward yellow (xanthopsia), and halos around bright points of light. Such effects are displayed in some of the later works of Vincent van Gogh, his “yellow period.” Halos around the stars and moon are evident in his famous painting “The Starry Night” and other works. It has been theorized that these effects are due to his use of foxglove to treat epilepsy. This idea was suggested by many self-portraits which included depictions of foxglove as well as two paintings of his doctor, which show him holding sprays of the flower. However, similar visual effects are caused by alkaloids in Artemisia absinthium, which is used to brew absinthe, a liqueur that Van Gogh was known to enjoy.

Digoxin was apparently the poison of choice for Charles Edmund Cullen, a nurse who may be the most prolific serial killer in American history, arrested in 2003 after a sixteen year murder spree. He specifically remembers killing at least 40 patients, but there is evidence to suggest that he may actually be responsible for hundreds of deaths.  

Foxglove | Medicinal Herb Info

Scientific Names

  • Digitalis purpurea L.
  • Scrophulariaceae
  • Figwort family

Common Names

  • American foxglove
  • Dead men’s bells
  • Digitalis
  • Dog’s finger
  • Fairy fingers
  • Fairy gloves
  • Finger flower
  • Folk’s glove
  • Foxgloves
  • Ladies’ glove
  • Lion’s mouth
  • Purple foxglove

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Parts Usually Used

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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

A biennial plant with a basal rosette of leaves in the first year, a leafy, erect, unbranching flowering stem in the second year.   Leaves are large and softly hairy, ovate or lance-shaped with winged stalks 3-4 feet tall with rows of hood-shaped, bright, purple flowers.  Large bell-shaped, or thimble-shaped, purple flowers have spotted insides; they are borne in a tall spike. Blooms in summer.  Full sun or partial shade.  Zones 3-10.  Not heat tolerant.

Flowers from June to September; one-sided racemes appear; may be rose colored to deep purple and whitish with red spots on the inside; depends on the variety.

Foxglove is grown from seed, though the germination is somewhat uncertain.  Seeds must be sown annually to maintain an annual bloom.  The soil should be rich and moist.  The plants should be fertilized with compost and mulched in fall to prevent winterkill.

Varieties: Giant Shirley and Excelsior Hybrids are the best-known of the hybrid strains.  The strawberry foxglove, D. s mertonensis, and the straw or small yellow foxglove, D. lutea, are perennial.

Foxglove is an essential component of cottage gardens; a drift of these flowers blooming in a lightly shaded woodland garden is a memorable sight.

Plant in spring or fall in well-drained, organically rich soil that never dries out.  Propagate perennial varieties by division in spring; biennials such as D. purpurea will self-sow, or you can collect and sow ripe seed.  Deadheading may encourage a second flush of bloom, at the expense of seed production.  Japanese beetles and slugs often require control, while poor air circulation encourages attacks of powdery mildew.
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Where Found

Cultivated in East and West.  Shady places.  Although foxgloves will grow in full sun in the North, they are at their best in light shade on the edge of woodlands or among shrubs.  In hotter climates, shade is essential, and additional rich water is necessary during dry periods.

Found in hedges, ditches and on wooded slopes, foxgloves are a fairly common sight.  New England
Also found wild in pastures and burned-over areas on the Pacific coast from British Columbia to northern California.
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Medicinal Properties

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Legends, Myths and Stories

Foxglove is the common name for the plant Digitalis purpurea, from which the drug digitalis is obtained.  Foxglove was mentioned in the writings of Welsh physicians in 1250 and later by William Withering in a book published in 1785.

This quotation is taken from Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible.  “In 1775, English physician William Withering diagnosed a patient with congestive heart failure as hopeless and sent him home to die.  A short time later, he learned that a local folk healer had cured his patient using a bunch of mysterious herbs.  Amazed by the man’s miraculous recovery, Withering investigated the herbs used by the healer and isolated foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) as the main ingredient.  After performing several experiments, Withering discovered that this purple-flowered plant was a potent cardiotonic, that is, it improved the heart’s pumping action, helping to rid the body of the excess fluid causing the congestion.   Withering also learned that in wrong doses, foxglove could be lethal, triggering a fatal arrhythmia or irregularity in the heartbeat.  For the next decade, Withering conducted numerous experiments to determine the precise amount of this drug needed to treat heart failure.  He published his results in 1785, informing other physicians of this amazing new cure.  Today, digitalis, the drug derived from foxglove, is a highly regarded treatment for heart failure.  Due to its unpredictable effect on the heart, the herb should never be consumed without a doctor’s supervision.”

It is doubtful that Digitalis purpurea is found in China; if found it has not been identified.

When our ancestors first used foxglove to treat heart failure, they didn’t know that this fuchsia-flowered plant contained molecules called glycosides that stimulate heart cells.
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The drug digitalis is extracted from the leaves.   It is used to regularize and slow heart beat and increase blood pressure.  It is also a powerful diuretic.

