Pasque Flower

Botanical and Common Names

  • Family Ranunculaceae
  • Anemone pulsatilla syn. Pulsatilla vulgaris or Pulsatilla pratensis or Pulsatilla occidentalis or Pulsatilla patens or Anemone patens (depending on the source) (Pasque Flower, Easter Flower, Passe Flower, Pulsatilla, Wind Flower)
  • Anemone nemorosa (Wood Anemone, Pasque Flower, Crowfoot, Wind Flower, Smell Fox)
  • Anemone pratensis (Meadow anemone)

Cautions

 The fresh plant is poisonous; and prolonged skin contact can lead to slow-healing blisters and cauterizations because of the protoanemonine. If taken internally when fresh, severe irritation to the gastrointestinal track and to urinary drainage passages can occur. Colic and diarrhea are possible. A lethal dose is described as being the ingestion of thirty freshly harvested plants.

Take only under professional supervision.

Do not take during pregnancy.

Large quantities of tincture can cause vomiting (more than ten or fifteen drops in an hour).

Description

 Native to southwestern Europe, this herb now thrives in chalky soil of the dry grassland in central and northern parts of the European continent as far as the Volga region, except in the Mediterranean and northern Lapland. It is also found across North America. The plant is a hairy perennial that grows to about eight inches in height, producing feathery leaves and large, purple-blue bell-shaped flowers with bright yellow anthers. The lilac-coloured pasque flower is covered with soft hairy down, usually producing only one or two flowers from its small root. The aerial parts are collected just before it flowers in the spring.

History

 Its name is derived from the French name for Easter, a time when it often flowers.

The Greek physician, Pliny, noted that the flower was named after the wind (anemos) because the flower opened only when the wind blew and does not grow well in places where there is little wind.

In the Rocky Mountains, the pasque flower is considered the second flower of spring. By the time other flowers appear, the pasque flower has become like a head of white hair.

To the Native American, it is one of the Four Sacred Plants of the Rocky Mountain Region (the other three are usnea, osha, and angelica). The Okanogan and Thompson tribes found it helpful in disorders affecting the digestive and respiratory tracts.

Some Native American names for it are: hokshi-chekpa wahcha (twin flower — Dakotas), hoksi cekpa (child's navel — Lakotas), napi (old man — Blackfeet), zhinga-makan (little buffalo medicine — Omahas and Poncas).

Key Actions

  • anodyne (eases pain)
  • antipyretic
  • nervine
  • sedative

Key Components

  • lactone protoanemonin (in fresh plant, but forms anemonin when dried)
  • triterpenoid saponins
  • tannins
  • volatile oil

Medicinal Parts

  • Only dried aerial parts

Traditional Uses

 Since the fresh plant is very irritating, only the dried form is used medicinally. First and foremost, it is an herb to calm and soothe the nervous system and benefits an overload of emotional stress. It is specific for use in the reproductive organs of both males and females, and commonly prescribed for ovarian pain and menstrual problems.

It is extremely good for neck, head, ear, and sinus pain as well as headaches.

In France, it has traditionally been used for coughs and as a sedative for sleep difficulties.

As a topical wash, it is used to treat such eye problems as cataracts, or rheumatism. Use only the dried form as skin irritation can erupt if the fresh plant is used. Even then, sometimes if it is placed on the hands to relieve swollen joints, it will relieve the swelling, but can cause skin irritaion.

It is one of the most commonly used of all homeopathic remedies.

Anemone nemorosa is rarely used in herbal medicine, and Anemone pratensis is used interchangeably with the A. pulsatilla.

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