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BETONY - Pedicularis spp. - RELAX The Muscles & Liberate Traumatic Muscle Memory !!

Pedicularis (Betony/Lousewort)

Prepared by Michael Moore

With Clinical Notes, Observations, Uses, by Michael Cottingham


Pedicularis grayi   

Pedicularis grayi 


The first part of this article are notes and writings by Michael Moore on the Pedicularis spp. 


Pedicularis spp. (Betony, Wood Betony, Lousewort, Elephant‘s

Head, Parrot's Beak, Indian Warrior, etc.etc.)

This circumboreal genus of “Scrophs” (Scrophulariaceæ Family) has racemes of showy and distinctive flowers that lend themselves easily to anthropomorphic interpretations. Nearly all species are found in the cool and mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with the greatest diversity found in the tundra and transcontinental forests.

New Mexico, on the southern edge of the Cordillera, has five or six species of Pedicularis...Alaska as something like twenty species.

Nearly ALL of the North American Betonys are predominantly or partially root parasites. Gathering them for medicinal use entails a careful assessment as to what, if anything, the plants are growing on. Plants growing on Senecios will uptake senecio alkaloids...and be toxic. Plants found growing on legumes such as Thermopsis will be found to have the pharmacokinetics of Pedicularis AND Thermopsis. This phenomenon is known by range-management folks, but is generally missed by NatProdChem folks...I get a kick out of reading constituent reports on this genus...with some data showing high levels of gallo-tannins (from Oaks), Senecionine (from Ragworts), cineole (from Pines or Firs), etc. I shudder to think about some poor chemotaxonomist that stumbles onto this genus and DOESN’T know about their constituent many chemical taxas could come from a single mountainside???

Underneath this are the Pedicularis constituents...what we want and what it does.

NOTE: Like Vaccinium or Datura, different strains of the same species can vary a great deal in relative strength. Eating some of the fresh plant of a strong strain will offer a mild muscular-skeletal lethargy. If you try this at 10,000 feet, five miles in from the trailhead, you will just have to sit down for a couple of hours and ain’t goin nowhere for awhile..

PLANT PART............ The herb in flower PREPARATION:

Standard Infusion

Dosage........... 4-8 ounces to 3X a day

Topically as a fomentation

Tincture........... Fresh Plant, 1:2 Tincture........... Dry Plant, 1:5, 50% alcohol

Dosage........... 1-2 teaspoons, also to 3X a day
STABILITY: The dried herb should retain its relative strength for up to two years. CONTRAINDICATIONS: None
SIDE EFFECTS: Large amounts of a potent strain can induce a safe but peculiar goofiness and physical lethargy

•Insomnia from exhaustion following excitement or Flight/Fight episode.
•Insomnia caused by muscular “jolts” when falling asleep
•Insomnia at first REM cycle, with agitation, fear or gastritis.
•Muscular pain, especially from excess training or exertion..
•Sprains, aggravated by sharp muscle spasms.
•Joint and muscle pain, especially in children.
•For use with bodywork or physical therapy, to help prevent reverting to pattern •Nocturnal cramps in a single muscle group; use internally and externally
•As a “Treatment Preparer” for Rolfing, myotherapy or muscle repatterning.
•Adjunct to neck adjustments, TMJ or Alexander work to lessen tonic resistance
•To lessen sensation (not cause) of nocturnal pruritis from liver or thyroid dysfunction,
combined with a good Scutellaria preparation.

