[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Other Articles
December 23, 1961


JAMA. 1961;178(12):1160-1161. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040510036013

Digitalis, one of the most useful drugs in the practice of medicine and one of the few naturally occurring substances with a specific action, is derived from the foxglove. Although William Withering is closely associated with the scientific introduction of the active principle of the digitalis plant into clinical medicine, the botanical had been used empirically by herbalists for an unrecorded period of time in the treatment of epilepsy and healing of wounds, and as an expectorant. Digitalis derives its name from the foxglove blossoms, folk'sglove (fairies' glove), or ladies' thimbles. Because of this resemblance, Fuchs, a German physician and botanist, gave the plant its scientific name, digitalis, in 1542. A number of potent cardiac glycosides have been isolated from the plant. These include digoxin, digitoxin, gitoxin, gitalin, and the lanatosides.

William Withering, the physician, was a man of many talents.1 His contributions in botany rank just below his