This section is from the book "Botanic Drugs Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics", by Thomas S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: Botanic Drugs, Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
Anemone Pulsatilla; official in France and Mexico, and formerly official in the U. S. Listed in the National Formulary.
An acrid plant that produces vesication. The activity depends, it is said, upon the presence of anemonin, which is lost by heat and by drying. None but fresh-plant preparations (the Homeopathic and Eclectic tinctures) are of any definite activity. Large doses paralyze the heart and respiratory center.
The physiological action of anemonin is involved. Schroff records the taking of two grains without definite symptoms; others report it as making the pulse slow and feeble, depressing respiration, causing stupor, and death without convulsions. Poisoning by the whole drug does produce convulsions. Potter reports that autopsies showed congestion and edema of the lungs, hyperemia of the cerebral and spinal membranes, relaxed heart walls, and its cavities and the great vessels filled with dark and clotted blood, while the blood elsewhere was fluid.
A characteristic action of Pulsatilla is its first producing mydriasis and later myosis. This appears to be definitely determined.
The Anemone pratensis (entirely similar in action to A. Pulsatilla and, indeed, the plant most used) was found by Pilcher to depress the activity of strips of uterine muscle, even to a greater degree than valerian.
Now it must not be forgotten that Pulsatilla is one of the Ranunculaceae, herbs having volatile acrid principles, aconite and cimicifuga being instances. Like aconite, Pulsatilla has a definite influence upon the mucous membranes. The fresh juice applied to the tongue gives rise to the same numbness and tingling characteristic of aconite; in small doses, Pulsatilla is diuretic and reduces fever much as does aconite, though to a less degree, and therapeutic doses of Pulsatilla are not so depressing as is aconite.
Like aconite, Pulsatilla, in small doses, is applicable to diseases of the mucous membranes; but pulsatilla-action is more directed to the eye, and it is indicated in catarrhal conjunctivitis, ophthalmia of simple type, "styes" recent blephar-ophthalmia, photophobia, etc. An advantage over aconite consists in the fact that it may be given for some time.
Catarrhal troubles of the ears, such as occur in the exanthems in children, earache from "colds," and other minor and transient aural troubles are quite amenable to the influence of Pulsatilla.
Nasal catarrh of an acute nature, more especially in children, and due to febrile affections, and the bland catarrhal discharge that may persist, seem to be benefited by Pulsatilla.
To the genito-urinary system Pulsatilla is a sedative indicated in menstrual headaches, dysmenorrhea (not the obstructive form), some of the symptoms that are so disagreeable in orchitis, epididymitis, and even in the early stages of gonorrhea; but it must be remembered that Pulsatilla does not influence the specific infection in the least. I have found Pulsatilla, gelsemium, and cannabis indica to cooperate in relieving many uncomfortable symptoms in the genito-urinary diseases of both sexes.
The commendation of Pulsatilla in the treatment of various nervous and mental affections, I believe, has arisen from the fact that the drug is a positive genito-urinary sedative. Many of these sexual hysterias and other neurotic manifestations are purely reflex. Pulsatilla may be classed as a nervine, like valerian.
The drug has been recommended in the treatment of rheumatism, various gastric disorders, asthma, serious pelvic pathology, etc. In such indications I see no rational place for it.
I have used the drug in hundreds of instances, usually in one-drop doses, or less, of the Homeopathic mother tincture, but at very frequent intervals, in the case of children. In orchitis and similar troubles I have used as much as 10-minim doses of the Eclectic tincture, but not for long, since these large doses aggravate. I start with them in orchitis, dysmenorrhea, etc., and quickly reduce to 1 or 2 minims. In general, small doses are more effective than are large ones.