The term digitalis is used to describe a class of drug preparations extracted from the leaves of the foxglove, Digitalis, which contain cardiac glycosides, particularly digoxin.
Extracts from foxgloves have been used to treat heart problems since the 1780s. Today, digoxin is less commonly used due to the availability of more effective treatments. It may be used in cases of atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter.
Adverse reactions are common, due to its narrow therapeutic index (the margin between effectiveness and toxicity) and this has resulted in digitalis no longer being used in herbal medicine.
The entire plant is toxic and has led to many sinister names for foxglove, including Witches' Gloves, Bloody Fingers and Dead Men's Bells.
However, they are vital nectar plants for pollinators, and we use them widely in the Bee Borders and in mixed woodland plantings, as well as growing them in their Scrophulariaceae family beds on Systematics.