There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at.
Spigelia anthelmia. Demerara Pinkroot. Wormgrass. N.O. Loganiaceae.
CLASSIFICATION The Loganiaceae is a diverse family of trees, shrubs and climbers. The family is found in both hemispheres, esp. in the warm regions of the tropics. As a source of timber, of ornamentals, and of some lethal poisons, notably strychnine, the family is important to man. It is a very mixed family, probably containing several distinct groups which are no more related to each others than to parts of other families. There are differences of opinion concerning the taxonomic limitations of the family. A broad definition includes some 30 genera and about 800 species – classified into ten tribes – whereas a conservative view would count only 7 or 8 genera and about 150 species. Some taxonomists see the Loganiaceae as being allied to the Gentianaceae. This seems esp. true for the genus Spigelia, the species of which strongly resemble those of the genus Gentiana. The Spigelia species differ from the Loganiaceae primarily in having a valvate calyx, and for that reason are placed by some botanists in a separate family, the Spigeliaceae.
GENUS Linnaeus gave this genus the name Spigelia in commemoration of the Dutch botanist and professor of anatomy Adriaan van der Spiegel, or, in its latinized version, Adrianus Spigelius [1578-1625]. It is a genus of some 50 species of annual and perennial herbs and subshrubs with simple opposite leaves and clusters of tubular or salver-shaped flowers which bear their parts in fives. The genus is native to tropical and warm regions of America. Both Spigelia anthelmia and Spigelia marilandica were used medicinally as an anthelminthic [vermifuge]; both were known under the common name ‘wormgrass’. The former is indigenous in the Caribbean, Venezuela, and Colombia, the latter is found on the border of woods in the southern states of the USA. Spigelia anthelmia is a common weed in Suriname. It is an annual plant of about 60 cm high with a scarcely branched stem and short-stalked, feather-lobed leaves set in whorls of four The spikes with small purple or bright red flowers come out of the middle of the whorl. The flowers open in the afternoon. The fruit is a two-lobed capsule with warty seeds.
MEDICINE “This plant was first introduced as a medicine by Dr. Browne in 1751, who says, amongst other effects, that it produces sleep almost as certainly as opium. Lindley states that the Spigelias participate in the noxious properties of Strychnos; and these poisonous qualities were known in the middle of the 17th century, as, on the authority of Guibourt [Hist. des Drogues], Spigelia anthelmia was an ingredient in the poison mixtures, known by the name of ‘Poudre de Succession’, of Exili, St. Croix, and Madame de Brinvilliers.”1 [The notorious Madame de Brinvilliers, in close collaboration with her lover Sainte Croix, poisoned in the 1670s her father and two brothers in order to inherit the family property. Spigelia may have been an ingredient of the ‘succession powder’ they employed, but its major constituent was arsenic. The compound was so deadly that one had to wear a mask when preparing it, to prevent suffocation. One day in 1672 the mask apparently slipped off, because Sainte Croix was the next day found dead in his laboratory. Madame de Brinvilliers was executed a few years later.] In Northwest Amazoni a warm infusion of the root is used to bathe children as a tranquilizer and tonic to induce sleep. It is also given as a cooling drink when children suffer from ‘heat in the body’. 2 According to King’s American Dispensatory, “the root has been used by the natives of those countries for centuries as an anthelmintic. It is the form of spigelia official in the Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia , and possesses decided narcotic qualities. This drug is said to act specifically upon the heart, and particularly the endocardium. It is valued by some practitioners in cardiac palpitation and endocarditis, esp. the rheumatic form, and to guard against relapses of cardiac rheumatism. Painful conditions of the heart, the pain extending along the arm, angina pectoris, and cardiac neuralgia, with palpitation, are conditions in which it is employed with asserted success. Large doses debilitate the heart.” Spigelia was official in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1926. Both species were employed: Spigelia anthelmia as Anthelmia or Jamaica wormgrass, Spigelia marilandica as Carolina pinkroot. In Suriname’s traditional medicine Spigelia anthelmia is used against headache, throbbing pain, neuralgia, stabbing violent pain, congestion and as an expeller of intestinal worms.
EFFECTS Little is known of the chemistry of the Spigeliaceae, except for the presence of a toxic substance, termed spigeline, and tannin-like substances. Spigeline resembles coniine [found in Conium maculatum] and nicotine, which explains its stimulant effects. “Dr. Browne states that its narcotic properties are soon made evident; and in poisonous doses it gives rise to vertigo, dimness of vision, dilatation of the pupil [the eyes seem to be distended], and spasmodic movement of the eyelids. … When fresh this plant has a poisonous, foetid odour, which, enclosed in a room, may even cause narcotism; the taste is nauseous, and remains a long time on the tongue.”3 These effects markedly resemble those of Spigelia marilandica: “Pinkroot is an active and certain vermifuge, esp. among children. In large doses, it is very apt to purge, and produce various unpleasant symptoms, as increased action of the heart and arteries, dizziness, dilatation of the pupils, imperfect vision, and muscular spasms, often terminating in convulsions, together with various other indications of narcosis. One of its more frequent effects is spasmodic twitchings of the eyelids.”4 The following observations show that Spigelia marilandica may have atropine-like properties. After large and frequent doses of a strong decoction of the root, a 6-year old boy “was suddenly affected with complete mental derangement; he distorted his countenance into a variety of shapes, had alternate fits of laughing and crying, and ran and skipped about the room incessantly; pupils were greatly dilated, talk wild and incoherent.”5 In a girl of 4 who took three doses of infusion for worms – it is not stated which Spigelia species was used – it caused “a peculiar wild staring expression of eyes, giving countenance a singular and ludicrous appearance.” In 1785, the English writer George Motherby had noted that “in many after taking a full dose, their eyes are observed to sparkle, and also to be distended after the sleep is over.”6
PROVINGS ••  Hahnemann – 14 [male] provers; method: unknown.
