Emily, a four-year-old girl, first came to see me on January 24, 1992. She was a stocky, blond child who had an unhealthy color to her skin. She was quite pale and had a sullen look, as if a dark cloud shadowed her. She was active with slightly destructive behavior. She was a little rough with the things in my office, banging into tables and slamming doors.
Emily’s mother related the following:
Emily started to have ear infections when she was four months old which stopped a few months later when I took her off dairy. They came back this past summer. The ear infections are usually on the right side and she will have a fever. The pain can be intense. Normally she has a very pale face, but when she gets a fever she flushes and has dark circles under her eyes. She will get quiet and cranky with the fever.
She is a very self-directed and moody child. She will have temper tantrums if you try to influence her. She screams, and will kick and hit if you try to restrain her. She says, “I hate you, you aren’t my friend.” She has an inner violence and has smashed two mirrors recently. She is a very obstinate, bright and intense child; whatever she feels, she feels intensely. She is sensitive.
She is very curious about death and asks a lot of questions about it. She is not fearful but has a precocious understanding. She is fascinated by graveyards and the darker side of life. She likes to watch the video of Bambi’s mother getting shot, over and over again. She will ask, “Why is there death? Where do you go when you die? What happens?” She is fixated on the Red Bull, an evil character in the Last Unicorn video. She likes to watch the bull getting the unicorn.
(At this moment, Emily is hopping like a bunny, around and around in a circle.)
She has a hard time going to sleep and awakens early in the morning. She says she is afraid she will die young, or that she might die in her sleep. She makes humming and muttering noises to pacify herself. She hates the dark, and she sleeps with the light on. Sometimes she has nightmares three to four times a week. She dreams of skeletons, wild animals, and owls. It is almost impossible to wake her. She usually awakens between 1:00 and 4:30 a.m. with the dreams.
She is afraid of monsters under the bed or in the closet, and she used to check for them. She is afraid of coat hangers; I had to take them all out of the closet when she was younger. She is afraid of sirens.
She can be very intense in her focus. She used to unnerve people because of her eye contact as a baby. She walked at five months. She was small for her age and wanted my attention all the time. When she turned four it started to dissipate. She doesn’t do things halfway; it is one extreme or the other. I have had a hard time setting limits; she pushes against them all the time.
She is extremely curious. She has a remarkable connection to animals. She loves to draw pictures of them and tell long stories. She wants to create what she is imagining. Right now she has an idea she wants to save elephants, so she is making plans to build a preserve.
She gets along with other children and has two friends. In a group she has an inward focus and won’t join an activity circle; yet she is the dominant child in playgroups. She is very private about what is going on with her. If I ask about daycare she says, “I don’t want to tell you.” She is guarded about what is going on in her heart. She is not really affectionate.
She is not a morning person. She is warm-blooded and hates wearing clothes. She is not interested in them and will wear the same thing for days. She likes chicken, hot dogs, sausage, peanut butter and sweets. She doesn’t like eggs. She has average thirst. She sleeps on her left.
She has masturbated since she was one and a half years old.
When she was born I labored for 30 hours. She had to be pushed back in before she could come out.
P: I first prescribed Tuberculinum. This had no real effect. I then prescribed Belladonna and Stramonium. Neither of these remedies had any remarkable effect either.
Six years after the initial visit (november 3, 1998)
Emily is 11 years old now, with the same dark circles and pale look-a little like a blond version of the child Wednesday from the Addams Family.
Mother: Emily has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. She started middle school this year and there was a big leap in the amount of homework. It has been a bit of a challenge for her.
Emily: I don’t get most of my homework done; it takes me two to three hours a night. I like certain classes in school like drama class. It’s fun because you get to do whatever you want. We play “freeze” and then we get “sculpted.” I like writing class, too. I think my astronomy and science classes are the most difficult.
(Emily squints and blinks spasmodically throughout our conversation, as if she has a tic.)
I have lots of friends and we don’t get into trouble too much. I like my friend Tanya; you can trust her if you tell her a secret. I live with my mother and step-dad and I see my father three-and-a-half days a week.
