Searching for heart remedies, the ridiculousness of many folk remedies (for example, a hare’s right front foot to cure rheumatism) tends to obscure the validity of some of these early ventures into pharmacology.

Eating powdered dried foxglove leaves had long been known to relieve “dropsy,” the swelling of body tissue now known as edema. In this case, modern medicine has proved the folk remedy to be right.

Digitalis, the drug used to treat congestive heart failure, is made form foxglove leaves. Digitalis acts on the heart muscle, increasing its power to contract while slowing it down. Only a doctor can prescribe the proper dose of digitalis, since too much of this drug can be very harmful, even fatal.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Veins keep blood flowing in a slow, steady stream toward the heart, and many are equipped with valves to prevent blood from pooling or moving backward. But sometimes valves are defective or become damaged, and too much blood stays tool long in one place. The result may be veins knotted and swollen to four or five times normal size (varicose). Hemorrhoids are one example of such veins, but most often they develop in legs, because when the body is upright, blood in the legs must flow uphill, against gravity.

Poor circulation leaves skin near such veins undernourished, sometimes causing eczema or ulcerations, and occasionally these fragile veins may burst and bleed. People most vulnerable to varicose veins are those who have inherited weak valves; those whose jobs require hours of standing; pregnant women; the obese; the chronically constipated. Treatment ranges from wearing elastic hose to surgery.