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Foxglove - The Home of the Fairies!

AKA: Digitalis purpurea L. Family: Scrophulariaceae- also known as Fairy Caps, Fairy Thimbles, Fox Claws, Goblin Gloves, Witches' Gloves, Folk’s Glove, Dead Men's Bells, and Fox-Fingers.

Propagation/Description: Foxgloves can be biennials or short-lived perennials and are grown for their tall spires of tubular flowers of 2-5 ft tall and 1-2 ft wide. They bloom for several months, usually from late spring or early summer. The prefer to be kept in deep shade, in soil that is rich in organic matter. They are best planted in spring or autumn, when the soil is moist and warm, to encourage new root growth.

Folklore/History: One old gardeners’ superstition is “don’t want to pick any foxglove flowers because it will offend the garden fairies and that is something you want to avoid. They will play tricks on you like leading rabbits to your garden to eat your precious plants or moving plants around in the garden and then watch as you look at where you thought you planted them and laugh when you find them planted somewhere else”. Some believe the foxglove gets its name from the old Anglo-Saxon word “foxes-glew,” which means “fox music.” This is apparently because the flowers resemble an ancient hanging bell of the same name. It is, however, an ancient name and exists in a list of plants as old as the time of Edward III (King of England from 1327-1377). The Latin name was given by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753 because, much more straightforwardly, he thought the flowers looked like the fingertips of gloves. Despite the danger, physicians and herbalists have long turned to foxglove to treat a variety of disorders, including tuberculosis and edema. Medieval healers used the plant externally, and records from the early Renaissance focus on foxglove’s external use as an ointment for treating wounds, ulcers, and other conditions. Foxglove was first mentioned to treat “feebleness of the heart” in 1526 by Peter Treveris in his Grete Herball. Norwegian folklore stories say the fairies showed the foxes how to ring the bell-shaped flower to warn each other of hunters. Another story says that the foxes used the flowers as slippers to sneak quietly into chicken coops. There are many different folklore tales of the Foxglove which are mostly associated with the fae (Fairies). Fairies are not the only association. Many different cultures in Europe have their own tales and it is fun to see them all. A highly suggested research project!

Medicinal: Think of Foxglove as the Femme Nikita of herbs– beautiful, potentially deadly, and invaluable when used properly. Digitoxin (a steroidal cardiac glycoside) and digoxin (a medication used to manage and treat heart failure and certain arrhythmias, and abortion), effective in treating congestive heart failure, is derived areom the foxglove plant. It contains a chemical called digitalis that can be used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure by raising blood flow and increasing the body’s defense mechanisms. However, the plant is poisonous if consumed directly in the wrong dosage and can cause a number of other health problems. If not used in the correct dosage it can be deadly or, at minimum, cause gastrointestinal discomforts such as depressed appetite, nausea, and vomiting; neurological side effects, such as dizziness, fatigue, and hallucinations; and cardiac system problems, including abnormal heart rhythms. Due to these complications and narrow medicinal measurements, it is highly recommended by all herbalists to not ingest this herb.

Spiritual: Foxglove is used by some in divination, summoning, and protection from unwanted forces. The dye made from the plant can be used in various spells and rituals to summon spirits/ancestors. According to The Victorian Flower Language by Kat Morgenstern, a herbalist and ethnobotanist in Germany, it represents insincerity. Most believe that it represents protection of home & garden, vision, immortality, courage, spiritual heart healing, expose lying and force honesty and to commune with those of the Underworld. It attracts bees and fairies alike.

Summary: Somewhere in my research I read that Foxglove can bring the dead back to life and take the life of the living. Reading all the folklore, history, and medicinal research it is clear that this is plant can be beautifully helpful and deadly. I encourage the use of the Foxglove aesthetically and spiritually only. While it is useful medicinally, only those who have extremely intimate knowledge and experience with this plant should ever use it for internal medicine. We have plenty of other plants and medicines out there to assist with cardiac issues that are much safer and just as effective without the possibility of dying! It is beautiful and mystical and mysterious and magical just as it is. Plant it to attract fairies into your garden, protect yourself and your household or help in your practice in practically any way. Enjoy the beauty it offers!


· The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety by Simon Mills, MA, MCPP, FNIMH and Kerry Bone, BSc, Dip Phyto, FNIMH, FNHAA, MCPP.

· The Magic of Flowers, A Guide to Their metaphysical Uses & Properties by Tess Whitehurst

· Hedgewitch’s Field Guide by Siolo Thompson

· Floriography, An Illustrated Guide to the Victorian Language of Flowers by Jessica Roux

· Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

· Plant Witchery by Juliet Diaz

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