I am afraid of wars and worry someone could come and bomb Seattle. And I am afraid of gang members. I’ve read stories. They take drugs and do violence. I don’t want to get hurt. I worry if I am home alone. Sometimes I’ll be home three hours at night while my dad is out. I feel nervous, mostly about robbers. When I was little I was afraid of coat hangers. I still sleep with the light on because when I wake up it is really dark and I like to be able to see.
This year for Halloween I was a killer cheerleader and the year before I had darts stuck all over my face.
(Emily describes her costume as consisting of a cheerleader uniform with a knife stuck through her chest, blood spattered across the front of her sweater and dripping down her face. One arm was mangled and dangling as if it had been nearly ripped off.)
Emily leaves the room and her mother continues: Emily is not very verbal, but she loves to write. She doesn’t like to focus on things she isn’t interested in. Outside that circle, nothing else exists. She doesn’t have the time for anything else. It is like pulling teeth to get her to do things she doesn’t want to do. She would be happy if all she had to do was art, drama or writing. She has always had a constant fascination with animals.
She can’t be flexible with her friends. She doesn’t let anyone into her own world, nor does she reach into theirs. She is connected to this other place, and even if she wants to fit in, this other world overtakes her. She arranged a rite of passage ceremony when she was ten, for her menarche. She created a medicine wheel and lit candles.
She is daring and wants drama and excitement. She was the leader of a bungee jump for a group of kids. Another time she rented a limousine dressed to the “nines” and went out for ice cream with her friends. Once she arranged for a belly dancer to teach her classmates how to dance. Her friends are not necessarily interested in these things.
As a child she was fascinated with the darker side of life. She was curious about death, not fearful of it. She was always fascinated by graveyards. She reads book after book of horror stories and loves fantasies and magic.
She can be very guarded and private about her feelings. She came into the world closed and the ADD may be a way for her to close off further from all the stimulation. She can get a sudden temper, out of nowhere. When she was little she often had temper tantrums. She displays a lot of aggression in her roughhousing. She will really whack her step-dad.
She stole some make-up from her father’s girlfriend. She denied it. She needs more attention from him.
P: Mandragora 200.
Six weeks later (december 14, 1998)
Mother: Her blinking stopped immediately and she recently got a note from her teacher saying she “exceeded expectations.” There has been a sweetening of her. She seems less guarded and more vulnerable. She still keeps things inside however. She has been turning her homework in on time, when before it would be two or three days late. She says she is concentrating in class easier and isn’t goofing off as much.
A: I am pleased with her response to the remedy. A physical symptom has improved as well as her overall state.
P: Watch and wait.
I continued to see Emily every 2-3 months. I repeated the remedy in March due to some return of the blinking and because she bagan to turn in her homework late. I increased the potency to a 1M in July and repeated the remedy again in November.
15 months later (february 15, 2000)
Emily: The remedy helps me to focus and I don’t feel depressed anymore. My classes are going well and I am getting my homework in on time.
Mother: Emily is doing remarkably better. I noticed within two hours of her taking the remedy that she seemed to improve. It made a huge difference and she really has started to blossom. She has more friends and she seems really engaged with them. But her blinking started a week ago again so I brought her in. She blinks when she is anxious.
She had a sore throat a month ago that lasted three days with fevers of 102. She got over it quickly. I don’t remember if it was worse on one side or not.
She had a dream about being in the snow and some birds came to sit on her. One was a very rude parrot and she gave him away to someone so they could eat him. The rest of the birds she kept as friends.
She also just wrote a book for school; it was about life and death and love. In the story a boy, with multiple personalities, drowns. He has tried to kill the girl. Emily says at the end “She will always hold the memories in her heart”. It is about a girl who has a huge pain that made her different from others. That she is marked in some way, and never able to go back. had a dream about being in the snow and some birds came to sit on her. One was a very rude parrot and she gave him to something to eat. The rest of the birds she kept as friends. She also just wrote a book for school. It was about life and death and love. A boy, with multiple personalities, drowns. He tries to kill the girl in the story. At the end of the book, Emily says, “She will always hold the memories in her heart.” It is about a girl who has a huge pain that made her different from others. She is marked in some way, and is never able to go back.
