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Pasqueflower is a threatened European plant with a rich history of use in Western herbal medicine


Pulsatilla vulgaris Ranunculaceae

Pasqueflower is used for conditions of the reproductive system. It is held in high esteem for supporting those with anxiety and other nervous disorders. This monograph only discusses the uses of P. vulgaris.

Sustainability Status

Sustainability status

Critically endangered in the wild. Listed on CITES or National Red Lists. Read more about our sustainability guide.

Key benefits
  • Reproductive conditions
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Ovarian pain
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Skin infections
  • Catarrhal conditions
  • How does it feel?

    Pasqueflower has a warm and mildly aromatic taste sense. A astringent effects build up on the mucosa of the mouth after a few minutes. The tincture is easy to take and the dried herb infusion is equally as enjoyable. Its calming and relaxant effect on the nervous system can be perceived quite quickly after taking- even after taking just a few drops.

  • What can I use it for?

    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

    Pasqueflower has excellent traditional reference for use in reproductive health as well as for conditions of the nervous system (4) — likely the most favored uses among modern herbalists. 

    Due to sustainability and safety issues (explained more thoroughly in our sustainability and safety sections), there is a strong case to consider using herbal analogues in place of pasqueflower.

    A list of herbs that may be considered have been included below;

    Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is an effective reproductive tonic due to its nourishing effects on the female reproductive system. It is specifically indicated where menstruation is delayed or suppressed as a result of emotional tension. Motherwort is also indicated for anxiety, panic and nervous tension (5).

    Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a powerful anxiolytic nervine herb. It can be used to help in cases of stress, tension and anxiety. Passionflower also has relaxant actions on the nervous system and can be beneficial for stress related palpitations, panic attacks and sleeplessness (6).

    Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) may be considered as an effective uterine tonic to help restore the balance and tone of the reproductive organs (7)

    Shatavari (Asparagus racemosa) is an excellent nourishing tonic and one of the most important rejuvenative herbs for women. It has a particular affinity for the female reproductive system and can be used for menstrual pain and irregularity (8).

    Using herbal medicines at home for acute or short-term illness can offer effective relief of symptoms. However, treatment of ongoing, serious or chronic health problems is best taken under consultation with a qualified medical herbalist to enable the safest and most effective healing. Medical herbalists are trained to understand the nuances of disease with a deep understanding of holistic health. A herbalist can offer treatment that is fine tuned and personalised to suit the specific circumstances and constitution of the patient. Use our find a herbalist resource to help find a practitioner.

  • Into the heart of pasqueflower

    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

    Pasqueflower is considered to be cold and dry energetically. It has a specific affinity for the heart (physically, spiritually and emotionally) and reproductive system. It is particularly useful treating conditions in which the mind or mental states play a prominent role particularly for women with nervous tendencies (4).

    In terms of the emotional indications for pasqueflower, it may be suitable for those who are melancholic with a negative or gloomy mentality (9). It may be a choice remedy for those with an overwhelmed depressive personality type (4), perhaps for those with a tendency to look on the darker side of life or who are lost in sadness (9).

    It is also an excellent medicine for individuals who have a nervous or restless nature. In Henrietta’s Herbal, a pasqueflower patient is described as one who “weeps easily, and the mind is inclined to wander—to be unsettled” (9). Further comment suggests that the pasqueflower patient will have a “weak, soft, and open pulse, and the tissues have a tendency to dryness (except when the mucous tissues are discharging a thick, bland material), and, about the orbits the parts appear contracted, sunken, and dark in colour” (9). Pasqueflower’s therapeutic action is to calm and soothe the nervous system, offering some relief from mental strain (10).

    Pasqueflower may also be given to promote sleep particularly where it is affected by nervous exhaustion or by nightmares and unpleasant dreams (9).

    Pasqueflower is also sometimes used as a relaxant nervine to alleviate the nervous irritability that comes with weaning off from drugs, conventional sedatives or anxiety medications (2, 4, 10). For this application it may be combined with other nervine sedative herbs such as hops and valerian.

