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Homeopathic Materia Medica by Farrington
(sec)Secale Cornutum is also spoken of as the "spurred-rye." Ergot, a term borrowed from the French, is the name of the drug in the old school pharmacopoeia. The drug is not obtained from the rye itself, but from a fungous growth which attacks the grain, probably, when it is very young.
Secale cornutum, or Ergot, has long been used in the dominant school on account of its well-known property of producing contraction of non-striated muscular fibre when given in appreciable doses. Especially does it exert this action on those involuntary muscular fibres that have a circular or transverse direction. I believe that it does this through an influence exerted over the vaso-motor nerves, and that it is owing to this that all its symptoms are explainable. In the first place, the symptoms of Secale may be divided into two sets, those referred to the circulation, and those referred directly to the nervous system. "We will consider the last-named first. We find Ergot producing convulsions, and these convulsions are peculiar and constitute a prominent symptom of ergotism, a condition of chronic poisoning produced by Ergot. Ergotism is not at all uncommon on the continent of Europe, especially in some of the provinces of Germany, where the farmers grow as much rye as we in America, grow wheat. Rye being the main grain, Ergot poisoning is frequent. Of late years, by exercising more care, the number of cases of ergotism has lessened. Let us now return fr,om this little digression and describe the character of these convulsions.
At times the body is rigid and at others the rigidity alternates with relaxation, particularly is this noticed in the fingers. The hands are clenched, or else the fingers are spread wide apart. The facial muscles twitch. The muscular twitching commences in the face and spreads over the whole body. The abdomen is drawn in by the contraction of the musculi recti abdominales. There is retention of urine—remember, I do not say suppression—from spasmodic contraction of the neck of the bladder. There is a great deal of spasmodic retching but not much absolute vomiting. The stomach is violently contracted.
Coming now to the action of Secale on the circulation, that is on the bloodvessels, we find that the symptoms referred to disordered circulation are traceable to the action on the involuntary muscular fibres. We find the first effect to be one of contraction, while the secondary action of the drug is to produce a dilatation. We find the fingers look bluish-black as though the blood had settled there. The skin is wrinkled and dry. After awhile, there will follow a sloughing of a whole or part of the limb. Now, the explanation of this is as follows: There has been a prolonged contraction of the capillaries interfering with the circulation, and bringing about a stasis of blood. Thus local nutrition is deranged and the part in consequence dies. This action of Secale has led to its use in dry gangrene, especially of the toes in old people.
Coming next to the uterus as a muscular organ containing non-striated muscular fibres, we find that Ergot produces marked contraction of this viscus, acting more on the pregnant than on the non-pregnant uterus, more upon the uterus of parous than of nulliparous women. The more the uterine muscular fibres are multiplied, the more powerful is the action of Ergot. What symptoms does the drug produce? You know that it has been used to bring on contraction of the uterus, to cause abortion, to hasten the expulsion of the foetus when abortion is inevitable, to increase labor-pains, to expel the after-birth, and in fact whenever it is desirable to create uterine contractions. Its characteristic symptoms are these : The uterine pains are prolonged but ineffectual. That is one symptom. Another which you will sometimes notice in cases of retained placenta, is hour-glass contraction of the uterus. This peculiar contraction prevents the expulsion of the placenta. You may by the aid of the hand remove the after-birth ; but a sure plan is to give a few doses of Secale.
We may also use Secale in thin and scrawny women, whose skins are. shrivelled, dry, and harsh, and whose faces are sallow and who in labor are weak. The labor-pains seem to be entirely wanting. The uterus is as flabby as though it were mucous membrane only and not a muscular organ. At other times the woman will complain of bearing down in the sacral region, a sort of prolonged urging feeling in the abdomen.
Ergot has an influence on the blood in another way. It seems to lessen the coagulating function of that fluid. Hence it will cause haemorrhages, the flow of blood being dark, thin, and persistent. It may come from the uterus or from any of the cavities of the body. You may give it in uterine haemorrhage when the flow is passive, dark in color and, it may be, offensive. The woman may be reduced to such an extent that she lies unconscious and cold. Before she goes into this unconscious state she complains of tingling all over the body, and she requests her attendants to rub the limbs. Formication is the best word to describe this tingling sensation under Secale. She holds her fingers spread asunder. That symptom seems to bother her even more than the haemorrhage itself. In such cases Secale is the remedy, especially if the constitution is favorable to it.
Again, we may use Secale in retained placenta when it arises, not from hour-glass contraction of the uterus, but after miscarriage, especially that occurring during the early months of pregnancy. The discharge corresponding to the lochia is offensive. The patient is cold and often almost pulseless from loss of blood ; the uterine contractions are very imperfect, or else there is prolonged tonic contraction. In such cases, Secale is further indicated by mental symptoms. The patient has mania, during which she laughs, claps her hands over her head, in fact, seems to be beside herself.