Emily has dealt in the underworld all her life. She used to freak people out even when she was just a few days old because she would look at you with so much intensity. But now she is enjoying being different. She tested in the top 10% in the country on her verbal SATs.
The remedy seems to allow her to receive love and helps her to understand that I am there for her.
P: Watch and wait.
Almost two years after the initial dose (october 11, 2000)
Mother: Everything is great! Before she took the remedy she was getting C’s and D’s on her report card. Now she is getting all A’s, and she has joined a volleyball team. It is amazing how she has relaxed into the world. She has come into it in a way I never imagined she would. It is like the sun came out. She can still be private, but she is not brooding anymore. She still has no blinking.
Emily: I am not afraid of the dark anymore. I am not afraid of anything. Everything is going fine. I like school and it is my birthday tomorrow. This year I am planning to dress up as Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween.
A: Overall Emily seems to be doing great. She is happy and succeeding in school. I am quite charmed that she has chosen Little Red Riding Hood to portray for Halloween. This storybook character seems to reflect a number of elements that are representative of a healthy expression of this remedy.
P: Watch and wait.
What struck me on my first meeting with Emily, when she was only four, was how self-contained she was. There was a coolness about her and a distance between her mother and herself. I remember Emily standing in the corner of our waiting room looking at the toys but not engaging with them. When she came into my office she gazed out the window for a long time at the cemetery across the street. After our first appointment, she asked her mother if they could take a walk there.
She seemed set apart by her nature. Her fascination with and fear of death was at the center of her being. She did not express her fears with as much anxiety or activity as you might see in a Belladonna child, but instead she had a trance-like interest. She would read one scary story after another. She would dress up for Halloween as gruesome visions of death. She became fascinated with the very world that so frightened her.
In addition to these two characteristics Emily was captivated by a world of ritual and magic. These were her strategies to survive in a world that seemed full of danger.
In general, this case illustrates an intensity that I have seen in many of the Solanaceae remedies. However, rather than the wildness of Belladonna, the terror of Stramonium, or the sense of betrayal of Hyoscyamus, in Mandragora there is a withdrawn quality coupled with intense focus. What seems to characterize this remedy is not mania but a numbness with excitability; or what Whitmont calls “drowsy hypnotic anxiety.”
In Emily we see this as a quality of being removed, of residing in her own world that is both fearful of and fascinated with death and darkness.
The Solanaceae remedies seem to reside between these two worlds of Light and Dark. These plants often prefer growing in the shadows such as along a hedge or in the shade of a tree. Belladonna is an upright plant with the characteristic shiny black berry at the center of the corolla. These berries resemble a deep black pupil, as if dilated in order to be able to see in the dark.
Stramonium flowers are “dead white” or lavender. They only open in the evening, emitting an intoxicating scent. Then at night the dark, jagged leaves close up around the flowers like a cloak. The undersides of the leaves have a pale, ghostly color in contrast to the deep gray-green above and the dark purplish stems. When in fruit this plant looks quite hostile due to the spiky, explosive pods known as thorn apples.
Hyoscyamus looks like some spiny creature with tiny hairs and wild-looking flowers. It also has a heavy, oppressive odor. There is another variety of this plant that is called Bella Noche, so named because its scent is reminiscent of the cheap perfume of prostitutes. One can imagine the physical qualities of the plant reflected in the symptoms of shameless behavior that Hyoscyamus is so well known.
Mandragora has the characteristic jagged leaves and fetid smell of the Solanaceae. It has small bell-like flowers that are white, tinged with purple. The fruit resembles a small apple or pear. And the roots were thought to look like the bodies of men and women. One of its common names is Love Apple, which refers to its use as an aphrodisiac and fertility herb.
There were many beliefs and fears about its various properties. It was thought to be dangerous to gather mandragora root because the scream from the plant, when it was pulled from the ground, was so intense that it would kill anyone who heard it. Dogs were used to uproot the plant in order to avoid these mishaps.
It was also thought that if anyone touched the herb they would be marked by bad luck. It is interesting to me that Emily wrote a story about a boy’s attempt to kill a girl because she was “marked.” I think that was how Emily felt about herself-that she was different, that she had a “huge pain that made her different from others.” She would organize belly dancing lessons and bungee jumping for her friends. But these extreme activities didn’t bring them closer; instead they clarified the distinction between them. She was wild, courageous and attracted to danger and sensuality. And as the young girl in the story, she had a “huge pain” that, in essence, courted death.