    TCM perspective

    It is the root of the pasqueflower plant (Pulsatilla chinensis), with its tufted white crown earning it the title of “white-headed gentleman” (bai tou weng), that is most commonly used for medicinal purposes in Traditional Chinese mMedicine (TCM). It is an essential herb in the Chinese pharmacopeia and belongs to the category of herbs that clear heat and relieve toxicity on account of its bitter and cold energetic properties. Specifically, these effects benefit the large intestine, liver and stomach systems and it is a leading TCM herb for treating “dysenteric disorder” (acute or chronic inflammation of the large intestine), particularly when there is blood in the stools. The stalk and leaf of this plant, known in TCM as bai tou weng jing and bai tou weng ye, have distinctly different properties to the root and are used to treat rheumatic joint pain and promote cardiovascular health.  

  • Traditional uses

    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

    Pasqueflower was a highly esteemed medicine used by the eclectic physicians of the late 1800s and early 1900s in the United States who used it to treat numerous conditions — particularly those of the female reproductive system (11).

    Some of the common indications for this herb as used by the Eclectics were for uterine disorders, menstrual pain, and amenorrhea (lack of menstruation). It was also used to relieve pain and congestion from middle-ear infections (11).

    Other common indications were for nervous system disorders such as nervousness, anxiety and insomnia (11).

    TCM perspective

    Pasqueflower root has been used in traditional Chinese herbology for millennia as a chief herb for “li ji” (dysenteric disorders). It first appears in the earliest TCM materia medica, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (the Classic of the Materia Medica), compiled towards the end of the Han dynasty (circa 206BCE–-220CE). Later classical texts also claimed pasqueflower root to be beneficial for the eyes (25). 

    Bai Tou Weng Tang, the leading TCM prescription for pasqueflower root, belongs to the category of formulas that clear heat from the organs. It features in the Shang Han Lun (the Treatise on Cold Damage Diseases) – the first known classical text on Chinese herbal prescriptions also published in the late Han period —- where it is recommended for “terminal yin-stage dysenteric disorder”, a rather severe form of dysenteric disorder where the pathogen (damp-heat or toxicity) has entered the blood level causing bleeding.

  • Traditional actions

  • Traditional energetic actions

    Herbal energetics are the descriptions Herbalists have given to plants, mushrooms, lichens, foods, and some minerals based on the direct experience of how they taste, feel, and work in the body. All traditional health systems use these principles to explain how the environment we live in and absorb, impacts our health. Find out more about traditional energetic actions in our article “An introduction to herbal energetics“.

  • What practitioners say

    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

    Pasqueflower is considered to be a herb that should be used in small doses and with caution. This is due to its powerful and potentially toxic nature (3). However, pasqueflower has long been included in the work of herbal practitioners and continues to be widely used in modern herbal practice today. 

    Mills and Bone discuss the issues of legislation around such herbs that have been listed with potential safety concerns by the European Commission Committee (12). In their book Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy they elucidate on this matter, highlighting the absence of any form of consultation with practitioner representatives in the decision process to categorise certain medicines as potentially ‘unsafe’. There are many herbs that contain negotiable levels of potentially toxic compounds if used incorrectly (12).

    Whilst the question of definition in terms of true risk should not be ignored — it should be understood that the topic of safety for herbs such as pasqueflower is a matter of debate (12). As with any pharmacologically active medicine or drug, one should consider the applied context that is concurrent with safe herbal prescribing by professionals.

    Reproductive system

    Pasqueflower has a number of uses for conditions of the reproductive system. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia reference the use of this plant for dysmenorrhea with scanty menses as well as for ovarian and ovulation pain (12, 13). 

    Pasqueflower’s indication for painful or inflammatory conditions in the reproductive system is largely linked to its sedative (3) and antispasmodic actions (14). Its therapeutic actions are best applied where there is nervous tension causing or accompanying dysmenorrhea. Pasqueflower also exerts pronounced analgesic and antispasmodic action on the uterus (3).

