DIGITALIS PURPUREA symptoms of the homeopathy remedy from Plain Talks on Materia Medica with Comparisons by W.I. Pierce. What DIGITALIS PURPUREA can be used for? Indications and personality of DIGITALIS PURPUREA…

      PURPLE FOXGLOVE-FOX-FINGERS-LADIES’-FINGERS. (Digitalis, pertaining to the fingers (digital), and so named because it flower resembled a finger-stall or thimble.).


      While the plant is a native of Europe, it is cultivated in this country, but that from Europe is considered superior for medicinal purpose.

Both schools use the leaves obtained from the two-year old plant and our tincture is prepared by adding equal parts of alcohol and expressed juice form the leaves.

Among the active principles of the leaves we find “digitalin, or in, which probably most nearly represents the drug, and is soluble in alcohol, but not in water, and digitonin, which is soluble in water, but only slightly so in alcohol.” Digitonin is supposed to represent “the diuretic action of the drug and being practically insoluble in alcohol but soluble in water” (Warner) will explain the preference often given to the infusion over the tincture.


      The chief interest in Digitalis centers in its action on the heart and circulation.

Its action on the heart is remarkable in that it produces vigorous systolic contractions, which later, as the remedy is pushed, become very irregular, one portion of the ventricle dilating while another portion remains in a state of contraction; finally the heart stops in systole (114). In material doses it “at first slows the heart” and pulse, increasing arterial tension and causing contraction of arterioles, “but poisonous doses make the heart beat very quickly and irregularly” (Ringer).

Hahnemann, who first proved this remedy, says the same thing in different words, that “the most usual and assured phenomenon for Digitalis is, that after the preliminary slowness of the pulse (primary action), after some days it is the reverse (reaction or secondary action), a much quicker and smaller pulse is induced.”

Ringer tells us that “Digitalis reduces the strength of the beats of a heart acting too powerfully and strengthens the action of a weak heart,” but this stimulation is not long-lasting, because it causes weakness of cardiac tissue, and this weakness, this feeble action, is our chief guide in the selection of the remedy in heart cases.

The heart may be slow or rapid, usually the latter, but they are weak, with consequent weakness or the pulse, and every little extra exertion, such as sitting up in bed, or “rising from a sitting to a standing posture, increases the rapidity of the pulse (111) but the force is diminished” (Farrington). This weak pulse is apt to become irregular or intermittent (110).

Digitalis is valuable in all varieties of heart trouble, from simple weakness to valvular lesions (look out for it in fatty degeneration), but whenever indicated there is a feeble, irregular, intermittent (110) or fluttering pulse (109). Frequently with the weak and irregular pulse there is a feeling as if the heart stood still (113), or “would stop beating if he moved” (Farrington), with anxiety and oppression about the heart (110).

Another important indication for Digitalis in heart troubles is a condition of cyanosis (207), with general desire to take a deep breath (107), which only partially relieves the sensation of suffocation. This cyanosis may be partial, as round the lips, or it may be noticed only after some exertion, and is often accompanied with cold, clammy sweat (185).

In the head Digitalis has been found useful in meningitis (133) in the state of effusion (133), with scanty, albuminous urine and a slow, feeble and irregular, intermittent pulse, with cold sweat (185). It “differs,” says, Allen, “from Helleb. only in the character of the pulse,” which you will recall is tremulous but not intermittent. In the eyes we may think of it in loss of sight and illusions of vision (bright colors (78), hairs, etc., before the eyes) when due to disturbed circulation, and in the ears Hahnemann says that Digitalis has often cured deafness attended with hissing (65) as of boiling water.

We often have, in cases calling for Digitalis, ascites (11) due to, or accompanied by, some disease of the heart. In enlargement of the liver, there is some heart trouble, associated with jaundice (122), vomiting, diarrhoea of light, clay-colored stools, scanty and high-colored urine, ascites (11) or general dropsy (63), with slow, intermittent pulse (110), faintness and cold sweat.

The effect of Digitalis upon the kidneys is not at all certain, but it is of value when we have scanty urine and general dropsy due to a weak and irregular heart.

Dropsy anywhere (63) may call for this remedy and it is frequently of use in croupous nephritis (124) after scarlet fever, with scanty and dark urine, oedematous extremities, dyspnoea and oedema of the lungs (29). In chronic interstitial nephritis it is often of temporary value when there is threatened failure of the heart, or very scanty or suppressed urine, with oedema of the lungs.

It has a urinary symptoms that has led to its use in inflammation of the neck of the bladder and in enlargement of the prostate, or in particular when there is an acute inflammation of an enlarged prostate, and that is where there is a more or less ineffectual urging to urinate, with increased desire after the first few drops have passed, which causes the patient to walk around in great distress, “though motion increases the desire” (Hering) and with burning in urethra (194) for some time after (197); along with this we have tenesmus of the rectum (160).

It may prove useful in gonorrhoea, with frequent ineffectual urging to urinate, associated with inflammation of the prostate; in hydrocele (119), with suppressed or scanty urine; in seminal emissions, without dreams (167) but followed by general weakness (167), faintness and palpitation (111).

In the female we can think of Digitalis when, with heart disease, we have vicarious menstruation (138).

Respiration in Digitalis is apt to be irregular and accompanied by frequent deep sighs (25) as if the chest could be only half filled, as if there were an impediment deep in the chest, or as if the internal parts were grown together.

It is a useful remedy in pneumonia of old people, with weak pulse, cyanosis (207) and cold extremities; in oedema of the lungs (29) and dropsy of the pleura (29) or pericardium (109), with weakness of the heart.

I use Digitalis in the tincture.

Willard Ide Pierce
Willard Ide Pierce, author of Plain Talks on Materia Medica (1911) and Repertory of Cough, Better and Worse (1907). Dr. Willard Ide Pierce was a Director and Professor of Clinical Medicine at Kent's post-graduate school in Philadelphia.