Often cultivated as an ornamental but is a potentially dangerous drug, digitalis should only be used under the care of a doctor.

Curiously, the ancient herbalists used foxglove for external uses.  It was not until 1775 that an English doctor, having heard of internal uses from a folk healer, investigated its benefits on a scientific basis.

Unfortunately, the correct dosage varies in every case and, as the plant has poisonous properties, its administration is best left to an experienced herbalist or medical doctor.  Novices should stick to the external use of foxglove leaves; in poultices or compresses these will calm headaches, reduce tumors and lessen inflammation.
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This herb is deadly poison.  This is a powerful herb/drug.  Use only under medical supervision.   Even touching the plant with bare skin has been known to cause rashes, headache, and nausea.

First year’s leaf growth (rosette) has been mistaken for leaves of Comfrey, with fatal results.  Therapeutic dose of Digitalis is dangerously close to lethal dose.  Do not take this herb internally especially if taking Digitalis.  This herb is for use by physicians only.

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Resource Links

Read about foxglove on Prime Time television.

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The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, R. Ph., Ph.D., Simon & Schuster/Fireside, Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 15th Edition, F. A. Davis Company, 1915 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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Foxglove (Digitalis) – Harvesting History

Foxglove (Digitalis) 
A Little History and Some Growing Instructions

Foxglove, also known as Digitalis, Fairy’s Gloves, Witches’ Fingers, and Fairy Thimbles is one of the most beloved of all garden flowers despite being poisonous, short lived and a brief bloomer. The plant is a biennial native to Europe, North Africa and Central Asia. The common name, Foxglove, refers to the fact that the spire of blossoms resembles clusters of gloves and the areas where Foxgloves grew naturally were thought to be inhabited by fairies. Thus the plants were thought to be fairies’ gloves. The Latin name, Digitalis, comes from digitabulum which means thimble and refers to the shape of the individual flowers.

The plant had been known as far back as 1000AD. It has been cultivated since the 1400’s in England, but was not grown in American gardens until the 1700’s. Joseph Breck in his 1851 book, The Flower Garden, describes five varieties with the most popular being Digitalis purpurea, the purple foxglove. Breck writes, “The plant is a violent poison, but invaluable in medicine. It is suitable for the border, and may be introduced into the shrubbery with fine effect, as its tall, spire-like spikes, crowned with its large thimble or bell-shaped purple or white flower, will finely contrast with the green foliage of the shrubs.”

By the late 1700’s, the plant’s value as a heart stimulant was well known, and it had become a valued medicinal plant as well as a garden flower. The discovery had been made by a British Dr. William Withering in 1785 when he had tried but failed to relieve a woman who appeared to be dying from dropsy. Weeks later, he was informed that the woman had been cured by drinking an herbal tea. Withering found that the ingredient in the tea was foxglove and the active ingredient that had cured the woman was digitalis. That same year he published, An Account of the Foxglove. This book propelled digitalis to the forefront of treatments for the heart.

The English used foxgloves for many medicinal ailments including coughs, epilepsy and swollen glands. One of the curious stories associated with the plant involves Vincent Van Gogh who was believed to have taken the drug for his epilepsy. One of the side effects of the drug is yellow vision, and it is believed that this yellow vision greatly influenced Van Gogh’s art and was the reason he so often selected the color yellow for his paintings.

Foxgloves are difficult to grow from seed and do not transplant well. It often takes years to establish a healthy grouping of the plants. It is recommended that seed be planted in the fall, but it can also be planted in the early spring. During the first year, if the seed germinates, it will form a rosette or low mound sometimes 10 inches in diameter. Seed can remain dormant in the ground for years so do not be surprised if little or no germination results from the initial seeding. Seed needs light to germinate so just press the seed into the moist soil, but do not cover it. Plants should be thinned to 10-12 inches. Foxgloves love heavy feeding with manure or a tea made from comfrey leaves. Blooms only last for a week to 10 days. The plants bloom in July.




Family: Sorophulariaceae, Digitalis species

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Foxglove is the common name for plants of the Digitalis
species, primarily represented by common foxglove, Digitalis
L., and Grecian foxglove, Digitalis lanata
J. F. Ehrh. These biennial or perennial plants, native to the
Mediterranean region, reach heights of 1.2 to 2 meters. The plants
have lanoeolate to ovate leaves and showy bell-shaped flowers
in racemes. Foxglove, almost always produced under commercial
contract, has traditionally been grown in Germany, England, India,
and several eastern European countries.

The reported life zone for common foxglove is 6 to 21 degrees
centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 2.1 meters and
a soil pH of 4.5 to 8.3 (4.1-31). The hardy, easy to grow
plant flourishes in well-drained loam soil. Because of the
small seed size and nonuniform germination of the typical heterogenous
seed lots, plants are usually transplanted into the field to obtain
the desired plant density. Leaves are harvested late in the first
fall or in the following spring. Plants are dried in the shade
or with artificial heat. Exposure to sunlight or moisture decreases
the medicinal value of the leaves.

