Pasque-Flower, At Long Last

Pasque-Flower, At Long Last

Common Names: Pasque Flower, Windflower, Pulsatilla, Wild Anemone

Botanical Name: Anemone patens, A. tuberosa, A. occidentalis and allied spp. many of which are still referred to as Pulsatilla spp.

Taste: Acrid

Anemone,  sometimes known as Pasque Flower, is a powerful plant, with some truly remarkable abilities. First, let me clarify that there are several different species of Anemone that can be used in an essentially interchangeable manner. For the record, the species I am aware of being effective in medicinal use (and again, some of these are different names for the same species) are  A. patens, A. occidentalis and A, tuberosa. These plants grow in a variety of climates, though the ones I am most familiar with originate in the Rocky Mountains of NM (A. patens) and CO, and also from the deserts of NM and AZ (A. tuberosa).

There’s a good amount of confusion surrounding many aspects of Pasque Flower. First, whether the dried or fresh plant should be used. There are two split Western tradition for this. One side, that includes the Eclectics, Michael Moore, Michael Tierra and good many other herbalists insists upon the use of a tincture of the fresh plant, many of them stating that the dried plant is nearly inert. The other side, including many UK originating practitioners like David Hoffmann or Jeremy Ross, use only a tincture of the dried plant and say that the fresh plant is toxic and that drying the plant preserves the medicinal qualities while eradicating the toxic effects.

Another debate surrounds the actual energetics of the plant. Michael Moore clearly says that it is indicated for wan, fearful, chilly people and not for hot, red tongued, flushed individuals. Jeremy Ross, using a tincture of the dried plant, says that he primarily uses it for women with deficiency related heat and anxiety and that the plant itself is cold in nature. And while Moore specifically says it is contra-indicated in a red tipped tongue, Ross lists a red-tipped tongue as an indication for its use. I can only assume some of this confusion is dependent on the particular preparation being used. Others ignore energetic subtleties altogether and just generally prescribe it for anxiety, headache, depression, headache and spasmodic afflictions of the reproductive organs.

I have not yet had the opportunity to try a tincture of dried plant, but have found the fresh plant tincture to be very effective in many cases and certainly not toxic in recommended doses. In very strong plants or in overly large doses I have occasionally noted a slowing in pulse, overt sedation and confusion. I consider a proper dose of this herb to be between 1 and 5 drops, and have never needed to use more. Nor I do recommend that anyone exceed a dose of 10 drops, as this could be potentially very dangerous. The the fresh plant is acrid and can be irritating to the skin, especially to the cuticles on the hands and mucus membranes everywhere. This means be careful rubbing your eyes after processing Anemone and be prepared for a burning mouth if you taste the fresh plant.

One of Moore’s most interesting observations of this plant is its nature as a parasympathomimetic. Nice big word, eh? Howie Brounstein calls it an anti-adrenergic instead, though the meaning is very similar. In practice, this indicates that  Anemone can be used to encourage parasympathetic or, rest and repair, energies of the body and to, potentially, discourage the adrenalin or, fight or flight, energies. This is very useful in people who have perpetually trained their bodies to respond to all stress (stress could mean a sick child or a really good kiss in this context, both have the potential to stimulate a stress response) with adrenalin. In the long run this results in exhaustion of the adrenals with eventual thyroid involvement and long term mineral depletion. This also corresponds with Ross’s use of the plant with deficiency, Heart spirit deficiency and Kidney fear.

In most cases, Pulsatilla seems most helpful for those who are truly burnt out and fully in the cold, shaky phase. However, I have also found it useful in some cases where heat from deficiency is present, especially in cases of overt panic. In any case, the plant has a special affinity for restoring groundedness, security and purpose to those who feel fearful, deeply exhausted and perpetually buffeted by the winds of life. Mimi Kamp often points out in her lectures the way the Anemone, also called the Windflower, is spun and tossed about by the wind, but how its root is deep and strong and remains firmly in place. In the same way, the plant has the capacity to help us remember our roots and stability even in the midst of chaos, fatigue and fear. People who need Pulsatilla are often chronically fearful, tentative and emotionally labile. This is often accompanied by insomnia, heart palpitations, headaches and the tendency to worry about every little thing. In women, these patterns usually lead to miserable bouts of PMS with rotating depression and irritability with underlying fear and possibly even paranoia. Physically, they often have severe dysmenorrhea due to energy stuck in the pelvic area.

