The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is
sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.
Euspongia officinalis. Bath Sponge.
CLASSIFICATION There are about 5,000 known living sponge species [Porifera] worldwide, 1,000 of which have been discovered during the last decade. The number of living species in all the world’s seas and lakes is estimated to be at least 15,000. Some places in the world have relatively well-known sponge faunas, e.g. the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and the British Isles. The Phylum Porifera has four classes: Archaeocyatha [all extinct], Demospongiae [having siliceous spicules – opaline or anhydrous silicate – and/or proteinaceous – spongin – fibres], Calcarea [having calcium carbonate spicules and collagen but no spongin], and Hexactinellida [the glass sponges, also with siliceous spicules]. Euspongia, as well as the other ‘bath sponges’, belong to the Demospongiae. Euspongia officinalis lacks spicules of any type and is made up entirely of the soft chitin-like substance spongin. The Demospongiae is by far the most diverse sponge group, containing more than 90% of all known living sponge species. All large sponges belong to this class. Bath sponges grow only in warm shallow seas, while many other kinds live in the ocean depths, and some 150 species are successful in fresh waters [e.g. Badiaga]. In many sea bottom habitats sponges are often the dominant animals.
FEATURES The most primitive of multicellular animals [containing neither true tissues nor organs], sponges [porifera] are sessile marine invertebrates, with a geological history record dating back some 600 million years. Sponges have evolved an amazing array of colours and growth forms. Different shades of yellow and brown are the predominating hues, but green, lilac, pink, indigo, bright blue, rosy red, black and even white sponges can be found too. They vary in size from 1 cm to 2 m, and in shape from a thin crust on a rock, to volcano-shaped mounds, to upright sheets, or to enormous fan-shaped or tree-like structures. A mineral skeleton is present in most sponges. It provides support to the soft, jelly-like sponge. Adult sponges are sedentary, attached to the seabed or other substrate for most of their lives, although many have larvae that are motile, swimming or crawling away from their parent. Sponges filter sea water to eat, breath and excrete waste products, having complex water canal systems running throughout the body, with smaller inhalant [ostia] and larger exhalant pores [oscules]. The water flow is actively generated by the beating of flagella, and can be regulated by the constriction of various openings. Sponges are able to pump up to 10 times their body volume each hour, making them the most efficient vacuum cleaners of the sea. They appear to be very stable, long-lived animals, although growth rates vary enormously between different groups. Some sponges, like haplosclerids can grow centimetres in weeks, but may have short life spans. Others sponges, like the living fossil ‘sclerosponges’ are very slow growing, with the largest known individuals [up to 30cm diameter] thought to be around 5,000 years old [which would make them the oldest living organisms on the planet]. Sponges have no tissues or sensory organs but they do have many different types of cells with many different functions that carry out normal bodily routines, including a primitive cell type that is able to change functions as required by the sponge [e.g. secrete the skeleton, form the epidermis, become feeding and reproductive cells etc.]. Sponges are individuals, contrary to corals and sea-squirts in which individual animals group together to form colonies. Sponges catch, eat, digest their food and excrete their waste products within cells, not within any common body cavity, unlike most multicellular animals. 1 Sponges have few predators; a few species of fish, seaslugs and hawks bill turtles eat sponges. Some sponges bore into the shells of bivalves, gastropods, and the colonial skeletons of corals by slowly etching away chips of calcareous material. Sponges provide habitat for a wide variety of animals; in one loggerhead sponge – a species that can reach nearly two metres in diameter – as many as 15,000 different animals have been found. Millions of sponges were dredged up in the 1970s by sponge industries in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. Today the output has collapsed due both to the introduction of synthetic sponges and to infection of sponges by marine blights.
