What’s pulsatilla? Where does homeopathic flu remedy Oscillococcinum come from? Many of us have used homeopathic remedies without taking the time to investigate what’s really in them. Whether it’s because we’re worried we might be taking something potentially toxic or that may interact with another medication, or whether it’s just out of curiosity, we often want to know what exactly these remedies contain. Here’s the scoop.
Pulsatilla comes from pasque flower, also known as prairie crocus or meadow anemone. As its names indicate, it grows on prairies and meadows, and is native to North America. If used in too high a quantity, it’s toxic and slows the heart. As a homeopathic remedy, it’s good for moodiness and tearfulness, and helps to relieve PMS. It’s also helpful for productive coughs and congestion.
The active ingredient in Oscillococcinum is a substance by the complicated name of anas barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum, or extract of Muscovy duck heart and liver. Yes, you read that right. French doctor Joseph Roy started using it in 1917 when he observed oscillating bacteria in the blood of people with the Spanish flu. He found what he thought was the same bacteria on the livers of Muscovy ducks. As homeopathy treats like with like, an extremely diluted version of this bacteria is then used to alleviate flu symptoms.
Nux vomica is used to treat sleeplessness, painful menstrual periods, and the desire to blow off steam and numb oneself with tobacco, alcohol, sex and rich food. It’s found in the seeds of fruit from the strychnine tree, a poisonous deciduous tree that grows in India. Strychnine is a well-known poison that may have featured in the illnesses and deaths of several notable people, such as Alexander the Great and blues star Robert Johnson. Again, because it’s so diluted in homeopathic form, there’s no danger of poisoning when ingesting it.
Other homeopathic medicines with interesting origins include silicea, which comes from flint rock; lachesis muta, which is snake venom; and glonoinum, also known as nitroglycerine.