The Origins of Plant Medicine: Europe


Sophie Kittredge

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Foxglove (Digitalis spp.) is native to western Europe, where folk healers used it as a diuretic and for other purposes. Today, it is the source of the powerful heart drugs digitoxin and digoxin.

Belladonna (Atropa belladonna), also known as deadly nightshade, was once believed to help witches fly. Its name may come from the practice by Italian women of using the herb to dilate their pupils, considered a mark of beauty. It was also used to treat colic and peptic ulcers. Today, it is used to dilate pupils for eye examinations and to inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions, such as saliva production.

The Origins of Plant Medicine