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Herbs & Botanicals

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Pulsatilla (bai tou weng)

What is pulsatilla? What is it used for?

Pulsatilla is a thick, woody flower found throughout central and northern Europe. It is known by a variety of other names, including pasque flower, wind flower and meadow anemone. It consists of a rather thick stalks which are covered with fine, silky hairs and dull, dark purple flowers. The entire plant is used medicinally.

The main active ingredient in pulsatilla is anemonin, a crystalline, odorless substance that acts as a purgative and depressant. As an herbal medicine, it is used to treat painful conditions of the reproductive system and digestive problems, and can help patients sleep better. Homeopathic practitioners sometimes use pulsatilla to relieve eye problems, toothaches, earaches and indigestion.

How much pulsatilla should I take?

The amount of pulsatilla to be taken depends on the condition being treated. For general use, many providers recommend 100-300mg of dried pulsatilla taken three times daily as part of a tea; other recommended doses include 2-6 drops of a pulsatilla extract three times daily or 10-60 drops of a pulsatilla tincture three times daily.

What forms of pulsatilla are available?

The most common form of pulsatilla is as a dried herb, which is available at many herbal markets and specialty stores. It is also available as a tincture, extract or tablet.

What can happen if I take too much pulsatilla? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Since pulsatills is poisonous, great care must be taken when using it. Anemonin can cause an allergic reaction to the nose, throat, stomach and skin. Fresh pulsatilla can cause similar reactions to the eyes and mouth; as a result, only dried pulsatilla should be used in herbal remedies. Large amounts of the herb can lead to violent gastroenteritis, convulsions and vomiting similar to symptoms experienced with aconite poisoning; overdoses can cause the respiratory system to cease functioning, leading to a loss of breathing, paralysis and death. Make sure to consult with a qualified health care professional before taking pulsatilla or anemonin supplements.

References

  1. Bradley PR, ed. British Herbal Compendium, Vol. 1. Bournemouth, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992.
  2. Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1995.
  3. Fetrow CW, Avila JR. Professional's Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Medicines. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corporation, 1999, pp. 527-530.
  4. The Medical Advisor: The Complete Guide to Alternative & Conventional Treatments. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life, 1996, p. 998.
  5. Vickers AJ. Independent replication of pre-clinical research in homeopathy: a systematic review. Forsch Komplementarmed Dec 1999;6(6):311-20.

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