digitalis

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Foxglove may be one of the most easily recognizable flowers commonly found in the garden. Scientifically known as Digitalis purpurea, foxglove is in the family Plantaginaceae and is native to most of temperate Europe, but has been naturalized in many areas around the world. While the striking variegation of the flowers is what makes foxglove so popular, it is it’s health effects that give this plant notoriety. Foxglove contains a cocktail of cardiac glycosides, most notably the compounds digitoxin and digoxin. These molecules inhibit the sodium-potassium ATPase pump found in all animal cells. This pump is responsible for many physiological processes, including regulating the electrical conductivity of nerve cells. If any part of the foxglove plant is ingested, the cardiac glycosides act to inhibit the electrical impulses that regulate our heartbeat, leading to heart palpitations, and eventually cardiac arrest. So while foxglove is a beautiful addition to the landscape, extreme caution should be taken to ensure poisoning does not occur.