May 13, 2012

Belladonna - Solanum maniacum furiosum, lethale of the ancients ; strychnos manikos of Dioscorides, (though not all authors agree on this point) ; deadly nightshade.

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 - Solanum maniacum furiosum, lethale of the ancients ; strychnos manikos  of Dioscorides, (though not all authors agree on this point) ; deadly nightshade.
 - Genus atropa, family solaneae, class pentandria monogynia ; the generic name is derived from atropos, one of the Parcae who cut the thread of life, and the special name of this plant emanates from a former custom of the Italian ladies, according to Debregne, *  Merat and Delens, * etc., to wash their faces with the distilled water of this plant, for the purpose of rendering their complexion fairer ; or, which is much more probable, for the purpose of procuring an artificial color in their faces.
 - This plant, which is found almost all over Europe, prefers a dry soil, and the slopes of hills.
 - It being of importance to a practitioner to know it well, we will give an exact description of it.*
 - ``The root is cylindrical, of a middling thickness, slightly ligneous, bent like a knee, rounded, brownish-yellow on the outside, whitish within, succulent, of a stupefying smell, and a nauseous, sweetish taste ; it transforms the natural salvia into froth ; the stem is erect, round, from 3 to 5 feet high, of a reddish-brown color, striated, branching off into three parts ; the leaves, which are attached by short foot-stalls to the stem, are in pairs of unequal sizes, longer near the root, and shorter high up, oval, pointed at both extremities, entire, pretty smooth, of a dusky-green color on their upper surfaces, and paler beneath.
 - The flowers, which are supported upon solitary peduncles, and rise from the axis of the leaves, are about an inch long, of a dingy green-yellow color, with bro3nish veins, violet at the forepart ; the fruit is a roundish berry, with a longitudinal furrow on each side, at first green, afterwards red, ultimately of a deep purple color, bearing considerable resemblance to the black cherry, except that it has a nauseous, slightly sweetish taste ; it contains numerous kidney-shaped seeds in two distinct cells, and has a sweetish, violet-colored juice.
 - The stems and leaves of this plant exhale a disagreeable, poisous, but not very marked odor.''
 - The chemical analysis of belladonna has not yet furnished us with very precise and truly interesting results ; its deleterious properties are generally attributed to the presence of an alkaloid which was discovered by Brandes, and to which he has given the name atropine.
 - When pure, it exists in the shape of small prisms, with a silky gloss, has a bitter taste, is soluble in five hundred parts its volume of cold water, and, by combination with acids, gives rise to the formation of salts.
 - Experiments with belladonna have been made on animals of different species, and with various results.
 - ``It appears,'' says Giacomini, ``that only goats can eat the leaves of belladonna with impunity ; all other animals suffer more or less from them, or are killed by them.'' *
 - This is not so.
 - We read in the ``Journal de pharmacie,'' * that a rabbit was fed exclusively on the leaves of belladonna for eight days, without being apparently incommoded by them, and without showing any signs of dilatation of the pupils.
 - Carnivorous animals (such as dogs and cats) were more sensitive to the action of belladonna.
 - Daries, Rossi, etc., * have seen the pupils of these animals sensibly dilated by the action of belladonna.
 - Dogs to which Orfila had given 15 grammes of the extract, died from it in twenty-four hourse *.
 - It must be admitted, however, that 15 grammes are an enormous dose, and that men have perished from much smaller quantities.
 - What is the conclusion that we derive from such facts ?
 - First, that belladonna is more pernicious to carnivorous than to herbivorous animals, since goats and rabbits eat it with perfect impunity.
 - In such a case, is belladonna, like nux vomica, nothing but a hypersthenisant poison so much more frightful in its effects upon animals and men, that they have a harder, more resisting fiber, or, in vulgar parlance but which expresses my idea perfectly, a harder life ?
 - If this were so, belladonna would destroy carnivorous animals more rapidly, and when given in smaller quantity, than men ; which is not the case.*
 - the action of this poison is not, therefore, proportional to the degree of resistance offered by the inherent vitality with which every being has been endowed by nature.
 - the suggestions which I here offer, seem to imply a general law, and it seems to me that I confer  real benefit on the healing art by giving the solution of one of the most important therapeutic problems that have been proposed since the days of Hahnemann ; it is as follows :
 - The deleterious action of belladonna is exactly proportionate, in every species as in every individual, to the degree of development and functional activity of the organs upon which the poison exercises its specific action, namely he brain.
 - This explains to us-
 - 1st. Why, of all animals, man is most accessible to the action of belladonna.
