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Su B Foxgloves

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.

So we can enjoy the beauty of foxgloves, and leave them for the foxes and fairies to wear.

EDITOR: Su has a very useful herb book which can be ordered directly from her website or Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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