This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics - Vegetable Kingdom", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica And Therapeutics: Vegetable Kingdom.
Active Ingredients. - The camphor-like crystalline body known as anemonine appears to represent all, or nearly all, the active properties of the P. nigricans. This substance, which is contained also in the fresh root of Anemone pratensis, A. nemorosa, Ranunculus Flammula, R. sceleratus, and R. bulbosus, has for its formula C15H14O7 (Fehling), and is obtained by distilling the root with water, and concentrating the distillate till the anemonine and anemonic acid distil over. Anemonine is separated from the latter (inert) substance by alcohol, which takes up anemonine and leaves the other behind. Anemonine occurs in colorless, shining, ortho-rhombic prisms which easily crumble, and are tasteless and neutral in reaction; in a molten state it has a burning taste, and leaves the tongue numbed for days together. In cold water or alcohol it hardly dissolves at all; in both of them when boiling it dissolves more readily. Cold ether does not dissolve the slightest portion; boiling ether dissolves a little; chloroform and lavender-oil dissolve the whole.
Physiological Action. - The local irritant action of pulsatilla can be produced either by direct application to the skin, or by breathing the dust in pulverization. Bulliard relates the case of a man who applied the bruised root to the calf of his leg to relieve rheumatism, and in consequence got inflammation and gangrene of the whole limb. The inhalation of the dust has produced itching of the eyes, colic, vomiting, frequent diarrhoea, etc.
Anemonine has been shown, by the researches of J. Clarus' and others, to possess powerful toxic properties; 4 1/2 grains affected rabbits, and 9 grains killed them in three or four hours. The special phenomena were diminution of the frequency and strength of the heart's pulsations (sometimes preceded by a period of excitement) and slackening of respiration; finally, diarrhoea and stertorous breathing, sinking of temperature, semi-paralysis of the hind, and then of the fore limbs; stupor; mydriasis and (immediately before death) myosis; but no convulsions, such as have been seen to be produced by extract of pulsatilla. The liver, spleen, kidneys, and abdominal canal were found quite healthy: there were more or less congestion and oedema of the lungs; and relaxation of the heart walls: the heart cavities and great vessels were full of dark clotted blood, while the blood everywhere else was fluid; there was also marked hyperaemia of the membranes of the brain and cord, especially in the neighborhood of the medulla oblongata. Applied to the conjunctiva of a rabbit, anemonine produced slight inflammation; applied to the human tongue, it only left a slight burning. Murray states that the vapor of melting anemonine causes pricking in the tongue, followed by an abiding numbness and white patches. Heyer saw the same vapor produce intense irritation of the eyes.
1 Journal fur Pharmadynamik, i. 439; Husemann, Die Pflanzenstoffe.
Therapeutic Action. - Pulsatilla may be employed in most of those acute and sub-acute inflammations of the mucous membrane generally in which the discharge is of a mucous or muco-purulent character, such as the early stage of purulent ophthalmia in children, and even in adults; also in gonorrheal ophthalmia. It may also be employed with advantage in inflammation of the external auditory canal, so often met with in children, where the lining membrane is red and swollen, and severe pain is experienced, while later on a thin acrid discharge appears, often tinged with blood, and soon becoming puriform. It may be used also in inflammation of the nasal passages, accompanied by profuse mucous or mucopurulent discharge, the smell of which is offensive.
Inflammations. - In cases of inflammation of the conjunctiva and of the auditory and nasal passages, I recommend a wash composed of from one drachm to two drachms of tincture of pulsatilla to four ounces of water. The strength of the lotion must be determined by the sensibility of the inflamed surface and by the age of the patient.
In ophthalmic cases the lids of the eyes should be carefully opened and the conjunctiva freely washed with the lotion from eight to ten times every twenty-four hours. Drop doses should be given to infants every three hours; and adults may take five to ten drops every four hours in an ounce of cold water.
In otitis and in coryza the lotion should be warmed and syringed into the ear or the nose four or five times a day. Internally the same dose may be taken as in ophthalmia, according to the age of the patient.
Dyspepsia. - Pulsatilla is a good medicine in many of those cases of dyspepsia, or of subacute gastritis, met with in phlegmatic temperaments, when we find some or all of the following symptoms present, namely: depression of the nervous system, with fear of death; loss of appetite; white and thickly coated tongue; little or no taste, or, if taste be present, a sensation in the palate of greasiness; sensation of mucus about the mouth and gums; nausea, with an inclination or wish to vomit; flatulency; heartburn; occasional pain and flatulent colic in the epigastrium; sick headache; dry cough; coldness and clamminess of the extremities, and often likewise of the entire surface of the body, generally accompanied by constipation or by diarrhoea. When the diarrhoea is attended by mucous discharges or by active piles, the pulsatilla quickly removes them. Five drops taken as a dose every four hours, in a tablespoonful of water, will soon give relief in this form of dyspepsia.
Affections of the Uterus. - Pulsatilla exerts a peculiar action upon the uterus. In functional amenorrhoea with absence of catamenia, or if the catamenia be scanty or delayed, or even in suppression induced by fright or chill, pulsatilla is often of the greatest value in establishing the flow at the proper time and in its natural quantity. It is also of much benefit in functional dysmenorrhoea, where the discharge is scanty, or even when profuse, but blackish and clotted. Even though at the first period this medicine should fail to restore the menstrual flow to its normal standard, by persevering in the use of it for two months or more the desired effect is almost certain to be produced.
Leucorrhoeal discharges attended by pain in the loins, feeling of weariness, depression of spirits, loss of appetite, and derangement more or less extensive of the nervous system, are also quickly removed by a steady course of pulsatilla taken internally in five-drop doses, three times a day, and continued for a few weeks. A teaspoonful of the tincture should also be put into a pint of cold or tepid water, and be used as an enema for the vagina every day.
(In epididymitis we have had the happiest effects from pulsatilla given in very small doses, a few drops of the tincture in a glass of water, and a teaspoonful given every two or three hours, according to circumstances. The frequency of the dose should be diminished as soon as the pain begins to subside. The drug appears to influence the afflux of blood to the part, and not unfrequently the pain will be almost gone in twenty-four hours, after which the tumefaction gradually subsides. If the inflammation is very acute, with rise of temperature, it is better to give a few doses of aconite before or in alternation with the pulsatilla.)
Tapeworm. - In addition to my experience of the value of pulsatilla, I may state that an extract of the root employed internally has been found valuable in cases of tapeworm.
Cough, etc. - Clarus found anemonine, in half-grain and one-grain doses, very useful in irritative cough, asthma, and hooping-cough. Clarus and Schroff agree in the statement that even larger doses (two grains) produce no physiological symptoms in men.
Preparation And Dose. - There are no officinal (U. S.) preparations. The German Pharm. contains an extract, and the Codex (Fr. Ph.) an "alcoolature" from the fresh plant. The extract is an unreliable preparation, as most of its activity has been lost in the process of making. The most available preparation at present attainable in this country is the imported homoeopathic tincture (equal parts of expressed juice and alcohol), or a tincture made from the freshly gathered native Pulsatilla Nuttalliana (Anemone Ludoviciana). The tinctures and fluid extracts from the dried (imported) plant are not trustworthy. The dose of a good tincture is from m 1/10 to mv., to be repeated according to circumstances.