 - 2d. Why, among men in a state of health, or to whose disease (by a legitimate application of the law of similitude) it corresponds most exactly, those are most powerfully affected by belladonna whose cerebral faculties are most liable to becoming irritated by particular causes, or whose physical brains, consequently heads, have the greatest development ; these are, of course, children.
 - In proof of this theory, I will state a fact mentioned by Hufeland, * that idiots are protected from the deleterious action of belladonna, which they eat with almost the same degree of impunity as animals of an inferior order, by the inertia and incomplete development of their cerebral organ.
 - Speaking of the deleterious effects of medical science are to state, that although the annals of medical science are freighted with reports of cases of poisoning by this drug, yet, they seldom terminate fatally, although the effects are more or less serious, or rather more or less alarming.*
 - Debregne has furnished the following list of the toxical effects of belladonna :
 - ``Nausea ; vomiting dryness of the mouth and throat ; thirst ; dysphagia ' anxiety ; lipothymia ; cardialgia ; colic ; constipation ; dulness of the head ; headache ; dizziness ; vertigo ; paleness of the face ; dulness of the senses ; red, prominent, wandering eyes, ; immoveable and widely dilated pupils ; cloudiness, and even permanent loss of sight ; delirium, which is generally of a merry kind, but sometimes assuming a furious character ; loquacity ; singing ; laughing ; dancing ; stupidity ; appearance of drunkenness ; mania ; craziness ; rage ; a variety of gesticulations ; extraordinary contortions ; frequent motions of the arms and hands ; convulsive movements ; trismus, ; tetanic stiffness of the spine or extremities ; staggering gait ; general muscular weakness ; strange hallucinations of various kinds ; mental exaltation ; difficulty of articulating ; thin, hoarse, croupy voice ; aphonia ; somnolence ; coma ; lethargy ; somnambulism ; pulse frequent. excited or slow, feeble and irregular ; short, accelerated, or irregular and oppressive, stertorous breathing ; profuse sweat ; aversion to liquids ; cutaneous heat ; scarlatinous eruption ; gangrenous spots ; incontinence of urine ; dysuria ; ischuria ; lastly , syncope, or convulsions ; subsultus tendinum ; risus sardonicus ; swelling and insensibility of the abdomen ; small, filiform, wretched pulse ; cold extremities ; sinking os strength ; prostration ; death. *
 - Having read most cases of poisoning by belladonna that have been published for the last half century, and having met with two cases in my own practice, I might easily have given a tolerably complete pathogenesis of belladonna, such, at any rate, as would have embodied all the principal effects resulting from poisonous doses ; but I have preferred using the text of Debregne.
 - I was anxious to deprive such of the alloeopathic practitioners as might wish to read my work and become more accurately informed in regard to the subject of homoeopathy, of every possible pretext of rejecting my own conclusions, by basing them upon evidence, derived, not from the works of Hahnemann or his disciples, but from facts, cures and modes of treatment related by the best and most authentic writers of the alloeopathic school.
 - Alloeopathic physicians differ much concerning the best mode of antidoting the poisonous effects of belladonna, as they do concerning most other subjects of therapeutics, large doses of emetics,* purgatives, derivatives applied to the lower extremities, water mixed with vinegar,* coffee, opium, cold and tepid baths, and, above all, the customary general and local depletions, have been recommended as antidotes.*
 - ``Almost all authors mention vinegar as an antidote to belladonna, but only by way of conjecture, and copying one from the other.
 - But this assertion is entirely unfounded.
 - On the contrary, vinegar aggravates the deleterious effects of belladonna.
 - ``Opium appeases the paralytic symptoms, and the pains caused by belladonna, but only antipathically and palliatively.
 - Small doses of opium probably removed the somnolence caused by belladonna.
 - ``The surest and speediest means of homoeopathically arresting the stupor, mental derangement and range caused by belladonna, are small doses of hyoscyamus ; the intoxication yield to wine, as I know from my own experience, and as has already been stated by Tragus and Moibenus.'' *
 - As regards hyoscyamus, I confess I have never used it as an antidote ; but, so far as opium is concerned, I am not entirely of Hahnemann's.
 - I have become too well convinced by experience, that infinitesimal doses of opium and belladonna neutralise each other, to suppose that massive doses can act otherwise than antipathically and palliatively.
 - These two drugs have the same sphere of action, and, if the phenomena which they respectively produce, manifest themselves in an opposite direction, this antagonism takes place simply by virtue of a general law, to which all homeopathic medicines that act as antidotes upon each other are subject.
 - I mean to demonstrate this fact in a special work with which I have been occupied for several months past.