    It is a useful herb for painful conditions in both the female and male reproductive systems (13) due to these actions (14). Hoffman (14) suggests the use of pasqueflower for painful conditions of the testes and the British Herbal Medicine Association recommend it for epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis, an anatomical feature at the back of the testicle) (13).

    Nervous system

    There are multiple indications for pasqueflower in relation to conditions of the nervous system. It is a gentle nervine medicine with antispasmodic actions, making it useful for conditions characterised by tension and spasmolysis (14). It also has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties which lend themselves well in the treatment of headaches (9).

    Nervous headaches are one such condition that is commonly referenced for pasqueflower as well as neuralgia (13, 14).  It may be used for headaches of multiple origin. These include; frontal headaches caused by nasal catarrh; nervous headaches caused by stress and tension and menstrual headaches including those related to menstrual irregularities (9).

    Pasqueflower is indicated in emotional presentations such as hyperactivity, anxiety, panic, low mood and depression. It is often referenced for use for acute and intense episodes of anxiety, including for panic attacks where it can prove to be invaluable to have a bottle to hand (2). Pasqueflower may also be used where there is low mood, depression or melancholic tendencies (10).

    It may also be a useful gently sedative nervine medicine to incorporate into a medicine for insomnia (13, 14). For this application it may be combined with other sedative herbs such as hops and valerian

    A herbalist will usually only use sedatives intermittently or for short periods of time. For example they may be applied to support patients during acute phases of insomnia and anxiety. This is because sedatives work to treat the symptoms rather than the root cause. For ongoing insomnia or sleep problems it is best to consult with a qualified practitioner to identify and address the cause.

    Herbalists often use pasqueflower alongside other nervines and nervous system trophorestoratives to assist in the treatment of chronic and recurring headaches, migraines and tension (12). Pasqueflower may pair well with passionflower, wood betony and lavender for nervous headaches. For severe headaches that last more than 72 hours, where vision or consciousness is affected or where they are accompanied by vomiting with less than four hours pain-free seek immediate medical attention (15).

    Some other aromatic nervines to consider for stress, anxiety and for other emotional presentations would be lavender, lemon balm or chamomile with nervous trophorestoratives such as oat straw or ashwagandha

    Withered pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
    Withered pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

    Eyes, ears and throat

    Pasqueflower may be indicated for congestion or infection in the eyes, ears and throat. Its decongesting effects work by improving the tone of cranial vasculature allowing for improved blood movement. It also works by reducing inflammation (9, 16). 

    It can be taken internally (not topically) for catarrhal conditions of the eyes, ears and nose (16). A herbalist may consider it as part of a formula to address more serious eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts as well as for nervous eye tics (taken internally) (16).

    Pasqueflower is also indicated where there is catarrh and congestion in the upper respiratory system (16) with bright, yellow or green catarrh being one of its most typical indications (9).


    Pasqueflower has been held in high esteem for use in skin conditions used both topically and internally. It is indicated for the treatment of skin infections, especially boils as it has potent antibacterial actions (13, 14). This may be applied through use of an infused cream or as a wash made using pasqueflower infusion of dried herbs.

    What TCM practitioners say

    TCM “dysenteric disorders” include both acute infections of the large intestine by bacteria, protozoans and other organisms as well as chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. Modern TCM treatment for these tends towards chronic conditions, acute flare-ups of chronic conditions or the sequealae of acute infections.

    Many TCM herbs may be indicated in these instances, however, where pasqueflower root excels is in the treatment of dysenteric disorders deriving from damp-heat and toxicity in the intestines, in particular where the heat is greater than the dampness. In clinical practice, this means it is selected in cases of violent diarrhoea with more blood (heat) than pus (damp) and fever. Bai Tou Weng Tang (Pulsatilla Decoction) would be the formula of choice in such situations.

