Strausbaugh, Perry D. Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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A genus of the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) or figwort family (Scrophulariaceae), whose dried leaves contain a number of glucosides that can be used as powerful cardiac stimulants and diuretics. The genus Digitalis ranges from the Canary Islands to central Asia. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) [see illustration] is a native flowering plant of western Europe and is highly toxic. Pharmacologically, it is the source of the important drug digitalis, which is used in the treatment of heart disorders. Fresh, mature leaves are carefully selected, quickly dried, and stored in airtight containers. The most active ingredient of the drug digitalis is the glucoside digitoxin. This slows and regulates the heartbeat, improving the tone and rhythm, and making the contractions more effective. The plant is also prized as a herbaceous perennial. See also: Heart (vertebrate); Heart disorders; Lamiales; Pharmacognosy; Poisonous plants; Scrophulariales
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