••  Hoyne – 4 [female] provers, 1877-78; method: repeated doses of tincture
 Hamilton, Flora Homoeopathica.  Evans Schultes and Raffauf, The Healing Forest.  Hamilton, ibid.  King’s American Dispensatory.  Hughes and Dake, Cyclopaedia.  cited in Crellin and Philpott, A Reference Guide to Medicinal Plants.
NERVES [TRIFACIAL; HEART; neck]. Fibrous tissue. EYES. Teeth. * Left side. Right side.
Worse: TOUCH. MOTION. Jar. Periodically; with the sun. Tobacco. Coition. Raising arms. Noise. Turning the eyes. Stooping. Inspiration. Cold, damp and rainy weather; change of weather; stormy weather. Tea. Cold water.
Better: Lying on right side with head high. Cold applications [headache]. Dry weather. After sunset. Rest.
M Fear of POINTED objects.
M Stammering; repeats the first syllable three or four times.
And Abdominal ailments.
M Responsible type of people; look like Nat-m.
Pains that come after a long grief.
Serious people with serious pain. [Vithoulkas]
M Great nervous agitation.
So nervous he can’t control himself, cannot keep still.
Feels as if he must fly.
Anxiety on seeing anyone move quickly.
< COLD in general. G Ailments and violent, audible PALPITATION [< stooping]. G Combined HEART and EYE symptoms; or the latter as an accompaniment. G VIOLENT PAINS. • “It is a neuralgia remedy par excellence.” [Clarke] Radiating pains; to all parts. • “Spigelia is especially known by its pains. … Persons who have become victims of pains. … Hardly a nerve in the body escapes; shooting, burning, tearing, neuralgic pains; they are most marked about the eyes and jaws, neck, face, teeth, shoulders, burning like hot needles through the face and neck in any direction. … Shooting, tearing pains in the extremities like hot wires. Sometimes the pains are worse from lying down, but most commonly better from keeping still; worse from light, eating, motion, jarring; so sore in the painful region that any gentle exercise like going up or down stairs, or riding in a carriage that jars, makes the pain unbearable.” [Kent] • “My next door neighbour called me one night at midnight, to visit his son, a lad of twelve or fourteen years, whom I found suffering with an excruciating neuralgia of the left side of face. The affected side was swollen, and so sore that he would not permit it touched. Besides this, other parts of his body were averse to contact. This was not his first attack by a hundred more or less. They came periodically, irregularly so, at intervals of three or four weeks, and had done so since babyhood. I had heard his screams on former occasions, for he was a screamer when the pain struck him. I had also heard his symptoms from various members of the family and had mentally prescribed Spigelia. The family physician had given up the job months or years before and, at each successive attack a new physician was called. I held on to my mental prescription and waited my turn. My immediate predecessor had become alarmed at the boy’s tolerance of morphine under the skin, and had called for counsel. Upon being told that he was the last in the regular line, and that the next in order was a Homoeopath, he fired his loaded syringe into empty space and left, muttering something about the ‘fool killer.’ I dissolved a powder of Spigelia 3x in six teaspoonfuls of water, gave a teaspoonful and sat down by the bedside to give a teaspoonful every five minutes, determined to fight it out on that line for thirty minutes, anyhow. I was agreeably surprised before the third dose was due to find my patient not only relieved but asleep. Thus, within ten minutes, was accomplished by Spigelia what, for years, opiates and other drugs had failed to do. That the relief was obtained by Spigelia is confirmed by the fact that six months intervened between this and the next attack, when two doses of the same remedy in the same potency and frequency again relieved, the relief remaining permanent for two years, since which time I have not heard from the case. … A typical acute Spigelia case of headache reminds one of Belladonna. Many of the symptoms are present, but all lack intensity, if we except the single element of pain, and even this is characterized by intolerance as much as by actual suffering. In this respect it is the reverse of Colchicum [which patiently bears and endures], but like it in subsequent soreness and swelling. It is as restless and susceptible as Chamomilla, and in the acme of a paroxysm will strike, bite and scratch like Belladonna.”1 Pains proceed from within outward and from below upward. G < DAYTIME [especially migraine]. Pain comes and goes with the sun. Pains appear and disappear gradually. G < Ascending high. G Smoke. • “The main remedy for aggravation from smoke and smoky rooms. Causes headache and a general aggravation.” [Morrison] G < TOBACCO. G Very sensitive to TOUCH. Touch sends shudder through the whole frame. G Painful parts feel COLD. G Offensiveness. [breath; flatus; menses; perspiration] P MIGRAINE. Starting in occiput or neck and settling in or over LEFT EYE. And Redness and lachrymation of LEFT eye. < Motion, noise, jar and esp. stooping. > Cold applications.
P TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA; LEFT side.
Cheek dark red.
And Redness and lachrymation of left eye.
And Painful stiffness of neck and shoulders.
< Motion, noise, jar and esp. stooping. P Glaucoma; left eye. Intolerable pressive pain in eyeball. Can’t turn the eye without turning the whole body. Eyes sensitive to touch. And Sensation as if a band round the head. P Eyes hurt on motion, as if too LARGE for the orbit. P Disturbances in accommodation. It is most difficult to fit glasses. No settled focus, no fixed vision [Gels.]. P Menses. Menses too early. [Three of Hoyne’s provers.]2 • “My menstrual periods, which have always been perfectly regular, came on one week too early and produced a powerful constitutional disturbance, which proved to be more than I could bear, notwithstanding all my will force was exerted. I was obliged to leave the lecture room and go to my room and retire from books, company and everything about me and admit that I was sick; osseous, muscular and nervous systems all giving out, rendering it impossible for me to leave my room for two days.” [prover 1] • “There seems now to be no difficulty with the uterus, and in fact on the appearance and continuance of the menstrual flow there is not that prolapsed feeling which has hitherto accompanied the menstrual discharge. … Menses have a foetid smell and bright red colour, pains during menstruation make face and feet cold, hands remaining warm.” [prover 2] • “Menses appeared a few days too soon. Copious, bright red colour and of foul odour. Great pressure and fulness with tearing pains in uterine region; sharp, stinging pains extending into limbs. … [Next] menses appeared about a week too soon. Very profuse, dark clots passing of most disgusting odour.” [prover 4] P HEART SYMPTOMS. And Exophthalmic goitre. And Worm affections. And Constipation. And Rheumatic pains in knees. And Foul odour from mouth. And Soreness of whole left side. c All four [female] provers of Hoyne developed heart symptoms:3 • “A condition of irritation of the heart so severe that the beating is heard almost constantly while walking and sitting; increased when lying down. The hearing of the heartbeat has been attended with pain in the heart itself, producing the sensation that I must get fresh air.” [prover 1] • “A dull heavy ache in the region of the apex of the heart, with feeling as though a dull pointed knife was being slowly driven through it.” [prover 2] • “Consciousness of the heartbeat or palpitation.” [prover 3] • “Constricted, suffocated sensation across chest. Deep inspirations produce short, stabbing pains through the heart. … Spasmodic pain through heart. Frequent stoppage, apparently of all muscular action of the heart, the blood merely gurgling through it, which produced no fear at all; a listless, disgusted indifference toward everything, even death itself, preventing.” [prover 4] P Angina pectoris with craving for hot water which >.
P Sharp and brittle.
• “The finger and toe nails became brittle, the nails breaking off, and many white spots appearing. The teeth became so sharp and brittle that from the slightest contact portions would break off; becoming so sharp that the corners wounded the tongue and the gold fillings came out. At this juncture my condition became such that I thought it wise to discontinue the proving for a time. But, to my great surprise, upon leaving off the remedy the constitutional effects continued.” [One of Hoyne’s provers, after daily intake of tincture for one month.]
 Hudson, Spigelia; Transactions of the Am. Inst. of Hom., 1894. [2-3] Hoyne, A Partial Proving of Spigelia; Intern. Hahn. Ass., 1881-82.
Ailments from quarrelling . Anxiety on breathing deeply . Blasphemy and cursing . Full of cares about relatives . Delusions, floating in air . Fear, of pins , of suffocation , of being touched . Indifference, even to death, during pain in heart [1H]. Jesting, cannot take a joke . Sensitive to steel points directed towards her .
Tendency to fall on looking down [3/1]. When walking, with sensation as if sidewalk is rising up before her [1H].
Pain, < tapping on spine . Twitching, temples, while walking [2/1]. Vision Accommodation defective . Dim, as if full of water . A sea of fire on closing eyes . Face Coldness, from pains during menses [1H]. Throat Choking, from mucus in posterior nares [1/1]. Stomach Nausea, during pain in heart [1/1]. Female Burning heat in vagina, with fulness and pressure, < standing [1H]. Menses, clotted, with offensive dark clots [1H]; too early [1H]. Pain, uterus, extending downward [1H], down thighs [1H]. Chest Pain, heart, stitching, when breathing deeply [1H]. Limbs Coldness, feet, from pains during menses [1H]. Sensation of vibration in lower limbs . * Repertory additions [Hoyne]. Food Aversion: : Coffee. : Beer; smoking; sweets [H]; tobacco. Desire: : Alcohol; beer; brandy; whisky; wine. : Cold drinks; warm drinks. Worse: : Tobacco. : Cold drinks; cold food; sight of food. : Coffee; sweets; tea; tobacco; warm food. Better: : Hot food. : Tobacco. * Repertory addition [Hoyne].