The Rhus toxicodendron proved by Hahnemann and the Rhus radicans proved in this country by the late Dr. B. F. Joslin are now regarded by botanists as identical, differing only in their mode of growth. I can perceive no essential difference in the symptoms ascribed to them by provers. For ten years I have used them interchangeably in my practice, and have remarked no differences in their action. I shall therefore speak of them as identical. In the Appendix of Jahr's, New Manual or Symptomen Codex, by Hempel, is a note on Rhus radicans, of which Dr. Joslin speaks as follows in his Essay on Epidemic Cholera, p. 132, note :
“I deem it due to the profession as to myself, to state that the note on this plant (Rhus radicans) inserted without my consent or knowledge in the Appendix to the American edition of Jahr's Symptomen Codex, is grossly incorrect, especially where it attempts to correct my botanical description of this plant in general, and of the particular plant from which I obtained the specimen for trial. This last part of the criticism is not only incorrect but absurd; inasmuch as the botanical character of those particular leaves could be known only to myself and my respected medical colleagues who engaged with me in the provings, and to whom the leaves were shown. I here reaffirm the correctness of my description as given in the body of the same Symptomen Codex, pp. 671, 672.”
The Rhus is a native of North America. It was known to the Indians as a medicine. Dufresnoy, a French army surgeon, published, in 1788, “an account of its supposed virtues in the cure of cutaneous eruptions and of nervous paralysis.” He also, as well as the traveler Kalm, described its property of causing inflammatory swelling of the skin, followed by vesicles, in persons who touch the leaves and even in susceptible persons who are exposed to its exhalations at night.
Indeed it is well known that contact with the leaves of the Rhus radicans or “poison-vine” produces, not merely in the parts touched, but also often in other parts of the body, as the neck and face, a swelling, with redness, edema and vesicles, that bears a marvelous resemblance to vesicular erysipelas. This eruption is attended by constitutional symptoms which resemble those of erysipelas.
It is, likewise, well known that, in this form of erysipelas (the vesicular) homoeopathic physicians long ago found good reason to look upon Rhus as their most valuable remedy. The striking confirmation of the homoeopathic law of cure which these facts afford, has caused some bitter opponents of Homoeopathy actually to thrust Rhus out from the Materia Medica. Thus we find Dr. Stille, after giving a very imperfect summary of the effects of Rhus and of the opinions held concerning it, coolly remarking: “It, however, does not really appear to deserve sufficient confidence as a medicine to entitle it to retain a place in the Materia Medica!”
Very different are the judgment and method of Trousseau, who, though no friend to Homoeopathy, is yet too wise and too honest a man to refuse to learn from his opponents. He relates an interesting proving of Rhus: “Dr. Lavini applied two drops of the tincture of Rhus radicans to the first phalanx of his fore-finger; he left it there only two minutes, and yet, at the end of an hour, it had produced two black spots. Twenty-five days afterwards, the following symptoms suddenly manifested themselves; great heat in the month and gullet; rapidly increasing swelling of the fore-arm, which has acquired twice its normal volume; the skin was rough, the itching intolerable, the heat very great, etc.”
“This singular action of Rhus rad.,” continues Trousseau, “upon the human economy has induced the Homoeopathists to use it in skin diseases; but already before them, Dufresnoy, of Valenciennes, had published a pamphlet in which he extolled the virtues of this plant against cutaneous diseases and subsequently against paralysis.
“We have ourselves,” proceeds Trousseau, “often used Rhus radicans for paralysis, but the experiments we have made in skin diseases are too few and too little conclusive to admit of our referring to them here.”
“The only forms of paralysis which we have seen treated by M. Bretonneau, of Tours, and which we have ourselves treated, are those of the lower extremities which succeeded a concussion of the spinal marrow or a lesion of that organ which did not destroy its tissue. On this point we have collected facts enough to place beyond a doubt the therapeutic efficacy of Rhus radicans. ”Trousseau, et Pidoux. Traite de Therapeutique et Materia Medica, 1, 787, 788.
We shall by and by see that the pathogenetic symptoms clearly point to the use of Rhus in paralysis of the lower extremities. This powerful testimony of Trousseau is an Endorsement of Our Law for the Selection of Remedies.
Our knowledge of the positive effects of Rhus upon the human organism is derived from the proving of Hahnemann and his pupils, published in the Materia Medica Pura, Vol. II, and from the proving of Rhus radicans conducted by the late Dr. Joslin and published by him in the Philadelphia Journal of Homoeopathy and in Jahr's New Manual, also later in The American Homoeopathic Review.
