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Poisonous Plants in GB

30 31 FoxgloVe Digitalis purpurea Family Scrophulaceae. Synonyms Folks glove, fairy thimbles, Devils thimbles, Virgins glove, dead mans thimbles, throatwort. Found in woodland clearings and gardens, this tall downy biennial forms a rosette of basal leaves in the first year, the flower spike appearing from June onwards in the second. The wellloved flowers are tubular and pink, purple, or sometimes white, with dark spots inside reminiscent of an ulcerated throat whence throatwort. Most accidental poisonings result from it being mistaken for comfrey with leaves untoothed. It can also be mistaken for elecampane or mullein. Foxglove is a deadly poison. Culpepper recommended this plant for the Kings Evil, and to cleanse old sores. The AngloSaxons called it foxesglofa, though some authors derive it from folks glove, the glove of the fair folk. Dr. Withering, in Account of the Foxglove 1785, documented over 200 successful treatments, given mostly for heart failure. He was first instructed in its use by a village wisewoman an event that changed medical history. At that time foxglove or throatwort was also prescribed due to its appearance for throat infections. Although successful, the literature of the day reports commonplace poisonings derived from swallowing the medicine whilst gargling. Today, digitalis derived from foxglove is very important in the treatment of heart disease. Its action stimulates muscle, especially that of the heart, resulting in increased muscle tone, raised blood pressure, a strengthened pumping action and a lowered pulse. The drug is cumulative and overdose leads to toxicity causing hallucination coloured halos, very rapid pulse, low blood pressure, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhoea, collapse and death. Atropine from deadly nightshade is one of several antidotes usually given intravenously.
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