Indian Pipe Plant

Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora)

Proving date: October 2011
Proving completed by: Misha Norland, Mani Norland & The School of Homeopathy
Common names:
Indian pipe, Ice-plant, Bird's nest, Fit-plant, Ova-ova, Pipe-plant, Ghost-flower, Corpse-plant.

Read full proving: Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora)
Read proving physical symptoms: Monotropa Uniflora Physicals

About the plant

A Plant Reclassified Into the Family Ericaceae.

The Indian Pipe was originally classified into the family Monotropaceae, but after further research was reclassified to be included in the Ericaceae family of plants (heaths). Heaths are herbs, shrubs and trees that thrive in acidic soil, like cranberry, blueberry, azalea and rhododendron, and are known to have the same kind of relationship with mychorrhizal fungi.

Since Indian Pipe has no chlorophyll, it cannot photosynthesise its own food like most plants. Therefore, it has to obtain nutrients from another organism. The way it does this is by having its roots tap into the mycelia of a fungus. Meanwhile, the fungus’s mycelia tap into the host-tree's roots. Many fungi and trees have this type of relationship - it's called a "mycorrhizal relationship." These plants are classed as "epiparasite" or "mycoheterophyte." The plant benefits by more efficient mineral (especially phosphorus) uptake. The fungus benefits by the sugars translocated to the root by the plant. Both organisms help each other out. Indian Pipe, however, does not appear to give anything back to the fungus or the tree. It takes nutrients from the fungus that it had received from the tree. Since the fungus then has to take more nutrients from the tree, this makes Indian Pipe a parasite of both the fungus and the tree.

Botanical Source and Description
Indian pipe plant has a dark-colored, fibrous, perennial root, matted in masses about as large as a chestnut-burr, from which arise one or more short, ivory-white stems, 4 to 8 inches high, furnished with sessile, lanceolate, white, semi-transparent, approximate leaves or bracts, and bearing a large, white, terminal, solitary flower, which is at first nodding, like a downward facing smokers pipe, but becomes upright in fruit. The calyx is represented by two to four scale-like deciduous bracts, the lower rather distant from the corolla. The corolla is permanent, of 5 distinct, erect, fleshy petals, which are narrowed below with a small, nectariferous pit at the base. Stamens 10, sometimes 8; anthers short on the thickened apex of the hairy filament, 2-celled, opening by transverse chinks. Stigma 5-crenate, depressed, and beardless. Pod or capsule 5-celled and 5-valved; the seeds numerous, and invested with an arillus-like membrane (W. G. Eaton).

History and Chemical Composition
This is a singular plant, found in various parts of the USA from Maine to Carolina, and westward to Missouri, growing in shady woods, in rich, moist soil, or soil composed, of decayed wood and leaves, and near the base of trees. The whole plant is ivory-white in all its parts, resembling frozen jelly, and is very succulent and tender, so much so that when handled it dissolves and melts away in the hands like ice. The flowers are inodorous, and appear from June until September; their resemblance to a pipe has given rise to the names Indian pipe or Pipe-plant. The root is the part used; it should be gathered in September and October, carefully dried, pulverized, and kept in well-stoppered bottles. A. J. M. Lasché (Pharm. Rundschau, 1889, p. 208) has found in this plant a crystallizable poisonous principle, which also occurs in several other ericaceous plants; it is named andromedotoxin (C31H51O10).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage
Indian pipe root is a tonic, sedative, nervine, and antispasmodic. It has also been employed in febrile diseases, as a sedative and diaphoretic. The powder has been employed in instances of restlessness, pains, nervous irritability, etc., as a substitute for opium, without any deleterious influences. It is reputed to have cured remittent and intermittent fevers, and to be an excellent antiperiodic. In convulsions of children, epilepsy, chorea, and other spasmodic affections, its administration has been followed with prompt success; hence its common name Fit or Convulsion root. The juice of the plant, alone, or combined with rose water, has been found to be an excellent application for obstinate ophthalmic inflammation, to ulcers, and as an injection in gonorrhoea, inflammation and ulceration of the bladder. Dose of the powdered root is from 1/2 to 1 drachm, 2 or 3 times a day.

