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.
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.
“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.
Combing Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine by Jeremy Ross
Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore
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