Ellingwood says:

“In addition to the well known indication, I might say that it is of value in disorders of the reproductive organs which depend upon defective innervation, and which are usually accompanied with manifestations of hysteria or melancholia, or which depend upon sexual derangements and menstrual disorders which are accompanied with loss of strength, chilliness, more or less headache, and gastric derangements, such as nausea, eructation of sour water and other nervous manifestations.

Its best influence is exercised in women of blond temperament, particularly of lax muscular fiber, and of mild and yielding disposition, and smaller doses with these patients will produce better results than larger doses with other patients.“

More generally, the herb can be tried for any condition that ties into to these conditions. I liken the effect of Pulsatilla when taken correctly to that of scared, shivery child being being wrapped up in a warm blanket that smells like home. It can help us to remember who we are, where we belong and what we’re doing.

Cautions & Contra-indications: This is a low-dose plant, and the dosage is usually somewhere between 1-5 drops, start with 1 drop and use more as needed and appropriate. If overt sedation, confusion or dramatically reduced heart rate occurs, discontinue use.

Resources:
Combing Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine by Jeremy Ross

Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore

Anemone for Panic Attacks Handout by 7Song

Class notes from the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine from lectures by Howie Brounstein and Michael Moore

Sacred Plant Medicine by Stephen Buhner

Medical Herbalism by David Hoffmann

The American Materia Medica by Finley Ellingwood

Pulsatilla Post on Henriette’s Herbal Blog

11 Comments

  1. jim mcdonald
    Jan 18, 2008

    A number of western folks I know who use this plant have said that the fresh plant tincture, over time, loses potency. So, the first year, 5-10 drops do, the next 10-20 need to be taken to get the same effect, and so on and so forth.

    The bottle of fresh pulsatilla patens tincture I traded for some years ago doesn’t do a whole lot of anything anymore.

  2. Kiva Rose
    Jan 18, 2008

    Hmm, how strange… I have an ounce of several year old Pulsatilla tincture that still works just fine, and I only use a drop or two of it…. but I have read Michael Tierra say the same thing about it… I wonder if there’s a way to prevent that?

  3. Celia
    Jan 18, 2008

    What a stunning photograph! I started to hear about Pulsatilla when I was interning in Vermont, and have been thoroughly intrigued, though I have only used it in formulas and have yet to get a personal feel for it. Thanks for the further info; helpful.

  4. Kate
    Jan 18, 2008

    That plant sounds like it was made for me. All my books do claim that the variety I have that grows here is very poisonous when fresh, but I guess I’ll go look for it anyways when the snow melts in the mountains. Thanks for all interesting post.

  5. Kiva Rose
    Jan 18, 2008

    Kate, do you know exactly what spp. you have there? Michael Moore lists the species Pulsatilla occidentalis in his Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West and mentions that it grows in Washington and BC….

    jim, Moore also says that the tincture is stable for several years… I wonder if certain spp. lose their potency quicker than others? Sure would be nice to find out the subtleties of all that.

  6. Kate
    Jan 18, 2008

    It is the Occidentalis that grows here in the alpine regions, my books say they come up right after the snowmelt, That won’t be until june at least in the alpine areas, but I’ll keep a look out for it.

  7. Kiva Rose
    Jan 18, 2008

    Kate, I can send you some of what I gathered last Spring in CO if you’d like to try it out… It’s not as strong as some because I had to use vodka to tincture it instead of grain alcohol, but you’d get a feel for it so you’d know how much of your own to harvest this year. Let me know, I’d be happy to include it in the package I was making up for you.

