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Curr Pharm Des. 2017;23(34):5104-5114. doi: 10.2174/1381612823666170825125426.

An Overview of Cardenolides in Digitalis - More Than a Cardiotonic Compound.

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Abant Izzet Baysal University, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology, 14030 Bolu, Turkey.
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, United States.
Abant Izzet Baysal University, Faculty of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, Department of Seed Science and Technology, 14030 Bolu, Turkey.
Abant Izzet Baysal University, Faculty of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, Department of Horticulture, 14030 Bolu, Turkey.


The genus Digitalis L. containing species, commonly known as the "foxglove", is the main source of cardenolides, which have various pharmacological properties effective against certain pathological conditions including myocardial infarction, arterial hypertension, cardiac dysfunction, angina, and hypertrophy. Togehter with a prime effect of controlling the heart rhythm, many workers demonstrated that lanatoside C and some other cardiac glycosides are effective in several cancer treatments such as prostate and breast cancers. Due to digoxigenin derivatives of cardenolides, which are mainly used for medicinal purposes, such as digoxigenin, D. lanata as a main source is of great interest for commercial scale production of cardenolides in Europe. Phytochemical studies on cardenolides, naturally occurring plant secondary metabolites, have mainly focused on the species of the genus Digitalis L., as the members of this family have a high level and diverse content of cardenolides. During the last few decades, plant tissue culture techniques have been optimised for many plant species including Digitalis, however, the production capacity of cardenolides somehow failed to reach a commercially desired extent. In this review paper, the genus Digitalis is evaluated in terms of its main botanical and physiological features, traditional uses, molecular genetics and metabolomics, cellular mechanism of action, medicinal uses, clinical pharmacology, drug interactions, therapy in the management of cardiovascular disorders, potential utility of therapy in extracardiac conditions, and toxicity.


Digitalis; cardenolides; cardiovascular disorders; clinical pharmacology; drug interactions; medicinal uses; toxicity

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