There are many natural, secondary, and other derived compounds
from Digitalis species. The important cardenolides or cardiac
glycosides include digitoxin, digoxin, gitoxin, from the lanatosides
A, B, and C, and from purpurea glycoside A and B. The important
saponins include digitonin, tigonin and gitonin. Additional medicinally
useful steroids and cortical hormones can be made from the plant
steroids. The glycoside content of tissue varies with the individual
plant, the stage of development, the growth environment, and the
time and method of harvest. Comfrey leaves have been reported
to be used as an adulterant (11.1-50).

There are several varieties of ornamental foxglove available,
differing in size and flower color. The primary value of foxglove,
however, is as a source of the medicinally important glycosides
found in the plant. Digitalis, a cardiovascular drug extracted
from the leaves, is the most effective drug available for heart
failure caused by hypertension or arteriosclerosis (11.1-96).
It is also used medicinally as a heart regulator, a diuretic,
and an expectorant. Digoxin and lanatoside C from foxglove are
effective in the correction of arrhythmias (11.1-95). Folk
remedies use foxglove as a cardiac tonic and in the treatment
of circulatory failures (11.1-154). The cardenolides slow
and strengthen the heart beat.

Digitalis is poisonous, and symptoms include vomiting, headache,
irregular heartbeat, and convulsions (11.1-96). Overdoses
can be fatal.

Several wild strains and cultivated varieties of foxglove exist
and are collected or produced for their ornamental and medicinal

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997

medicinal plant, application, reviews, useful properties, contraindications, flower formula

1. State Pharmacopoeia of the USSR. Eleventh edition. Issue 1 (1987), Issue 2 (1990).

2. State Register of Medicines. Moscow 2004.

3. Medicinal plants of the State Pharmacopoeia. Pharmacognosy. (Edited by I.A. Samylina, V.A. Severtsev). – M., “AMNI”, 1999.

4. Mashkovsky M.D. “Medicines”. In 2 volumes – M., New Wave Publishing House, 2000.

5.P.S. Chikov. “Medicinal plants” M .: Medicine, 2002.

6. Sokolov S.Ya., Zamotaev I.P. Handbook of medicinal plants (herbal medicine). – M .: VITA, 1993.

7. Mannfrid Palov. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants”. Ed. Cand. biol. Sciences I.A. Gubanov. Moscow, “Mir”, 1998.

8. Lesiovskaya E.E., Pastushenkov L.V. “Pharmacotherapy with the basics of herbal medicine. ” Tutorial. – M .: GEOTAR-MED, 2003.

9. Medicinal plants: a reference manual./ N.I. Grinkevich, I.A. Balandin, V.A. Ermakova and others; Ed. N.I. Grinkevich – M .: Higher school, 1991 .– 398 p.

10. Plants for us. Reference manual / Ed. G.P. Yakovleva, K.F. Blinova. – Publishing house “Educational book”, 1996. – 654 p.

11. Medicinal plant raw materials. Pharmacognosy: Textbook. allowance / Ed. G.P. Yakovlev and K.F. Blinova. – SPb .: SpetsLit, 2004 .– 765 p.

12. Forest herbaceous plants. Biology and protection / Alekseev Yu.V., Vakhrameeva M.G., Denisova L.V., Nikitina S.V. – M .: Agropromizdat, 1998 .– 223 p.

13. Herbs and health. medicinal plants / Author-comp .: A.M. Zadorozhny and others – Swallowtail; Gamma Press 2000, 2001 .– 512 p.

14. Turova A.D. “Medicinal plants of the USSR and their application.” Moscow. “Medicine”. 1974.

15. Makhlayuk VP Medicinal plants in folk medicine. – M .: Niva Rossii, 1992 .– 477 p.

Digitalis purple, red. Care, cultivation, reproduction. Decorative flowering. Beneficial features.Application. Medicinal, garden plants. Flowers. Photo. – Botanichka.ru

Red foxglove, or purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is a herbaceous biennial plant of the Noricidae family. In culture, in the first year of vegetation, it forms a dense rosette of basal leaves, and in the second year – generative shoots; the plant blooms and bears fruit. The root is fibrous. Stems 30-150 cm high, single or several, erect, furrowed, densely covered with simple and glandular hairs.The leaves are alternate, velvety, dark green above and sparsely hairy, grayish below, tomentose, covered with simple and glandular hairs. The flowers are large, 30-40 mm long, collected in a dense, long, one-sided multi-flowered raceme. Corolla easily falling, tubular-bell-shaped, narrowed in the lower part, purple (sometimes white). Corolla tube with dark red, white-bordered spots and long protruding hairs inside. The fruit is a bicuspid, ovate, densely covered with glandular hairs capsule 8 – 12 mm long.Seeds are very small, brownish, oval or tetrahedral, prismatic, 0.6-0.9 mm long. Blooms in June – July. The seeds ripen in July – August.

