Foxgloves are one of the most popular medicinal herbs used in herbal medicine. They have been used for centuries as a remedy for various ailments. A common use of foxgloves is to treat coughs, colds, bronchitis and other respiratory problems. The leaves are also used to relieve menstrual cramps and uterine pain due to endometriosis or even cancer pains due to its anti-cancer properties.
The leaves are also used to treat stomach aches, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation and many other digestive disorders. The leaves are also known to reduce fever symptoms. There is some evidence that suggests that they may improve mental function as well. The leaves contain compounds called thujone and piperazine derivatives which act as sedatives at low doses but cause heart palpitations and seizures at higher doses. The leaves are also known to increase blood flow to the brain.
The leaves are also used as a diuretic and are sometimes used as a laxative. They have been found to help with diarrhea, hemorrhoids, liver diseases and gallstones. Some studies suggest that they may prevent the development of tumors in animals and humans. The leaves can be taken internally or ingested externally like tea bags or capsules.
If you are interested in growing your own supply of foxglove plants, the first thing you need to know is that it is actually illegal to grow them in the wild. In most states and countries in general, they have been declared poisonous to touch due to their cardiac glycosides and other chemicals. If you were to come in contact with the plant and absorb it through your skin or eat it, it can be lethal.
The leaves, flowers and stems contain several different cardiac glycosides which can cause disturbances in the heart rate, palpitations and other heart-related symptoms. If you are growing your own foxglove plants, you need to keep them away from pets and children. The best way to do this is to house the plants indoors in a locked greenhouse or shed. Do not house the plants outdoors because they can easily be contaminated by wild animals and bugs that could potentially eat them.
Once you have grown the plants indoors, it is important that you should know how to identify a few of the different types of foxglove so you can harvest and collect the parts you need. There are four main types of foxglove which you will most commonly use in herbal medicine:
Common or Common Digitalis is the most widely recognized type of foxglove with purplish-red flowers. This is the type you will most commonly see growing in fields or around the edges of forests. This is also the type that is most widely used in herbal medicine. The leaves, flowers and stems are all used in a variety of ways.
Purple Foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea) is similar to Common or Common Digitalis but the flowers have a unique purple coloration. The leaves, flowers and stems are also similar in effect.
Mountain or Tall Pink (Digitalis Intermedia) is a type of foxglove that is usually taller and thinner than the other types with light pink flowers. The leaves, flowers and stems also have a slightly different effect than the first two types of foxglove.
Spotted or Lanthorn (Digitalis Purpurea Var. Grandiflora) has flowers with purple spots on the petals. The stems and leaves have similar properties to Common or Common Digitalis but the flowers have a different effect and are not recommended for herbal use.
When you are growing your own plants, it is important that you keep careful records of each type of plant you grow. Always keep careful track of where you got the seeds, how they grew and any other information that might be helpful in case of future growth or identification.
Foxglove care should begin as soon as the seeds have sprouted. This is usually between 6 and 10 weeks and can be longer with certain types of seeds. In the wild, foxgloves grow freely without any care but if you are growing them in your own garden then you will need to take a few simple steps to ensure their ongoing health and survival.
Always use a good quality potting soil when growing any plant. If you are growing your plants indoors, choose a sunny window to place the seeds. Germination temperature should be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If this is not possible, use a heating pad on the lowest setting to create enough warmth. Most of the types of foxglove are hardy and grow in many different types of soil but they do require well-draining soil to prevent rotting of the roots.
Place a few small stones at the bottom of each pot to ensure good drainage. Fill the pots 3/4 full with soil and place three or four seeds in each pot, pressing them slightly into the soil but not covering them.
Place the pots in a plastic bag and seal it closed. Place the sealed bag in your refrigerator and leave it there for 4 to 6 weeks. Check the pot every week to see if there are any seeds that have sprouted. Once they have sprouted, remove the pots from the refrigerator and place them in a sunny area, keeping the soil lightly moist. Transplant each seedling into its own 3-inch pot once it has grown its first set of true leaves.
Once you have your own supply of foxglove plants, you can begin using them in herbal treatments or you may choose to give them away to friends and family. These plants are beautiful and versatile and make a wonderful addition to any garden or flower arrangement.
I find fascinating the fact that these plants are poisonous, considering that they can be used in first aid for heart attacks or convulsions. It’s very important to keep a record of all the herbs you grow and their uses. Things like this can really come in handy one day especially if you’re a person who enjoys the outdoors.
What I find interesting about the plants is that they are actually not native to North America. In fact, they are native to Eurasia and were brought over to North America by the Europeans who settled this continent.