More notes from Michael Moore on Pedicularis app. (From Unpublished Material Medica of North America)

Pedicularis densiflora LOUSE WORT / INDIAN WARRIOR
Pedicularis groenlandica ELEPHANT HEADS / DUCK BILL
Pedicularis procera TALL LOUSE WORT / WOOD BETONY

#[Family] Orobanchaceae, broom rape family, ~Scrophulariaceae, fig wort family. #[Genus] 500 species; northern hemisphere, especially China and central Asian mountains (350). #[Species] í Pedicularis attollens [erect louse wort, erect wood betony, little elephant head], Oregon, California, Nevada; í Pedicularis bracteosa [american betony, betony, wood betony, bracted louse wort], British Columbia, Alberta, western United States (except Nevada and Arizona); í Pedicularis centranthera [dwarf louse wort] southwestern United States, Oregon; í Pedicularis contorta [coiled louse wort, twisted louse wort] British Columbia, Alberta, northwestern United States, California and Utah; í Pedicularis densiflora [betony, dense-flowered louse wort, indian warrior, louse wort, parrot beak, red rattle, wood betony] California and Oregon; í Pedicularis groenlandica [duck bill, elephant head, elephant heads, fern leaf, greenland louse wort] Alaska, Canada, Greenland, western United States; í Pedicularis parryi [parry louse wort] Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico. í Pedicularis procera [gray louse wort, pink louse wort, tall louse wort, wood betony] = Pedicularis grayii, western South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico; í Pedicularis racemosa [racemose louse wort, sickle top louse wort] British Columbia, Alberta, western United States (except Nevada), northern Mexico. í Pedicularis semibarbata [pine wood louse wort, yellow louse wort] Oregon, California, Nevada. #[Editor] common name: betony, also applied to European species Stachys betonica [hedge nettles, wound wort] = wood betony.

#[Appearance] Louse worts are mostly perennial herbs (some annuals); often partial root parasites. Leaves are simple, mostly alternate, with many pinnate teeth, lobes, divisions or clefts along the margins, and pointed tips. Flowers are numerous, asymmetrical, and stemless; with various colors: white, yellow, red, purple; five, unequal, sepals in a tubular calyx; five, unequal, petals in a two-lipped, narrow, tubular corolla; two petals fused in a helmet-like upper lip, compressed at the sides, arched, and beak-like or snout-like at the tip; three fused petals in an erect lower lip, middle petal smallest; four stamens; flowers grouped together in terminal spikes or racemes; with many bracts (leafy appendages). Fruits are hairless, compressed, beaked, many-seeded capsules, opening at maturity at the back suture. Seeds are swollen, sometimes winged, pitted, net-veined, striated or ribbed.

#[Herbal Properties] anti-septic, astringent, diaphoretic, sedative, and vulnerary. #[Class] Louse wort is used as a sedative for children, and as a tranquilizer for adults, especially for those hyper-active, frenzied states people can draw themselves into. It acts as a mild cerebral and skeletal muscle relaxant. It quiets anxieties and lessens tensions. G Louse wort also stimulates sweating and helps reduce body temperature in fevers. G The fresh or dried plant is used as an external wash or vulnerary for minor scrapes, abrasions, and skin injuries.

#[Field Notes] [Arkansas] Any form of the herb may be used – roots, leaves, flowers, and stems. These are active either fresh or dry. A tea of the leaves and roots, taken internally, acts as a skeletal muscle relaxant. Sometimes the tea works; sometimes it doesn’t. If taken in great excess, the teacan make you lethargic, befuddled, dopey, and spaghetti-legged. It interferes with muscle control. A moderate over-dose causes only short term discomfort. Since potency varies from plant to plant, each medicinal batch should be tested before dispensing it. G In Europe, Stachys betonica is known as betony, or wood betony, and it’s also called: hedge nettles and wound wort. It’s a member of the Lamiaceae [/Labiatae] or mint family. It’s a very benign plant compared with Pedicularis. Some usages are similar, but our louse wort is a much stronger plant. Don’t confuse them.

#[Chemical Constituents] –. #[Physiology] –. #[Medical Usage] –. #[Medical Dosage] CAUTION – Most Pedicularis species are semi-parasitic; don't use plants growing on or near Senecio [rag wort] species; or on toxic legumes like Astragalus [loco weed], Lupinus [lupine], or Oxytropis [owl clover] species; or on medicinal legumes like Thermopsis montana [mountain pea], which have different alkaloids and alternate properties. If louse wort grows on conifer roots, it can have heating aromatics. Use with care; some people react very strongly to louse wort. Otherwise, dried flowering plant (Ω teaspoon for children, one teaspoon for adults), standard infusion, 2-4 fluid ounces; fresh flowering plant, tincture, 1:2, one to two teaspoons; dried flowering plant, tincture 1:5, 50% alcohol, one to two teaspoons; all forms, up to three times a day. #[Moore References] Mountain West: 34, Desert and Canyon West –, Los Remedios –, Pacific West: 63, Mountain West Revision: 50, Materia Medica (Fourth Edition): 17, Materia Medica (Fifth Edition) 29. #[Other References] Moerman: 326.

