Truthfulness with me is hardly a virtue. I cannot discriminate between truths that need and those that need not to be told.
It has always been desirable to tell the truth, but seldom if ever necessary.
[Arthur J. Balfour]
Calvatia gigantea. Lycoperdon bovista [?]. Giant Puffball. Molly-puff. N.O. Fungi.
CONFUSION Confusion of mind and head was one of the symptoms arising from the proving of Bovista. The confusion appears to have affected the nomenclature, too, since Bovista is found under numerous names in homoeopathic literature: Calvatia gigantea, Langermannia gigantea, Lycoperdon giganteum, Bovista gigantea, Globaria bovista, Lycoperdon bovista, Lycoperdon globosum, Bovista nigrescens. In his Companion to the British and American Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeias, Ashwell describes the mushroom as follows: “Stemless; a regular globe, with only two coats; smooth, soft and yellowish-white when young, becoming yellow, and then brown; filled with a white cottony substance, which becomes brown, and contains when ripe, an immense quantity of extremely fine brown-black spores. Habitat, on dry meadows and downs in most parts of Europe.”
CLASSIFICATION The puffballs [Lycoperdales] comprise three groups:  Calvatia [Giant Puffballs],  Lycoperdon [Common Puffballs], and  Bovista [Tumbling Puffballs].  Calvatia species are medium-sized to very large [size of a basketball]; stalk or sterile base are usually absent; they grow on meadows, fields and open hillsides; the spores are deep olive-brown to brown; the spore mass is firm and white when immature, then slowly darkening to olive brown, dark brown, or purple and becoming powdery and cottony.  Lycoperdons are not stemless, but have a sterile base; they are small to medium-sized and prefer rotten wood or forest floors as their habitat; the outer layer of the fruiting body is warty or spiny.  Bovista species are small and found mostly in grassy or open areas; the fruiting body is more or less round and ruptures to form a large mouth at the top; the inner layer is usually thin and papery when mature, resulting in them breaking loose from the soil and tumbling about freely in the wind; the outer layer lacks distinct spines or warts; being white and firm at first, the spore mass finally becomes powdery [not cottony]. 1 In conclusion, the Bovista used in homoeopathy is actually a Calvatia species, in particular Calvatia gigantea, since this species is very common in meadows in Europe.
FEATURES Puffballs are mushrooms with a fruiting body that consists of a roundish to oval spore case. Some species are stemless, others are stalked or have a sterile base beneath the spore case. “The skin of the spore case is usually composed of an inner an outer layer. … The interior of the spore case is usually white and firm when young, but turns yellow, greenish, brown, or purplish as the spores mature, first becoming mushy as moisture is released, then powdery or cottony as the moisture evaporates. The spore colour corresponds to that of the mature spore mass, and is usually some shade of brown or purple. Once the spores have matured, the spore case either splits open or rupture irregularly or disintegrates – thereby exposing the spore mass to the elements – or a mouth or slit [apical pore] forms at the top, so that the spore case looks and acts like a miniature volcano. … Puffballs can be found almost anywhere at any time, but are especially prominent in prairies, deserts, and high mountains, where other fungi are not so plentiful.”2
HABITAT The Giant Puffball is among the most prolific of living organisms. An average-sized specimen may contain 7 trillion spores. Instead of splitting open at the top, Calvatias crack up into flat scales which eventually flake off. Though often not larger than a moderately sized turnip, the Giant Puffball may reach a size of 90 cm or more in diameter. It is usually found solitary, scattered, or in groups or large circles in fields, pastures, cemeteries, on exposed hillsides, along roads, and in drainage ditches. “Because of its preference for open hillsides, it can often be spotted from the road. Large specimens, in fact, have been mistaken by passers-by for herds of grazing sheep! [Mushroom hunters, on the other hand, are more likely to mistake grazing sheep for giant puffballs.] Dried specimens found under houses have been mistaken for bleached skulls, while a sinister-looking individual found in England during the war was labelled ‘Hitler’s Secret Weapon’ and used for propaganda purposes at an exhibition to raise war funds!”3
NAME The puffball derives its name from the ‘puff’ or clouds of spore dust that emerges when a mature specimen is touched by a gust of wind, or poked, squeezed, or kicked by man or animal. The Blackfoot Indians of North America called puffballs ‘fallen stars’ or ‘dusty stars’. The name Calvatia derives either from L. calvus, bald, or from L. calvaria, the roof of the skull, both in allusion to its smooth and globular shape. Puffballs have scatological associations. Lycoperdon means ‘wolf’s fart’ in Latin, which is in keeping with common names as ‘pixie-puff’ and ‘puckfist’, denoting an imp’s silent fart. To the Basque people the puffball is the ‘ass’s fart’. Among the Maori of New Zealand puffballs are known as ‘faeces of ghosts or stars’. Using the puffball for obstetrical purposes, the Dakota Indians called it ‘baby’s navel’.
