I am looking for information to the uses of foxglove prior to William Withering
does anyone know about any herbalists using it or having used it in the past -
I am well aware of the status it has now - but have been doing some research and have found it to be a bitter digestive tonic, expectorant, demulcent and on an emotional level really raising self esteem.
Someone might want to follow up Brodins reference to it in his notes to the Agnus Castus herbal which connect it to "Erpina" (No, NOT Orpine) and suggesting a possible use in dealing with cases of herpes or shingles
September 16 2009, 5:51 PM
I thought herbalists were prohibited from using foxgloves as it has an accumulative effect in the tissues? For heart problems I understand that qualified herbalists use Lily of the Valley instead as it also contains digoxin but in a different form which is not cumulative. I'm afraid I don't know of any other uses for this plant. Am I talking through my bottom here or are we discussing a potentially dangerous plant?
September 17 2009, 9:47 AM
No, you're not mistaken, Foxglove is a potentially poisonous herb and not one that I would consider working with under any circumstances. To me, it falls under the same category as henbane and mandrake, yet both were used successfully in the past for pain control and anaesthesia generally. Jean Auel, in her historical novel "The Mammoth Hunters" has her healer using foxglove to successfully treat the mixed-race child with heart problems until he dies. There isn't any discussion in the book about whether her treatment caused his death, but since foxglove is a cumulative poison, knowledgable readers might draw that conclusion. Earlier herbalists didn't have that insight into the plant.
As with all herbs, you have to know your plant intimately and take responsibility for what you are going to do with it. I know from another forum that Karen is taking that responsibility for herself and experimenting with a particular part of the plant - not leaves or roots - and in drop doses weeks apart.
Interestingly, no other herbalist has admitted working with this herb, so I'm presuming that it's considered in the same category as Jimson weed and hemlock - you know it's deadly and the only time you might physically brush against it is by accident. When Claire was doing her dissertation on borage, the only fatal report of the plant came from Italy where someone had confused a foxglove leaf with a borage leaf and added it to their stew!
Personally, I'm a coward when it comes to working with poisonous plants. I always cut a rhubarb stalk 2" from the top and I haven't felt called to grow poke yet and experiment with the berries. These are poisonous when chewed but don't cause any harm if you swallow them whole. I know a fair number of herb lovers who regularly use them for stuck lymph and viruses, but the plant grows prolifically near to where they live, whereas my plant refused to grow. I took that as a message and I'll stick to cleavers for now! I've heard no accounts of anyone dying from chewing cleaver seeds, but I won't offer it to cancer sufferers who might transfer some errant cells around their blood stream by moving their lymph.
All this is a long winded way of saying that plants are wonderful. Learning about their historical uses can give us amazing insights into their healing nature but in some cases, modern scientific knowledge and/or national legislation, may give us a reason not to work with that herb unless we accept the consequences of our actions and that is a very personal choice.
September 19 2009, 9:07 AM
As Sarah said I am working in tiny almost homeopathic doseages -with the flower heads and not injesting this toxic plant on a daily basis at all -infact I have only used it on new and full moons.
I will follow up that ref thanks Anthony.
I am drawn to the poisons and have done alot of work with them all herbs need to be used with respect and loving communication and the message I personally recieved from the foxglove flowers is I am here to help with self esteem, this doesn't mean that the plant has to be taken internally - just having the beautiful majestic herb in ones garden is medicine in itself.
I guess I am also a rebel and to be told I must not use something make me wonder....
September 20 2009, 5:42 PM
I agree with Karen about respecting the potency of herbs, after all if they didn't have the potential to kill when abused, they wouldn't have the capacity to heal when used sensibly. Why is this blindingly obvious message so difficult to get across?
September 20 2009, 8:21 PM
The problem with foxglove, as I understand it, is that the therapeutic dose is too close to the lethal dose to be subject to the variations of growing environment and preparation methods outwith very precise conditions. That is why it is a POM medicine (as outlined above).
September 21 2009, 8:55 AM
Regarding the blindingly obvious, I think it has some thing to do with the "elf & saftey" crew that warn you that peanut buter contains nuts and that a pot of yoghurt contains milk etc. Makes you want to kick the idiots to Salisbury and back!
October 7 2009, 9:11 AM
You asked whether herbalists used foxglove prior to Withering's investigations.Well there was the elderly lady herbalist who told him about its values for a start!But to be serious.
Culpeper lists it in his Herbal and ascribes various "vertues"both in decoction and ointment form for external use in treating wounds,old sores,scrofula and head scabs.Internally for epilepsy.
This is of historical interest only in view of the known toxicity of the plant.
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