They can grow up to six feet in height and begin flowering in early to mid summer, with a life span of 3 to 5 years. That means you are likely only going to get three or four harvests before they reach their full size and flower no longer and must be uprooted.
Foxglove plants like full sun to partial shade and lots of water. They also have tall stems with very delicate flowers and should not be grown near high traffic areas as they will snap if ran into.
There are many different varieties of Foxglove available for gardeners and herbalists alike. Let’s take a look at a few of them and their growing and caring instructions.
Digitalis lanata Foxglove Native to Europe, this is the original species from which all others are descended. It has soft, fuzzy leaves and bell-shaped flowers that come in purple or pink.
Digitalis x mertonensis A cross between D.lanata and D.reticulata, this English variety has been cultivated for centuries. The flowers are known to be slightly darker than the similarly-colored D.lanata.
Digitalis grandiflora A very popular variety with landscapers, this species has large, upward-facing flowers and grows well in poor soil.
Purpurea Group These foxgloves are hybrids of D.lanata and D.reticulata that have been grown for almost a century. They all have dark purple flowers with black spots on the lower petals.
‘Alba’ Stems and flower stalks are white.
‘Cambridge’ Leaves are gray-green and flowers are pink with a yellow eye.
‘Elstead Purple’ Stems and flower stalks are purple.
‘F.A. Group’ Flower petals are purple and deeply notched; lower petals have a black spot in the center.
‘Lucia’ This variety is a cross between D.lanata and D.media and is very easy to grow.
‘Multiplex Best Blue’ One of the most popular varieties, it has flowers that have a blue eye and yellow stripes.
‘Multiplex Semierect’ This variety is similar to the Best Blue but with leaning stems.
‘Rosea’ The flower petals are deep pink with a red eye and white stripes, while the lower petals have a black spot in the center.
‘Sinapis’ This is another English variety with flowers that have yellow stripes and dark purple spots.
Flowers of the foxglove plant are extremely poisonous, but the seeds are safe to eat after they have been roasted, ground into a powder and added to coffee, or made into a flour.
If you are looking for a large, beautiful flower that is easy to grow and fairly simple to care for, you should consider growing Digitalis lanata or the common foxglove. This plant is extremely adaptable to different climates and soil types, but will do best in the sun or partial shade.
Flowering usually begins in mid-to-late summer and continues for a couple months. Make sure that you harvest only the flowers and not the stems or leaves, which are poisonous.
While the flowers of this plant are toxic, they are also used medicinally to treat heart problems. The specific chemicals in this plant that cause the heart to race are called cardiac glucosides. If you use this plant medicinally, never use it before or during the day, as it causes sleepiness and may lead to accidental death due to a slowed heartbeat.
You can also harvest the leaves and flowers and dry them for later use in a concoction. Some Native American tribes used this plant in small amounts to treat irregular heartbeat, but it is extremely toxic to the heart when overused.
The common foxglove is a native plant in most of Europe and parts of Asia, but has been brought to many other locations around the world. Edible and medicinal uses for this plant have been known since ancient times, but scientific research into the chemicals of this plant has only been seriously undertaken since the late 1800s. The first successful use of digitalis on heart ailments was in 1849, when a patient was resuscitated from an otherwise fatal heart condition after taking a dosage of the drug.
The common foxglove is a biennial plant that grows in the temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere. The plant usually grows to about 3 feet in height and has lanceolate leaves that are 2 to 5 inches long. During its first year, the plant produces a rosette of leaves close to the ground. In its second year, it sends up a single stem that may be as tall as 3 feet and bears an inflorescence of drooping, bell-shaped flowers at the summit. These flowers may be white, pink or purple with a spotted or striped appearance.
This plant is also related to several other poisonous plants and has been used as a model for research on the toxic effects of cardiac glycosides in other species such as the kraits of India. This class of chemicals includes important pharmaceuticals such as digoxin, used to treat heart disease. This research has led to a greater understanding of how these chemicals affect the heart and have greatly improved medical treatment for heart disease.
The common foxglove contains several different cardiac glycosides, which are poisonous to the heart. These chemicals interfere with the electrical signaling within the heart, causing temporary disturbances that may be fatal. In low doses, this may cause disturbances in the rhythm of the heartbeat or cause it to beat too fast. In high doses, the toxic effects on the heart may be so severe as to cause death.
These chemicals may also have a negative effect on the digestive system and may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, the patient’s blood pressure may fall to dangerous levels.