USES Dried Giant Puffballs have been used as sponges, toys, dyes, and tinder. “In divers parts of England where people dwell farre from neighbours, they carry them kindled with fire, which lastest long: whereupon they were called Lucernarum Fungi. The dust or powder hereof is very dangerous for the eyes, for it hath been often seen, that divers have been pore-blinde ever after, when some small quantities thereof hath been blowne into their eyes. The country people do use to kill or smother Bees with these Puffe-balls, being set on fire, for the which purpose it fitly serveth.”4 The belief that the spores were harmful to the eyes lead to the English name ‘blind man’s ball’. The spores, however, are more likely to cause a persistent pneumonitis called lycoperdonosis.
EFFECTS Young puffballs are used as food in nearly all European countries as well as in North America. They can be sliced and fried like pancakes, or dropped as cubes in soups, or eaten raw in salads. They may have laxative effects. “But it is only in the immature condition, whilst the interior remains fleshy and perfectly white, that they are edible, and on no account should any puffball be cooked after the flesh has commenced discolouration, as poisonous properties are apt to be developed when old, even before decomposition sets in, so that it is essential they should be eaten only before the development of the spores.”5 It seems unlikely that puffballs commencing to become yellow will be appetizing, since the spore mass emits an odour like old urine when ripening.
TOXICOLOGY Puffballs have a reputation as a haemostatic, for which purpose either the spores or the internal cottony mass are employed. This use was developed independently by various groups in different parts of the world, including native North Americans. Puffballs were commonly used to stop the bleeding of men wounded in battle. If inhaled in large amounts, the smoke from the burning fungus is said to cause anaesthesia, and death by respiratory failure. In Allen’s Encyclopedia of Pure Materia Medica symptoms are included which were observed from inhaling the fumes of the burning fungus. In a botanical work of the mid-nineteenth century, the Reverend Hugh Macmillan describes the anaesthetic and sleep-inducing properties of puffballs. “The common puffball deprives the patient of speech, motion, and sensibility to pain, while he is still conscious of everything that happens around him. … When the fumes of the burning fungus are slowly inhaled, they gradually produce all the symptoms of intoxication, followed first by drowsiness, and then by perfect insensibility to pain, terminating, if the inhalation be continued, in vomiting, convulsions, and ultimately in death.” Attributing it to the presence of carbon dioxide, the stupefying effect of the smoke has been disputed. There is, on the other hand, enough evidence that puffballs possess narcotic properties. The North American Flathead Indians, for example, rub spores of certain puffball species [probably Lycoperdon] on the eyelids and cheeks of children to induce sleep. Even hallucinogenic effects have been reported. By ingestion of one or two specimens of Lycoperdon species, the Mixtec Indians of Mexico brought about a state of half-sleep, during which voices and echoes were heard. The course of future events was then deduced from the echo answers.
CANCER “Of all the biological activities lying untapped within the fleshy macrofungi, the possible role of mushrooms in treating patients with cancer has created the most excitement. The antineoplastic properties of fungi were initially reported in the 1950s when the giant puffball, Calvatia gigantea, was shown to contain a compound – labelled calvacin – that was thought to be active against tumours. This report followed earlier work with other mushrooms and was published during the period when many products were being screened for antimicrobial activities. Because various forms of cancer are common, many folklore remedies have been developed to treat them. It was from old stories about the use of mushrooms for this purpose that the idea to test the puffball first originated.”6
ALUMINIUM The ash of Calvatia gigantea contains high contents of aluminium.
HEAVY METALS “Many species of the higher fungi – from a large number of different genera, including many of the best-known edible varieties – have been shown to concentrate or accumulate trace elements, including some of the toxic metals. … Many different trace elements have been detected in mushrooms, although concentrations depended on where the specimens were collected. It is clear that many of the fungi have the ability to preferentially accumulate and concentrate certain elements in their fruiting bodies, even when the soil contains only trace elements. The reasons for the ability of mushrooms to concentrate these minerals are entirely unknown. Mushrooms may play the role of ‘sink’, removing many of these elements from the environment and reducing their availability to the plant community. Cultivated mushrooms also concentrate heavy metals, which have been found in the oyster mushroom and others. This finding is important because many of the commercial mushrooms are cultivated on waste material, which could potentially be contaminated with heavy metals. Mercury and cadmium are the elements most often encountered in appreciable levels in species of Agaricus. They are not limited to this genus, however. Nor are these elements the only ones accumulated by mushrooms. Vanadium, selenium, arsenic, lead, manganese, bromine, nickel, silver, and gold have been detected. Lead is one of the elements not specifically concentrated by mushrooms. For this reason, it is only a problem in areas of high environmental contamination, for example, around lead smelters [and their downwind extension] and along busy roadways. Measuring of the concentration of mercury [mg/kg of dried mushroom] in edible mushrooms harvested in Switzerland in 1976 demonstrated in Lycoperdon perlatum a concentration of 2.87-3.75 in agricultural areas, of 3.32 in industrial areas, and of 11.0 in urban areas.”7
VANITY Curtis Gates Lloyd [1859-1926], one of the leading experts in the identification of puffballs, objected strongly to the practice of adding the name of the discoverer of a fungus after its Latin name. As part of his satirical attack on this ‘advertising’ and ‘name-juggling’, Lloyd created Professor N.J. McGinty, through whom he named several fungi, including the fictitious Lycoperdon anthropomorphus. As satirical was the epitaph prepared for his own tombstone: Curtis Gates Lloyd – Monument erected in 1922 by himself, for himself during his life to gratify his own vanity – What fools these mortals be. 8
PROVINGS ••  Hartlaub, Nenning, Schreter – method: unknown; according to Hughes, it ‘is one of the vicious symptom-lists of the sub-Hahnemannic epoch, without any information as to subjects, doses, or relations between symptoms.”