Hahnemann, in the introduction to his proving, remarks that careful study of the symptoms will enable us to discover many characteristic peculiarities of this remarkable and very precious drug; one of which (possessed by very few other drugs and by none in so high a degree) he describes as follows: “It excites the strongest symptoms when the body, or the limb in question, is in the greatest repose and is kept as free as possible from all motion.”
He further remarks that “whoever has studied the symptoms of Bryonia will observe a great similarity in them to the symptoms of Rhus and, at the same time, a great contrariety. Then, for example, how remarkable is the aggravation, under Bryonia, by motion, and the amelioration during repose of the very same symptoms, which, under Rhus, are ameliorated by motion, and aggravated during repose.”
1. The Sphere of Action of Rhus is extensive. The entire vegetative system is affected, its functions being more or less modified both quantitatively and qualitatively. The secretion of the mucous membrane is altered and increased; this is shown by the diarrhea, as well as by the sputa which altered the cough and the discharges from other mucous membranes.
But, its action upon the system of animal life is quite as marked. The sensorium is depressed; and the capability of the mind for continuous thought is absolutely destroyed. Thus, a patient wishing to write the number twelve, will write the figure one, but cannot recollect the figure two which should follow it (like the typhus patient, who begins his sentence coherently and intelligibly, but allows it to dwindle away into an inarticulate murmur.)
Listlessness and a horrible depression possess the mind. This marks a more profound depression than that produced by Bryonia, for the latter results in fretful peevishness and irritability. Rhus, on the other hand, produces listlessness, a feeling of helplessness and profound despondency.
A similar condition seems to obtain in the entire apparatus of voluntary motion, expressing itself in a sense of physical prostration, of inability to move, of powerlessness, approaching paralysis. So great is this prostration, that when the prover first attempts to move, after a repose of some length of time, the limbs tremble, the joints are stiff and there seems to be actual inability to move. This condition is more pronounced in the lower extremities than in the upper.
3. The Sensations that are characteristic of Rhus are: soreness, as if beaten, which is felt in the muscles and in the neighborhood of the joints; heaviness and pressure, which are felt in the head, eyes, eyelids and limbs; lassitude, languor and weight, which are felt in the extremities, especially the lower.
5. Peculiarities. The great and characteristic peculiarity of the symptoms produced by Rhus is that, with few exceptions, they occur and are aggravated during repose, and are ameliorated during motion.
Now, on first, attempting to move, he finds himself very stiff and the very first movement is exceedingly painful. But as he continues to move, however, the stiffness is relieved and the pains decidedly decrease, the patient feeling much better.
This improvement, however, does not go on indefinitely. After the patient has moved continuously for a length of time, finding comfort therein, the paralytic symptoms interpose their exhausting protest and the patient is compelled, from a sense of lassitude and powerlessness, to suspend his movements and come to a condition of repose.
Now, at first, this repose, after long-continued motion, is grateful, for it relieves, not the aching and severe pains (these were relieved by the motion), but the sense of prostration, the paralytic sensation.
This statement may serve to explain certain apparent contradictions in the symptoms of Rhus. The amount of it is: that the pains of Rhus are aggravated by repose and relieved by motion; but the paralysis and languor of Rhus, like all other symptoms, always (when genuine and not hysterical) are relieved, by repose and aggravated by long-continued motion.
6. Resume. The action of Rhus may be summed up as follows: It produces a kind of rheumatic affection of the muscles and ligaments, alleviated by motion; a paralysis, aggravated by motion; an apparently passive congestion of the head relieved by repose; a debility of the organs of nutrition, marked by deficient and depraved appetite and by tympanitis; a serous infiltration of the cellular tissue in various parts of the body, as the face, fauces, genitals, feet; a vesicular eruption, generally; an acrid state of the secretions, generally, as, the tears, nasal mucus, gastric mucus, intestinal mucus, urine, menstrual flow, contents of cutaneous vesicles; a general depression of the sensorium.
There is vertigo, which occurs when standing or walking. but also when sitting and even comes on when lying down. In this particular it corresponds with the conditions of the rheumatic pains of Rhus tox. It is described as if something kept going around in the head - one feels as if drunken, as though one would fall forwards or backwards. On rising in the morning, one can hardly support oneself. This is not only from dizziness but also from the paralytic condition and from the stiffness and lassitude which follow long repose.
