Recently, my doctor prescribed a drug to regulate my heart rhythm—something that I have periodically needed after my Marfan-related heart surgery. The drug, digoxin, is derived from the foxglove plant, which has beautiful, bell-shaped flowers growing out of a tall stalk. He suggested I look at a picture of the foxglove and think about “the power of the flower.” This comment is remarkable for two reasons:
First, he is a very conventional doctor, not prone to alternative or complementary medicine, although he is open-minded about the healing potential of these practices. In the thirty years since he has been my doctor, I have rarely heard him utter such an unscientific description of a medicine.
Second, over the past thirty years, he has come to know me very well. Most importantly, he has always seen, heard and respected me for the person I am. And part of this “seeing” is also understanding how best to communicate with me. Knowing of my predilection for integrative and complementary medical care, he chose to use a phrase that would resonate with me. While digoxin has been proven to help the heart in randomized, double-blinded clinical trials (the “gold standard” of scientific research), perhaps he was thinking about how I might best receive this information. In so doing, he demonstrated profound sensitivity to his patient.
The treatment worked: My heart reverted to normal rhythm. Was it the digoxin? Was it the Power of the Flower? Who knows? But I am grateful to have in my life a brilliant physician who is also — although he might shudder at the phrase —a gifted healer.
For more about the history and medicinal uses of this interesting plant, see this post.