    As the name suggests, bai tou weng is the chief herb in this formula where it is often prescribed in large doses of 12–-18g or even up to 30g. It is accompanied by huang lian (Coptis chinensis) and huang bai (Phellodendron spp), to reinforce the clearing of heat and dampness, and qin pi (Fraxinus excelsior|Ash bark) which acts as an astringent. The use of this classical formula has expanded over time and may also be applicable to appropriate cases (ie. those presenting with symptoms of damp-heat and toxicity) of gastroenteritis, ulcerative colitis, abnormal vaginal discharge, urinary tract infections and conjunctivitis.  

    It is also used externally for scrofula (inflamed lymph nodes in the neck), hemorrhoids and itching vaginal discharge (for this purpose it is combined with ku shen (Sophora flavescens root) and used as a wash). 

    The bitter and cold nature of this herb contraindicates its use for those with weak digestions (in particular, what is known as Spleen yang deficiency in TCM) and for extended periods of time. 

  • Research

    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
    Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

    There is little available research on pasqueflower aside from a small number of in vitro studies that focus on extracts of pasqueflower and its bioactive compounds. Some of these studies have been included below to demonstrate the mechanism of action for some of its medicinal properties; however, there is a lack of available human studies.

    Animal studies are not condoned by Herbal Reality, however for the purpose of including research from which some understanding of therapeutic actions can be confirmed, some animal studies have been included herein.

    In vitro inhibition of cancer proliferation in signalling pathways using pasqueflower methanolic extracts

    An in vitro study was conducted to examine the effects of methanolic extracts of pasque flower on HeLa cell proliferation (HeLa cells are an immortalised cell line used in scientific research) through the modulation of cancer-related signalling pathways. 

    The study set out to access the cytotoxic activities in relation to specific bioactive compounds in pasqueflower leaf and root extracts. The results demonstrated that pasqueflower root extract inhibited 12 signalling pathways in cervical cancer cell lines. 

    The extracts also encouraged apoptosis as well as deregulation of cellular proliferation, differentiation, and progression by altering important signalling molecules required for cell cycle progression. The study attributed the majority of pasqueflower’s cytotoxic actions to triterpenoid saponins accompanied by phenolic acids (17).

    Antifungal activity of the rhizome extracts of pasqueflower vulgaris against Candida glabrata

    This in vitro study set out to evaluate the antifungal, antimicrobial, antimalarial and cytotoxic activities of leaf and root extracts of pasqueflower. The study demonstrated effective anti-fungal activity against yeast Candida glabrata (18).

    Mechanism underlying the effect of pasqueflower decoction in hepatocellular carcinoma treatment: a network pharmacology and in vitro analysis

    A review was carried out to explore the mechanism of pasqueflower decoction on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) using a database search, network pharmacology and in vitro experiments. The study identified multiple studies that verify the active constituents of pasqueflower as well as relating potential target genes for HCC. Cell viability and cell cycle experiments verified that pasqueflower decoction inhibits cancer cell proliferation and kill HCC cells by inducing apoptosis. The study concludes that the results may provide a potential new therapeutic application of pasqueflower for the treatment of malignant tumors. Further research in the form of placebo controlled clinical studies are required in order to assess these effects in human subjects (19). 

    These works afford us a deeper insight into the medicinal activities of this fascinating plant and show it has significant potential beyond many of its known traditional and modern uses.

  • Did you know?

    The common name pasqueflower derives from the old French word for Easter ‘pasque’. The name relates to the flowering time of this plant at around Easter which is associated with the celebration of new life and reawakening as well as the resurrection of Christ in the Christian tradition.

Additional information

  • Botanical description

    Pasqueflower is a small flowering herbaceous plant. The finely-dissected leaves are arranged in a rosette. It produces beautiful purple bell-shaped flowers in early spring. Flowers appear singly on 5 to 8 in. Stalks. They comprise of three sessile deeply-cut leaflets or bracts. Sepals are muted violet-purple; very silky on the under surfaces with 5-many petal-like parts and many stamens. The purple flowers are followed by unique silky plume like seed heads in fluffy spherical clusters that remain on the plant for a longer period.

