Foxglove: Poisonous or Life Saving?

by in Heart Disease, Herbal Medicine, Pediatrics June 23, 2008

foxglovedigitalis.jpgDid you know those pink and white “Gnome Hats” lining our roadsides in the Pacific Northwest can either kill you or save your life?

Formally known as Digitalis purpurea, this beautiful plant contains a powerful herbal medicine that saves lives every single day for those with heart disease.

Now, one should never make any medicine on their own with foxglove, as it can kill you. Foxglove is a poisonous plant. However, the poisonous mechanism that the cardiac glycosides from Digitalis exhibit to cause cardiac arrest, actually improve contractility in the heart of those with congestive heart failure.

In small controlled doses, the medicine of this plant has smartly been synthesized by scientists to create the drug Digoxin, a pharmaceutical derivative of Digitalis. Digoxin is used to improve contractility of the heart in those that have congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia, and paroxysmal atrial tachycardia.

Anyone doubting that plants contain medicine should in addition avoid the use of prescription pharmaceuticals, as many drugs that we commonly use such as aspirin also originate from nature. If you doubt herbs have medicine in them, then you should doubt the pharmacology of the prescription drugs you take as well.

Try arguing with a willow tree about its salicin and salicylic acid constituents. The salicylic acid found in willow bark was simply synthesized and buffered into “acetyl salicylic acid” which is what we commonly use as the drug “aspirin” for just about everything that ails us. The buffering agent was simply added to protect the stomach lining.

Aspirin is just glorified herbal medicine at its finest! Herbs are the original medicine. Money drives the bottom line behind the domination of pharmaceutical agents used by our country. A willow tree cannot be patented, but a buffered form of its derivative certainly can! Yet another reason why America spends the most money on health care, yet we are still only second to Finland as the unhealthiest people in the world.

*Dr. Nicole looks around, paranoid that she may be offed by a drug rep and their donuts*

Some herbs such as foxglove contain powerful medicines that can do a great deal of harm. But, when used appropriately and with the correct wisdom and intentions, herbs can also do a great deal of help. What we need to do with alternative medicine is quit wasting time arguing about whether or not plants can be used as medicine. Herbalists, scientists, naturopaths, MD’s, and pharmaceutical companies need to instead combine their intelligence to create more helpful drugs such as Digoxin.

If something as common as foxglove growing like a weed around us can save a patient with a weak heart, just think of what kinds of cures for cancer, AIDS, or other incurable diseases that we might be able to develop from the plants around us!

Who knows? Maybe the cure for the common cold is growing in your backyard right now; it has just yet to be discovered.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen table.

~Dr. Nicole

Naturopathic Physician


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