Foxgloves are everywhere just now, along hedgerows and field margins, on disturbed ground and wood banks.
We don’t really know the meaning of their name: the flowers may be gloves for foxes, or possibly fairies. Their usefulness to us is also a matter for debate
The whole plant contains cardiac glycosides, especially digoxin, which at the right dose can steady an irregular heartbeat and alleviate the symptoms of heart failure. It’s so effective that digoxin is a prescribed drug, and the use of foxgloves is banned. The problem is finding the right dosage. The margin between efficacy and toxicity is very small, and when you’re using the whole herb, it’s very hard to tell how much digoxin you’re actually giving. An overdose is rarely fatal, but it can be very unpleasant.
Don’t try it at home!
Digoxin is less used nowadays for precisely this reason. Fortunately, in the herbal world, we have plenty of other possibilities to help support heart function: Hawthorn, Motherwort, Lily of the Valley and Limeflowers, to name a few.