Red foxglove or purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

© Foolip

Procurement and quality of raw materials

We do not have red foxglove in the wild. Cultivated in the North Caucasus.

The timing of harvesting foxglove leaves is set depending on the conditions of the area and meteorological features.Late harvesting of leaves is unacceptable, since at this time they have a reduced physiological activity.

In favorable weather and good agricultural technology, the leaves can be harvested 2-3 times a year. Cleaning should be done in dry, sunny weather, as glycosides break down quickly in the dark. Foxglove leaves, collected before sunrise, contain only a small amount of glycosides and are pharmacologically almost inactive. Then their activity increases and reaches a maximum in the afternoon.

Red foxglove or purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

© Jörg Hempel

Leaves should be dried as soon as possible at 55-60 ° C. Raw materials are packed in bags of 20-25 kg or in fabric bales of 50 kg. In warehouses, whole raw materials are stored in bales, cut raw materials – in bags, powder – in double paper bags (inner – parchment). Dried raw materials must meet the following basic requirements: moisture no more than 13%; total ash no more than 18%; darkened or yellowed leaves no more than 1%; organic impurity no more than 0.5%; mineral – no more than 0.5%.For whole raw materials: crushed leaves passing through a sieve with a hole diameter of 2 mm, no more than 2%. For cut raw materials: particles over 8 mm in size, no more than 10%; particles passing through a sieve with a hole size of 0.5 mm, no more than 5%. For powder: moisture no more than 10%; particles that do not pass through a sieve with a hole size of 0. 16 mm, no more than 2%.

During storage, especially under unfavorable conditions, the content of biologically active substances in the leaves gradually decreases, therefore it is monitored annually.

Red foxglove, or purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Chemical composition.

All plant organs contain cardiac glycosides. Purpurea glycoside A (or deacetyllanatoside A), purpureaglycoside B (or deacetyllanatoside B), digitoxin, p-acetyldigitoxin, gitoxin, gitaloxin, glucogita-loxin, gitorin, odorosid-veroxidoxide, glucoodruezin , glucosero-doxin, digiproside, glczhodigiproside, digitalonin, mono- and bisdigitoxosides of digitoxygenin and gitaloxygenin, gitoside and bisdigitoxoside of gitoxigenin.In addition, a group of digitalanol glycosides has been isolated in small amounts: diginine, digifolein, lanafolein, digipurpurin, digipronin, digacetinin.

The sum of glycosides from seeds consists mainly of digitalinum verum (0.3%) and glucoseverodoxin; in addition, they contain gitostin, neogitostin, digitoxi, gitoxin, and straspezide.

Red foxglove or purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

© Armin Kübelbeck

In addition to cardiac glycosides, the leaves and seeds contain steroidal saponins – digitonin, gitonin, tigonin; sarsapogenins, etc.; flavonoids – luteolin and luteolin 7-glucoside, as well as digitolutein; caffeic and other acids.

Application in medicine.

Digitalis red preparations are used for all degrees of chronic heart failure, atrial fibrillation, paroxysmal atrial and nodular atrioventricular tachycardia and other heart rhythm disturbances. Powder from leaves, individual glycosides (digitoxin, etc.), as well as novogalene drugs are used.

Cordigit is a purified extract from dry leaves containing the amount of glycosides (digitoxin, gitoxia, etc.). It is produced in tablets containing 0.0008 g each of the drug (corresponds to the activity of 0.1 standard foxglove leaves).

Red foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

© Derek Ramsey

In large doses, digitalis cardiac glycosides can cause nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, disorders of the central nervous system (headaches, anxiety, insomnia, depressive phenomena, visual impairment), severe bradycardia, polytopic extrasystole, bigeminy or trigemenia, slowing down atrioventricular conduction. Toxic doses can cause cardiac arrest.

The drugs have a cumulative effect, and therefore one should take into account not only the duration of their use, but also the transition to other drugs containing cardiac glycosides. Due to cumulation, side effects characteristic of an overdose may develop.

The State Pharmacopoeia, along with red foxglove, allowed the large-flowered foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora) to be used. It grows wild in the European part of the country, in the North Caucasus and the Urals.

Red foxglove or purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

© Certo Xornal

90,000 planting and care in the open field


Botanical Description of Foxglove

Digitalis is a highly decorative perennial herb cultivated as a biennial. The Latin name of the plant comes from the word digitus – thimble, since the corolla of the flower resembles it. In regions with mild winters, it can grow for many years.The plant belongs to the Plantain family. At the moment, about 25 species of this plant are known. In most cases, they grow naturally in the Mediterranean.

Foxglove stems vary in height from 30 to 150 cm. They are alternately solid, lanceolate leaves with glandular hairs on the back. Flowers are collected in inflorescences – one or multi-sided brushes. The corolla of flowers is tubular or swollen, two-lipped along the edge. After flowering, in place of the flowers, fruits are formed – a small box with many seeds.

