Digitalis

Atrial Fibrillation Facts

What other names is Foxglove known by?

Dé de Bergère, Dead Man's Bells, Digitale, Digitale Laineuse, Digitale Pourpre, Digitale Pourprée, Digitalis lanata, Digitalis purpurea, Doigtier, Fairy Cap, Fairy Finger, Foxglove, Gant-de-Bergère, Gant-de-Notre-Dame, Gantelée, Gantière, Grande Digitale, Lady's Thimble, Lion's Mouth, Purple Foxglove, Scotch Mercury, Throatwort, Witch's Bells, Woolly Foxglove.

What is Foxglove?

Foxglove is a plant. Although the parts of the plant that grow above the ground can be used for medicine, foxglove is unsafe for self-medication. All parts of the plant are poisonous.

Chemicals taken from foxglove are used to make a prescription drug called digoxin. Digitalis lanata is the major source of digoxin in the US.

Foxglove is used for congestive heart failure (CHF) and relieving associated fluid retention (edema); irregular heartbeat, including atrial fibrillation and "flutter;" asthma; epilepsy; tuberculosis; constipation; headache; and spasm. It is also used to cause vomiting and for healing wounds and burns.

Likely Effective for...

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of foxglove for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Quick GuideAtrial Fibrillation: Heart Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Afib Treatment

Atrial Fibrillation: Heart Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Afib Treatment

How does Foxglove work?

Foxglove contains chemicals from which the prescription medication digoxin (Lanoxin) is made. These chemicals can increase the strength of heart muscle contractions, change heart rate, and increase heart blood output.

Are there safety concerns?

Foxglove is UNSAFE for anyone to take by mouth without the advice and care of a healthcare professional. Some people are especially sensitive to the toxic side effects of foxglove and should be extra careful to avoid use.

Foxglove can cause irregular heart function and death. Signs of foxglove poisoning include stomach upset, small eye pupils, blurred vision, strong slow pulse, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, excessive urination, fatigue, muscle weakness and tremors, stupor, confusion, convulsions, abnormal heartbeats, and death. Long-term use of foxglove can lead to symptoms of toxicity, including visual halos, yellow-green vision, and stomach upset.

Deaths have occurred when foxglove was mistaken for comfrey.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Children: Taking foxglove by mouth is LIKELY UNSAFE for children.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Foxglove is UNSAFE when taken by mouth for self-medication. Do not use.

Heart disease: Although foxglove is effective for some heart conditions, it is too dangerous for people to use on their own. Heart disease needs to be diagnosed, treated, and monitored by a healthcare professional.

Kidney disease: People with kidney problems may not clear foxglove from their system very well. This can increase the chance of foxglove build-up and poisoning.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Digoxin (Lanoxin)
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Digoxin (Lanoxin) helps the heart beat more strongly. Foxglove also seems to affect the heart. Taking foxglove along with digoxin can increase the effects of digoxin and increase the risk of side effects. Do not take foxglove if you are taking digoxin (Lanoxin) without talking to your healthcare professional.



Quinine
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Foxglove can affect the heart. Quinine can also affect the heart. Taking quinine along with foxglove might cause serious heart problems.



Antibiotics (Macrolide antibiotics)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Foxglove can affect the heart. Some antibiotics might increase how much foxglove the body absorbs. Increasing how much foxglove the body absorbs might increase the effects and side effects of foxglove.

Some antibiotics called macrolide antibiotics include erythromycin, azithromycin, and clarithromycin.



Antibiotics (Tetracycline antibiotics)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Taking some antibiotics called tetracyclines with foxglove might increase the chance of side effects from foxglove.

Some tetracyclines include demeclocycline (Declomycin), minocycline (Minocin), and tetracycline (Achromycin).



Stimulant laxatives
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Foxglove can affect the heart. The heart uses potassium. Laxatives called stimulant laxatives can decrease potassium levels in the body. Low potassium levels can increase the chance of side effects from foxglove.

Some stimulant laxatives include bisacodyl (Correctol, Dulcolax), cascara, castor oil (Purge), senna (Senokot), and others.



Water pills (Diuretic drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Foxglove might affect the heart. "Water pills" can decrease potassium in the body. Low potassium levels can also affect the heart and increase the risk of side effects from foxglove.

Some "water pills" that can deplete potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDiuril, Microzide), and others.

Dosing considerations for Foxglove.

The appropriate dose of foxglove depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for foxglove. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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