    Its long, soft, silver-grey, and hairy leaves and stems give it a unique appearance. It grows to a height of 15–30cm (6–12in). During fruiting season, it can reach up to 40 cm (16in). It is distinguished by its upright rhizomes, which serve as nutrient and energy storage organs. The roots can extend as deep as 1m (39in) into the soil (23, 24).

  • Common names

    Pasqueflower is also commonly referred to as pulsatilla. Its former scientific name was Anemone pulsatilla. Other common names include; European pasqueflower; common pasqueflower; easter flower; wind flower; meadow anemone; anemone of passiontide.

    Other species of anemone are used in herbal medicine. These include; Pulsatilla chinensis used in traditional Chinese medicine. Anemone multifida and Anemone patens (syn. Pulsatilla patens) are used in America.

    This monograph only discusses the uses of P. vulgaris.

  • Safety

    There are also some safety concerns surrounding plants of this genus. Many plants in the buttercup (Ranunculaceaea) family, including pasqueflower, contain a compound called ranunculin which has potential toxicity if consumed in large doses. It is generally only recommended for use under the guidance of a qualified herbal practitioner. Fresh pasqueflower if taken internally can cause severe adverse reactions (3).
    Fresh Pasqueflower is poisonous and should not be ingested. It contains ranunculin (protoanemonin) a toxic compound found in members of the Ranunculaceae buttercup family. It is important to keep to the recommended dosage quantities and use under the care of a qualified practitioner (3, 4).

    The fresh plant should not be ingested and caution is also issued in handling the fresh plant material as it can cause severe irritation of the skin and mucosa. In high doses it can lead to renal and urinary side effects (3, 4). Large doses of pasqueflower have reportedly led to sensory and motor paralyses whilst toxic doses may produce mydriasis, stupor, coma, and convulsions (9).

    This plant has been found to be teratogenic and abortifacient in cattle. Pasqueflower is also a uterine stimulant and, therefore, should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding (3, 4).

    Protoanemonin is volatile and reactive which means that it evaporates or is converted to a non-toxic compound on drying of the plant (20).

  • Interactions

    There are limited references available for herb/ drug interactions with pasqueflower. It is best to work alongside a qualified herbalist before taking this herb (21).

  • Contraindications

    There are limited references available for contraindications with pasqueflower. It is best to work alongside a qualified herbalist before taking this herb (20).

  • Preparation

    • Tincture
    • Infusion
    • Dried herb

    Fresh or dried herb for medicine making; American herbals often reference the use of tinctures made with fresh plant due to a belief that it is more medicinally active. The second point of view, largely from Western herbalist community in UK, the dried plant tincture is preferred in order to remove the unsafe effects of the plant’s strong constituents (22).

  • Dosage

    As pasqueflower contains ranunculin, it can be toxic and thus has been recommended for usage in only small doses (3).

    Tincture (1:10 in 40%): Take between 1–2ml in a little water up to three times a day (14).

    Note: Many herbalists use drop doses of herbs for the more energetic or emotional applications. One may consider drop doses of pasqueflower for acute anxiety or panic attacks (2).

    Infusion: To make a decoction place between one half to one teaspoon of dried material in one cup of boiling water, infuse for between 15–20 minutes. This should be drunk hot up to three times a day (14).

  • Plant parts used

    • Flower
    • Leaf
    • Root
  • Constituents

    • Sesquterpene lactones
    • Protoanenomin (ranunculin), anenomin (oxidisation product of protoanenomin)
    • Triterpenoid saponins (hederagenin)
    • Flavonoids: Delphininidin; pelargonidin glycosides
    • Anenome camphor
    • Tannins
    • Volatile oil (14)
Pasqueflower illustration (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
  • Habitat

    Pasqueflower is more selective about its habitat than many other members of the buttercup family. It favours short-cropped grassland over chalk or limestone often in full sun.

    It is native to the British Isles, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark , France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Northwest European Russia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South European Russia, Sweden, Switzerland andUkraine. It was previously found on magnesian limestone in Northern England (23).