Mandragora is also associated with witches and, in particular, with Kirke, who transformed men into animals and Hecate who, according to Theokritos, chased “whining dogs, while walking across the graves of the dead and through dark streams of blood.” (Whitmont 167)
This association with dogs is interesting because many of the Solanaceae remedies have symptoms relating to animals, especially dogs. I have several Solanaceae cases in which the child dreams of animals turning into humans.
It seems these remedies are more animal-like than other plants. Anthroposophists believe this family shares a large measure of characteristics with the Animal kingdom. According to Grohmann the purple stems of stramonium and the seductive flowers of hyoscyamus suggest a more sexual and animal-like nature. We can see this in their symptom pictures as well. Belladonna and Hyoscyamus patients can both growl and bark like dogs and Stramonium can mimic animal voices and gestures. We see their fears and delusions residing in the animal realm as well.
In Emily we see her attraction to and affinity for animals. She wanted to create a preserve to save elephants. She had dreams of wild animals and owls. Her mother tells us she always had a deep connection and fascination with them. I think for Emily it was in part a world she could enter into where she didn’t feel so alone, so different. She could identify with the “otherness” of these creatures.
All the Solanaceae herbs were believed to have the ability to take away one’s inhibitions. Removing reason leaves us with instinct and impulse, something closer to the animal state. Stramonium and belladonna were used in an ointment to induce a sense of erotic flying-in other words “flying on the witch’s broom.” The scent of hyoscyamus was also known to produce a floating sensation and the ingestion of the plant would cause wild dancing and shameless writhing. Emily expressed a precocious sexuality as well, masturbating at an early age.
Another impulse of the Solanaceae is kleptomania. Perhaps it is not unusual for children to go through a phase of stealing, but it was one of the symptoms that made me consider prescribing Mandragora in Emily’s case. Massimo Mangialavori also has found that many of his Mandragora cases have this trait.
Hecate, the witch associated with mandragora, was further known as the “enemy of light and friend of darkness who loves the baying of dogs and the spilling of blood, who walks over corpses, through dark streams of blood, over the graves of the dead, thirsting for blood…” (Whitmont 168)
We can see some of these images in Emily. Certainly her Halloween costumes reflected this-dressing as a victim or perpetrator of violent deaths. And graveyards were some of Emily’s favorite places.
It is interesting to me that it was the death of the mother deer in the movie Bambi that so captivated her. It suggests that her own state resonated with this image, the idea of a sudden and violent death. She was both frightened of and entranced by this idea. This is a distinguishing point for me in this case. In Belladonna I see many more instances of fear of dogs and the dark. And in Stramonium there is a fear that something could harm or injure them. But this fascination with death seems peculiar to Mandragora.
Her love of ritual and magic is also noteworthy. Emily created rites and ceremonies for herself by lighting candles and casting circles. One of her mother’s friends would meet with her to perform these rituals. This was a woman with whom Emily was closer to than her own mother, in some ways.
Mandragora has long been associated with magic and the repertory cites two other Solanaceae with similar symptoms: Belladonna has the delusion of being a magician and Solanum tuberosum aegrotans, or diseased potato, has dreams of magic.
An interesting side note is that according to Anthroposophists, the potato, a member of this family, affects the nervous system and “interrupts creative, artistic thinking and simply supports materialistic thought.” (Desai) They suggest that if people notice they are becoming forgetful, inattentive and sleepy, it can usually be connected to eating too many potatoes.
When Emily first presented to me she was intense and highly focused, so focused that, as an infant, she unnerved people with her gaze. She was described as “obstinate, bright and intense.”
But as time went on, her focus changed to dullness, an inability to concentrate. She didn’t like to focus on her schoolwork or on anything that wasn’t a part of her “other world.” This case illustrates the progression of disease. At the age of four we see that her desire and need for attention is “dissipating.” This is an instructive moment. Her ear infections had returned and her request for attention lessened. As time passed she moved deeper into her own world, moving away from the vividness of high fevers and ear infections to a mental state that is dull. It is not the kind of numbness of mind that we might see in Helleborus, but more a trance or fascination with something. One can see the move from intensity to numbness expressed here.
