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Medicinal Plants, Pacific Northwest

Foxglove, Pacific Northwest
Foxglove, Photo By Bud Logan

The normal life of a Foxglove plant is two seasons, but sometimes the roots, which are formed of numerous, long, thick fibers, persist and will flower for several more seasons. In the first year a rosette of leaves, but no stem, is sent up. In the second year, one or more flowering stems are thrown up, which are from 1 to 1.3 meters high. In early summer, huge bunches of beautiful flowers bloom, although the time of flowering depends upon elevation. As a rule the flowers are in perfection in July.

The Foxglove is a favorite flower of the honey bee and is entirely developed by the visits of this insect. For that reason, its tall and stately spikes of flowers are at their best in those sunny, midsummer days when the bees are very active. The flowers are tight for a bee and as he pushes his way in, he gets covered with pollen. As he goes from flower to flower he pollinates them. After the bees have done their job, the plant produces seeds, a single Foxglove plant can produce up to two million seeds to ensure its propagation.

This plant was used extensively during the medieval years for medicine and somewhat by the BC Coast first peoples, but it is one of the most poisonous plants that grow on the island and I would suggest that it not be used as a medicinal plant unless you know and understand fully the medicinal properties of the plant.

This plant is poisonous, very poisonous, but it also contains a miracle. It contains digitalin, this chemical is used to create digitalis. which is used to treat congestive heart failure.

Foxglove, Pacific Northwest
Foxglove, Photo By Bud Logan

A doctor by the name of William Withering through a series of experiments, isolated the chemical. He had discovered that people were using this plant as a treatment for dropsy (congestive heart failure) and wanted to learn all he could about this cure and just why it worked. He did and now he is responsible for millions of saved people. A great tribute to a great man.

A side note about Dr Withering is the fact that he treated many poor people for this and other ailments knowing they had no way to pay for his service. It mattered not to him, and he treated between 2000 and 3000 people a year for free. He was a good man, he died in 1799, at the age of 58, poor, but quite happy.

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