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Herb of the week

By Lynn Kirkland

Visit the herb


Herb of the Week for 2nd of November
By Lynn Kirkland

The common names for foxgloves; Witches' Gloves, Dead Men's Bells, Gloves of our Lady, Bloody Fingers and Foxes Gloves, show how this herb has two sides to its uses.
It is one of those plants that can kill or cure as it contains powerful substances and is definitely not one for home use.

Foxgloves are used as ornamentals in the garden and of course grow wild on farmland throughout New Zealand. They appear in shades of purple and white and there are hybrid ornamentals now in apricot shades and other colours.

The variety in the photo is digitalis purpurea. The purpurea refers to the colour of the flower. The variety of foxglove which is grown commercially to extract the cardiac glycoside to produce digoxin is digitalis lanata. This variety has woolly leaves and yellow brown flowers. Netherlands is the country where it is grown on a commercial scale.

In the 16th century foxglove was used to treat dropsy which is swelling due to fluid build up. Nowadays the pharmaceutical drug digoxin is used for congestive heart failure or atrial fibrillation.

If you have foxgloves in your garden they will self sow if you allow the flowers to set seed. Foxgloves are biennials and will flower in their second year.
It is interesting to look upon these statuesque flowering spires and know that they have close relatives in their plant family providing help for many people with heart problems.

Please remember that this is strictly an ornamental herb.

Thanks lynn another great read.

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