In Helleborus, a member of the Ranunculaceae family, we have a state that is benumbed, a kind of fog that overtakes the mind. This state seems to come from a broken or disrupted relationship, and in all my cases there has been a history of extreme abuse, as well. So what is it that distinguishes Helleborus from Mandragora in this regard?
One element that seems to differentiate the Ranunculaceae from the Solanaceae is how they feel forsaken. With remedies like Pulsatilla and Helleborus, it seems that they were once in relationship and now feel deprived of that warmth. They long for that connection and try to remain childlike as a means to retrieve the love and attention they have lost.
But the Solanaceae seem to have an experience of separateness that is cooler-not a loss of something that was once warm, but rather something that was never attainable in the first place. Is it the nutrition of the family soil that is different or the experience of the child? Most likely a little of both. But there does seem to be a greater disconnection between the Solanaceae child and their parents.
The Belladonna child will rage wildly, throwing themselves on the floor or striking out at their mother. But when these tantrums have occurred in my office, I have been surprised at the lack of connection between the child and the parent. It is as if the child is in its own world and the parents have distanced themselves as well. With Stramonium the feeling is that the child is completely alone in their terror, that there is no one who can bridge their fearful world with light and love. They so yearn for it, but feel a kind of dark isolation instead. And in Hyoscyamus the child feels a betrayal. Another sibling is born and the love that they longed for is even more unreachable now. In fact, what they so wished for, but never received, is being given to someone else.
In Emily we see some signs of this cool disconnection when her mother describes how “she wanted my attention all the time” and that “she needs more attention from [her father].” In that statement is the seed of the idea that there is a greater need going unfulfilled. In some remedies there may be an insatiable hunger for love and connection in an environment that is loving, but I think in the Solanaceae there is a larger family dynamic that contributes to this disconnected state. That Emily felt closer to her mother’s friend than her own mother, or that it was the mother deer’s death by which she was entranced, suggest a larger story. We see the idea that there wasn’t enough attention for Emily and that she had a fear of the world, full of fright and violence.
But what is most interesting to me, is how Emily responds to these situations. She portrays some of the other Solanaceae strategies but more markedly she disconnects. Her mother said she was not an affectionate child, that she “doesn’t let anyone into her own world.” She is guarded and private. That “this other world overtakes her.”
I think the Solanaceae want relationship but they don’t trust its availability. Belladonna, Stramonium and Hyoscyamus all feel persecuted and suspicious. Stramonium and Hyoscyamus feel they could be devoured by animals. Stramonium feels the need to be watchful or vigilant. Belladonna feels they could be injured. We can see by these symptoms that this family of plants does not rest easily; they do not trust that the world is safe. Instead, they feel aware of a constant threat. This makes them suspicious of not only creatures lurking in the night but of loved ones as well.
In Emily we see her retreat to a place that is unreachable, with a resignation that the world is dark and forbidding. This is where Belladonna and Mandragora particularly diverge. A Belladonna child rages by moving into the world, full of fright and violence. Mandragora seems to withdraw. Emily tells us she likes her friend because she can trust her, not because she is fun, or they share interests but because she will keep her secrets.
How did Emily get this way? I think it is quite possible that her birth trauma was a contributing etiology. To travel down a narrow passageway for 30 hours only to be pushed back in before she was allowed to come out would be terrifying and dissociating. What would one believe about the world as a result of such an experience? Why trust a world that pushed you away, that pushed you back when you were moving towards it?
All the Solanaceae remedies have many fears. They are afraid of ghosts and animals hiding in the shadows that will spring out and harm them. This is a projection of their inner state; they experience their own wildness and project that outside themselves. The Solanaceae believe that the world outside is just like how they feel inside.
Emily had fears of monsters in the dark and, as she grew older, this changed to the unpredictable violence of gangs and war. I often see the sophistication of the fears of a child as they age. But what was unchanging in Emily was the idea of a sudden, impulsive violence. It is this quality that particularly excites the Solanaceae-something wild, something that will leap out from the dark and harm them.