It has also been employed in cases of acute anxiety and/or psychotic episodes due to intense drug experiences.   The herbal preparation of aerial parts given 1-3 1ml doses has in numerous cases given quick relief to these episodes within 15-30 minutes, at which time the patient falls asleep to awake calm and clear hours later.  It seems in these cases, a repressed traumatic memory emerges from the depths of the subconscious, putting the person into a state of emotional and/or sensory overload.  It has been used effectively in treating severe mental and emotional pain due to PTSD and other traumatic injury, as well as severe nerve pain due to Lyme disease.

There is a Cherokee legend about the Indian Pipe: Long ago, when selfishness first entered the world, people began quarreling, first with their own families and tribal members, and then with other tribes. The chiefs of the several tribes met together to try to solve the problem of quarreling. They smoked a peace pipe together, while continuing to quarrel among themselves for the next seven days and seven nights.  In punishment for smoking the peace pipe before actually making peace, the Great Spirit turned the chiefs into grey flowers and made them grow where relatives and friends had quarreled.

Monotropa's proving

When Misha Norland first came across Monotropa in woods in Vermont USA, he was immediately struck by its appearance: a ghostly apparition; white shrouds on leafy floor of dim woodland. Closer inspection revealed a translucent flower and stem emerging from the ground, completely lacking green; a parasite for sure. He picked a few and was amazed by the structure’s lack of density; the plants collapsed in his hands almost as if they had melted. Being prepared to bag whatever he found, he placed all that was above ground in a bottle he carried for just such a purpose. Here the plants quickly blackened. When he returned home a few hours later he added vodka for preservation, ready for later potentisation.

At the time he did not know that herbalists find the roots the most medicinally active part of the plant, or else he would doubtlessly have taken these. However, it is usually found that all parts of a plant are in fact medicinal, just that some parts, like root or bark or seeds predominantly concentrate one or another active ingredient. When potentised, the difference in strength of individual parts loses significance, for it is the quality of the entire plant, rather than the quantity of active ingredients in specific parts, that matters.

Certainly the proving brought out a wealth of characteristics. The tincture was run up to 30c potency in the classroom (substance unknown to provers), with provers taking turns at dilution and sucussion, using Korsicovian methodology. The final potency of 30c was used as the proving dose. As is our custom at the School of Homeopathy, just one dose was taken, proving diaries and daily supervision, commencing from this point, and continuing for two months.

The prominent miasm is the AIDS miasm. This is because the boundary issue is paramount. For Indian Pipe to survive it needs to become confluent with the mycelium of fungus, that in turn becomes confluent with tree roots for its nutrition. Also the structure above ground looses its boundary and melts away when handled. Hence its other names, ghost plant, corpse plant, wax plant. The feeling of having no boundaries between oneself and the world, of being vulnerable, naked and exposed is perhaps the most basic feeling of the AIDS nosode, and its opposite state, of feeling isolated, alone and cast out. In Indian pipe, vulnerable boundaries, loss of direction, disconnection, confusion, and not belonging to family or group oppose fortification of boundaries, sense of direction, connection, clarity and confrontation leading to resolution. There are, of course Cancer miasm themes, but these seem secondary and of a compensatory nature.