  • Sustainability

    Pasqueflower is endangered in many of its native regions across Europe. This is largely due to loss of habitat (1). It is also exceptionally difficult grow, particularly in larger crops. The combination of these issues has meant that this herb has become increasingly more difficult to source. It is vital that we seek the most sustainable options when sourcing our medicines especially in the case of threatened species such as pasqueflower. 

    Many passionate gardeners, herbalists and those committed to experimenting with these harder to supply herbs, work to grow pasqueflower in smaller crop sizes for personal or small scale use. Where it is not possible to source sustainable, non- wild- harvested material it is important to consider alternative herbs (2).

    The IUCN red list of threatened and at risk species classified pasqueflower as ‘near threatened’. It states that over the last 100 years, the plant has been severely affected by changes in habitat leading to a significant population decline. In the UK, pasture management has been identified as one of the significant causes. Active habitat recovery and conservation programs have positively supported the number of specimens over the past 50 years, although the number of subpopulations is still in decline. Part of the species distribution range is included in protected areas and recovery action plans at the species level are in place for the UK (1).

    Cultivation of at risk medicinal plants often helps to take the pressure off of wild populations. However, is not yet understood how to successfully cultivate pasqueflower to meet the demands of the growing industry. It is extremely slow to germinate as well as having very specific soil requirements and it comes with a high risk of crop failure as pasqueflower does not overwinter well. It takes over a year to establish before it can be harvested and and it can take up to five years to reach its ultimate height (2). Smaller crops are easier to maintain and many herbalists successfully grow their own pasqueflower to meet the needs of their practice.

    Habitat loss and over-harvesting from the wild are two of the biggest threats faced by medicinal plant species. There are an increasing number of well-known herbal medicines at risk of extinction. We must therefore ensure that we source our medicines with sustainability in mind. 

    The herb supplement industry is growing at a rapid rate and until recent years a vast majority of medicinal plant produce in global trade was of unknown origin. There are some very real and urgent issues surrounding sustainability in the herb industry. These include environmental factors that affect the medicinal viability of herbs, the safety of the habitats that they are taken from, as well as the welfare of workers in the trade.

    The botanical supply chain efforts for improved visibility (transparency and traceability) into verifiably sustainable production sites around the world is now certificated through the emergence of credible international voluntary sustainability standards (VSS). 

    Read our article on Herbal quality & safety: What to know before you buy  and Sustainable sourcing of herbs to learn more about what to look for and questions to ask suppliers about sustainability.

  • Quality control

    Herbal Medicines are often extremely safe to take, however it is important to buy herbal medicines from a reputed supplier. Sometimes herbs bought from unreputable sources are contaminated, adulterated or substituted with incorrect plant matter.

    Some important markers for quality to look for would be to look for certified organic labelling, ensuring that the correct scientific/botanical name is used and that suppliers can provide information about the source of ingredients used in the product.

    A supplier should be able to tell you where the herbs have come from. There is more space for contamination and adulteration when the supply chain is unknown.

  • How to grow

    Pasqueflower has some very specific requirements in order to thrive. With care and attention, pasqueflower can be grown in smaller crops, in sheltered gardens, sloping or raised beds. They grow well in a rock bed, They will only thrive in well-drained, alkaline (chalk, lime or sand) soils with full to partial sun.

    In more rain prone locations they are best situated on sloping beds, hillsides and in raised beds so their roots don’t sit in waterlogged soil over the winter months. 

    Allow the plants to release their seeds before removing the old flower stalks to allow them to gently re-seed themselves. 

    Young seedlings can be transplanted without too much difficulty. But established plants, with their long, deep tap roots may not transplant successfully (24).

