Digitalis Purpurea is a famous ornamental that has tall spires of tapered and tubular flowers. The flowers are normally white or purple in color. The herb is the source of digitoxin that is used to manufacture digitalis, a common drug for the heart. Other common names that Digitalis Purpurea may be known by are: foxglove, purple foxglove, fairy fingers, fairy gloves, fairy bells, floppy docked and lastly Tod-tails.
The leaves of Digitalis Purpurea are the parts of the plant that are commonly used as it contains the active ingredients of the drug.
It contains four essential glycosides, three of which are being cardiac stimulants. They include the following:
It is the most powerful glycoside, but at the same time very poisonous as it is cumulative in nature. This glycoside, is insoluble in water.
This glycoside, is crystalline in nature and insoluble in water.
This is an amorphous glycoside that is readily soluble in water.
This glycoside, is a cardiac depressant. Other constituents of Digitalis are volatile oil, fatty matter, starch, gum and sugar.
Medicinal Action and Uses
Digitalis Purpurea is considered the most effective medicinal herbs for the heart, especially for problems of the heart associated with diseases like arteriosclerosis or hypertension. There are many medicinal derivatives of Digitalis purpurea, but the most common is Digitoxin normally prescribed by doctors for heart conditions. It has the following medicinal uses:
• It improves the heart tone and rhythm, thereby improving circulation.
• It increases myocardial contractility
• It binds to muscle cells to help in pumping of sodium and potassium ions. This goes into slowing down the heart rate and heart size, thus lessening myocardial oxygen demand.
• It is used as medicine for slowing muscular dystrophy and to reduce pressure in the eye of patients suffering from glaucoma
• It increases the activity of all kinds of muscle tissue, but mostly of the heart and arterioles.
• It causes an irregular pulse rate to become regular
• It causes a permanent tonic contraction of the heart therefore reducing the internal capacity available in it. This is an advantage for those suffering from cardiac dilation.
• It improves nutrition of the heart by increasing the volume of blood.
• It is a powerful diuretic and a very valuable remedy for dropsy especially when it affects the heart.
• It is used in treating patients suffering from internal hemorrhage
• It is an effective treatment for inflammatory diseases
• It is used for the treatment of delirium tremens
• It is used for treatment of epilepsy conditions
• It also treats acute mania.
• It is a perfect antidote in Aconite poisoning when administered as a hypodermic injection
The medicinal action of the drug is as follows:
For the drug’s effect to be fully felt in the muscles, it takes duration of twelve hours or even more. Normally it is taken with a combination of other remedies to help the patient be comfortable during its action.
• Once the drug is taken, it is first absorbed into the body and immediately instigates heart and arterial contraction. This effectively leads to a significant rise in blood pressure.
• On completion of a moderate dose of the drug, the pulse of the heart tends to slow down.
The following procedure is used in the preparation of an infusion of digitalis leaves so as to avoid destroying active ingredients such as Gitalin (An extract of Digitalis Purpurea containing a mixture of glycosides and aglycons, with action and uses similar to those of digitalis):
– 20 grams of powdered standard digitalis leaves, pour over 100ml boiling water and let it soak for 15 minutes. The infusion of digitalis is considered by many physicians the most active and trustworthy preparation of digitalis. Dose.—8 to 16 mils (2 to 4 fluid drachms).
The infusion is 0.2-0.8 g of fresh leaves in 180 ml boiling water. Leave to infuse for 30 minutes in covered pot, strain, sweeten to taste and drink the entire fractional amount in four to five rounds per day.
Macerate prepared from 0.1-0.6 g leaf powder and 300 ml of water, cold maceration for 12 hours, strain and drink the entire amount within 24 hours, fractional four-five innings.
Despite the medicinal benefits that come with the drug, it may have some few side effects. Some of which include the following:
i. Digestive disturbances such as gastrointestinal irritation.
ii. In prolonged usage, it accumulates in the system causing an irregular pulse and low blood pressure.
iii. In constant use, it can lead to hypertrophy of the heart due to its effect of increasing the organ’s activity.
iv. If taken in large doses, it causes certain cerebral symptoms such as seeing all objects in blue color and an array of disturbances associated with special senses.
There is no doubt that the medical benefits of Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove) cannot be ignored. Use Digitalis Purpurea today for a healthier heart and for the other numerous medicinal benefit of the herb.