How do you extract digitalis from foxgloves?
Digitalis is a chemical known as an alkaloyd. These nitrogen containing substances are what many pharmaceuticals are based on. One of their characteristic properties is how their soluability is affected by pH. In acid environments they form alkaloyd salts and are water soluable. In a basic environment they are nonpolar compounds and are soluable in nonpolar solvents. Extraction involves exposing dried plant material to a basic solution of Sodium or Potassium hydroxide in a separatory funnel. To this is added a nonpolar solvent like hexane or petroleum ether. The alkaloys will pass from the water into the nonpolar solvent. The solvent is separated and when evaporated, the alkaloyds remain as a sticky white substance. Alkaloyds are characterized by a bitter taste. Most of these compounds have either stimulatory or sedative effects on the central nervous system and can be toxic in large doses. Digitalis itself is used as a heart stimulant.
Digitalis is the natural chemical found in the Foxglove plant. It is used to stimulate the heart, and is not something to be fooled with. It can cause an instant heart attack.
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