REPRODUCTION Sponges have sexes that are separate, or sequentially hermaphroditic [producing sperm and eggs at different times], although most population dispersal and recruitment is asexual [through budding and branching, fragmentation from storm events, etc.]. Some species form internal buds, which can survive extremely unfavourable conditions that cause the rest of the sponge to die. In sexual reproduction one sponge plays the male role and the other plays the female role, even though they are both capable of playing either role. They may change sexual roles the next time they reproduce. Sperms are released into the water column in such dense masses that the sponges appear to be smoking. Larvae are motile, incubated within the parent or broadcast into the seawater. “Sponges may reproduce sexually. Some cells of the mesenchyme enlarge greatly with reserve food and become female sex cells or eggs; other mesenchyme cells divide to form male sex cells or sperms. In some sponges both kinds of sex cells [gametes] may arise in one individual. In others they occur in different individuals, in which case the sperms are brought into the female sponge in its water current. The fertilised egg develops into a flagellated larva, which finally escapes from the parent body and swims about. After swimming about for a short time, the sponge larva settles down, becomes firmly attached, and grows into a young sponge. Through their larvae the sessile sponges are able to spread geographically and to send some of their offspring far enough away from home so that they do not set up business in direct competition with their parents.”2 Sponges possess a remarkable capacity for regeneration. Individual cells show signs of specialization but retain a certain independence. When cells are separated by pressing a living sponge through a silk cloth and released in a vessel of sea water, these separated cells creep about on the bottom of the vessel in amoeboid fashion. When they happen to come in contact with one another, they stick together, and after some time most of the cells are found to have united into one or more small masses. Finally these masses of aggregated cells grow up into new sponges. 3
ARISTOTLE In his History of Animals [350 BC], Aristotle wrote this about sponges. “Of sponges there are three species; the first is of loose porous texture, the second is close textured, the third, which is nicknamed ‘the sponge of Achilles’, is exceptionally fine and close-textured and strong. This sponge is used as a lining to helmets and greaves [armour for the leg below the knee], for the purpose of deadening the sound of the blow; and this is a very scarce species. Of the close textured sponges such as are particularly hard and rough are nicknamed ‘goats’. It is said that the sponge is sensitive; and as a proof of this statement they say that if the sponge is made aware of an attempt being made to pluck it from its place of attachment it draws itself together, and it becomes a difficult task to detach it. It makes a similar contractile movement in windy and boisterous weather, obviously with the object of tightening its hold. The sponge breeds parasites, worms, and other creatures, on which, if they be detached, the rock-fishes prey, as they prey also on the remaining stumps of the sponge; but, if the sponge be broken off, it grows again from the remaining stump and the place is soon as well covered as before. As a general rule, sponges that are found in deep calm waters are the softest; for usually windy and stormy weather has a tendency to harden them [as it has to harden all similar growing things], and to arrest their growth. The habitat of the sponge should not be too sheltered and warm, for it has a tendency to decay, like all similar vegetable-like growths. And this accounts for the fact that the sponge is at its best when found in deep water close to shore; for owing to the depth of the water they enjoy shelter alike from stormy winds and from excessive heat.”4 This process is somewhat similar to the behaviour of quicksilver.
MEDICINE “Hahnemann not only mentions the probable presence of iodine in the sponge, which in fact had been demonstrated in 1819 by Fyfe at Edinburgh, but also names Arnaldus da Villanova in the 13th century as the first author to have stated this use of roasted sponge which might have gone on for thousands of years before. Sponges are known to accumulate iodine from the sea to about the same high degree as corals and sea-weeds [Fucus, Laminaria]. The peculiar skeleton substance, spongin, is constituted by a fibrous halogen protein containing approximately 2% iodine. About half of the iodine occurs as diiodotyrosine, the well-known precursor of thyroxin in the thyroid gland. Diiodothyrosine was first isolated from a coral Gorgonia by Drechsel  who named it iodogorgoic acid. It is perhaps not without significance for the actions of Spongia that spongin contains also some dibromotyrosine [bromogorgonic acid]. There can be little doubt that the organic and inorganic halogens are the main active principles of Spongia.”5 Chlorine and phosphates have also been found in Euspongia officinalis. Research on the biochemical products produced by sponges [in general] indicates its potential use as a source of pigments, steroids, and antibiotics. Manzamines are a group of biologically active alkaloids derived from several sponge species found in Okinawan, Indonesian and the Philippine waters. Manzamines have demonstrated anti-tumour activity by inhibiting the growth of leukaemia cells in mice.
