FOXGLOVE (DIGITALIS PURPUREA)
These familiar ornamental biennial plants are members of the snapdragon family native to southern Europe and Asia. They are highly prized in North American gardens for their tall spikes of beautiful, bell-like flowers in pink, blue, or mauve, with dark spots inside the lip.
Foxgloves are the pharmaceutical source of the heart drug digitalis, which is poisonous in overdose. The plants are also helpful in preserving other species of cut flowers with which they may be arranged in a vase or in stimulating the growth and endurance of garden root vegetables, especially potatoes, with which they may be planted.
Children should not be permitted to suck the nectar from these “bells” nor drink the rainwater collected within. Nor should adults indulge in herbal preparations containing digitalis without informed supervision.
Sap, flowers, seeds, and leaves of foxgloves. The greatest concentration of the toxin occurs in vigorous growth shoots. Dried plant material is usually harmless.
Potent cardiac or steroid glycosides: digitoxin, digloxin, digitalin, and others.
Even iff the plant materials are dried or boiled, the ingredients remain active.
TYPICAL POISONING SCENARIO
Poisoning of children from eating the attractive flowers or drinking rainwater from the vase-like blooms.
Another possible cause of poisoning by this group of plants is the abuse of herbal medicines prepared from them. These medicines should be administered only by qualified medical personnel.
As comfrey leaves resemble foxglove leaves, use caution when growing these two plants and isolate them from each other. Comfrey is often used as an infusion or tea.
Pain in the mouth or throat followed by vomiting, diarrhea, severe headache, and irregular pulse, breathing, and heartbeat. Convulsions and death from cardiac arrest can occur if poisoning is severe enough.
FOXGLOVE POISON INFORMATION
Glycosides are toxins in which at least one sugar molecule is linked with oxygen to another compound, often nitrogen-based. They become harmful when the sugar molecule is stripped off, as in the process of digestion.