Pedicularis groenlandica lives in wetlands in Canada and the entire western U.S.
The Fourth of July sun dipped below the tree-line when Kristie’s rattling old VW bus finally climbed the mountain. It had been hours since we left the city that afternoon, but I was willing to be patient because I knew it was worth the wait for Pedicularis groenlandica
, a hard-to-find medicinal herb that grows only in high-elevation wetlands and flowers only briefly. It’s a sedative and muscle relaxer that you can smoke or tincture. The plan was to spend the night around a campfire in Mount Hood National Forest and then look for the herb in the morning.
Pedicularis is known as Elephant’s Head because the flower bears an uncanny resemblance to the namesake animal, including the trunk. The only real-life elephants you’ll find in Oregon today are in the zoo, but fossil records tell us there were at least three kinds of elephants living here during the last Ice Age, including an 11-foot-tall extinct species called Elephas columbi
. If you ever want to give your imagination the kind of boost it needs to imagine such a thing, it helps to lie in a dark, quiet forest late into the night. You hear twigs snapping and your mind runs wild, imagining all manner of creatures.
In the morning we hiked to a marshland. My shoes sunk in the muddy grass and some of my friends walked around barefoot. I saw red-bellied newts swimming in the shallow creeks that criss-crossed the field.
By the way, Pedicularis is technically a parasite; it saps nutrients from whatever plant it’s growing next to. (This could be a boon or a bust: You could end up with bonus psychoactive compounds or, worst case scenario, toxins.)
Elephant's Head and Russian Sage in a glass pipe
flowers looked pink in the wild but turned wonderfully purple as they dried. When I lit the Pedicularis groenlandica
flowers in my pipe last night, I mixed them with the calming mint Lemon Balm and some crumbled purple Russian Sage flowers, Perovskia atriplicifolia
, a common ornamental plant native to Afghanistan. I use Pedicularis
to relieve cramping; that combo helps with related PMS symptoms too.
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