Emily slept with a light on for nearly thirteen years. In the day she could find a way to live in her world, but at night she felt that all the wildness crept into her room. She was afraid she would die in her sleep. She would hum or mutter to herself because her most frightful experience was the dark and to be able to enter into it, she had to numb herself.
Mandragora was once used as an analgesic and soporific; Shakespeare’s Juliet took this herb to feign death by inducing a deep sleep. Emily’s mother reported that it was difficult to awaken her as well. But dreams could awaken her easily, often between 1 and 4 a.m. The sleep of Mandragora is deep but restless and often disturbed by horrible dreams and nightmares, especially from 3 to 5 a.m. This is the general time of aggravation for Mandragora. The aggravation of Belladonna occurs most commonly at 3 p.m.
Emily’s dreams were interesting to me as well. The whole Solanaceae family has nightmares of wild animals, murder and ghosts. Emily had dreams of skeletons, wild animals and owls. Her dream of the parrot is interesting because it is suggestive of the rubric “Dreams of being eaten.” She makes friends with some birds, but because one is being unruly she gives it away to someone to eat. Some analysts believe we are all the characters in our dreams. And to see the unruly parrot as an expression of Emily makes this rubric more applicable. To be devoured is a repeated image in this family of remedies.
Emily was described as extreme, as someone who pushed against limits. She was dominant in play groups yet inward and self-directed. She has these two seemingly contradictory states: hypnotic anxiety and excitable numbness.
Even in her fevers we see a quiet crankiness. But it is in these paradoxes that the primary or core feeling of a case is clarified. She was afraid of the dark yet she is attracted to darkness. She was intensely focused and then becomes dull. She wants attention yet she pushes others away. She is afraid of death yet she watches, over and over again, the death of the mother deer.
Emily’s physical symptoms are reflected in Mandragora, as well as in its closest remedy, Belladonna. She had right-sided ear infections, and high fevers with flushing of the face. Belladonna and Mandragora share these characteristics. They are both strongly right-sided remedies, and have congestive, throbbing, frontal headaches, and dilated pupils. Mandragora has been described as a cool or attenuated Belladonna. In Emily we see the recurring symptom of blinking eyes. Belladonna has this symptom listed in the repertory, but Mandragora does not; however it does have spasms. But because the eye is so central to Belladonna, and these remedies share many traits, I expected that Mandragora would have a good effect.
The remedy has helped Emily in remarkable ways, both physically and emotionally. She has moved from a world of darkness and fear, into one that is full of light. She has become engaged at school, in volleyball and with friends. She is scoring in the top 10 % of students in the US on tests.
I find it particularly charming that Emily chose to be Little Red Riding Hood this past Halloween, a fairytale character that seems uniquely appropriate for someone in need of a Solanaceae remedy. But there is a healthy evolution for both Emily and this character. Emily has moved from gruesome visions of violent death to being a happy, carefree child who, when faced with a frightful, hungry wolf, sought help and lived happily ever after.
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Desai. Solanum tuberosum. Magnificent Plants. Kent Associates: ReferenceWorks.
Gibson, Douglas. Studies of Homoeopathic Remedies. Beaconsfield, Bucks: Beaconsfield, 1987.
Julian, O. A. Mandragora. Materia Medica of new Homoeopathic Remedies. Trans. Virginia Munday. Beaconsfield, Bucks: Beaconsfield, 1979. 349-57.
Mangiallavori, Massimo. Additions. Kent Associates: ReferenceWorks.
Mangiallavori, Massimo. Cases. Kent Associates: ReferenceWorks.
Robertson, Fiona. Mandragora. Soluna School of Homoeopathy. Kent Associates: ReferenceWorks.
Whitmont, Edward C. Psyche and Substance. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1991.
Krista Heron, ND, has practiced in Seattle, Washington since 1989 and has taught homeopathy at Bastyr University since 1997. Her published articles include Pseudotsuga menziesii (Homoeopathic LINKS, Autumn 1999), Physostigma (American Homeopath, 2000) and Helleborus (Simillimum, Summer 2000).