The use of digitalis in landscape design

This plant is ideal for shaded garden areas. The foxglove will be a striking decoration for natural gardens.

Long foxglove inflorescences look very attractive:

  • against the background of bushes;
  • 90,095 under the trees;

  • in mixborders;
  • in group landings.

For an impressive effect, plant the foxgloves together:

  • with roses in bloom at the same time;
  • with chubushnik;
  • with viburnum;
  • with bright buddleys;

In the shady corners of the garden, foxgloves are perfectly combined with aquilegia, ferns, hosts, geraniums, astilbe, brunners.

Plant foxglove together in a semi-shady and sunny flower bed

  • with peonies;
  • 90,095 echinacea;

    90,095 heleniums;

    90,095 coreopsis.

Growing digitalis from seeds

Foxgloves reproduce by seeds. If you want to get a flowering plant in the same year, then grow plants using seedlings. Sow the seeds in boxes in March (sow superficially, since the seeds are very small), cut them in April, and plant the seedlings (in the 6-leaf phase) in open ground at the end of May.Such plants will bloom in late summer early autumn.

Sow seeds in open ground in June – July, in well-loosened soil (the soil should be like sand). Sow in rows, with row spacing of 40 cm. Lightly embed foxglove seeds in the soil and pour a thin stream of water. Cover the seedbed with foil, this will retain the necessary moisture, and the seedlings will sprout sooner.

As soon as the seedlings grow a little, thin them out, leaving 10 – 12 cm between the plants. Plant young plants in a permanent place in the fall, before the onset of cold weather.The distance between them should be 25 – 30 cm. All transplanted plants take root perfectly, and bloom in late spring and early summer next year.

The flowers of the foxglove are very beautiful, bell-shaped, yellow, white, pink, lilac, burgundy with dark blotches. They are able to attract many beneficial insects, bees, butterflies and ants to the garden.

Foxglove Care

Digitalis prefers sunny areas, but partial shade suits her.In the shade, the plant also develops, only the flowering is not so abundant. Loves fertile, loose and permeable soils. In areas where water stagnates in spring, plants refuse to bloom.

Digitalis is an unpretentious plant and is very easy to grow.

The main care for foxglove is watering in dry conditions and regular loosening. In order for the plants to bloom profusely and for a long time, before planting, dig up the soil well to a depth of 20 – 30 cm, add humus or compost. If the soil in your area is acidic, add lime.

In the summer after rains, treat the plant with a fungicide solution, for example Fundazim or Phytocid-r. This will help protect plants from fungal diseases and root rot.

Examine the plant from time to time for insect infestations. If the plant is infected with mites or aphids, then treat with a solution of a systemic insecticide, for example, Aktara, Aktellik. Re-process the plants after two weeks.

Do not get carried away with fertilizers, its excess will lead to an increase in vegetative mass to the detriment of flowering.It often happens that the bush is bare from below and the roots are visible. Pour compost on such plants in autumn, this will protect them from freezing in winter.

Read also Snapdragon.

Published: 03.07.2021

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90,000 planting and care in the open field, views and photos, video

Digitalis or digitalis is a plant known since antiquity, representing perennial and biennial grasses, bushes and shrubs with incredibly beautiful bell-shaped flowers. The original shape of the corolla gave the name to the entire genus. In nature, foxglove is common in meadows, forest edges, and even in forests. The cultivation of the plant occurred at the beginning of our era due to the presence of the medicinal properties of the leaves, which help with coughs and cardiovascular diseases.

Contents of article

Flower description Digitalis

Digitalis or the plant Digitalis is a representative of the Plantain family. There are about 35 varieties in the genus of cultures.Mostly these flowers are found in the Mediterranean, but digitalis also develops in North Africa and Asia.

These beauties are grown as a perennial or biennial. Usually these are herbaceous representatives, but sometimes dwarf shrubs and shrubs are also found. Instances are distinguished by stiff stems, their height ranges from 0.3 to 1.5 meters. The leaves are usually large, oblong, lanceolate in shape. The main advantage of the foxglove is flowering, since it has incredible large-shaped flowers. The shade can be yellow, reddish, purple. Refined miniature bells are collected in racemose inflorescences.

These beauties bloom from early June to early September. When the flowering is over, the plants form fruits – capsules, in which there are many brown seeds. They can be used for disembarkation for 2-3 years.

Planting and caring for digitalis in the open field

After the threat of frost has passed, the perennial digitalis is transplanted into open soil.Usually this period falls on the first days of May – early June. It is important that the stems have at least 5 leaves before transplanting. Also, monitor the condition of the soil, its high-quality heating is extremely important.

This video will show you about digitalis care.

