Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

topic posted Sat, April 26, 2008 - 2:17 AM by  Parad
Why do I like monotropa so much?
Read what Ryan Drum wrote about it.

INDIAN PIPE (Monotropa uniflora)

Indian pipe, ghost plant, is a remarkable botanical curiosity as well as a powerful nervine. It is a mysterious, underground except when flowering, perennial common boreal non-photosynthetic flowering epiparasite. It parasitizes parasitic tree fungi, and is not dependent on one particular fungus, forming associations with at least a dozen different fungi, many of which produce edible mushrooms. It grows in complete shade on stable forest floors, usually where green plants do not. It seems completely dependent on its host fungi for organic nutrients.

Its underground mass attracts fungal mycelial growth, from the fungi parasitizing live trees, both conifers and deciduous trees, providing myriad small knobbly papillar surfaces where nutrients pass from the fungal tissue to Monotropa. At least 14 species of trees can be used. I do not know if an individual Monotropa plant utilizes more than one fungal species or more than one tree species. I assume that the fungi derive some benefit from their associations with Monotropa, probably derivative secondary metabolites.

The above-ground portion of the plant consists entirely of delicate white translucent flowers and flower stems, one flower per stem. The flowers first appear as bent white tubes about 1/8-1/4 inch diameter, which slowly elongate, straighten, and display their respective terminal floral buds, at a height of 6-10 inches in clumps of 2-100. Each fragile stem and young. flower resemble a white clay pipe. The down-turned flowers are pollinated by bees upside down.

Harvest of Monotropa The timing of floral emergence is moisture and temperature dependent in addition to dependence on fungal growth. July is usually the peak floral emergence month, with Bastille Day (July 14) often the best time to harvest. I harvest the entire plant on rainy days or in the cool of the day to reduce heat and impact trauma bruising to the delicate emergent parts. Entire plants are carefully underdug with a strong spading fork and gently lifted into buckets. Then the plants are carefully laid out on screen tables (half-inch mesh hardware cloth) and washed with a strong fine stream of water to remove pebbles, soil, and organic debris from the underground masses. The plants can be immediately tinctured for best results; or the tops are gently removed from the knobbly underground masses and the two parts dried separately. This may take up to two weeks at 70-90 degrees F.

I have observed no herbivory of Monotropa: nothing seems to eat it. I ate an ounce or more of the young flowers and stalks and was slightly nauseous. I did not want to eat it again. Perhaps other browsers are similarly affected.
The Coast Salish allegedly associated the appearance of Monotropa with the probable deposition of wolf urine, presumably at territorial marking sites. I usually notice the odor of ammonia in the fresh plants. Perhaps this helped substantiate the wolf urine connection, which also may stimulate Monotropa host growth.
Monotropa Usage I believe Monotropa is an underutilized plant. Traditional North American use was apparently as a nervine to relieve symptoms of neurological chemistry disruption and pain. Used to stop seizures, convulsions, insomnia, mental disorders, and chronic muscle spasms.

A neighbor came by and asked me to look at his leg. He had limped obviously up the very steep hill to my cabin. He showed a peripherally advancing 6-7 inch diam. bruise on his upper inner right thigh. It was yellowish at the center, indicating an old bruise, then a broad concentric ring of purplish swollen tissue, and at the outer edge, fresh broken capillaries and tender inflammation. Strange. He told me that a felling mistake jammed the butt of a 4 inch diam. sapling into his OUTER upper right thigh 10 days previously. He showed me the torn skin and slightly discolored impact site. The bruise area, still developing, on his inner thigh, started to develop about 2 days after the outer thigh impact trauma, and grew larger each day, with more freshly broken blood vessels and increasing pain and inflammation. He had not slept much for over a week. Usually a teetotaler, he had been drinking a lot of high alcohol content malt beverage throughout the day and more at night to ease the pain and hopefully bring sleep, to no avail. He also took a lot of aspirin for several days, with no pain resolution.
He wondered if I had any herbs that would stop the terrible pain, let him sleep, and possibly stop the bruise growth. And, could I please explain how he could get hit on the outside of his thigh and have a huge bruise on his inner thigh and why was it still enlarging?

I explained vascular pressure rebound trauma mechanics to him and then gave him a tincture mixture of equal parts Monotropa and hawthorn berry (Crataegus monogyna), to be taken 2-3 droppersful every 3-4 hours unless he was sleeping. I told him to stop drinking coffee and malt beverage, and start drinking at least 3 quarts of just water daily, elevate his legs at night 12-14 inches, and walk at least 2 miles each day to help vascular repair. I would come see him in 10 days; if any further complications developed, he was to send a runner.

In the first 36 hours his pain resolved and he slept; his rebound bruise ceased enlarging and the discoloration slowly cleared. Then his right femur began to ache and continued to ache for 2-3 months. The Monotropa/Crataegus did not ease the bruised bone pain, which he did not notice until the rebound bruise began to resolve.
Monotropa Tincture Traditionally, dried flowers and "root" masses were sometimes used separately as powders, infusions, or strong decoctions separately for specific neurodisruptions. I have used 60% alcohol tinctures 2:1, alcohol to herb, the herbal portion consisting of equal parts flowers and underground mass. The tincture macerates for at least 2 weeks with shaking several times daily. I usually leave the herb in the alcohol until all of the tincture is consumed. The tincture is a stunning deep purple and tastes and smells vaguely of chocolate.

