Fox-Glove, the Common, or Purple, Digitalis purpurea, L. an indigenous biennial plant, growing in meadows, on hedge-banks, and the sides of hiils ; in dry, gravelly, or sandy soils, but seldom on fat grounds, unless in very dry situations : for, though the seeds vegetate, the roots decay in the winter, and the plant consequently perishes. It abounds in the Midland, but is rarely seen in the Eastern counties, and produces purple flowers, which blow in the months of June and July.
The leaves of the fox-glove have a bitter nauseous taste, but do not possess any peculiar smell: they have long been used with considerable advantage, in the preparation of an ointment for sores and scro-phulous tumors. If taken internally, this plant is a violent purgative and emetic : - in the country, a decoction of it, with the polypody of the oak, is frequently given in epileptic fits.
An infusion of two drams of the leaf, in a pint of water, given in doses of half an ounce, till it begin to operate, is recommended for the dropsy, especially that of the breast; in which disorder it has proved of the greatest utility : the plentiful use of diluents is ordered during its operation. It has likewise been taken in substance, at bed-time, in doses of one, two, or three grains of the leaves pulverized ; and often operates as a very powerful diuretic, without producing any other evacuation. Sometimes, however, this dose excites severe and unexpected vomiting ; it has also the remark-able property of rendering the pulse slower ; frequently occasions distressing giddiness, and affects the power of vision.
The Digitalis has, within a few years, been advantageously employed in pulmonary consumptions, and other disorders, where the frequency of the pulse requires to be abated, with a view to repress the irregular action of the arterial system, and arrest the progress of disease : and though we doubt whether any thing like medicine or factitious air, will ever be discovered for the cure of that merciless disorder, yet. we entertain a very high opinion of the powers of the fox-glove, if timely administered ; but we think it our duty to add, that it is one of those active and virulent plants which cannot safely be entrusted to inexperienced persons, or empirics.
As every part of fox-glove has a very bitter and acrid taste, by which it is apt to corrode the mouth, throat, and stomach, children ought to be warned against its poisonous properties. - Sweet butter-milk, or oil and vinegar, in large draughts, will be the most effectual antidotes.