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A. vernalis contains a glucoside Adonidin and has an action almost exactly like that of digitalin, but is much stronger and is said not to be cumulative. It appears to be about ten times as powerful as digitoxin. It has been prescribed instead of digitalis, and sometimes succeeds where digitalis fails, especially where there is kidney disease. It is, however, less certainly beneficial in valvular disease than digitalis, and should be used only where digitalis fails. It produces vomiting and diarrhoea more readily than digitalis. It is given in the form of an infusion.
The herb is cardiotonic, diuretic, sedative and vasoconstrictor[. It has sometimes been used internally as a cardiotonic with success where the better known foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) has failed - especially where there is also kidney disease. The herb is also used in the treatment of low blood pressure and its strong diuretic action can be used to counter water retention. It is included in many proprietary medicines, especially since its effects are not cumulative.