Headache . - Among the pains in the head, properly so called, we notice first pressure, both in the temples and in the forehead and behind the orbits, where it feels sometimes like a wearisome pressure downwards; sometimes as if the eyes would be pressed outwards; sometimes as if the brain were pressed together from both sides. Also a radiating pressure in the temples, worse during repose, sometimes a burning pressure in the temporal bone.
The sensation most closely allied to the above is heaviness, which is felt in this way: that when the patient stoops it seems as though he could not rise again. There is a sensation as if a quantity of blood shot into the brain; as if a weight fell forwards in the forehead and drew the head downwards, or as if the head were being pressed asunder. Sometimes there is a tearing in the head in every part and direction, or, on awaking and opening the eyes, a violent headache, as if the brain were torn, worse on opening the eyes.
A singular sensation, characteristic of Rhus, is noted on shaking the head and when walking; when jarring the body, etc., viz., a sensation of swashing and jarring in the brain and each step concusses the brain. China has a similar symptom.
The pains in the head are pressure, heaviness, tearing and swashing. They affect chiefly the forehead, temples and post orbital regions, and unlike the rheumatic pains are generally worse on motion, although some are aggravated by repose.
Face. - The face may be pale and sickly looking with the features distorted, or red and covered with sweat without thirst. As regards the skin, there has been observed an erysipelatous redness of the face and eyelids with burning pain, or itching. On this surface, after a few days, vesicles make their appearance, which discharge and leave a fine mealy scale. This resembles so exactly the vesicular erysipelas of the face that it is often mistaken for it.
Eyes. - In the eyes a burning, pressing pain; they itch and bite. The white of the eye is reddened, they lacrymate and are agglutinated in the morning. The lids smart, as if excoriated by the tears or else they have a sensation of dryness. There is often a sensation of heaviness or of paralysis in the lids, so that they can hardly be kept open.
Ears. - Earache and a feeling as if someone were blowing into the ear. There is a whistling, a squealing noise heard, or a ringing when walking, which change to a loud resonance when lying down, as if the membrane tympani were burst.
Cheeks and Jaws. - A peculiar phenomenon is noteworthy. A cramp-like pain in the maxillary joint as if beaten, as if it would break and on each motion of the jaw it cracks and snaps audibly. There is a constant desire to yawn until it seems as though the jaw would break. (This corresponds with and is analogous to the stretching and twisting so characteristic of Rhus.)
The action of Rhus on the digestive organs is not very characteristic. It produces a bitter-sour or a coppery taste - a total loss of appetite - a sensation as if the stomach were always full; nothing tastes good. Or, on the other hand, a kind of canine bunger, along with which there is a soapy, slimy condition of the month; everything tastes like straw, and there is an immediate feeling of fullness.
Stool. - As regards the stool, we notice, constant tenesmus, with nausea; tearing and pinching in the intestines; the stool is scanty, consisting of mucus, or a watery, jelly-like substance, yellow or streaked with white, frothy and often mixed with blood. Before stool, a burning in the rectum; after stool, all pains are relieved. Itching and burning in the rectum, with smarting; blind hemorrhoids.
With regard to the genital organs we find, as in various other distensible parts or the body, the characteristic effects of Rhus, viz., swelling, produced by serous infiltration of the cellular tissue, redness of the cutis, followed by vesicular eruption which forms a light scab or small white scabs. The moisture exuded is limpid and acrid. Moreover the natural secretions are acrid. Hence the menstrual flow which Rhus makes to appear earlier and more copiously than is normal, is acrid.
Neck and Back. - In the region, of the neck and back, we find stiffness in the nape and entire neck, with tensive pain and crying out on moving. The sacral region is stiff, when he moves but pains when sitting, as if he had been stooping and bending the back too much. Stitching and pressing pains.
In the extremities we have, most frequently, sticking pains. They may occur in all parts. Also tearing pains, aggravated by hard labor. When felt of, the bones feel sore. The salient osseous processes, condyles, olecranon, etc., are sore to pressure.
Drawing pains are frequent. They go from the elbow to the hand. In Dr. Joslin's proving of Rhus radicans a pain is described as following the ulnar nerve. I have twice met this in patients, and relieved it permanently with a dose of Rhus radicans.
Sleep . - There is great sleepiness during the day, and also early in the morning with indisposition to rise and dress; constant desire to lie down. Incessant yawning, spasmodic, fatiguing and almost breaking the jaw. Yet the patient cannot get asleep before midnight, partly from sheer wakefulness, partly from heat and restlessness, or anxiety and tumultuously coursing of the blood; without thirst.