  • References

    1. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Pasqueflower. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Published March 27, 2014. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/161913/50786112
    2. Herbalist’s View Anemone Species Monograph. https://7song.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Anemone-Handout.pdf
    3. Romm A, Clare B, Stansbury JE, et al. Menstrual Wellness and Menstrual Problems. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. Published online 2010:97-185. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-443-07277-2.00007-6 Accessed March, 2024.
    4. Pulsatilla – Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine. Published November 20, 2012. Accessed March 14, 2024. https://wildflowerherbschool.com/pulsatilla/#:~:text=(Wild%20Anemone%2C%20Pasque%20%5BPassover
    5. Motherwort. Herbal Reality. https://www.herbalreality.com/herb/motherwort/
    6. Passionflower. Herbal Reality. https://www.herbalreality.com/herb/passionflower/
    7. Rubus. Herbal Reality. https://www.herbalreality.com/herb/rubus/
    8. Shatavari. Herbal Reality. https://www.herbalreality.com/herb/shatavari/
    9. Pulsatilla (U. S. P.)—Pulsatilla. | Henriette’s Herbal Homepage. www.henriettes-herb.com. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/anemone-puls.html Accessed March, 2024.
    10. Yance DR, Valentine A. Herbal Medicine, Healing & Cancer : A Comprehensive Program for Prevention and Treatment. Keats Publishing; 1999. 
    11. Pulsatilla – American Botanical Council. www.herbalgram.org. https://www.herbalgram.org/resources/herbalgram/issues/99/table-of-contents/hg99-photofinish-pulsatilla/ Accessed March, 2024.
    12. Bone K, Mills S. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. 2nd ed. Edinburgh Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier; 2013.
    13. British Herbal Medicine Association. Scientific Committee. A Guide to Traditional Herbal Medicines : A Sourcebook of Accepted Traditional Uses of Medicinal Plants within Europe. British Herbal Medicine Association; 2003.
    14. Hoffmann D. Medical Herbalism : The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press; 2003.
    15. Headaches. nhs.uk. Published January 8, 2018. Accessed March 15, 2024. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/headaches/#:~:text=See%20a%20GP%20if%3A
    16. Menzies-Trull C. Herbal Medicine Keys to Physiomedicalism Including Pharmacopoeia. Newcastle, Staffs. Faculty Of Physiomedical Herbal Medicine; 2003.
    17. Grażyna Łaska, Elwira Sieniawska, Maciejewska-Turska M, Łukasz Świątek, Pasco DS, Balachandran P. Pulsatilla vulgaris Inhibits Cancer Proliferation in Signaling Pathways of 12 Reporter Genes. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2023;24(2):1139-1139. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24021139 Accessed March, 2024.
    18. Łaska G, Sienkiewicz A. Antifungal activity of the rhizome extracts of Pulsatilla vulgaris against Candida glabrata. European Journal of Biological Research. 2019;9(2):93-103. Accessed March 9, 2024. http://www.journals.tmkarpinski.com/index.php/ejbr/article/view/152 Accessed March, 2024.
    19. Liu K, Cao Z, Huang S, Kong F. Mechanism underlying the effect of Pulsatilla decoction in hepatocellular carcinoma treatment: a network pharmacology and in vitro analysis. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. 2023;23(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-023-04244-w Accessed March, 2024.
    20. Pasqueflower Uses, Benefits & Dosage – Drugs.com Herbal Database. Drugs.com. Accessed March 7, 2024. https://www.drugs.com/npp/pasque-flower.html Accessed March, 2024.
    21. Medscape. Drug interactions checker – medscape drug reference database. Medscape. Published 2023. https://reference.medscape.com/drug-interactionchecker Accessed March, 2024.
    22. Pulsatilla. White Rabbit Institute of Healing. Accessed March 14, 2024. https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/pulsatilla/ Accessed March, 2024.
    23. Pasqueflower – Pulsatilla vulgaris | Plants | Kew. www.kew.org. https://www.kew.org/plants/pasqueflower Accessed March, 2024.
    24. Pulsatilla vulgaris. BBC Gardeners World Magazine. Accessed March 13, 2024. https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/pulsatilla-vulgaris/ Accessed March, 2024.
    25. Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. 2nd ed. Eastland Press; 1993.   
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

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