If you use this plant medicinally, it is extremely important that you use it only under the supervision of a physician experienced in treating heart disease. DO NOT try this plant on your own.
When using this plant medicinally, follow the directions of your physician exactly. Typically, the plant is administered as a diluted solution injected into a vein. The concentration of active ingredients in the plant varies from species to species and from plant part to plant part within a species, so it is important that the physician overseeing your treatment use the correct species.
The herbal treatment of heart disease has a long history in many cultures around the world. This long history has resulted in the discovery of several plants with heart-related properties.
Less common, but equally poisonous, are three other species of the genus: the pinxter flower (A. bulbiferum), Dutchman’s breeches (A. bisquamatum) and the queen of the meadow (A. spectabile). All contain similar cardiac glycosides to those in the common foxglove and share its medicinal uses and toxic effects.
The common foxglove is one of several plants in the genus Digitalis, which contains several species of highly poisonous plants. All are in the buttercup family. The leaves, flowers, stems and seeds are all toxic. All parts of this plant are poisonous, yet the plant has been used medicinally for hundreds of years.
Herbal medicine is an ancient practice and many plants have been used in this way for centuries. Some of these plants are toxic and some have been used to humanely put animals (and occasionally people) out of their misery.
The common foxglove is also one of the best known poisonous plants and has long been recognized as a toxin that can cause rapid heart failure when ingested.
The common name for this plant comes from its resemblance to the fingerless gloves that were once worn by archers.
It is a biennial plant that produces a flower head that resembles a beetle, giving rise to another one of its popular names, the ‘yellow archangel’.
Other varieties of this plant, or plants very similar to it, can also be found growing wild throughout the fields and forests of England and other parts of Europe.
The Common Foxglove, or simply just ‘Foxglove’, is a plant that can be found in the wild fields and meadows of England as well as on the edges of forests.
The following recipe calls for the leaves and flowers of the Common Foxglove. If you are using the other varieties of the plant, the biennial mayflower or the queen of the meadow, be sure to adjust the amounts of each accordingly.
Wash the leaves and flowers of any soil or other debris off of them. If you are in a rural area where wild growing plants are plentiful, you can pick your own. Otherwise, head to your local farmer’s market and ask for some fresh foxglove flowers and leaves.
When you get them home, place the leaves and flowers in a pan and cover with water. Boil for five minutes, then turn off heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
Strain out the flowers and leaves with a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Squeeze the excess liquid from the plant material and discard.
At this point you can choose to use the liquid immediately or store it in the refrigerator for up to five days.
To use, mix 1 ounce of the liquid with 3 ounces of cold water. Add a few dashes of whiskey, rum or brandy for taste. Give this to the patient every 15 minutes until he/she no longer feels any effects of the poison or until medical help arrives (whichever comes first).
This can also be given through an IV line if necessary.
If you do not have access to the fresh flowers and leaves, you can use the dried version of this plant.
To do this, pour a cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of the dried plant and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain and proceed as above.
*DISCLAIMER: The information provided is not intended to replace proper medical help. The creator and provider of this recipe assumes no liability for how this recipe is used. It is the reader’s responsibility to ensure proper use and care.
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Sources & references used in this article:
The foxgloves (Digitalis) revisited by W Kreis – Planta Medica, 2017 – d-nb.info
Shoot-tip cultivation and cardenolide content analysis of natural populations of Digitalis lanata Ehrh. subsp. lanata (wooly foxglove) in Thrace region by BB Yücesan, İ Eker, LES Lazzarini… – … Journal of Agriculture …, 2018 – researchgate.net
The physiological values of foxgloves grown in BC by JA Dauphinee – 1923 – open.library.ubc.ca
In vitro culture of Digitalis L.(Foxglove) and the production of cardenolides: An up-to-date review by SK Verma, AK Das, GS Cingoz, E Gurel – Industrial Crops and Products, 2016 – Elsevier
Evaluation of decorative value of selected taxa of the genus Digitalis by D Janicka, K Wraga, A Zawadzinska – Acta Agrobotanica, 2011 – agro.icm.edu.pl
Digitalis by E Sales, F Müller-Uri, SG Nebauer, J Segura… – Wild Crop Relatives …, 2011 – Springer
Weird and wonderful foxgloves by P Rudall – 2016 – kew.org
Ultrastructural Evidence for a Dual Function of the Phloem and Programmed Cell Death in the Floral Nectary of Digitalis purpurea by KP Gaffal, GJ Friedrichs, S El-Gammal – Annals of Botany, 2007 – academic.oup.com