Anemone nemorosa. Wind Flower.
Related entry: Anemone patens
PART USED.—The plant Anemone nemorosa Linn.
Natural Order Ranunculaceae, Tribe Anemoneae.
DESCRIPTION.—This is a graceful little plant, about four inches high, which blossoms in early spring, and is found in open woods. The root is a slender, horizontal root-stalk. The stem, which is produced from the extremity of the root-stalk, is simple, slender, erect, and leafless, except at the top, where it bears a whorl of three petiolate, three-parted floral leaves, and a solitary, small, peduncled, white or purplish flower. This little plant is of wide distribution in this country, and also in Europe. It is known as Wind Flower, Wood Anemone, and Wind Crowfoot.
ALLIED SPECIES.—There are several native species of Anemone having a very similar appearance, and distinguished most readily by the character of the fruit-heads.
Anemone virginiana Linn. is a tall herb, from two to three feet high, bearing in summer two to four small, greenish white flowers, on very long and unequal, erect peduncles. The calyx is silky, pubes cent outside. The fruit is an oblong head of small densely woolly achenes. This plant, in addition to the names Wood Flower, Wind Flower, etc., applied to other species of Anemone, is also called in some works Thimble Weed (presumably from the shape of the fruit-heads), Huidweed, and Phenion. Anemone cylindrica Gray, is a similar plant, but with cylindrical fruitheads.
Anemone dichotoma Linn. (Bot. Syn. Anemone pennsylvanica Linn.) is a smaller plant, with larger white flowers on short peduncles, and heads of few, nearly smooth achenes.
CHARACTERISTICS.—Anemone nemorosa abounds in an acrid juice, which is particularly intense in the root. These properties disappear when the plant is dried, and hence only the recent plant, or preparations of the recent plant, are of value in medicine. In consequence of this fact, the dried plant is not a commercial drug, and doubtless, like others of this family, the uncertain nature of the plant when dry, has prevented it from becoming a recognized remedy.
CONSTITUENTS.—In common with several others of the natural order Ranunculaceae, this plant contains anemonin. Its acrid nature depends upon this substance, which will be considered by us hereafter. (see Ranunculus bulbosus)
PREPARATIONS.—The tincture of the fresh root is the only reliable representation. Prepare it in accordance with our process for making tincture of Clematis virginiana.
MEDICAL HISTORY.—Under the name Wind Flower, several species of Anemone have been used in domestic medicine, and they have occasionally been recognized by physicians. Culpepper (1720) states that the Wind Flower is a valuable remedy. [In studying the history of some of our native plants, we must consider certain nearly related species or Europe and other countries. In these instances, however, we shall make only the references necessary to establish the connection between the plants botanically and medically, and refer to a few works that are ordinarily of easy access in our country.]
Motherby (1775), speaking of the English species, remarks: "They are much admired in gardens, but rarely used in medicine." Meyrick (1799), in his Family Herbal, devotes nearly as much space to Anemone nemorosa as he does to aloes. This plant was introduced into the appendix of the Edinburgh Dispensatory (1804) as one of the "List of substances contained in some of the latest and most esteemed foreign Pharmacopoeias, but not inserted in the materia medica of any of the British colleges." It was officinal in the Pharmacopoeia of Russia (1803), of Sweden (1817), and of Turin (1833). Hooper gave it a position in the first edition of his Medical Dictionary (1817), which notice was carried unchanged through subsequent editions. We might cite other foreign references, both earlier and later, but enough have been given to affix to this plant a European medical history.
In America, some of the species of Anemone mentioned by us in our Botanical History have been used in domestic medicine, but only to a slight extent by our physicians. Hand (1820), in his House Physician, devotes considerable space to Anemone virginiana; and Rafinesque (1830), in his Medical Botany, recognizes only this species. The first edition of the United States Dispensatory (1833) neglected all of our native species of Anemone, but the second edition (1834) gave a short notice of Anemone nemorosa, and continued it through subsequent editions. Porcher (1849), Medicinal Plants of South Carolina; Clapp (1850), Medicinal Plants of the United States; Dunglison's Medical Dictionary (1852), and King's American Dispensatory (1852), each recognizes Anemone nemorosa as a native medicinal plant, but devotes very little space to its consideration. The plant was officinal (1872) in the "Pharmacopoea Homoeopathica Polyglottica," and is now recognized by Hale's New Remedies, but not by Allen's Encyclopedia.
