Anemone pulsatilla is found not in woods, but in open situations. It grows
wild in the dry soils of almost every Central and Northern country of Europe,
but in England is rather a local plant, abounding on high chalk downs and
limestone pastures, mostly in Yorkshire, Berkshire, Oxford and Suffolk,
but seldom found in other situations and other districts in this country.
It has a thick and somewhat woody root-stock, from which arises a rosette
of finely-divided, stalked leaves, covered with silky hairs, especially
when young, the foot-stalk often being purplish. The flowers, which are
about 1 1/2 inches across, are borne singly on stalks 5 to 8 inches in
height, with an involucre of three sessile (i.e stalkless) deeply-cut
leaflets or bracts. The sepals are of a dull violet-purple colour, very
silky on the under surfaces. The seed- vessels are small, brown hairy
achenes, with long, feathery tails, like those of the Traveller's Joy
or Wild Clematis.
The whole plant, especially the bases of the foot-stalks, is covered
with silky hairs. It is odourless, but possesses at first a very acrid
taste, which is less conspicuous in the dried herb and gradually diminishes
on keeping. The majority of the leaves develop after the flowers; they
are two to three times deeply three-parted or pinnately cleft to the base,
in long, linear, acute segments.
The juice of the purple sepals gives a green stain to paper and linen,
but it is not permanent. It has been used to colour the Paschal eggs in
some countries, whence it has been supposed the English name of the plant
is derived. Gerard, however, expressly informs us that he himself was
'moved to name' this the Pasque Flower, or Easter Flower, because of the
time of its appearance, it being in bloom from April to June. The specific
name, pulsatilla, from pulsc, I beat, is given in allusion to its downy
seeds being beaten about by the wind.
Varieties of pulsatilla when cultivated in this country like a well-drained,
light, but deep soil, and will flourish in a peat or leaf soil, with the
addition of lime rubble.
Part used Medicinally
The drug Pulsatilla, which is of highly valuable modern curative use as
a herbal simple, is obtained not only from the whole herb of A. pulsatilla,
but also from A. pratensis, the Meadow Anemone, which is closely allied
to the Pasque Flower, differing chiefly in having smaller flowers with
deeper purple sepals, inflexed at the . It grows in Denmark, Germany
and Italy, but not in England. It is recommended for certain diseases
of the eye, like Pulsatilla, and is used in homoeopathy, but has been
considered somewhat dangerous. The whole plant has a strong acrid taste,
but is eaten by both sheep and goats, though cows and horses will not
touch it. The leaves when bruised and applied to the skin raise blisters.
A. patens, var. Nutalliana is also used for the same purpose as A. pulsatilla.
In each case, the whole herb is collected, soon after flowering, and
should be carefully preserved when dried; it deteriorates if kept longer
than one year.
The fresh plant yields by distillation with water an acrid, oily principle,
with a burning, peppery taste, Oil of Anemone. A similar oil is obtained
from Ranunculus bulbosus, R. flammula and R. sceleratus, which belong
to the same order of plants. Its therapeutic value is not considered great.
When kept for some time,this oily substance becomes decomposed into Anemonic
acid and Anemonin. Anemonin is crystalline, tasteless and odourless when
pure and melts at 152ø. The action of Pulsatilla is virtually that
of this crystalline substance Anemonin, which is a powerful irritant,
like cantharides, in overdoses causing violent gastro-enteritis. It is
volatile in water vapour and is then irritative to the eyes and mouth.
The Oil acts as a vescicant when applied to the skin. Anemonicacid appears
to be inert. Anemonin sometimes causes local inflammation and gangrene
when subcutaneously injected, vomiting and purging when given internally.
It is, however, uncertain whether these symptoms are due to Anemonin itself
or to some impurity in it. The chief action of pure Anemonin is a depressant
one on the circulation, respiration and spinal cord, to a certain extent
resembling that of Aconite. The symptoms are slow and feeble pulse, slow
respiration, coldness, paralysis and death without convulsions. In poisoning
by extract of Pulsatilla, convulsions are always present. Their absence
in poisoning by pure Anemonin appears to be due to its paralysing action
on motor centres in the brain.
Medicinal Action and Uses
Nervine, antispasmodic, alterative and diaphoretic.The tincture of Pulsatilla
is beneficial in disorders of the mucous membrane, of the respiratory
and of the digestive passages. Doses of 2 to 3 drops in a spoonful of
water will allay the spasmodic cough of asthma, whooping-cough and bronchitis.
For catarrhal affection of the eyes, as well as for catarrhal diarrhoea,
the tincture is serviceable. It is also valuable as an emmenagogue, in
the relief of headaches and neuralgia, and as a remedy for nerve exhaustion
It is specially recommended for fair, blue-eyed women.
It has been employed in the form of extract in some cutaneous diseases
with much success; it is included in the British Pharmacopoeia and was
formerly included in the United States Pharmacopoeia.
In homoeopathy it is considered very efficacious and even a specific
in measles. It is prescribed as a good remedy for nettlerash and also
for neuralgic toothache and earache, and is administered in indigestion
and bilious attacks.
Fluid extract, 5 to 10 drops. Parkinson says of this species: 'There are
five different kinds of Pulsatilla, which flower in April: they are sometimes
used for tertian ague and to help obstructions.'