Ongoing asleep, shuddering and twitching in the body. The sleep is restless, with tossing and unpleasant thoughts, and dreams about the business of the day or of things recently done or heard. The gastric symptoms are apt to be felt or to be worse at night.
The chill occurs early in the morning. It is characteristic of the chill that it is accompanied by cough, dry and fatiguing. I have often cured intermittent with Rhus, guided by this symptom alone. More frequently the paroxysm is mixed up. External chill with internal heat, without thirst, followed by general sweat. The sweat often appears on the whole body, except the head and face. In this respect the opposite of Silicea.
As regards the disposition, it is depressed and despondent, averse to all exertion, full of sad anxiety and care-taking, depressed, lonesome, and prone to weep; anxiety is so great, he thinks he shall die or lose his mind; the forces sink, he gets fits of trembling; then comes restlessness - the patient cannot sit still, but must always keep moving; becomes fearful, thinks he has been poisoned; the anxiety goes to such an extent that he feel as though he should take his own life — at the same time a sense of dyspnea and yet relief from deep inspirations.
We come now to the practical applications of Rhus, in which department, for lack of space, we shall restrict ourselves to its application in fevers, in rheumatism, in paralysis and in cutaneous diseases, including the exanthemata and glandular affections.
[Note. - Readers will please regard with indulgent eyes, so much of the nonsense in this and the previous article on Rhus, as can fairly be ascribed to errors of typography. Both the author and the managing editor were absent from the city while the articles were in press. D.]
Practical Applications. - In fevers Rhus has had a most successful and extensive application. As the symptoms indicate, the forms of fever which require it can only be what used to be called nervous fevers, and are now known as typhoid or typhus.
Comparing it with Bryonia and Eupatorium, we miss at once the whole train of gastro-hepatic symptoms - the vomiting of bile, soreness and pain at the pit of the stomach, constriction around the epigastric zone, fullness and tenderness of the hepatic region, etc. - which indicated those remedies in bilious remittent fevers. On the other hand, we find Rhus producing some degree of tenderness of the abdomen, great flatulent distension of the abdomen, amounting to tympanitis - occasional watery or mucous diarrhea - symptoms which, though not so strongly pronounced as similar symptoms are under Phosphoric acid, yet decidedly resemble symptoms of typhoid fever or, as the German call it, abdominal, typhus, and indicate the use of Rhus in that disease.
With this indication, the depressed and collapsed sensorium, the absent mindedness, the inability to think of what one wishes to do or say, to remember even familiar circumstances; the depression of spirits, the lassitude and actual muscular feebleness, exactly coincide. So do the restless nights and sleepy days, the mixed up fever and the partial sweats which give no relief.
Hahnemann in writing of the Epidemic of 1813, gave the following directions for selecting Rhus: “This fever has two principle stages. In the first period (which is all the shorter, the worse the disease is to be) there are present, full, increased sensation of the pains usually present, with intolerably bad humor, sensation of heat in the body and especially in the head, dry feeling or actual dryness in the mouth, causing constant thirst, bruised feeling in the limbs, restlessness, etc.; but, in the second period, that of delirium (a quas metastasis of the whole disease upon the mental organs) no complaint is made of all those symptoms - the patient is hot, does not desire to drink, he knows not whether to take this or that, he does not know those about him, or he abuses them; he makes irrelevant answers, talks nonsense with his eyes open, does foolish things, wishes to run away, cries aloud or whines, without being able to say why he does so, has a rattling in the throat, the countenance is distorted, the eyes squinting, he plays with his hands, behaves like a mad man, passes feces and urine involuntary, etc.
“If, for instance, the patient complain of dizziness, shooting pains in the head, throat, chest, abdomen. etc., which are felt particularly on moving the part; in addition to the other symptoms: the hemorrhages, the vomiting, the heat, the thirst, the nocturnal restlessness, etc., we give him a dose of Bryonia, and give no other medicine, nor can repeat the same as long as he continue to improve.”
“If now,” he proceeds, “if now, the amendment produced by the Bryonia goes off in the course of a few days - if the patient then complains of shooting pains in one or other part of the body whilst the part is at rest; if the prostration and anorexia are greater, if there is harassing cough, or such a debility of certain parts as to threaten paralysis; we give a single drop of the Rhus tox.”