MEDICAL PROPERTIES.—Culpepper (1725) considered a decoction of the Wind Flower to be valuable in suppressed menstruation; and he stated that the juice snuffed up the nostrils, or the root chewed, was considered useful in exciting the secretions, and that an ointment was of value in inflammation of the eyes or for malignant ulcers. Motherby (1775) states that the root of the scarlet Anemone is "detersive if bruised while fresh, and applied to ulcers, and on the skin it raises blisters." He states that the herb is used as an errhine, and as a collyrium. Meyrick (1790) writes that "the juice, if snuffed up the nose, or the root held in the mouth, excites a considerable discharge of cold, watery humors;" and he furthermore states that the bruised fresh leaves, applied to indolent ulcers or running sores, act as a stimulant, cleanse them, and induce them to heal. We are also informed by the same authority, that "some authors recommend it in suppression of the menses, but it is too acrid in its nature for internal use, and might be productive of fatal consequences." Hooper (1817) states that the bruised leaves and flowers applied externally, will cure tinea capitis; and he is also authority for the doubtful statement that the inhabitants of Kamschatka use the root of this plant to poison their arrows. Linnaeus stated that when cattle feed upon the plant, it produces bloody urine and dysentery. The foregoing is the substance of European literature on the medical properties of this plant: and American writers, we find, have drawn largely from those we have cited. Hand (1820) gives us a more complete record of the diseases in which this plant was formerly applied than we find in any other American work. He adds that the fresh plant may be used for producing blisters; and, comparing it with cantharides, he reports that it is "more speedy, less painful, and equally serviceable." He also reports that the Anemone virginiana has properties similar to those of the Anemone nemorosa, but much more powerful. We quote from his paper on Anemone virginiana, as follows: "It is likewise of use internally in suppression of the monthly evacuation in women, when dependent upon weakness exclusively, in blindness from obscurities of that part of the eye called the cornea, in venereal pains and tumors of the bones, and ulcers from rottenness, in indurated glands, in chronic creeping eruptions, in melancholy and palsies. The distilled water and extract are the only forms in which it is known to have been given. Half an ounce of the former and five or six grains of the latter, two or three times a day, is a customary dose. It generally produces some sickness and vomiting, and some increased pain in the seat of the local complaint for which it is given." It will be observed that Hand did not use the fresh plant internally, and doubtless the larger share of the acrid properties are destroyed in making the solid extract; but even then the remedy produced unpleasant results, and it is probable that he gave it too freely. Kalm states that the hairy seed of Anemone virginiana will relieve toothache, if dipped in alcohol and inserted in the cavity of the tooth. Porcher (1849) informs us that the juice of the plant will remove corns, and is vesicating, but that if properly applied the plant is a good remedy in fevers, gout, and rheumatism. Scudder (Specific Medication) states that "it influences the functions of waste and repair, but works directly upon the nervous system."
DOSE.—We find that, as usual, in early times physicians were accustomed to heavy doses. Hand gave five or six grains of solid extract at a time, and one-half ounce of the distilled water. These doses would scarcely be tolerated at the present time. Prof. Scudder advises the following: Mix ten drops of tincture of fresh Anemone nemorosa with four ounces of water, and administer of this a teaspoonful every two or four hours, gradually increasing the dose, if necessary.
HOMOEOPATHIC USES OF ANEMONE NEMOROSA.—In Prof. E. M. Hale's New Remedies (1875), we find a notice wherein Homoeopathic physicians are requested to remember the near relationship which exists between this plant and pulsatilla. In continuation, Prof. Hale has written for our work as follows:
Anemone nemorosa has not been used by Homoeopathic physicians. I have heard of several cases of poisoning, and the reported effects were very marked, resembling the toxic effects of pulsatilla, but much more severe. Among these effects were violent vomiting and purging, the discharges from the bowels being almost pure blood.
It is my impression that experiments on healthy individuals, and clinical experience in disease, would prove that Anemone nemorosa occupies a place between aconite and pulsatilla. I would advise that the tincture be made of the whole plant, collected after the flowering period, or when the seeds are ripening, for I believe that the seeds of this genus must possess the qualities of the plant.
(It must be remembered that Anemone nemorosa is of short life, and that it matures its seeds and dies to the ground in a month or so after flowering. Hence, should a demand arise for a preparation of it, collections must be made in early spring.)
SUMMARY.—The foregoing statements show that Anemone nemorosa and allied species have similar and active properties, and that from time to time these plants have been brought before the medical profession. They have not reached a prominent position however, not perhaps, in consequence of their worthlessness, but because they have not been investigated by the proper authorities. Their active natures indicate that they possess properties which may render them valuable in some skin diseases, and that perhaps they may otherwise enrich our materia medica. If prominent therapeutists will devote a series of investigations to these plants, using reliable preparations, the results may be fruitful. At this time, except with the Homoeopathic profession, there is nothing written to indicate that our leading writers have any personal experience with them.
References for Anemone nemorosa.
- 1725.—Culpepper's English Physician, p. 16.
- 1775.—Motherby's Dictionary (and other editions).
- 1783.—Cutler's Indigenous Vegetables.
- 1790.—Culpepper's English Physician, p. 62.
- 1802.—Quincy's Medical Dictionary, p. 43 (and other editions).
- 1804.—Edinburgh Dispensatory, p. 361 (and other editions).
- 1817.—Hooper's Medical Dictionary, p. 49, 679 (and other editions).
- 1820.—Hand's House Surgeon avid Physician, p. 186, 187.
- 1830.— Rafinesque's Medical Botany, p. 192.
- 1834.—United States Dispensatory, second edition, p. 1070 (and subsequent editions).
- 1840.—Pharmacopée Universelle, p. 247.
- 1848.—Lee's Medicinal Plants of New York, p. 3.
- 1849.—Porcher's Medicinal Plants of South Carolina.
- 1850.—Clapp's Medicinal Plants of the United States (Am. Med. Assoc. Rep.), p. 717.
- 1852.—Dunglison's Medical Dictionary, p. 72 (and other editions).
- 1852.—King's American Dispensatory, p. 65 (and other editions).
- 1858.—Stearns' Medicinal Plants of Michigan (Am. Phar. Assoc. Proc.), p. 243.
- 1871.—Tilden's Journal of Materia Medica, p. 143.
- 1872.—Pharmacopoea Homoeopathica Polyglottica, p. 138.
- 1875.—Hale's New Remedies, Vol. II., p. 570.
- 1881.—Specific Medication, p. 73.
Acknowledgment of Figures.
- Fig. 6.—Baillon's History of Plants. Vol. I.
- Fig. 7.—Baillon's History of Plants. Vol. I.
- Fig. 8.—Gray's Genera, Plants of United States.
Drugs and Medicines of North America, 1884-1887, was written by John Uri Lloyd and Curtis G. Lloyd.