••  Petroz – method: ‘symptoms observed from inhaling the fumes of the burning fungus’ and ‘symptoms observed by a young woman from olfaction of the tincture.’
[1-3] Arora, Mushrooms Demystified. 4 Gerard, The Herbal.  Grieve, A Modern Herbal. [6-7] Benjamin, Mushrooms: Poisons and Panaceas.  Hudler, Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Moulds.
CIRCULATION [HEART; uterus; kidneys]. SKIN. Nervous system. * Right side. Left side.
Worse: Menses. Full moon. Getting warm. Early morning. On waking. Cold food. Hot weather. Coffee. Wine.
Better: Doubling up. Eating. Hot food.
c COMMON SYMPTOMS OF BOVISTA AND AGARICUS
Audacity. – Courageous. – Awkwardness; drops things. – Delusion distances are enlarged. – Irritability after coition. – Speech by jerks. – Stammering speech. – Stammering from excitement. – Sudden vertigo. – Lachrymation during headache. – Feeling as if eyes were drawn backward, during headache. – Epistaxis from blowing nose in morning. – Obstructed nose at night. – Itching of sacrum and coccyx. – Sensation of strength. –
M Unreserved conversation.
• “Very open-hearted; she spoke of her own failings, contrary to her custom.” [Allen]
This proving symptom is included in the repertories [mind section] as Tells the plain truth. Addition to the rubric Revealing secrets may be considered.
• “To tell the truth is obviously such a rare feature that only four remedies are given under this heading in the SR. When I met a lady with heavy fibroid bleedings for the first time, she told me everything about her sexual relationships and her attitude of changing partners. It was no problem for her to talk about these very personal matters. As if it was something everybody should know about. There was no proudness, nor timidity, no ‘I-do-not-know-if-I-should-tell-it’. It was as it was and it was told as it was. She says what she thinks – the truth. Not in an offending way as perhaps in Hyoscyamus or Tarentula. It differs also from the ‘truth’ we find in Veratrum album. In Veratrum it is the truth about the whole world, what all the deep secrets of mankind really hide. This is totally different from Bovista, which just means the truth about oneself. It is just open-heartedness regarding very personal matters. These are spontaneous, lively, quick acting, active people.”1
M Alternating moods.
Crying # laughing.
Great exhilaration in morning – “life seems very pleasant to her” – peevishness and irritability in evening.
Lively when in company; sad, depressed, and not interested in anything, when alone.
Despair # hope.
• “At one time life seemed very exciting to him, at another very hateful.” [Allen]
c Compare: Great changes of colour in face, which is at one time red, at another pale.
M Courage and strength.
• “Very courageous and vigorous; he would like to fight with everybody.” [Allen]
[compare the fearlessness and increased strength of Agaricus.]
M Sensation as if enveloped in a black vapour. [Anguish]
M Mistakes in space.
• “She feared that a person sitting near her would stick the scissors into her eyes, although she sat two steps away and was cutting paper; all her visual perceptions were distorted; it seemed as if the scissors were close before her eyes.”
• “Sensation as if objects turned bottom upwards.” [During sudden attack of faintness.] [Allen]
c Compare: Defective accommodation [Agar.].
Easily intoxicated from wine.
Great confusion and absentmindedness, resulting in mistakes in writing and dulness of head. Can’t concentrate on what one is doing or saying.
Staring, lost in thoughts.
M AWKWARDNESS: in speech and movements; drops things, stutters, etc.
For the Dutch homoeopathic physician Vrijlandt, Bovista is a specific for stammering bachelors who are easily angered and then stammer even more. 2
G Chilly persons, sensitive to cold; chilly during pains.
G Much thirst [common to fungus remedies].