 - The best antidote of massive doses of belladonna, are perhaps infinitesimal doses of the same drug.
 - This is, indeed, the case with haschish, which is antidoted by the dynamised cannabis ; however, the fact remains subject to verification.
 - In most, if not in all cases of poisoning by belladonna, a strong infusion of coffee is sufficient to neutralise the poison, and remove the drug.*
 - Empirical applications.
 - As it is not proved that the otherwise vague description which Theophraste and Dioscorides have left us of the plant which modern authors have supposed to be belladonna, does not rather apply to the mandrake, the therapeutic history of belladonna, as recorded in the works of the ancient authors, is of no interest to us, and does not become invested with a certain character of authenticity until towards the end of the 16th century, or the beginning of the 17th, that is to say about the period when the writings of J.M.  Faber, * J.J.  Mardorf, * and Melchior Frick, * were published.
 - But, from this period, the therapeutic use of belladonna spread very rapidly, and there are few drugs now-a-days, that have been used as much as this agent.
 - In the following diseases its curative effects have been most marked :
 - Mania ; craziness ; epilepsy ; chorea ; convulsions ; tetanus ; hydrophobia ; scarlatina ; ophthalmia ; ceratitis ; iritis ; prolapsus of the iris ; staphyloma ; central spots ; central cataracts ; nyctalopia ; amaurosis ; gastralgia ; spasmodic hiccough ; spasmodic constriction of the throat and larynx ; aphonia ; whopping-cough ; nervous cough ; sternalgia ; facial neuralgia ; neuralgia in general ; spasmodic constriction of the anus, urethra and neck of the womb ; incontinence of the anus, urethra and neck of the womb ; incontinence of urine ; strangulated hernia ; dystocia ; hysteria ; eclampsia ; schirrous (?) engorgement of the breasts and of other glands ; orchitis ; epididymitis ; febris perniciosa (with violent headache) ; * and latterly, ileus and colica saturnina.*
 - It is true, it is only a few years since some of these disease have been treated with belladonna by alloeopathic physicians, most probably in imitation of the homoeopaths.
 - But these silent acts of plagiarism not only compromise the sincerity of those who are guilty of them, but they imply at the same time, a more or less voluntary acknowledgement of our doctrine ; I have, therefore, no desire to complain of them, the rather that the period approaches when public opinion will do them justice.
 - It must not be supposed, however, that all alloeopathic physicians are acquainted with the good effects of belladonna in the above-mentioned disease.
 - In two of them, more particularly, the curative or preventive virtues of this drug are considered purely fictitious by the leading men of the alloeopathic school.
 - I mean hydrophobia and scarlet fever.
 - ``During the latter half of the last century,'' says Trousseau and Pidoux, ``belladonna was looked upon as a specific remedy for hydrophobia, and Murray (appar. med., v. I., p. 639,) has informed us of the result o the many trails that were made with this drug.
 - Unfortunately not one of these experiments is conclusive, and most of them are fictitious.
 - In our time, the inadequacy of belladonna to cure this disease, has become a painful certainty.''*
 - We will content ourselves with opposing to these sweeping and hazardous assertions on the part of Trousseau and Pidoux the following very discreet reflections of Bayle, suggested by Murray's statements :
 - ``Belladonna was given to one hundred and eighty-two patients, all of whom had been bitten by mad dogs.
 - One hundred and seventy.
 - six of this number had been bitten recently, and showed no symptom of hydrophobia ; in the remaining six the disease had fairly broken out ; one of these was attacked with aversion to water, with convulsions and other violent cerebral symptoms.
 - Here are the results of the treatment : the one hundred and sixteen recently bitten were preserved (Munch and his son) ; of the six attacked with the disease four were cured, and two died (Munch, Bucholz, Neimecke).
 - We may, of course, entertain doubts concerning the correctness of all these trails ; we may object that the madness of the dogs was not proven ; but, unless we take it for granted that Munch was an impostor, I should say that one must be wofully given to scepticism in order to reject all the results stated by this author.
 - Why then, it may be asked, has not this mode of treatment been adopted ?
 - For a very simple reason ; it is this ; that, of the physicians who were called upon to treat the patients that had been bitten by mad dogs, not one has instituted consistent experiments with belladonna, either because he was ignorant of Munch's labors, or because he was carried away by he spirit of system, and rejected beforehand every thing that might seem contrary to his preconceived theory.
 - Consequently it seems to me that it is of the utmost importance to repeat Munch's experiments.'' *
 - This is my opinion likewise.
 - Well, have these experiments been repeated in good earnest ?
 - I assert that Messrs.