Landing site Digitalis

For planting a bush, it is better to choose open areas. Planting plants under trees is strictly not allowed, as this can lead to moisture retention in the soil, which adversely affects the digitalis flowering. Foxglove is an unpretentious plant. It grows well in the shade and in the sun, requires little watering and is loyal to loamy soils.

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Which soil is suitable for Digitalis

The plant prefers light and loose soil. But it is advisable to weed the soil around the plant in order to eliminate the weed. Double feeding in season is also appropriate. Mineral complex fertilizer is suitable.

Reproduction Digitalis

Planting and caring for digitalis outdoors includes such an important procedure as reproduction. This process is carried out in two ways – seed or using root rosettes.

Reproduction of digitalis by seeds.

They are planted either in unheated greenhouses or directly in the soil in rows with the onset of spring heat. Dusting the beds is done with earth or sand. It is advisable to cover the area with the planted plants with non-tissue material.After 1-2 weeks, the first shoots are visible. With the appearance of two or three leaves from the plant, the garden should be thinned so that the seedlings are about half a meter apart. If agricultural technology is not followed, the stem will be thin and the flowers will be small.

This video talks about planting foxglove seedlings

Seedlings of foxglove are grown in boxes also from seeds to get an earlier flowering next year. In this case, the seeds do not even need to be covered with earth. Mineral fertilizer helps seedlings grow.They are planted in open ground in the fall, sprinkled with dry leaves. Above, we have already considered how to grow digitalis using seedlings, but gardeners also practice sowing seeds directly into garden conditions. The most frequently asked question about this is when to plant foxglove seeds. This is best done in the last decade of April or early May. Seed material is placed in such a way that a distance of 15-20 cm is maintained. Do not bury the seeds, just sprinkle them gently with a thin layer of soil. If the spring is cool enough, then cover your crops with lutrasil. Too dense seedlings are recommended to thin out.

If different species are to be used, it is advisable to locate them remotely to avoid improper pollination. Bees and other insects are very fond of visiting flowers. They often bask in them on cool summer nights.

Flowering begins in April-May when growing seedlings in pots or in greenhouses, but from the bottom of the stem. Younger inflorescences are on top and bloom in June.Seeds are harvested at the end of summer and stored in a cool cellar at a temperature of 10-12 ° C.

Use of scions

Vegetative propagation is also practiced. Cut off any flower stalks whose brushes are starting to fade, leaving only dense inflorescences. After 20-25 days, basal processes will form at the base of the peduncles. As soon as 7-8 plates appear from the root rosettes, carefully separate them and transplant them to a new place.

Rooting of such shoots will take place before the beginning of autumn. Next year, the plants will form flower stalks, they will bloom.

Application of Digitalis in Garden Landscaping

This is an appropriate plant in flower gardens. Here, it can be the perfect backdrop for low-growing flowers and shrubs. Placing it in the center of the composition will create a cone-shaped or linear flower garden. Due to its sufficiently high growth, the plant is suitable for zoning space, limiting paths. If you pick up several species with different colors and shades, you get a gorgeous lively bouquet.

Digitalis will decorate the alpine slide, making a bright accent of wildlife against the background of silent boulders. It can even be placed between trees, which saves space and is important for small areas. Also, this plant will delight you with bright colors near the gazebos, decorate the boring exterior of buildings.

Types of flower Digitalis

A total of 25 species are known, but only 6 of them grow in our region. Some varieties are listed in the Red Book. For planting in a summer cottage or garden plot, biennial crops are usually used.This is due to a decrease in decorativeness for 3-4 years of growth. Let’s describe the most popular types in landscape design.

Digitalis purpurea

It is this plant that has captivated the eyes of connoisseurs of natural beauty since ancient times. It reaches a height of one meter.

Purple digitalis (Digitalis purpurea)

A pyramidal one-sided spike forms a peduncle. Bulky flowers of various shades (lilac, purple, white), depending on the type of plant, have dark blotches on the inside.

Digitalis grandiflora

Soft hairs envelop a straight, non-branched stem, the height of which varies from 40 to 120 cm.

Large-flowered foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora)

Large flowers are collected in a simple brush and have a luxurious color – from rich yellow to brown with dark dots inside.

Perennial rusty digitalis (Digitalis ferruginea)

The robust root system is designed to securely hold crops in mountainous areas.

Perennial rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea)

On the site near the house, it will harmoniously merge with an alpine slide, decorate the garden of stones. Tilted racemose flowers reach 4 cm and grow in inflorescences. Leaves of various lengths and widths are formed on one plant, which creates a unique aesthetic effect.

The attention of gardeners is also attracted by the spotted luxurious variety, the giant flowers of which have various shades, and the bell-shaped and monstrose are also popular.The latter is distinguished by double apical flowers and in translation means “amazing”.

Variety of colors, as well as shapes of inflorescences, splendor and height of the stem allows you to choose the most harmonious varieties for a particular garden. Ease of cultivation and high aesthetics of flowering crops have made foxglove popular and desirable in horticulture.

