Pulsatilla nigricans, commonly known as pulsatilla, is a remedy derived from the plant commonly known as wind flower, pasque flower, or meadow anemone. The perennial plant is a member of the Ranunculaceae family and is native to central and northern Europe and southern England. This wild plant grows in sunny meadows, pastures, and fields.
A crown of leaves forms on the ground, from which a single flower grows in May and August. The stem reaches a height of about 6 in (15 cm) and has downy hairs that grow on it. The flower is colored dark violet-brown.
The plant was used medicinally during ancient times for eye ailments. During the 19th century, the eclectic physicians and contemporaries of Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, noted pulsatilla's use in the treatment of melancholy, swelling of the knees, and nervous system disorders. In ancient times it was used as an external remedy for ulcers and eye inflammation.
The plant contains lactones, saponins, anemone camphor, tannins, and a volatile oil. It is antispasmodic and antibacterial and acts on the nervous system. When chewed, a caustic substance contained in the plant burns the tongue and throat. When applied topically, it may cause blisters on the skin. Though not used as widely as it was in the 19th century, pulsatilla may be used to treat painful periods, insomnia, headaches, boils, ovarian pain, and asthma.
Traditional Chinese medicine
Chinese anemone root (Pulsatilla chinensis) is a related herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. Bai tou weng, as it is referred to in Mandarin, is prescribed by Chinese medicine practitioners to clear heat and detoxify fire poison. It is used in damp heat conditions of the stomach and large intestine in dysentery. Dysentery is a disease marked by frequent watery stools and often accompanied by stomach pain, fever or dehydration. The herb has a bitter taste and is antimicrobial. The plant has also been used to treat diarrhea, wounds, and trauma.
Homeopaths prescribe pulsatilla for acute ailments that are caused by grief, anger, fright, shock, consumption of rich foods, loss of vital fluids, exposure to the sun, suppression of menstruation, and mental strain. This herb is often called the queen of homeopathic remedies, as it is indicated in so many conditions. These conditions include arthritis, bronchitis, chickenpox with cough and low fever, colds, coughs, digestive troubles, eye and ear infections, fevers, headaches, measles with a cough and cold, mumps with swollen and painful glands, and menstrual difficulties.
Physical symptoms include thirstlessness, one-sided complaints, weakness, slow digestion, chilliness, and thick, yellow bodily discharges. The pains are cutting, stitching, or burning, and they wander from body part to body part. The lymph glands are often swollen, and the sweat and breath smell repugnant. The lips and mouth are dry, and a white or yellow-coated tongue is often present. The patient may crave butter, but dislikes bread, hot food and drinks, fats, rich food, and meat. These foods cause indigestion and nausea. The patient is chilly, often with cold hands and feet, but dislikes heat.
Pulsatilla is generally chosen because it acts so well on ailments that are of an emotional nature. The remedy is typically suited for mild, gentle, and timid women and children with blonde hair and blue eyes. Pulsatilla patients are generally emaciated persons who are sympathetic, sad, weepy, sensitive, easily offended, jealous, depressed, shy, introspective, and anxious. The patient desires affection and the company of others, and is often fearful of being alone, of the dark, or in a crowd. She may be filled with remorse or despair and may be suicidal. She cries easily and is not afraid to show her emotions.
A typical indication of the pulsatilla patient lies in her erratic emotional and physical behavior. Her moods are always changing: one minute she may be happy, the next may find her crying. Ailments are one-sided or change location. For instance, arthritic pain may stop in one joint and appear in another. Pulsatilla is a useful remedy for teething babies who are weepy, whiny, and want to be carried.
Symptoms are worse in the morning, in the evening before midnight, in cold air, when the feet are wet, and while standing or lying down. They are also aggravated by warmth, while lying on the painless side, during and after eating, eating warm foods, after sleep, by rapid motion, and before, during, and after menstruation. Conditions that improve the symptoms include fresh air, lying on the painful side, pressure, gentle motion, cold, and cold applications.
SPECIFIC INDICATIONS. Arthritic inflammations have little swelling or redness. The pains are pulling, sore, and bruised, and shift from joint to joint. They are relieved by the cold, fresh air, and slow movement. Symptoms are worse from heat, wet weather, upon beginning to move, or after the common cold. The patient often has a dry mouth, fever, and lacks thirst.
Back pains occur in the lower back or small of the back. The back feels tired and weak, like it was sprained, and the pains are aching and pressing. The pains are worse when bending down or rising after long periods of sitting, but are relieved from gentle motion and walking slowly. The backache often occurs before and during the menstrual period.
Bronchitis accompanied by a dry cough that is worse in the evening or when lying down is indicative of this remedy. The cough is loose in the morning and the mucous expelled is bitter or salty. The cough is better when sitting up or in cool air and worse after eating.
Pulsatilla is a useful remedy for breastfeeding mothers with an overabundant supply of milk. It is often indicated in postnatal depression accompanied by crying.