Pedicularis grayi  


The first thing I do when collecting Pedicularis spp. as a medicine, is to determine if it is parasitic or autonomous. I simply explore the roots, by digging down and seeing if it is growing on some other root system. When you have down this a few times, it becomes obvious if it is parasitic or not.

I prefer non parasitic Pedicularis plants, but will gather from ones growing on Aspen (Populus spp.) or ones growing on Oaks. Spruce and Fir are ok too, but a little heating (extra aromatics), so keep this in mind.

My preferred method of use is as a fresh plant extract. 1:2 at 70 percent alcohol. I gather just before complete flowering is finished and use the above ground part of the Pedicularis. One thing I have noticed with the species I gather - Pedicualris grayi is that it is a long lived perennial plant and I have collected from the same stands year after year, with those plants getting larger and producing more and more stems. I was not sure for awhile, but I believe this plant responds really well with collecting. Seeming to thrive by human touch! At least this holds true for - Pedicularis grayi. 

I also, dry some for, extract 1:5 (50% Alcohol), teas, baths and to add to smoking mixes. 

Mostly, I find that Pedicularis is one of the most amazing of skeletal muscle relaxants. 

I first started using this plant with physical therapists who were working with stroke patients. It seemed that by relaxing the muscles, these therapists were better able to retrain patients muscles, essentially helping these muscles learn new memory.

I expanded upon this general train of thought beyond stroke patients. I began using this plant with all kinds of clients who had muscle injury, trauma, or impairment. Often the impairment was not physical in nature, meaning nothing was broken. I wondered how much memory does our muscles hold from stress, trauma, old injuries, and from life in general?

It appears that not only does Pedicularis relax the muscles directly, but also goes deep into old memory, especially from trauma.

Often people, who have had some trauma in their life, seem to hold the memory of these traumas in their muscle memory. Seeming to almost block access to those parts of their bodies. 

Pedicularis works very well with those who are wanting to explore and address their trauma. I often combine Pedicularis with Passion Flower, Wild Oats, and Anemone tuberosa. This formula goes deep. It works with old mental tape loops or repetitious trains of thoughts, and relaxes the body, mind, and especially the muscles.

I believe, or have come to believe, that if you can go into muscle memory and release traumatic muscle memory, in a sense, get back into those parts of your body, eliminate those old patterns, you then are able to put in new memories.  Once you get "access" back to parts of your body, that you have denied yourself access to ... well, I believe you can accomplish some much deeper healing, especially with many chronic diseases.

Pedicularis is an amazing medicine plant, simply, because I find it really puts you back into your body. It puts you back into parts of your body that you may have forgotten about. 

I have seen it used by massage therapists with amazing results. Clients often exclaiming deep release of old thoughts, patterns, and memories. "Feeling released from the past", released from memories held tightly by the muscles.

If you are doing Yoga or other types of body enlightenment and are having a difficult time going into parts of your body, or the exercise brings up memories that block your way ... try some Pedicularis. You just might be able to break through a "memory block" from the past!

I have found with many of my clients, especially those who have had car accidents, strokes, and actual physical damage to muscles, get more control and use from those old injured areas of their bodies, just by using Pedicularis, off and on for a few months, especially if they were doing rebuilding exercises for those injuries at the same time.

Another area where Pedicularis can make a difference is in old muscle memory from sexual abuse, or emotional abuse inflicted into muscle memory. The use of Pedicularis, can allow us, often to come home to parts of our bodies that have been abused. 









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