TOXICOLOGY In recent years sponges have become the subjects of growing scientific interest for their potential value to the pharmaceutical industry. Very much is still unknown about the chemistry and toxicology of sponges, despite documented cases of poisoning. Current knowledge seems to indicate that symptoms of sponge poisoning are mainly dermatological, but there is disagreement as to whether the symptoms are the result of chemical or mechanical irritation. Skin symptoms begin with a redness, which is followed by local swelling, skin eruptions, burning sensation, severe itching, and blisters discharging a purulent fluid. The lesions may persist for weeks or even months. Cases of stiffness of the finger joints have also been recorded. Mechanical irritation may be caused by the silica or calcium carbonate spicules contained by sponges. Yet there can be little doubt that sponges can secrete toxic substances that are irritating on contact. Experiments with aqueous solutions of a number of sponge extracts on animals resulted in the death of many of them. When the sponge species Tedania toxicalis was placed in a bucket with fishes, crabs, molluscs, and worms, in an hour those animals would be found dead. Dogs injected with extracts of the siliceous sponge Suberites domunculus developed symptoms as vomiting, diarrhoea, dyspnoea, and haemorrhages in gastrointestinal mucosa, peritoneum, and endocardium. The extract was found to be nontoxic when administered orally. 6,7
PROVINGS ••  Hahnemann – 11 provers; method: unknown.
••  Fincke – 1 female prover, 1850; method: one 1-drop dose of 30c.
 Sessile Marine Invertebrates; Queensland Museum, Australia. [2-3] Buchsbaum, Animals without Backbone.  Aristotle University of Thessaloniki; translation D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson.  Leeser, Coelenterata and Echinodermata; BHJ, April 1960.  Caras, Venomous Animals of the World.  Klaassen, Casarett and Doull’s Toxicology.
HEART; valves. Larynx. Trachea. Bronchi. Glands; thyroid; testicles; lymph glands. Nerves. * Left side. Right side.
Worse: DRY, COLD wind. Roused from sleep. Exertion. Raising arms. Before midnight [sleeps into aggravation]. After sleep. Sweets. Cold drinks. Ascending. Thinking of symptoms. Touch and pressure. Stooping. Lying on right side. Warm room. Sudden change of atmosphere. Full moon.
Better: Lying with head low. Eating a little [> cough]. Descending. Bending forward. Warm food and drinks. Drinking [> cough]. Rest [> many symptoms except those of the respiratory organs].
M Fear of heart disease.
• “Marked anxiety, fear of death, and suffocation, associated with palpitation and uneasiness in the region of the heart; mental symptoms showing that Spongia is a heart remedy.” [Kent]
M Wakes at night in great fear [with fear of suffocation].
• “Towards morning: starting out of sleep from a shock experienced in the direction from the trachea upwards, as if she would be suffocated, passing off on sitting up in bed. Expectoration of saltish tasting slime. [Next night] Attacks, starting out of sleep from a sudden lacing together in the larynx as if she would be smothered, so that she must sit up quickly, and hawk strongly and hastily, after which the attack goes off.”1
Takes some time to rationalize his surroundings.
After roasting spongia for 2-3 hours in a close room, Hering experienced a peculiar state of confusion: • “After coming into open air, crazy feeling; head feels as if inflated, and as if elastic; feels strange all over, and sickish; sees everything double, cannot distinguish objects, things seem to move up and down; is obliged to lie down, when all the symptoms lessen. He lay from 3 p.m. till next morning without eating anything; during night had copious sweat, and felt the better for it. Headache on rising in morning, getting better after washing and taking breakfast.” [Hughes]
M Undefined fears [ghosts or monsters].
Childish; not well organised mentally.
Easily frightened. Great alarm.
• “She was very easily frightened, and started at every trifle; it always seemed to shoot into her feet, and afterwards they seemed to remain heavy.” [Hahnemann]
M Reserved; doesn’t like to talk much.
Averse to change.
Prefers to be inactive and rest.
Needs to be attached to somebody, feels dependent but doesn’t like it. [Mangialavori]
M Alternating moods.
Cheerfulness alternating with aversion to work.
Cheerfulness alternating with lachrymose mood, with quarrelsomeness, with vexation.
Irresistible desire to sing, and excessive mirth, followed by sadness.
G Tubercular diatheses.
• “Especially suits young persons of tubercular parents, who remain weak, are pallid and do not thrive.” [Kent]
< Cold dry weather. < Dry weather. G Great thirst and hunger. Increased hunger before and during menses [due to empty feeling in stomach]. Craves sweets [but sweets < throat and larynx symptoms]. G > WARM FOOD and DRINKS.