  8. Kate
    Jan 18, 2008

    Yay! I’d love a little to try if you had some to spare. Thank you so much Kiva. I miss all of you :)

  9. Howie Brounstein
    Mar 21, 2008

    OK Kiva Rose,

    Here’s an older post from the 1990′s that still rings true to me:

    I use fresh Anemone drummundii whole plant 1:2 40%. Wildcrafting note: most
    of this plant in Oregon grows above timberline in protected wilderness
    areas … it can take some searching to find it in unprotected subalpine
    areas.

    I have found this extremely strong at a five-drop dosage. Most folks who
    try it feel a pharmaceutical strength effect at this dosage, more
    specifically a strong noticeable change in the body lasting 45-60 minutes..
    All the students so far with no health problems testing it feel changes in
    heart and respiration, along with an emotional calmness. Some prefer to lay
    down for a while and just relax. One student in her 60′s with an ongoing
    orbital or intraocular headache brought on by dental work two days before
    found permanent relief from the Anemone. Most of the students say they
    would lower the dosage for personal use.

    The new tincture is so strong, it would be easy to take too much. I have
    found the tincture to be unstable, and my two year old fresh tincture still
    works, but five drops is now a mild dosage.

    Some people have no effects from the new tincture, even at dosage up to
    twelve drops. I don’t continue increasing the dosage due to conventional
    wisdom on this matter … if it doesn’t work it won’t at higher dosages
    (there’s a footnote somewhere).

    I will try 1-5 drops for any acute emotional issues unresponsive to
    Scutellaria, Valeriana, or Pedicularis. I consider it specific for the
    ongoing melancholy associated with spontaneous bouts of tears, even if the
    emotional reasons for this are known. It has worked well in these
    instances, usually one dosage lasting for hours, as the person forgets
    about their problems. Certainly this is a band aid and long term emotional
    health needs to be addressed.

    I have had success with another person who had become fixated on one
    thought for days, becoming an emotional basket case, focused only on his
    problems with another person. He would become quite adrenergic. 5 drops
    broke the circular thoughts and calmed him down. The rest of the day he
    could think clearly on any other topic, but when he tried to fixate on his
    problems he couldn’t concentrate on his thoughts well enough to become upset.

    I use it on myself this year for constant crying, emotional upset, and
    circular thoughts particularly when I felt this stuff leading to adrenalin
    rushes. I found it extremely useful to help limit the physical toll of
    these emotions on my body. If I took it too often, I would get physically
    tired and a headache.

    By far the most dramatic use I have worked with is for coming off of
    cocaine. For those times when the person has used all their stimulants,
    want more, want to sleep because they are tired, but have over vamped their
    bodies to the point where they are too wired to sleep. Anemone works
    extremely well, described as feeling like it’s working exactly the opposite
    as the cocaine physically, along with a tranquil emotional state.

    Personally, I feel like Anemone is an anti-adrengeric, turning down the
    sympathetic nervous system and preventing adrenalin rushes (or perhaps the
    effects of the rush), perhaps affecting epinephrine/norepinephrine
    pathways elsewhere also. No footnotes here, its just the model I use and
    the way I feel it in me.

    Howie Brounstein
    howieb@teleport.com
    http://www.botanicalstudies.net

    I hope that’s Valerian I smell!

  10. Howie Brounstein
    Mar 21, 2008

    Concerning effectiveness over time …. some species do hold their effectiveness. Anemone tuberosa seems to do well over the years. The other I have tried don,t really last more than a year or two.

  11. Joy
    Oct 11, 2008

    Hello, I just learned about Pasque Flower recently from Michael Moore’s book (we have “Western Pasque Flower” where I live near Mt. Shasta). It sounds like it could be a god-send. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, it seems like I knew all this… some old memory. I would like to get or make some tincture… but it will be many months until it blooms again. I can’t find it anywhere for sale. Any ideas? And thank you for covering both sides of the opinions about the flower.

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