Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ghost Pipe - Monotropa uniflora

Monotropa uniflora - AKA Ghost Pipe, Indian Pipe, Fairy Smoke, Corpse Plant, Ghost Flower, Ice Plant, Convulsion Root, Pipe Plant, Ova-ova, Dutchman's Pipe and Fit Root.

Through forest floor leaves
      at the base of the Oak
epi-parasitic root mass nestled tight 
   brings fourth
Fairy Smoke. 
Lengthening in friendly clusters.
    a deep bow in gratitude.
Pollen bright, yellow hidden treasure 
  inside delicate white wax
         an alabaster beauty
      black ghosts for flowers so white. 
                       -poem written by Briel Driscoll  

Many artists have been inspired by this plant and you can find poetry by Emily Dickinson, William Crow, Marge Piercy, Robert Hayden and more!

Botanical Information:  
Monotropa uniflora is in the Ericaceae, (Blueberry) family.
It is a perennial and herbaceous plant. The root structure is a bulbous root mass that flowers in mid summer. Often you will find them in clusters coming from one root bulb. One flower sits on top of a single stalk. The stalk has simple alternate leaves which can look scale-like at a glance. The flowers are a ghostly white and their heads are downward facing. Flowers are regular/symmetrical. Sometimes you will see a variation of slight pink or yellow. Once the seeds have been pollinated the flower heads rise up and will begin to blacken. Will also blacken as soon as its picked so ideally is tinctured/dried the same day it is collected.

This plant has no chlorophyll and so it taps into the connection between certain mushrooms and trees and gets its nutrients that way. This plant is epi-parasitic aka it is a parasite to the fungus! 

Monotropa as Medicine:
Ways to use: Tea, Tincture, Smoke
Parts Used:  Flowers, Roots or a combination. 
For tinctures: I have encountered herbalists that use one, the other or both. Originally I had only made the beautiful purple flower tincture but this past summer I made a combination tincture with the roots and flowers. Tincture is a deep purple color - just like blueberries! And it is in that plant family.

After trying both of those and another herbalists root tincture I think that the combination tincture seems to be the strongest. The downside of this is that you have to kill the plant to make tincture, which is not the case if you are only making flower tincture. This plant is VERY watery I would tincture in high proof alcohol 1:2 95%. You could maybe go down to 75-80% but I have not tried that yet. I do not think this would make a good glycerine medicine. 

As far as smoking this plant goes I have only encountered the flowers being smoked. Not the roots. And as for tea I have always used the flowers.

Medicinal Properties: Overall this plant seems to have an effect on the nervous system.
-Pain relief: creates distance from pain (either emotional and physical). I have seen this plant aid in first aid situations in combination with other pain relieving plants.
-antinoceptive (increases pain threshold)
-anticonvulsive/anti-spasmotic (no personal experience with this one but I have encountered information in text on this topic so could be something to experiment with, sedative, pulls you back from the edge
-Fresh juice has traditionally been used for eye inflammation
-A good herb to consider to help ease bad experiences with other substances like LSD, Cannabis, etc. AKA someone having a "bad trip".

Dosage: Seems to vary a lot depending on individuals and practitioners. Some herbalists are suggesting this in drop dosages and others in ml dosages. Experimenting with the dosage of this plant for yourself would be a good way to go. Start small and add on until you notice its effects. Also, consider the situation a more acute first aid type situation may require a larger dosage than treating something like a mild chronic pain. 

My mother had to undergo some very painful Physical Therapy after having a proceedure. She began to take the Monotropa uniflora before her appointments and found that she was able to relax much easier and get through these sessions. When I asked her about dosages she said she had been taking dosages between 15-30 drops each time.

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