“Or the Rhus may be given at the commencement, if the symptoms I have just described occur at the commencement of the attack. Indeed Rhus is suitable more frequently than Bryonia in this disease, and hence can more frequently be used first and alone in treating it.”
Observe, first, the clear and sharp distinction which Hahnemann draws between the indications for Bryonia and Rhus respectively; how carefully he advises us to give each remedy only when the symptoms which specially call for it are present in the case, and how different these symptoms are! Could you gather from this statement that Hahnemann advises the giving of Rhus and Bryonia in alternation in typhoid fever? It would seem to me impossible. And yet the majority of Homoeopathicians will tell you, and the majority of works on practice will teach yon, that the standard prescription in typhoid fever is “Bryonia and Rhus in alternation,” and that this was recommended and used by Hahnemann!
Dr. Wurmb, in his “Clinical Studies of Typhoid Fever,” has given us some exceedingly valuable summaries of the action of Rhus and its cognate remedies, so valuable that I cannot do better than to quote freely from his work. Speaking generally of the therapeutics of fevers, he says,
“In typhoid epidemics, inasmuch as the cases present at given times and in given localities, a part from all special peculiarities of individual cases, a determinate and distinct general character, and are thereby clearly distinguishable from those which occur at other periods and in other localities, we most regard it as our first problem to get an accurate knowledge of the character of the prevailing epidemic.”
“When we have done this, the second problem remains for solution, viz.: the discovery of the group of remedies which most closely correspond in the similarity of their effects upon the healthy to the character of the epidemic. If we succeed in this, then is the most difficult part of our labor done; for the number of remedies contained in this group cannot be very large, and it cannot consequently be very difficult to select from it the most suitable remedy, that is to say, the remedy of which the individual peculiarities coincide most nearly with those of the case to be treated.”
Acting upon this, Dr. Wurmb has described the peculiarities of several groups of drugs and pointed out their adaptations to different forms of typhoid fever. The first of these groups consists of Rhus tox. and Phosphoric acid, the similarities and peculiar differences of which are finely depicted by him. He remarks first, that the cases of fever in which these drugs are required and were used by him, are not very grave and severe forms; the epidemic could not be called a malignant one. “The disturbances in the vascular and nervous systems, though often tolerably severe, were never excessive and the tendency to decomposition of the organic substance, although it existed and was developed, was not very striking. The appropriate remedies, consequently, were such as, in large doses, in healthy subjects, act powerfully, it is true, on the life of blood and nerve; pervert the latter, but do not completely suspend it; cause disturbances in the vital chemistry but do not entirely supersede it!”
Rhus tox. and Phosphoric acid being drags which act in an equal degree upon both the vital force and the organic substance, and which act powerfully but not destructively — are suitable to an epidemic of this character.
Now, the distinction between these two drugs, may in a word be stated as follows: Rhus is characterized by symptoms of erethism, excitement, orgasm; Phosphoric acid by symptoms of sluggishness, torpor, collapse. This is the proportion which, in so far as Rhus is concerned, we proceed to elaborate in the words of Dr. Wurmb, “Indications for Rhus.”
“The patients are generally strongly built persons who have hitherto been healthy; the typhoid, for the most part, comes on suddenly, runs a rapid course, and reaches in the course of a few days a high degree of development. At the same time with the disturbances in the vascular system, there is felt a strong sensation of illness, which advances at a more rapid rate that the other symptoms do; for example, the actual debility is not so great as the sensation of debility, inasmuch as tolerably rapid and forcible motions are still capable of being made. (N.B. During convalescence, the contrary condition obtains; the patients take themselves to be stronger than they really are.)”
“Soon, however, the forces fail; movements become difficult and feeble and the patients are constrained to lie quietly in bed, in one place. They complain of aching in the limbs and, sometimes, of violent pain in some joint or other, as in rheumatism.”
“These disturbances in the general condition do not long continue alone; there are soon associated with them irregularities in the vascular system, viz.: in the beginning, gentle fugitive chills and heat, but especially heat of the head; at a later period the heat predominates, and at last it becomes continuous and is very violent; there is tendency to rush of blood to the head; the temperature is elevated; the face is burning hot to the touch; the eyes shine and are moderately injected; the cheeks, lips and tongue are of a deep red color; the thirst is very great; the pulse 110 to 112 in a minute.”