[cough, dyspnoea, pain in stomach, bellyache]
G SLEEPS INTO AGGRAVATION.
Suffocating spells, as if a cord about neck [cough, asthmatic, cardiac].
< After sleep. G > Wet weather.
G < MIDNIGHT; 12 p.m. – 2 a.m. G < Lying on RIGHT side. > Lying on BACK.
G < Ascending. G DRYNESS of mucous membranes, esp. of respiratory tract. • “In proportion to the extent of rattling, this remedy is decreasingly indicated.” [Kent] G GLANDULAR affections. [inflammation, enlargement, induration] G Intolerance of and aversion to tight clothing. G Basedow’s disease. P Sore throat < SWEETS. P Acute colds settling in the larynx. Resulting in hoarseness, great dryness of the larynx, croupy cough, rawness. Larynx sensitive to touch. Pain < singing, talking or swallowing. P COUGH HOLLOW, BARKING, CROWING, SAWING or CROUPY. < Cold drinks [may >].
> Eating [warm food]; warm drinks.
NO rattling of mucus. Dryness.
> Warm drinks and sitting forward [or > bending head backward].
Asthma coming on about midnight.
Palpitation, waking the patient at night, esp. after midnight.
And Sensation of suffocation.
• “Instead of constriction, there is a sensation of progressive swelling in the heart region. The patient feels as if the heart is swelling more and more and will finally burst, and the sensation of fulness spreads up into the neck. This sensation of fulness and swelling is very much aggravated by lying down. … Not infrequently they also complain of numbness of the lower extremities. As a rule, the face and neck look congested.” [Borland]
Suffocating palpitation from slight exertion.
Rheumatic endocarditis; angina pectoris; valvular insufficiency.
• “Dr. P.P. Wells, of Brooklyn, New York, mentions the effects of an involuntary proving of the drug by an old coloured servant who had an organic disease of the heart. She stealthily stole and ate a piece of fresh roasted sponge. The effects was sudden and alarming. It produced a terrible beating of the heart, a suffocation which threatened to prove fatal, her lips became livid, respiration violently gasping, great pain in the heart, terror, and fear of approaching death. After ten or fifteen minutes, the symptoms began gradually to subside and the dose was followed by a very remarkable relief of her old heart symptoms which lasted for several weeks.”2
P Chronic orchitis; squeezing pain.
 Fincke, A New Proving of Spongia Tosta; Am. Hom. Rev., April 1859.  Chase, Spongia Marina Tosta; Transactions of the NY Hom. Soc., 43rd semi-annual meeting; 1909-10.
Awkward while working . Cheerful, with destructiveness [1/1]. Contemptuous . Defiant . Delusions, visions of fire , he is persecuted and tormented by a scene of some mournful event of the past [1/1]. Dulness, says nothing . Fear, of ghosts , of heart disease , of suffocation, at night . Abundant ideas, clearness of mind on closing the eyes . Indiscretion . Overactive . Singing alternating with loathing of work [1/1].
Head feels as if elastic [1H].
Colours, red, luminous appearance . Diplopia, > lying down [1/1]. Flashes on closing eyes . Objects seem to be moving up and down . Sparks, before headache .
Taste, of glycerine [1F]; of fresh nuts [1F].
Sensation as if teeth were large and swollen .
Choking, at night on waking [1F], > hawking up mucus [1F].
Thirst after smoking [1/1].
Asthmatic, > bending head backwards .
Heat, on motion [2/1], on smoking [1/1]. Sensation of swelling as if heart will keep on swelling until it bursts [1B].
Heaviness, feet, after fright [1HA].
Position, lies with head bent backward , lies with head low .
Full of cares . Exhausting .
Symptoms > during perspiration [1H].
Itching, in cold air , without eruptions , of perspiring parts .
* Repertory additions: [B] = Borland; [F] = Fincke; [HA] = Hahnemann; [H] = Hughes.
Aversion: : Beer.
Desire: : Delicacies. : Beer; cold drinks.
Worse: : Tobacco. : Fat. : Butter; cold drinks; milk; sweets.
Better: : Warm drinks; warm food.