A patient brought me the first two seasons of House for my viewing pleasure. I just watched “Damned If You Do” in which a nun is put into cardiac arrest after taking figwort tea and getting a tiny bit of epinephrine (adrenaline) injected.
Having never even heard of figwort tea causing this side effect, I researched it. While figwort does contain cardiac glycosides, there are no reports of figwort causing any side effects. Of the only forty-five studies on figwort in medline, only the rabbit intestine study would be relevant and it does not show the sort of smooth muscle contraction that would lead to a heart attack if a little epinephrine was added.
So what are we to make of Dr. House’s diagnosis of this nun based on the ingestion of figwort? Here we have medical fiction. There is no medical information that supports the interaction between figwort and the amount of epinephrine given. If he had talked about belladonna, or one of the more potent cardiac glycoside containing herbs, he might have had a diagnosis. But evidently the writers don’t know their herbs and picked innocuous figwort to play the villain.
- Digitalis (drarslan10.wordpress.com)
- Molecules of Witchcraft (mrlambertchemistry.wordpress.com)
- Southern California Wildflower Reports 3/11/13 (naturalhistorywanderings.com)