“Even at the very beginning of the vascular excitement, hemorrhages occur, especially from the nose and, in women, from the genitals. The former almost always afford relief the latter, which are generally mistaken for the menstrual flow, last but a few hours, or, at the most, a day, and produce no change in the condition of the patient.”
“The symptoms of a change in the composition of the blood [of a sort of decomposition, being the first evidence of action upon the organic substance] appear in a moderate degree only and somewhat later. There appear upon the skin, small ecchymoses; the expectoration has a bloody tinge; the stools rarely contain blood.”
“The nervous functions are always powerfully affected, they are oppressed and restricted. The organs of sense are, in the beginning, in a condition of over excitability. There is a great sensibility to light, noise, etc.”
“The sensorium is oppressed and ratiocination is difficult even in the very beginning of the disease. The patients are aware of this fact, but endeavors to prevent it being observed; and to this end, when a question is put to them, they evidently gather themselves up and reply hastily, but correctly; at a later period, when their imagination has become too lively, they cannot quite succeed in this and hence their answers are in part correct, in part incoherent; finally the incoherence increases; the patients murmur and keep talking to themselves, or they are disgusted by very lively phantasies of the most various sorts, especially at night. Sleep for the most part, fails entirely; or when for a moment it visits the patient there comes in its train a host of disgusting and burthensome dreams.”
Practical Application. - The abnormal condition of the vascular system is distinctly reflected upon the external skin. This is at first reddened, dry and hot; spots appear, resembling rubeola or measles, upon the thorax and abdomen; if the vascular excitement has subsided, copious sweats occur; along with them, almost always, a miliary eruption.
The condition of the gastric and intestinal mucous membrane is such as to produce: want of appetite; aversion to food; nausea; retching; vomiting. Gases are developed in the intestinal canal, which distend the abdomen. The abdomen becomes sensitive to external pressure under the margins of the left ribs and in the right iliac region.
The stools are at first scanty and infrequent, indeed there may be none for several days; generally, however, they soon become fluid and occur three or four times daily without tenesmus or other discomforts, and at a later period, when they are still more frequent, they pass involuntarily. They consist of serum and of a greenish-brown substance, which, at a later period of the disease is mixed with white floculi.
Resulting from the affection of the mucous membrane of the air-passages, there is a sensation of dryness in the trachea; the somewhat accelerated respiration is, at first, louder, sharper, the expiration audible; at a later period, mucous rales or large crepitation set in. The cough, which, at first, is moderate and dry, becomes gradually more violent and looser in sound, but accompanied by only a very little tenacious sputa, now and then streaked with blood.
The parenchyma of the lungs is congested with blood, especially in the lower lobes and pneumonic infiltrations often form there, which explain the following symptoms, not infrequent in typhoid; constriction of the chest; short anxious respiration; sticking pains in the sides, etc.
The urine is scanty; it is deficient in chloride of sodium and in urea; rich in sulphates, phosphates and other salts which are always abundant in diseases characterized by a tendency to decomposition of the blood. The urine, moreover, is turbid, looks like whey, deposits an abundant white sediment, and shows, by the albumen which it contains, the hyperemic condition of the kidneys.
“In the former case viz., that of a return-to health, the febrile movements slacken; sleep again visits the patient; the sensorial phenomena becomes less abnormal; the patient gets his appetite again and congratulates himself on his fine condition; the diarrhea and tympanitis may last a few days longer than the other symptoms, but they, then, vanish and there remain only a moderate degree of weakness and emaciation, and paleness of the skin.”
“In the event, however, of the development of the disease to a still higher grade of erethism, we have not, generally, long to wait. In this case, it is possible that Arsenicum will be our remedy ” - for Arsenicum, as we shall see by and by, affects both the vascular and nervous life on the one hand and the blood composition on the other hand; it acts, with almost equal energy on the vital forces and on the organic substance. It is hence appropriate for such a form of fever as that described as requiring Rhus. But Arsenicum acts with greater energy, with a wider swing and deeper penetration than Rhus. It perverts more thoroughly, excites more profoundly the vital functions - it alters more extensively and more completely the blood and the organic substance than Rhus does. It is therefore appropriate for more malignant epidemics of fever, for more severe cases of the same form of fever than Rhus.
Thus, as regards the erethistic form of typhoid fever, a group is formed consisting of Rhus and Arsenic, which — instead of being contrasted as Rhus and Phosph. acid were — are analogous and allied. They stand related to each other as less and greater - Rhus being the less and Arsenic the greater.
