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By Witchipedia, Herbs

Foxglove: Folklore, Varieties, Healing & Magical Uses

Updated on:

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Foxglove Digitalis spp is a striking plant for shade gardens, but it is also very poisonous and should be planted with this in mind. It reaches up to 5 feet tall and can spread to 18 inches. A multitude of thimble-shaped flowers will appear in the late spring of the second year in tall spikes in various pastel colors, depending on the variety. Throats are white with darker spots, usually burgundy.

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

Foxglove, with its striking tubular flowers, comes in various varieties, including the Common Foxglove, Rusty Foxglove, Yellow Foxglove, and the unique Merton or Strawberry Foxglove.

Propagation of foxglove is best achieved through seed sowing or division, allowing gardeners to cultivate their own vibrant displays of this enchanting flower.

Harvested foxglove leaves and flowers must be handled with care due to their toxicity, yet they contain valuable compounds with potential medicinal applications.

Beyond its medicinal attributes, foxglove holds a place in the realm of magic and can be used for various household purposes, bridging the gap between tradition and modern gardening practices.

Varieties

Common Foxglove

Digitalis pupurea has purple to white flowers, though there are many different colored cultivars, including “alba” which is white without spots.

Rusty Foxglove 

Digitalis ferruginea can get up to six feet tall and has red flowers.

Yellow Foxglove

Digitalis grandiflora has yellow flowers blotched with brown.

Merton foxglove or Strawberry Foxglove

Digitalis X mertonensis is a perennial (unlike all the others which are biennial) that can reach about three feet tall and has bright red flowers.

History and Folklore

The origin of the common name “foxglove” is unclear, but the original name may have been folksglove, referring to faerie folk.

The Latin name, digitalis comes from the word digitanus, meaning finger for the thimble-shaped flowers that look like you could fit your finger right inside.

Although foxglove is very dangerous if misused, it has a long history of medicinal use for heart and kidney problems, edema and aconite poisoning. Legend says that Van Gogh used it to treat his epilepsy.

Folklore/SymbolismDescription
Magical ProtectionIn folklore, foxglove was believed to ward off evil spirits and provide protection against curses.
Love and AttractionFoxglove was associated with love and attraction, and it was believed to attract faeries and love.
Healing PropertiesFoxglove was traditionally used in herbal medicine to treat various ailments and heart conditions.
Connection to NatureFoxglove was seen as a symbol of woodland and meadows, representing the beauty of nature.
Table 1: Folklore and Symbolism

An old saying about foxglove goes “It can raise the dead and it can kill the living”.

In the 1700s, William Withering learned of this folk remedy from “an old woman in Shropshire” and studied it. This led to Digitalis being a very important plant-derived medicine for heart disease that is still in use to this day.

In Roman mythology, Flora showed Hera or Juno how to impregnate herself with no need of a man by touching a foxglove to her belly and her breasts. Depending on the source, she either gave birth to Mars or Vulcan from this method.

Scandinavian legend says that the faeries taught foxes to ring foxglove bells to warn each other of approaching hunters.

Foxglove, or digitalis, has a long association with witches and witchcraft.

Propagation

Foxglove will grow in most zones, but not along the gulf coast. It likes a bit of sun, but scorches easily and requires a bit of shade in the latter part of the day. If you live in the deep south, it will do best in the deep shade. Foxglove germinates well from seed.

Just throw it down, no need to even cover it or fertilize it. Plant foxglove in moist but well-drained soil that is slightly acidic, but remember, they are biennial so you won’t get any blooms until next year.

It will then self-seed and you will need to divide the clumps every few years to prevent overcrowding. Mulching will prevent reseeding.

Harvesting & Storage

Cut flowers when they first bloom and hang upside down to dry.

Be sure to wear gloves when working with foxglove.

Magical Attributes

Foxglove is a baneful herb associated with the planets Saturn or Venus, depending on who you ask.

Magickal UseDescription
Faerie MagickFoxglove is believed to attract faeries and serves as a gateway to the realm of the fae.
SpellworkThe flowers and leaves of foxglove can be incorporated into spellwork for love, protection, and divination purposes.
Ritual OfferingsFoxglove can be used as an offering in rituals and ceremonies to honor nature spirits and deities associated with the plant.
Psychic EnhancementIt is believed that foxglove can enhance psychic abilities and facilitate spiritual growth and intuition.
Table 2: Magickal Uses of Foxglove

Juice or dew collected from foxgloves can be used in ritual to commune with the faeries and the leaves are said to help break faerie enchantments. Do not let it touch your skin; do not inhale the smoke if you burn the leaves!

Plant foxgloves anywhere you wish to invite the faeries to come visit.

Carry foxglove with you to attract faerie energy.

Household Use

Foxglove is poisonous to humans but attracts bees and hummingbirds.

Healing Attributes

Chemicals are extracted from foxglove for the medical industry. Digitalis is a common medicine for heart patients. However, it is also a cardiac toxin and should never be used except under the care of a professional.

Healing/Medicinal UseDescription
Heart ConditionsFoxglove contains compounds used to treat heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure.
Anti-inflammatory AgentThe plant’s leaves and flowers have anti-inflammatory properties and were used to relieve pain.
Respiratory SupportFoxglove was historically used to alleviate respiratory issues, such as coughs and congestion.
Skin ConditionsInfusions and salves made from foxglove were applied topically to soothe various skin conditions.
Table 3: Healing and Medicinal Uses

Note. Foxglove is a cardiac toxin. Do not eat.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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