90,000 What is the safest way to be treated? – American Medical Clinic

Heart is the motor of the human body, which also requires care and attention. For cardiac pathologies, as a rule, drugs are prescribed, which include glycosides. Modern treatment of cardiovascular diseases involves a set of measures aimed at restoring and rehabilitating the tissues of the heart muscle.

List of medicines for deciduous vascular diseases:

  1. Chopped foxglove leaves help with chronic heart failure, decompensated heart disease, atrial fibrillation.The drug is contraindicated in myocardial infarction, ventricular tachycardia, heart block, indiosyncrasy to digitalis, active endo- and myocarditis. Reception of digitalis can cause the following side effects: bradycardia, increased frequency of angina attacks, vomiting, nausea, impaired appetite, depression, drowsiness, convulsions.
  2. Digitoxin, Gitoxin, Cordigit, Digoxin. Indications and contraindications of the drug correspond to the action of foxglove leaves.
  3. Celanide has a quick healing effect.The drug is characterized by weak cumulative properties and high cardiotonic activity.
  4. Lantoside is usually used on an outpatient basis to support cardiac glycoside therapy.
  5. Adoniside is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, inhibiting the excitability of the motor centers. It is prescribed for chronic heart failure, pneumonia, heart neurosis and neurasthenia.

Often, pain in the heart is felt due to the manifestation of osteochondrosis.Osteochondrosis manifests itself in the form of sharp pain in the back, neck and other areas of the spine. The main problem lies in the destruction of the intervertebral discs. Sometimes it is enough just to get out of bed abruptly and unsuccessfully to feel the first symptoms of pathology. The causes of osteochondrosis are: stress, metabolic disorders, malnutrition, poor physical development of muscles, injuries, infectious diseases, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, an increased reaction to weather changes. Comprehensive treatment of osteochondrosis in St. Petersburg includes drug therapy, psychotherapy, reflexology, manual therapy, diet and exercise. All of the above procedures are offered by the sanatoriums of St. Petersburg, where patients are sent for the purpose of prevention and recovery.

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Digitalis – selection surprises | The world of plants and trees

Foxglove – an ordinary plant of the “grandmother’s bouquet”, a classic of a village front garden – has renewed its image and now acts as an obligatory attribute of a fashionable cottage style. In fairness, it must be said that the variety of modern foxgloves is amazing.

Purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), an inhabitant of the light forests of Western Europe, has been cultivated since time immemorial. First as a medicinal plant in monastery gardens, then just for beauty. This is not to say that amazing, rather modest. The disadvantages of this foxglove are enough: the palette of colors is meager – lilac-pink and white, the inflorescence is loose and one-sided, the life expectancy is short and indefinite. Usually the plant lives for two years: in the first, a rosette of velvet leaves unfolds, in the second – the inflorescence rises, the seeds ripen and crumble. Then everything is repeated. But it happens that the specimen grows in a damp shade or loses its peduncle, then in the second year lateral rosettes form, and they continue to live after the main one dies off. In this way, the plant can last up to 3-4 years. This unpredictability of behavior does not matter in the village garden, where freedom or, in other words, anarchy and disorder reigns. Cottage style requires clutter to be carefully organized and within the rules. The breeders set about eliminating the shortcomings.The size, density and versatility of foxglove inflorescences are due to the Englishman William Wilks from the town of Shirley. By the way, he is the author of the famous multi-colored self-seeding poppies Shirley. He also called his foxgloves “The Shirley”, but the name “Gloxinium” was stuck behind them because of the resemblance to this indoor flower. The colors, in principle, remained the same: lilac-pink and white, only their intensity varied, and the speck in the throats of flowers could be red or brown.

  • Digitalis “Illumination Apricot”

  • Digitalis, rusty

  • Camelot White foxglove

  • Woolly digitalis

  • Red foxglove

To compensate for the remaining shortcomings, they resorted to hybridization with other species, which in themselves also replenished the garden assortment.A new shade of flowers was given by the foxglove large-flowered, the hybrid with which was named “n. merton “, or because of the color” strawberry “. She, however, continued to be short-lived. Crossing her in turn with N. yellow, got a perennial with small creamy pink flowers “Glory of Roundway”. The pink, apricot and cream varieties of the Polkadot series are sterile F1 hybrids that owe their lives to many species. But their author Charles Valin, a breeder from the well-known seed company Thompson & Morgan, later famous for the Illumination variety series, hides which one.In fact, his goal was to produce seedless varieties that would not litter. And at the same time to prevent their reproduction by outside firms. And if the Polkadot varieties can still be divided, like ordinary perennials, then Illumination is industrially propagated only by tissue culture.

So, foxgloves are on the wave of scientific progress, which means we should expect new surprises from them.