But if the fever change from the erethistic into the torpid form, then Phosphoric acid will probably be required as the correlative of Rhus, or if, the torpor be extreme, Carbo veg. may be required, as the correlative of Arsenic.
“If we hold up, beside this picture of the disease, the picture of the action of Rhus tox., so striking is the similarity that it will not be easy to mistake it. They agree not alone in this: that, in both, the same symptoms and groups of symptoms appear, but also that they have, in both, the same significance. The similarity is therefore not simply apparent; it is real. For as in typhus the blood-life is especially affected, the same is the case in the Rhus disease. As in typhus, by reason of the changes in the blood, a violent excitement occurs in the vascular system, the same is the case with Rhus. As in typhus the sensorial functions are depressed, and in consequence of this depression the imagination is unchained and set loose to work its fancy, and the representations of the general perceptive faculty no longer correspond to the phenomena upon which this faculty is exercised; as in typhus, the mucous membranes, especially those of the intestinal canal, in which deposits and irritations never fail, are especially involved; in short, just as typhus, in spite of the erethism which is present, is an adynamic morbid process, in the exact sense of the word, and tends to produce, even in the beginning, a decomposition of the blood and an exhaustion of the vital force - the very same is true, in all these respects, of the morbid affection produced on the healthy subject by Rhus tox.”
But, it will perhaps be more practically profitable to introduce here, while the subject is fresh in the mind of the reader, an episode on the use of Phosphoric acid, the correlative of Rhus tox. in typhoid. In this, as before, I follow and quote Dr. Wurmb:
“The morbid condition corresponding to Phosphoric acid agrees in essential points with that which requires Rhus. In both we find the same relations to the blood and nerve-life: the same tendency to decomposition of the blood and to waste of the forces: the same changes in the mucous membranes generally, but especially in that of the intestinal canal, etc.”
The difference between them consists in this, that in the Rhus affection there is, more prominent, an erethism of one portion of the vital phenomena and a depression of another portion, a one-sided excitement and a one-sided depression, whereas, in the Phosphoric acid affection there is a general and simultaneous depression, letting down, atony of the entire series of vital phenomena. Whereas, in the Rhus affection, we see excitement and over activity in the functions of vegetative life, and simultaneous depression in the functions of animal life, we see in the Phosphoric acid affection simultaneous and immediate depression in the functions of both of these departments of the patient's organism. Generally this depression appears in the very beginning of the sickness, though not always, for sometimes partial phenomena of excitement usher in the disease; these, however, are of short duration and very moderate intensity and after their disappearance the torpid character of the attack is all the more distinctly perceptible.
Cases of this kind are most frequently observed in debilitated subjects who have passed the prime of life; they require a longer time for their development into a distinct form of disease. Thus, for example, there are often noticed loss of appetite, feeling of illness and a host of other preliminary symptoms which indicate an impending illness but give no clue to its particular form and character - these, for weeks together, before the peculiar and really important symptoms set in which assure the diagnosis. When these latter have at last made their appearance we observe the following:
The sensations of illness and prostration reach speedily a very high grade, and pari passu with these sensations, goes an actual want of power and hence the patients, even in the very beginning of the malady, are content to lie quiet, because every movement is a heavy tax upon them.
The disturbances in the vascular system do not advance in the same ratio, but lag behind; the pulse is often accelerated it is true, though sometimes it is not, and in the former case, it is generally feeble and small. The temperature is but seldom elevated; indeed it sometimes sinks below the normal grade. If it is increased, the increase is confined to isolated parts of the body, especially the head, while other parts, the extremities in particular, are cold to the touch; the patients, hence, are pale, or have only sometimes a flush of redness. Hemorrhages, as for example from the nose, are much more frequent, but they afford no relief; nay, they commonly aggravate the condition of the patient. Ecchymoses are likewise common occurrences, and there are particularly apt to occur on the spots on which the patients lie, livid spots, which at a later period become sloughing bed-sores.
The patients, for the most part, lie in a constant slumber, which is apt to pass into a higher grade of stupor; the expression of the face is stupid; the sensorium is oppressed; the delirium, if it exist, is never lively or active; it takes only the form of an unintelligible murmuring. If the patient be aroused from this stupor, it takes him a long time to come to his senses, be looks around him in a kind of dull stupid wonder, answers slowly, even though it be correctly, and soon sinks back again into his former apathetic condition.
The skin soon loses its plumpness, takes on a shriveled aspect and is loose and wrinkled; the cheeks become sunken; the nose pointed; the skin is constantly clammy, moist, and even often covered with a copious sweat and with countless miliary vesicles.
