We have all heard the foxglove is quite poisonous. But what makes it so dangerous? Is it as easy to consume as some think? What are the side effects of poisoning, and can they be treated? These are just some of the questions we will be answering.
In this article, we will be walking you through everything you need to know about the Foxglove plant, from the plant itself, which parts are deadly or poisonous, its uses, symptoms of poisoning, and more.
With that being said, let’s get right to the details.
The poisonous plant digitalis and its effects on human health.
Foxglove is a beautiful, tall biennial plant that grows in fields and on the edges of forests. It can grow up to six feet tall, blooming with purple flowers that resemble bells.
Foxglove contains a chemical called digitalis, which can be very poisonous if ingested by humans. Digitalis causes abnormal heartbeats and can lead to death if enough of the substance enters your bloodstream. Even touching skin contaminated with foxglove plants may be dangerous; we recommend washing your hands after handling any part of the plant or any equipment used for digging or transplanting it into your yard!
About Digitalis purpurea (also known as Foxglove)
Digitalis purpurea (foxglove) is a common name for Digitalis purpurea, a flowering plant in the family Plantaginaceae. It is a herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial plant native to and widespread throughout temperate regions in Europe, Asia, and North America (including Canada).
The flower has been cultivated as an ornamental garden subject since at least 1596 when it was described by John Gerard in his Herball. It was introduced into England from continental Europe in 1694; by 1778, it had become naturalized there.
The flowers are most commonly pink but can also be white (rarely), purple or red; each flower has five narrow petals about 2–4 cm long with an upper sepal that is longer than its three lower ones. The leaves are palmately lobed with seven to nine rounded lobes on each side of the leaf blade (i.e., pinnately compound).
At the same time, both sides of the leaf blade may also be covered with soft hair-like bristles known as trichomes which serve to protect young shoots from frost damage during winter months when they are most vulnerable if left unprotected by their mother plants’ shade canopy overhead.”
The name “foxglove” comes from the fact that these plants were once used to make gloves for hunting foxes in Scotland. Nowadays, they are used in herbal medicine because they contain chemicals called digitalis glycosides which can help treat heart problems such as irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) or congestive heart failure (CHF).
Unfortunately, these chemicals can also be very dangerous if eaten by humans – especially children – because they can cause severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, leading to dehydration and even death if not treated quickly enough.
Which part(s) of Foxglove are poisonous?
All parts of the foxglove plant are considered poisonous, including the leaves, stems, and flowers. When ingested by humans, foxglove causes cardiac dysfunction that can be fatal.
Although foxglove is toxic to humans and animals alike, it has been used medicinally for centuries due to its ability to treat heart conditions such as angina pectoris (chest pain), irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), and high blood pressure (hypertension). In fact, digitalis was used as a treatment for these conditions before heart transplants became an option!
However, safe doses and administration should be prepared by medical professionals. If you are a non-expert but would like to consider using Foxglove to treat any of the above-listed health conditions, you should consult with your local doctor on how to put the next foot forward, given any other underlying health conditions you may have.
Foxglove is a plant that contains cardiac glycosides, which can be fatal if ingested. The main toxic constituents of the foxglove plant are digitoxin, digoxin, and digitonin. These compounds increase the force of contraction of the cardiac muscle (myocardium). This improves the heart’s pumping ability and helps treat heart failure.
Digitoxin was among the first drugs used to treat congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation when it was discovered in 1875 by Charles Suckling. The drug worked so well that he said, “he had never seen a single instance where it did not relieve at once.” It was initially used as an oral medication. Still, it later became known as an intravenous medication because of its rapid action.
Foxglove is toxic to humans. The fatal dose for humans is about 10 to 20 mg per kg of bodyweight, which means that a person who weighs 100 pounds would need to consume 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams (mg) of foxglove leaves before they could experience toxicity symptoms. A lethal amount for an average adult is about 1–2 mg per kg of body weight; this means that the lethal dose for a 70-kg (154 pounds) adult would be 140–280 mg.
Symptoms of foxglove toxicity include:
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Diarrhoea, headache and
- Abdominal pain
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms after being exposed to Foxglove, immediately contact and seek medical attention at your local healthcare provider for prompt treatment.
Signs and symptoms of digitalis poisoning
The signs and symptoms of digitalis poisoning depend on the dose ingested. In mild cases, you might experience:
- Blurred vision or seeing spots (you may also notice your eyesight worsening over time)
In more severe cases, you could experience the following:
- headache, dizziness, and nausea
- slow heartbeat or irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
If large doses are taken, symptoms can include serious conditions such as hypotension (low blood pressure), seizure, and cardiac arrest.
Foxglove plant has a fatal dose that can cause abnormal heart rhythm
The foxglove plant is toxic to humans and can cause abnormal heart rhythm. Foxglove plants contain digitalis glycosides, which are cardiac glycosides used to treat heart failure. The mechanism of action of these drugs is to increase sodium and calcium influx into the cardiac cells via an effect on voltage-gated Na+ (sodium) channels.
The dosage is important in patients with heart failure; too much digitalis may cause sudden death due to ventricular arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeat).
Note: Medical professionals have determined these dosages and should only be administered by medical professionals. Do NOT attempt to treat yourself with the Foxglove plant on your own unless you are an expert in the field and know how to safely prepare it.
Mechanism of toxic action
Digitalis is a plant that contains a substance called digitalis glycosides. Digitalis glycosides affect the heart by increasing your body’s potassium levels and slowing down your heart rate. It also increases the strength of each heartbeat, which can help people with heart failure or abnormal heart rhythms.
Management of digitalis toxicity
If you or someone you know has ingested foxglove, it’s essential to get treatment as soon as possible. Fortunately, there is an antidote for digitalis toxicity called digoxin immune fab (Digibind), which can help prevent death from this plant.
The treatment involves keeping the patient alive and waiting for the drug to be metabolized. If cardiac arrest occurs, then resuscitation will need to be performed immediately to prevent death. If cardiac arrest does not happen, then other methods of monitoring may be required so that patients do not develop complications from their overdose on digitalis or any other drugs they may have taken with it
How to stay safe from Foxglove toxicity
Do not prepare your own herbal medicines unless you are an expert who knows how to do it safely. If you prepare your own herbal medicines, make sure that you know what herbs to use and how much of each herb to use. You should also know that some combinations of herbs may cause complications or even death when taken together.
Keep the children away from these plants when playing outdoors. This is especially important for young kids who like to play outside in the woods or meadows where these plants grow freely or are planted by homeowners.
Proceed Foxglove with caution
If you’re a human and have ingested foxglove, call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room right away. Your doctor will determine if you need medical attention and may provide intravenous fluids and other treatments.
If you suspect that someone who is not yourself has ingested foxglove, do not administer first aid. Call 911 or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a poison control specialist and ask for guidance on how to proceed.
The bottom line
Foxglove is the common name of a flowering plant within the family of Scrophulariaceae. It’s found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The plant has some medicinal properties if used correctly. Its extract is used to treat low heart rate and irregular heartbeats and as a laxative. It’s also used to treat congestive heart failure, but only with caution since it can have harmful side effects.
However, you should never take any amount of any medication without consulting a physician. Medicines can be poisonous to people and animals and can cause side effects.
The dosage information is on the container and box or should be if it is traditional pharmaceutical medicine. Most herbal medications have their own set of dosages you should follow. If you are unsure of the proper dosage or how much to give your dog, talk to your veterinarian before administering anything yourself.