Another Case: A very agitated distraught large young man came by at dawn one day. He was gesticulating wildly, speaking very loudly, rapidly, angrily, rather disjointedly and a bit menacing. ALIENS WERE IMPLICATED, threats, large weapons, revenge, cleaning up the place (of undesirable neighbors) plus grossly inflated assumptions of personal grandeur. Charming.

He claimed not to have slept for at least three days and nights and that his head was boiling with unsolicited thoughts and images. His history included perennial meanness and medicated behaviour. I diagnosed sleep deprivation, dehydration, too much recreational medication, and no real food for many days, extreme anger, social isolation, and a desperate attempt to stop his delirium. Finally, during the first break in his rapid rambling 3-hr monologue, I asked him what he wanted from me. Besides potential sanctuary, he wanted herbal help to sleep and start thinking clearly. At that time I did not know he had been menacing neighbors and family. I told him I would give him a potion to do both, the strongest medicine I had. If it did not work in 4 hours or less, it wouldn't work for him. I gave him 2 ounces of a mixed tincture of Monotropa and Sea Blush Roots (an abundant annual marine valerian, Plectritis congesta) which he drank at once. Shortly after he left me, he napped, made circumstantial peace with his family, and voluntarily boarded the law enforcement plane for his involuntary journey to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.

I believe Monotropa has a great future as a psychiatric nervine in acute cases.

CAUTION: consumption of 15 ml or more of Monotropa tincture can bring deep sleep and ultra vivid dreams, often bizarre, frequently erotic. I do not know the hazards of long term regular usage. I am investigating.
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  • Unsu...

    Re: Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

    Sat, April 26, 2008 - 8:47 PM
    very nice parad, i see this epiparasite all over during the summer when i go hiking, and i have often wondered about its medicinal properties, it sure ketches my eye often enough. i would love to hear more about this one. nice work!
    • Unsu...

      Re: Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

      Mon, September 1, 2008 - 4:28 AM
      How might I acquire some of this beautiful plant?
      • Re: Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

        Wed, September 3, 2008 - 11:02 AM
        It is said to be an indicator species for chantrel. If it is up the spring chantrell will be up in the fall.
        PM me and I'll send you a little bottle from some fresh plant tincture.
        • Re: Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

          Wed, September 3, 2008 - 3:33 PM
          I have noticed this beautiful plant around me, lately.

          love all-ways,
          • Re: Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

            Sun, September 14, 2008 - 7:02 PM
            I just found a pile more. I am sending IK some but I am waiting to send him the fresh batch. This stuff is actually pretty cool. I don;t understand how people use the roots though because it seem like 1/2 dirt.
            • Unsu...

              Re: Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

              Mon, September 15, 2008 - 12:12 AM
              post a picture?
              • Re: Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

                Thu, August 12, 2010 - 10:16 AM
                I just found a Boat load of this... 300gms of fresh flowering stems.

                I did nto harvest any roots because I did not wish to distrupt the fungi growing with the plant and we hope they grow back next year.
                The menstrum of the tincture is amazing... totally dark purple. 1 5th of 150proof vodka with 300grams of plant material fresh. Should be a very good tincture.
                I will be burying it under ground for a month to enhance its powers...

                "CAUTION: consumption of 15 ml or more of Monotropa tincture can bring deep sleep and ultra vivid dreams, often bizarre, frequently erotic. I do not know the hazards of long term regular usage. I am investigating."

                I would think that a mix of this plant with mugwart might be an interesting combo...
            • Re: Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

              Thu, September 30, 2010 - 12:34 AM
              can I get instructions from you on how to make this tincture? Part of plant to use type of alcohol, proof, length of time to let it sit. I have read that the opiate part of the plant is in the root. have you experienced something similar from any other part of the plant? Any new info on how to use the roots?
              • Re: Indian Pipe AKA Monotropa

                Thu, September 30, 2010 - 12:40 PM
                I dont think it really has opitate effects... it was used as a substitute for opium, and i think this was done because it has salesitic acid (spelling) in it. So its like asprin.
                I used svedka swedish vodka, 100 proof enough to just cover the plant material. I did not use the roots because the roots are intertwined with a fungal mycelium, the species of which I do not know... but it smells fishy and kinda icky. I just worked with the stem and flower no roots. I let it soak for a month and a half. Its a very dark blackish purple color now.
  • I found a group of these flowers in the woods directly behind my house. I was astounded at their delicate beauty. Took photographs daily, to document their development, hopefully to some kind of seed pod stage. When on about the tenth day, when the flowers started to take on the purple/black spots, something had come along and just ate the entire flower from the top of almost every stalk. 90% of them were just GONE!

    The few remaining flowers, were vulnerable to the same attack, so I picked the flowers, hoping that they were 'ripe' and maybe I could extract some seeds. Well, never could find anything, once they dried, they just crumbled, and I never saw anything like a seed. I will try to keep them from being eaten next year, and hopefully, I will see the full maturation.

    I will also try to harvest them and make a tincture. What about the left over stems, are there any uses for them? once dried and blackened?

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