In the thorax are heard large crepitation and rhonchus. Cough is rare, because the need to expel the mucus is not felt, by the patient. A similar condition obtains in the mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines; the stools are copious, often involuntary and passed unconsciously. They are very liquid, contain but little sediment and show sometimes traces of blood.
This state of things may pass off into health or may merge in a still higher grade of torpor. If the former change takes place, the recovery is a slow one and relapses commonly take place even when the improvement has been for some time in process.
If, however, the latter change takes place, and the state of things above described give place to a still more complete and absolute torpor, then it is probable that Carbo veg. will be the remedy indicated. For, just as we have seen that in the erethistic form of typhoid fever, Rhus and Arsenic bear to each other the relation of less and greater, so in the torpid form of the disease do Phosphoric acid and Carbo veg. bear to each other the same relation of less and greater. And the proving of Carbo veg., I may here remark, is the very type and representative of an asthenic and torpid pathogenesis.
These remarks will suffice to give an idea of the application of Rhus in fevers. They have included no name except that of typhoid fever - but surely, I need not at this hour, remind the reader that, no matter how different may be the names that are applied to morbid conditions, if the conditions be similar the remedy may be the same. Now it often happens that in the course of the exanthematous fevers, measles and scarlatina, a similar train of symptoms to those already described makes its appearance and calls for Rhus. Especially is, this the case in scarlatina, a disease in which the value of Rhus is not well understood by the profession. It will be more ably expounded than I could do it by Dr. Wells in some of the forthcoming numbers of the American Homoeopathic Review.
The indication for Rhus in scarlatina is still stronger if, in addition to symptoms already detailed, there be an edematous condition of the fauces, soft palate and uvula with vesicles upon these parts and a singularly annoying itching, smarting and burning.
Independently of scarlatina, epidemics of influenza often occur presenting this edematous condition of the soft parts of the fauces and pharynx and even threatening edema glottidis. The curtain of the palate is puffed and pink; the uvula is elongated, puffed, translucent, and the end is often nearly spherical, looking like a great drop of fluid or jelly just ready to fall off. Vesicles stud the pharynx. The rawness and roughness of pharynx and larynx is almost intolerable. Such an influenza is generally attended by symptoms of great debility. In any case it finds a suitable and prompt remedy in Rhus, as I have often experienced.
In paralysis, especially of the lower extremities, Rhus is an important remedy. But the paralysis for which it is appropriate is not that form which results from a lesion of the spinal cord. It is rather of the motor than of the sensitive nerves, for I believe sensation is not much impaired. In the form known as rheumatic paralysis where the paralysis has supervened upon rheumatism, Rhus is especially called for. So likewise, as would be expected, in cases resulting from undue exposure to cold and dampness, especially exposure of the back or limbs.
This explains the value of Rhus in a form of paralysis not rare in very young children. It affects only the lower extremities and comes, I am persuaded, though it is difficult to trace these things, from nurses allowing children to sit down on cold stone-steps. If these paralyses last long they produce deformity by arrest of development. They are in general easily cured with Rhus and an occasional dose of Sulphur.
As regards the application of Rhus in rheumatism, I believe, enough has been said of the characteristic action of Rhus to solve all doubts on this subject. Just as Rhus produces in the mucous membranes an inflammation which is not phlegmonous only inasmuch as it does not go on to suppuration, so does it act on the serous membranes of the joints and muscles. The serous secretions ate increased and edematous swellings are produced. The local manifestations, therefore, resemble those of rheumatism.
The fever has been described. The general condition must be of an erethistic typhoid character. The joints are swollen, edematous, the pains worse during repose and stimulating the patient to constant exertion and motion of the part, both day and night, (restlessness only at night requires Causticum).
The skin is the part most obviously affected by Rhus. It produces a most remarkable imitation of vesicular erysipelas and is our most valued remedy in this affection. Anyone who has seen a case of Rhus-poisoning (for which, by the way, the best remedy is Sepia,) will recognize the similarity to eczema, of which, in its various form, Rhus is a most valuable remedy. But its grand role is in the treatment of the pustular form; Impetigo Eczematodes or Eczema Impetiginodes - or Baker's Itch as it is called.
|The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 06 No. 07, 1866, pages 270-275, pages 309-315, pages 343-348, pages 385-393
|Observations on Rhus.
|errors only; interlinks; formatting