DigitalisDigitalis is another name for the common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. It belongs to the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae (in the order Lamiales). Foxglove is a biennial, often grown as an ornamental plant due to its violet flowers. The first year of growth produces only the long basal leaves, while in the second year the erect leafy stem 2-5 feet tall develops.
Digitalis purpurea extract containing cardiac glycosides for the treatment of heart conditions was first described by William Withering.
A group of pharmacologically active compounds are extracted mostly from the leaves of the second year's growth, and in pure form are referred to by common chemical names such as digitoxin or digoxin, or by brand names such as Lanoxin, or Purgoxin.
Digitalis is a classic example of a drug derived from a plant formerly used by folklorists and herbalists: herbalists have largely abandoned its use because of its narrow therapeutic index and the difficulty of determining the amount of active drug in herbal preparations.