Vital Senation
Writing about the family Ericaceae, Rajan Sankaran states the following: need to move from one place to another; wandering; extension; change. Jan Scholten writing about Ericales (newer Cronquist classification) has this to say: they have the feeling they are only tolerated and are not really accepted anymore… they often live in poor conditions, which they can do as they do not need very much… they may long for recognition and compliments… in the end they can become bitter… they may see themselves as unimportant, taking no place, having few needs, offering themselves for others. This echoes Edward Bach’s indications for the flower remedy Heather. In ‘the twelve healers’, he states: for loneliness, those who are always seeking companionship of anyone who may be available, as if they find it necessary to discuss their own affairs with others… In these latter respects we find powerful resonances with Indian pipe with its issues of being tapped in, carried by the flow, and its opposite state of being blocked, of having the flow cut off, feeling isolated, numbed-out, alienated. And because Indian pipe is an epiparasitic Eracales, and relies completely on its hosts for nutrition, the indications given by Edward Bach for Heather seem to be amplified.

The proving revealed another strand running alongside that of Ericaceae, that seems to be related to the plant’s mycorrhizal relationship.  It is of course, the fungal theme of invasion and expansion, as well as issues like dependence on water, decomposition, and dissolution. The vital sensation that Rajan Sankaran derives from Fungi is invading, burrowing, digging, excoriating, and eroding. Dreams of underground tubes and tunnels, basements, burrowing, rising high and diving deep were consistent Monotropa proving themes. The consensus in this proving experience was that when it is possible to push through these dark, lurking unpleasant truths and “bring them up into the light” we can reconnect and become one again with Source.

Michal Yakir writes
(The full version is given in the attached appendix) the remedy displays the Ericales themes:

  • Obligation to give to the family, which becomes a liability; surrender to the family’s dictates.
  • Anxiety for health, need to be taken care of, dependant.
  • Alienated and rejected from family and nurture, oppressed and imprisoned by the family unit.
  • Coming into own fruition, seeking recognition outside the family. Creativity issues.
  • Domineering, emasculating feminine; male-reproductive pathology; tumours and growth.
  • Obstructed and rigid, with male sexual organ pathology. Even emasculating feelings.
  • Immobility, joints, rigidity, obstructed, resistance to change, or flowing and changing.


(An analysis of the dreams and their significance has been written by Jane Tara Cicchetti and is presented in full in the appendix.)

The provers produced a prodigious number of dreams.  There were approximately 232 dreams and possibly more as some were not identified as separate dreams, but put together with others.

The most frequently occurring powerful imagery was that of a being morphing from one state into another.  Transvestites, cross dressing, drag queens, a child becomes a cat, a person dressed as a cow, human legs became super pistons and transforming, grotesquely, into a younger person. 

In a similar category, there were images of new species created after this change had occurred.  These included crows with Darth Vader heads, a slug/worm, Amish family with hippopotamus teeth; a human with horse or goat legs (Pan), a farm of animal/beings fused between human and animal, a man with ridiculously huge biceps.

Another group of images related to the brain.  There at least 10 dreams where characters appeared with either autism, brain damage, or serious mental problems. There was one appearance of Downs syndrome.

There were quite a few images of elderly people and premature aging.  Also several dreams contained images of autistic people in wheel chairs.  Two dreams had an interesting reference to magnetic force.

Finally there were a few strong images of brutality, animal testing, and hypodermic syringes.

Mappa Mundi
Insubstantial plant (no chlorophyll), like a ghost, a parasite of a fungus.
Issues with boundaries. Flow v’s blocked.

Read full proving here: Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora)

Calm Flow<Br>Group<Br>Disconnection/Cut Off<Br>Direction<Br>Penetration/Fortification Of Boundary<Br>Up/Down<Br>Loss Of Control<Br>Vulnerable/Dependence<Br>Confrontation/Resolution<Br>Intense Waves<Br>
Calm Flow
Disconnection/Cut Off
Penetration/Fortification Of Boundary
Loss Of Control
Intense Waves

Proving Themes
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Monotropa
Species: Monotropa uniflora

Kingdom Taxonomy
Imagine drifting in a tube. You are flowing freely without resistance. The direction of travel is set. There is nothing to resist, just to relax and go with the flow. This state of connectedness is so perfect that neither fear nor anxiety arise.