 - Trousseau and Pidoux could not name any physician who has done it.
 - Except the cauterisation of the wound, which is an useless proceeding (for the absorption of the virus takes place instantaneously), it is not till several paroxysms had broken out, that is to say after the disease had almost become incurable, that alloeopathic physicians brought their more or less absurd means of treatment to bear upon this frightful disorder.*
 - And it is upon such a slender basis that Trousseau and Pidoux found their conviction regarding the inadequacy of the means that have been so far employed against hydrophobia.
 - Having no reason to doubt the statements of Munch, who was an honorable protestant minister, and enjoyed an excellent reputation in his own country ; or of his sons who were respectable physicians, or of such men as Bucholz and Neimecke, I feel obliged to believe in the efficacy of belladonna as a curative, and still more as a prophylactic means against hydrophobia. *
 - I will add, however, that, after the disease has actually broken out, the characteristic symptoms of the attack, the constitutional idiosyncrasies of the patient, or the nature of the climate may require one of the analogues of belladonna, such as cedron or lachesis, or even mercury and arsenic.*
 - Let us now pass over to scarlet fever.
 - The idea of administering belladonna in this disease, both as a curative and a prophylactic medicine, was one of the first and most striking applications of the principle of similitude.
 - This discovery was published by Hahnemann in 1801.*
 - Forced to admit the evidence of facts, alloeopathic physicians took hold of this discovery, without, however, perceiving the general law which was involved in to ; in their eyes, belladonna became simply an additional specific.
 - The manner in which this discovery is spoken of by modern alloeopathic writers, shows that, if they cannot deny that this discovery is due to the founder of homeopathy, they endeavor, at any rate, to detract from its merit.
 - ``We have now to mention,'' say Trousseau and Pidoux, ``the remarkable property possessed by belladonna, of preventing scarlet-fever.
 - Hufeland has done most to spread this idea, which, however, originated with Hahnemann ; he affirms, that by giving belladonna to those who were exposed to the scarlet-fever miasm, the disease is effectually prevented.
 - The German Journals are freighted with facts that seem to confirm this strange idea.
 - Howsoever imposing may be the authorities that assert the prophylactic virtues of belladonna in scarlet-fever, we do not by any means accept their inferences, for the simple reason, that we do not know whether the effects of epidemic influences had been correctly appreciated by these practitioners.'' *
 - The reasons upon which Trousseau and Pidoux base their doubts, seem to me exceedingly obscure ; but the following facts, are, on the contrary, perfectly precise :-
 - ``Two thousand and twenty-seven children exposed to more or less severe epidemic scarlet-fever, took belladonna.
 - One thousand nine hundred and forty-eight were protected from the disease, and seventy-nine were attacked.'' * -
 - Such are the facts, which, without speaking of much more numerous similar, and not less conclusive facts which have since been published in Germany and France, seem to confirm, according to Trousseau and Pidoux, the prophylactic virtue of belladonna in scarlet-fever.*
 - But who are the authors whom our two authors suspect of having failed in correctly estimating the effects of epidemic influences, and whose conclusions they reject ?
 - They are such men as Hahnemann, Hufeland, Rhodius, Schenk, Masius, Gumpert, Wolf, Benedik, Berndt, Zeuch, Kuntsmann, Genecki, Maisier, Velsen, etc.
 - Have Trousseau and Pidoux monopolised the art of observing, and is their book the only one that is worth preserving and believing in ?
 - We pray you, spare Hahnemann !
 - To defy this great practitioner as an observer !
 - Messrs.
 - Trousseau and Pidoux, you have either not read, or not understood a line of this writings.*
 - Homoeopathic Applications.
 - Belladonna is so well known to homoeopathic practitioners, that I need not give a lengthy description of its therapeutic uses.
 - The pathogenesis of this drug explains to us, why it should have been such a useful agent in the hands of empirics.
 - But what is particularly evident from the provings of this drug, is, that it exercises specific curative effects on idiopathic or symptomatic cerebral affections, such as typhus, etc., where a state of vital surexcitation (delirium, convulsions, etc.,) is followed by an order of opposite phenomena (coma, paralysis, etc.).
 - All homoeopathic physicians agree, concerning the form of cerebral derangements, ophthalmia, angina, etc., to which belladonna corresponds most specifically.
 - Let us recall to mind, moreover, that, in conformity to the physiological law which we have pointed out, page 561, belladonna is particularly suitable to persons whose physical brain and cranium are strikingly developed, namely, to children.
 - The dynamised belladonna is antidoted by opium, camphor, and  Hep. Sulp.


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