Today, in the spirit of the season, I’m going to talk about a rare perennial plant called monotropa uniflora or ghost plant.
If you stumble upon this spooky plant growing in the wild, you may mistake it for a mushroom or a fungus because of its lack of color. The plant doesn’t conduct photosynthesis, so has no chlorophyll. Instead, it has a ghostly white appearance.
Since it doesn’t depend on sunlight for energy, it gets its nutrients from other plants and fungi. And you only find it in very dark environments in the understory of a dense forest, often near beech trees.
Also known as Indian pipe or corpse plant, the ghost plant is native to temperate regions in European Russia, Asia, North America, and northern South America. The stem reaches three to 10 inches high and bears a single small flower with three to eight fragile petals. It flowers from summer to early autumn, often a few days after a rainfall (like its fungi part-relatives).
The ghost plant’s tincture is actually a violet color. And natural medicine practitioners use it to relieve anxiety and pain. So, clearly, it’s a “friendly” ghost plant.
Ghost plant disappearing from the wild
As a medicinal herb, the ghost plant is “wild-crafted,” meaning herbalists collect it in the wild. Botanists know little about its reproduction and growth. And it can’t be cultivated.
Many medicinal plants naturally thrive in the wild, such as dandelion, lemon balm, motherwort, poppy, and St. John’s wort. And it seems there is always more where they came from. Indeed, it seems everywhere I travel in the U.S., I see wild dandelions growing.
But ghost plant is not like that.
With its increased popularity, the plant has begun to disappear from the wild. Drought conditions in much of the country have also contributed to the disappearance of this ghost. An organization called United Plant Savers is assessing its ecological status and considers it an at-risk or endangered species of plant.
When harvesting ghost plants, always leave the roots alone, so the plant can grow back. Or better yet, opt for a different natural pain reliever that isn’t endangered. The good news is, there are lots to choose from.
Many natural non-drug alternatives for pain and anxiety
For pain, experienced herbalists and naturopaths use poppy, kava kava, and Jamaican dogwood extracts and preparations. For anxiety, you can try blue verain, kava kava, hops, lemon balm, motherwort, and skullcap. You can also get a healthy dose of hops in beers, especially the IPA and more bitter brews. Or try some special October fall brews for relaxation.
I tell you all about the many non-drug, natural approaches to pain relief in my brand new book, Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain. You can also learn about your many options for natural pain relief in my new Arthritis Relief & Reversal Protocol. You can learn more about this comprehensive protocol — or enroll today — by clicking here.
Of course, while you shouldn’t pick the ghost plant, there’s no harm in hunting for them in a “look but don’t touch” manner. Just getting out in Nature has proven healing benefits to the body and the mind. And some herbalists feel there is a spiritual connection with this ghost plant of the forest.
Herbalist Sean Donahue wrote: “we live in a time when people feel cut off from the natural world, and finding out about a strange, beautiful plant that taps into the mind of the entire forest brings a stir of recognition of the kind of connection the deepest parts of ourselves know is possible, even when we so seldom experience it in our lives and our worlds.”
At this time of year, many traditional cultures feel the spiritual boundaries between the human world and the natural world loosen. Searching for the ghost plant may help you experience the connection between the two more fully.
So aside from the holiday merry-making and trick-or-treating, you can contemplate the spiritual dimensions of the season, and the spiritual nature of a Nature that produces a ghost plant — before this ghost disappears.