Poison, Medicine or Both? Foxgloves from Greece

November 16, 2019

If you think about nature, everything was evolved in ways to be able to survive. But also, humans as part of nature were connected in this evolution. Each one organism on earth, developed different “powers” which makes him unique and able to survive in the environment it choose or was chosen to be. Plants are the most ancient organisms, after bacteria. This is why we found them in such a great variety and number, thriving all over the world, even in the most extreme environments.

The better “survival” mechanisms they develop, the more different environments are able a plant species to survive and thrive. One of these extreme mechanisms is the “not to be eaten”. Many plant species produce substances which make them poisonous for consumption. Animals of course know which plant species are poisonous and do not eat the by instinct. Humans from the other hand, have the ability to learn so from the first years of them in this planet, they learn poisonous plants and transcend this knowledge to the next generation, which was actually one of their key mechanisms to survive. An excellent example of this, is the use or not use of the genus of foxgloves (Digitalis sp.).

Foxgloves are spectacular plants for decorating our garden, with huge flowers and colorful petals. Bees love them for their nectar and pollen, and this is why foxgloves are reproduced in numbers and have the ability to survive in many different environments. Recent horticulture has produced many other hybrids, which are even more magnificent for the garden. Apart from their beauty, foxgloves’ mechanism for survival is the production of “poisonous” substances. Poisonous digitalis species are not for consumption. But as ancient Greeks said, “A drug can be a poison” and vise versa. If you use the appropriate amount od a substance in the correct medicinal procedure, a plant can give you therapeutical substances.

Digitalis lanata contains a powerful cardiac glycoside called digitalin, which can be used in many heart diseases. Substance is known from 19th century and in recent medicine is producing pills with it. This is a great example of how everything in nature is connected, but also that the role of each species on earth is valuable for this complex network!

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.


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