  • Polkadot Princess digitalis

  • Camelot Rose digitalis

  • Gloxinium foxglove

  • Digitalis “Primrose Carousel”

  • Digitalis smooth

Design: who, where and how

Digitalis in the garden are vertical accents in flower beds along the edges, enlivening long mixborders like exclamation marks.Their height varies from 50 cm (yellow, large-flowered, variety Dalmatian Hybrids) to 150 cm (variety Giant), flowering is usually long: from May to July. They are unpretentious, livable in a team, difficulties arise due to the short life of many species and varieties. If perennials are immediately planted in a permanent place, then biennials and minors have to be re-sown or give them the initiative, resigned to indiscriminate self-seeding. Sterile hybrids (Polkadot) are renewed by separating young rosettes.Illumination cultivars are purchased as microclonal seedlings as a seasonal decoration.

Text: Tatyana Konovalova, Natalia Shevyreva

Purple digitalis. Application, description, chemical composition, contraindications and medicinal properties of foxglove

This graceful plant is saturated with deadly juices. According to legend, the elves living in its purple bells warned about this. Forest creatures spotted foxglove flowers


Purple digitalis (Digitalis purpurea L.) Is a herbaceous plant, a representative of the Norichnikov family. It has a short rhizome with fibrous roots and straight single stems covered with hairs. Foxglove leaves broadly lanceolate, with a velvety surface, dark green in color. Large bell-shaped flowers form a one-sided dense raceme. Outside, the flowers are purple, the inner surface is white with purple spots. The fruit is an oval polyspermous capsule with wrinkled brown seeds. Foxglove is a biennial plant, in which only a basal rosette of large leaves is formed in the first year.Stems with sessile leaves and flowers grow only in the second summer. Foxglove blooms in the first half of summer, bears fruit in the second.

The native land of the plant is Western Europe, where even now this plant can be found in the wild. It also grows naturally in North Africa. Foxglove is cultivated in Ukraine, the North Caucasus, the Novosibirsk region and in the Urals. Loves open fertile soils, undemanding, frost and drought resistant.

The first mention of the use of foxglove dates back to the 14th century, and in the 17th century it was first introduced into the English Pharmacopoeia as an emetic and laxative.The preparations of this plant were very popular and were prescribed in large quantities, which could not but cause cases of severe poisoning, sometimes fatal. This was the reason for her exclusion from the number of officially approved drugs and temporary oblivion. This plant was rehabilitated in the 18th century by Wysering, who, after conducting scientific research, proved the feasibility of using digitalis in medicine. In Russia, foxglove has been cultivated since 1730 with the filing of Peter I. This plant has been included in all Russian and Soviet pharmacopoeias since 1866.The medicinal properties of foxglove were studied by S.P.Botkin and I.P. Pavlov, they spoke of this medicinal plant as one of the most precious means in the arsenal of therapy. Currently, drugs used in cardiology are made from digitalis leaves. Foxglove is often planted as an element of decorative design of lawns, borders, alpine hills.

Chemical composition

Chemists found 62 glycosides in the aerial parts of the foxglove.The most studied of them are steroidal glycosides (gitoxin, digotonin, digitoxin, acetyldigitoxin) and genuinic glycosides (purpureaglycosides A and B). Foxglove also contains saponins, some organic acids, luteolin, choline, etc. The plant is very poisonous!

Medicinal properties of foxglove

Digitalis purpurea glycosides are included in the group of cardiac glycosides. Their main properties: lengthening diastole, increasing the power of cardiac output, reducing the threshold of excitability of the cardiac conduction system, and in addition, they contribute to an increase in the concentration of ionized calcium in the plasma.This leads to the stabilization of systemic hemodynamics and an improvement in blood circulation in the myocardium. Digitalis glycosides begin to act rather slowly and can accumulate in tissues. Digitalis saponins and digitonin can increase the solubility and absorption of other glycosides.

Basic dosage forms of foxglove: leaf powder, infusion, dry leaf concentrate in tablets, tablets “Cordigit”, “Digitoxin”, “Gitoxin”. General indications for taking digitalis drugs in scientific medicine: chronic heart failure of various origins and severity; mitral valve defects, sclerosis of the coronary vessels, myocardial dystrophy, hypertension.Also, digitalis preparations are used for some forms of paroxysmal tachycardia, atrial fibrillation attacks and some other rhythm disturbances. Digitoxin is also used in acute heart failure. Due to the high toxicity and severity of side effects, it is recommended to use only digitalis pharmaceutical preparations, under supervision in official medical institutions or in specialized hospitals!


Contraindications: acute myocardial infarction, complete atrioventricular block and other pronounced bradyarrhythmias, active rheumatic heart disease and endocarditis due to the risk of thromboembolism, aortic valve stenosis.Digitalis is not prescribed for compensated heart defects.

Signs of intoxication with digitalis drugs: increased shortness of breath, rare pulse, interruptions in the heart. There may be nausea, decreased urine output. First aid consists in the immediate cancellation of digitalis drugs, the appointment of atropine, caffeine, unitiol, potassium chloride.