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  • Writer's pictureJames Keskimaki

Parrots Beak and Elephants Head?!

Updated: Jan 3

Believe it or not, these really are "common names" to some of the most magical plants in the Pedicularis spp. The photo on the left is Pedicularis groenlandica or otherwise known as Elephant's head. This can obviously be seen as the flowers look like little pink elephant heads. The second photo below is of Parrot's beak. This one takes a bit more imagination but you get the idea. Here in Oregon, we also have Indian Warrior, which looks like a red-feathered arrow quill. One of the most unique aspects of this family is that they are semi-parasitic. What does this mean? Well, its root can be feeding off of other roots growing close by. This can be problematic for the wildcrafting herbalist. You always have to make sure you can identify what is growing in close proximity and make sure it isn't toxic. Plants to really look out for are Lupines, Poison Hemlock, and Senecios to name a few. Always do your research! According to Michael Moore Elephant's Head is seldom parasitic and Parrot's Beak is frequently parasitic tapping into the roots of Fir and Spruce trees.

Pedicularis is quite elusive and it can be tricky to find a stand big enough to actually harvest from. Once you have found your "spot" and have clarified that it is safe to harvest, it is best to keep it to yourself. Personally, it has taken me many trips into the mountains to find a few different places I feel comfortable harvesting from. Always treat your patches with respect and only harvest what you need, making sure you leave at least 95% of each patch so it can continue to thrive. Ideally, you will want to come back every year or so. The more energy you put in, the more will be let out both in the physical state of the stand but also in the quality of medicine. Follow the link provided by my good friend and teacher Scott Kloos for a full download on ethical wildcrafting.

Medicinally speaking Pedicularis is one of the best muscle relaxants I know. I suggest it a lot to folks who are doing repetitive work. Think manufacturing, trimming weed, jewelry making, even sitting at a desk all day working slouched over the computer. It allows for the muscles from the neck down to relax but doesn't take away from your ability to work. Basically, you are sitting there in pain and complaining, then you take a dropper of tincture then 20 minutes later you are not even aware of the pain you were complaining about earlier. The same can be true for the hardworking farmer or construction worker. It basically works on tension related issues - headaches, stress, and neck and shoulder tension.

Energetically I have learned that it grounds us deeper into ourselves and mother earth. Allowing us to melt deeply into ourselves, allowing the mind to become clear and at peace which will help facilitate deeper physical healing. Pedicularis reminds us that we are all connected and how we think, act, and participate in life will ripple out to those closest to us. Just like how the plant feeds off other plants, we feed off of each other.

I have a fresh batch of both Parrot's Beak and Elephant's Head tinctures available now. If you are seeking a blend of the two or a special formulation reach out and we can co-create a blend specifically for you or your client.

"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.." *Michael Moore

Written and photos by:James Keskimaki

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