In 1775, one of his patients came to him with a very bad heart condition and since Withering had no effective treatment for him, thought he was going to die. The patient, being an independent type, went instead to a local gypsy, took a secret herbal remedy - and promptly got much better! When Withering heard about this, he became quite excited and searched for the gypsy throughout the by-ways of Shropshire. Eventually he found her, and demanded to know what was in the secret remedy. After much bargaining, the gypsy finally told her secret. The herbal remedy was made from a whole concoction of things, but the active ingedient was the purple foxglove, digitalis purpurea. The potentcy of digitalis extract had been known since the dark ages, when it had been used as a poison for the mediaeval 'trial by ordeal' ( 神断法 ), and also used as an external application to promote the healing of wounds. There are also reports of digitalis extract finding some use in the treatment of dropsy.