The 70 degree temps, pops of green starting to cover the earth, birds making their nests, winter snow turning to spring rain, all of these moments have me excited for the changing season. And I am especially excited for the plants that start to bloom this time of year. Pulsatilla vulgaris, aka pasque flower, is one of the first wildflowers that blooms in early spring here in Colorado. It can be very valuable medicine for many that are suffering from emotional and nervous system issues. Let’s get to know this plant friend so you can keep a look out for it this spring.
When nature is giving us a abundance of pasque flower we know there is a need for it. I feel it is one that many of us need in this day and age because of the roller coaster of changes we have gone through these past few years. It is magical how nature gives us the medicine we need when we need it. Often times you will see plants that are perfect for your situation growing right under your feet. Pasque flower is one of those plant friends I encounter often and now that spring is here it offers the perfect opportunity to get to know more about the plant that grow close to home.
***Something to note is pasque should be carefully administered by a health care professional or experienced herbalist. The plant is considered poisonous. However pasque has been successfully used as medicine in many cases and is considered safe for most in very small dosages. So please use caution when trying pasque flower.
Medicinal and Folk Uses
Pasque flower is part of the Ranunculaceae, aka the buttercup family. Also reffered to as an anemone and wind flower. The name anemone comes from the Greek word for wind; anemos and in greek mythology it is associated with Nymph Anemone who was a beloved mistress of Zephyr, God of the west wind. The Goddess Flora, Zephyr’s wife, out of rage and jealousy turned the nymph into the wind flower. In the language of flowers Anenome and Pasque represent all that is forsaken in love.
Pasque is a small perennial native to Europe and Asia. With many centuries of herbal use in Europe. There are traditions of using both dry and fresh herb. European herbalist in the 16th and 17th century named Culpeper and Gerard used the fresh plant by either chewing it or juicing it. In the 19th and early 20th century writers named Felter, Lloyd, and Ellingwood also recommended using fresh to make a tincture. In recent texts there are authors like Mabey that claim that the fresh plant is poisonous and recommend using the dry plant instead and in low doses.
Energetics of Pasque
The energetics of the plant are considered hot and dry. The root however is considered cold and can be used for patterns of excess or deficient heat according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. The plant is numbing and tingling when chewed. The tincture is slightly sour, bitter, and acrid. The root is considered bitter and sweet. And can be used to calm the heart spirit.
In TCM pasque flower is considered for heart conditions such as nervousness, hysteria, hyperactive states, and insomnia. And with kidney states like unnatural amounts of fear. in The Chinese Herbal Dictionary it says the plant enters the large intestine, liver, and stomach meridians.
Actions, Chemical Compounds, And Toxicity
The fresh plant releases a chemical compound called protoanemonin when crushed. Then when the plant dries the chemical compound turns into anemonin. Protoanemonin can be a irritant and is potentially the toxic constituent when taken in high doses. But anemonin is considered safe to consume. Overdose will look like a irritated stomach and possible vomiting.
However pasque is considered antispasmodic and analgesic which are pain relieving properties that are useful for digestive colic, cramping, respiratory irritations, reproductive pain and muscle spasms. Additionally it is diaphoretic which helps increase venous circulation which induces sweating to help break a fever and eruptive infections. The anticatarrhal action works well with the juice of the leaf or the root and helps purge the head or stomach of mucus especially when overindulgence in fats is present.Furthermore it is recommended topically as a antimicrobial for skin irritations and bacterial infections.
As a nervine it is used as a warming tonic for nervous exhaustion, feeble pulse, and cold limbs associated with depression. In nervous or anemic persons it can be used as a emmenagogue especially with amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. The sedative action is used for hysteria associated with convulsions, for sadness, depression, gloom, brooding, weeping, nervous restlessness, cardiac conditions. And is recommended for insomnia and tension headaches.
How to Harvest Pasque Flower
Pasque flowers are hard to miss. When you are hiking in the spring time they are the first pops of color you will see growing in the forest. Often times you will see this resilient flowers pop up through the melting snow. They are an enchanting sight that are a bluish-purple or white, with a fuzzy appearance. Look out for them under your feet because they only grow to 5-10 in and the flower bloom is 2-3in in diameter.
When harvesting pasque flower you only need one flower to make a tincture or flower essence. This is all you need with this powerful medicine and it helps protect this species from over harvesting. Also when harvesting flowers you want to harvest as close to the full moon as possible this is when the medicine is at its strongest.
Dosage and Administrations of Pasque Flower
In western herbalism we think of pasque flower as a excellent nervous system remedy. It will be a great plant ally if you are experiencing anxiety associated with insomnia, nervousness, heart palpitations, weepiness, vulnerability, feeling frail. Including emotions associated with hormonal fluctuations, life transitions, stressful changes, such as menopause, divorce, and anxiety about pregnancy.
To prepare it as a tincture use the fresh plant in alcohol and take 1-5 drops. The flowers essence is particularly good for changeable emotions especially when in need of inner strength, vitality, and stability. Administer the flower essence under tongue with 1-3 drops.
Pasque flower is considered potentially dangerous especially in what you may consider a normal herbal dose. Single drop doses, homeopathic or flower essence preparations are recommended. Toxicity can look like skin allergy, urinary/kidney irritation, decreased heart rate, and convulsions.