• Unquenchable thirst, in one who had previously never needed to drink [after 3 hours].” [Hughes]
G < DURING and AFTER MENSES. G < After coition. G Feeling of distension. Head as if enlarged. Heart as if enlarged. Cheeks and lips as if swollen. Cheeks as if about to burst from heat. Actual distension / swelling Flatulent distension. Abdomen puffed up at single spots. Puffy condition of skin. Pitting oedema. Intolerance of clothing around waist. • “Swelling of cervical glands; pain in upper front teeth, which are tender on touch and on chewing, somewhat on upper lip beginning to swell; this it continues to do till it hangs over lower one, and is in line with nose; after swelling of lip has subsided a little left cheek began to swell; all swollen parts are tender to touch [14th day].” [Hughes] G PRESSING pains, deep inward. G Tough, stringy and tenacious discharges from nose and all mucous membranes. [Kali-bi.] G Haemorrhagic tendency. Epistaxis; in the morning; [slight] on sneezing. Bleeding of gums, on sucking them. Profuse bleeding after tooth extraction. Excessive haemorrhages during climaxis. Bleeding between periods. Menses only or chiefly at night, or most profusely in morning, and scanty during the day and night. Dreams that she had a bleeding wound. P Eyes. Hartlaub records an interesting observation related to light. • “Confusion and heaviness in occiput, with inclination of eyelids to close, and feeling as if eyes would be drawn backwards [esp. in clear evening light], with anxiety and restlessness of body.” [Hughes] P Obstruction of nose, troubling one in speaking. < At night. And Pressing pain in temples. P ACNE DUE TO COSMETICS. P Great DRYNESS / numbness of mouth and throat in morning on waking; tongue seems almost like wood. P Feeling of icy coldness in stomach. Mössinger considers this symptom specific for Bovista in chronic gastritis, esp. if accompanied by an objective coldness of the skin over the stomach region. 3 P DIARRHOEA BEFORE and during MENSES. P Perspiration in axillae smells like GARLIC [or onions]. P Intolerable itching at tip of coccyx; must scratch until raw and sore. P Urticaria and diarrhoea, palpitation, rheumatic lameness or menorrhagia. < Bathing, excitement. Chronic. Red scabby eruption on thighs and bends of knees, appearing with hot weather and with full moon.  Swoboda, “Telling the truth”; HL 2/93.  Vrijlandt, Homeopathische prescriptie in de praktijk.  Mössinger, Allg. Hom. Zeitung, 1955 Heft 2. Rubrics Mind Anxiety during headache . Chaotic . Cheerful in company [1/1]. Confusion > after breakfast , after coition , knows not where he is at night , while standing , when stooping . Delusions, a heavy black cloud enveloped her [1*]; objects are turned upside down [1*]. Discontented after eating . Fear of pins [pointed things] . Irritability, taking everything in bad part . Openhearted loquacity . Secretive .
After coition . Before menses ; during menses . From wine .
Feeling of constriction on entering a room [1/1]. Pain, > perspiration ; in forehead, above eyes, extending to nose [1; Agar.*].
Defective accommodation [1*]. Vertical hemiopia .
Epistaxis in morning in bed , in bleeders , during sleep .
Twitching of facial muscles before attack of asthma [1/1].
Dryness, as from sand in it [1/1]. Numbness of posterior part of tongue [3/1]. Stammering speech , from anger [excitement] [1*].
Appetite, constant , ravenous soon after eating , wanting in morning . Sensation of icy coldness, during pain , with objective coldness of skin over gastric region [1/1*]. Nausea during palpitation .
Pain > eating , > motion .
Copious during headache . Purple sediment .
Menses, copious in morning , copious < exertion , scanty during daytime . Chest Sensation of emptiness . Oppression < clothing . Sensation of swelling of heart . Sensation as if heart were swimming in water . Back Sensation of heaviness in lumbar region before menses [1/1]. Pain, dorsal, between scapulae > straightening up the back [1/1]. Stiffness after stooping [1/1].
Sensation as if leg were too short, from cramp in calf [1*].
Sleeplessness after coition , from coldness , from itching .
Of being in a cellar and that the walls were falling in [1/1], that she was obliged to remain and could not get out [1/1]. Danger of drowning . Of snakes biting [1; Cench.; Irid.]. Of having a bleeding wound [1/1*].
Odour of urine . On single parts, front of body .
Eruptions, urticaria at night , after bathing , with diarrhoea , after excitement , during menses , from warmth and exercise . Indented easily from pressure [3; Ars.; Verat.].
* Repertory additions [Hughes].
Aversion: : Cooked food; milk; tobacco; warm food.
Desire: : Cold drinks. : Alcohol; bread; bread, only; brandy; milk; wine.
Worse: : Cold food. : Coffee; dry food; wine.
Better: : Hot food.