The cold indicative of pulsatilla is accompanied by sneezing, chills, fever, and sometimes nosebleeds. The patient catches cold easily. The nose is stuffed in a warm room and in the evening, and is watery in fresh air. The discharge is thick and yellow or green. The sense of smell and taste is lost. Symptoms are relieved by fresh air.
Conjunctivitis with redness and swelling of the eyelids is accompanied by a thick, yellow discharge that oozes from the eyes. In the morning the eyes are often stuck shut. The eyes are typically itchy and burning. The symptoms are better from cold applications or cold air.
Constipation with ineffective urging and a backache occurs with this remedy. When the patient does defecate, the stools are large and hard.
The cough typical of this remedy is an exhausting cough that occurs in fits. The cough is dry at night and loose in the morning. There is a loud rattling in the chest that often wakes the patient. A sticky, yellow or green mucus is present, but may be difficult to expel. The throat may become raw, sore, and painful from the cough. The cough is better from fresh air and sitting up, and worse from exertion, lying down, heat, or a stuffy room.
The diarrhea is a greenish-yellow color and is slimy and watery. There is a rumbling in the abdomen before it is expelled. The pains in the abdomen are cutting. The diarrhea is worse at night, after eating, after eating starchy or rich food, when overheated, or in a stuffy room.
Digestive disturbances are caused by eating rich or fatty foods, pork, ice cream, fruit, or cold foods. The patient lacks appetite or thirst and often suffers from nausea and vomiting. He may have a dry mouth and may feel as if a lump was behind the sternum. Indigestion is accompanied by bitter-tasting belches, stomach pains, and heartburn. Diarrhea may also be present. Symptoms are worse after eating or drinking and at night.
Pulsatilla types do not fare well in hot weather and often suffer from exhaustion. They are worse from the sun, a stuffy room, or mental exertion.
Pulsatilla is indicated in fevers in which the patient is not thirsty and has a dry mouth. The fever is hot and burning and is typically one-sided, i.e. the body may be hotter on one side than the other. The sweat produced may occur on one side of the body or be localized to one area. The patient may weep and moan while feverish. The fever is worse in heat, at night, under warm covers, in a stuffy room, or after washing. Intermittent fevers are worse between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. These fevers are worse from heat and covering.
The headache pains occur in the front of the head or at the temples. The pains are throbbing, pressing, onesided pains that are worse from movement, excessive sun, eating rich foods, hot drinks, bending over, standing, running, or blowing the nose.
Insomnia is caused by anxious dreams, a restless sleep, too much thinking, and a repetition of thoughts. When the feet become hot, the patient sticks them out of the bed. Then the patient is awakened because his feet are cold.
Menstrual difficulties are also indicative of this remedy and often occur as a result of suppressed menstruation. Menstruation is accompanied by vomiting, nausea, skin affections, sadness, weeping, and pain in the abdomen, liver, and back. The period is generally late. The flow may start and stop or be present only during the day. The pains are aching, dull, and wandering. They are better when the patient is doubled over. Symptoms are aggravated by wetting the feet.
Varicose veins are sore and stinging. They are worse while standing and better from walking and cold applications. They are also worse during pregnancy and when circulation in the limbs is poor.
Pulsatilla nigricans is available in dried bulk form, and as a tincture. Pharmacies, health food stores, and Chinese herbal stores carry the various preparations. They are also available as prescribed by a herbalist, homeopathic doctor, and Chinese medicine practitioner.
The homeopathic preparation of pulsatilla is created in the following manner. The plant is collected when the flowers are in full bloom and pounded to a pulp. This pulp is soaked in alcohol, then strained and diluted. The final homeopathic remedy is created after the diluted mixture is succussed repeatedly. The remedy is available at health food and drug stores in various potencies in the form of tinctures, tablets, and pellets.
The dried plant combines well with cramp bark as a treatment for painful periods. For skin conditions it is combined with echinacea.
An infusion is made by pouring one cup of boiling water over 1/2 tsp of the dried plant. The mixture steeps for 10-15 minutes then should be strained. Pulsatilla can be drunk up to three times daily.
For use in traditional Chinese medicine, the herb should be soaked for one hour in warm water, then simmered for 30-120 minutes. It is usually used in combination with other herbs.
The tincture dosage is 1-2 ml three times daily.
If symptoms do not improve after the recommended time period, a homeopath or health care practitioner should be consulted.
The recommended dose should not be exceeded.
Those seeking this remedy should not use the fresh plant.
There are no known side effects.
When taking any homeopathic remedy, use of peppermint products, coffee, or alcohol is discouraged. These products will cause the remedy to be ineffective.
Pulsatilla chinensis is contraindicated in chronic dysentery with a deficiency of Spleen and Stomach. It is only used for acute dysentery.
Cummings, M.D., Stephen, and Dana Ullman, M.P.H. Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1997.
Kent, James Tyler. Lectures on Materia Medica. Delhi, India: B. Jain Publishers, 1996.
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