Secale acts very prominently on the gastro-enteric organs. It produces a picture very much like that of cholera. It is useful in cholera infantum, cholera morbus, and cholera Asiatica. It is indicated when the patient is cold and almost pulseless, with spasmodic twitching of the muscles in various parts of the body; especially is this spreading asunder of the fingers noticed. The eyes are sunken, and the features pinched. There is a great deal of spasmodic retching, although not much vomiting. The surface of the body is harsh, shrivelled, and dry, as though there was no moisture left in the system. The urine is suppressed. There is tingling or formication all over the body. The stools are profuse and watery, and are ejected with great violence. The patient though cold, cannot bear to be covered.
In cholera infantum Secale is indicated by profuse undigested stools, which are watery and very offensive, and are discharged by fits and starts, and are followed by intense prostration. Now, Secale must be separated from the remedies that are similar to it, or you cannot use it to the best advantage.
It has been observed that in the case of a manufactory in which substances containing arsenic were made, that the fumes of the arsenic destroyed all the surrounding vegetation with the exception of the rye; and the rye grew more luxuriantly under the fumes of this factory than it did ordinarily. When we come to study the medicinal effects of Secale and ARSENIC, we find that they have many symptoms in common; both produce shrivelling up of the system, both produce gangrene, both produce choleraic symptoms, and they follow each other well. We may make a few distinctions which are all sufficient, and which are mainly these: In the first place, the Arsenicum gangrene, and almost all of its other symptoms, are worse from cold and better from warmth. The patient wants to be wrapped up warmly. The Secale patient finds relief from cold. The same is true of ulcers. If you have an indolent ulcer, discharging an ichorous offensive pus, you almost always think of Arsenicum. Yet Secale may be the remedy. The distinction again is this: Arsenicum has relief by warmth, Secale by cold.
In cholera, both remedies have profuse, offensive, watery. stools, which are very exhausting. Arsenicum lacks that tingling which is almost always present when Secale is the remedy. Arsenicum has more restlessness, anxiety, anxious tossing about and irritability of fibre. The patient wants to be warmly wrapped up; while the Secale patient wants to be cool.
During the stage of collapse, Secale is indicated by the symptoms I have mentioned. Here, it is very similar to CARBO VEG. The latter remedy is indicated when the prostration is so great that the patient lies quiet, too weak to move, with passive haemorrhage from the nose, and, perhaps, from the bowels as well. The body is cold, characteristically so, from the feet to the knees. The pulse is rapid, almost threadlike, and the breath is cold. In such alarming cases Carbo veg. may sometimes save.
Another remedy is CAMPHOR, which is to be used in preference to Secale, Arsenic, or Carbo veg. in cholera, when the system is overwhelmed by the suddenness or violence of the poison, before there is any vomiting or diarrhoea, and when the prostration is intense. The body is as cold as ice. The voice is squeaky or husky. Camphor is here used in the mother tincture, a few drops in water, and a dose every fifteen minutes until the reaction takes place, when some other remedy is indicated.
VERATRUM ALBUM resembles Secale in the coldness and blueness of the surface, with profuse watery stools; but it differs in one symptom, and that is, the cold sweat on the forehead. None of the remedies just mentioned have this symptom except Arsenicum, and under that remedy the restlessness is greater than under Veratrum, while the cold sweat on the forehead is less marked.
In the uterine symptoms, haemorrhages, etc., we have to remember some remedies that are closely allied to Secale. I may incidentally mention CARBO VEG. here as a remedy similar to Secale in persistent epistaxis. On the flow goes, day after day, apparently not lessening in the least, the blood being dark and non-coagulable. You must distinguish between the two remedies by their other characteristic symptoms.
VSTILAGO is to be remembered as a companion of Secale. It is a fungus which grows on corn. It is similar in action to Ergot. Careful chemical analysis shows that it contains Ergotin just as does Secale. Ustilago may be used in haemorrhages somewhat different in character from those of Secale. The haemorrhages in which it is the most effective are those from the uterus, when the flow is bright red, partly fluid, and partly clotted. With this condition present, you may use Ustilago, whether it occur at climaxis or during labor or abortion, or menstruation. This remedy does not act on the uterus exactly the same as does Secale. It causes passive congestion of the uterus. It is especially indicated when the slight manipulation necessary for a digital examination causes oozing of blood. Another condition for which it is the remedy is menorrhagia from retroflexion of the uterus. I have generally used it in the sixth potency. It seems to tone up the uterus so that that organ loses its soft spongy feeling to the examining finger! The circulation through the uterus is improved and bleeding takes place less readily.
We have two or three other remedies useful in these cases of engorged uterus, and as this is so difficult to cure I will give them to you here.
One of them is BOVISTA, the puff-ball. When this plant is mature, the envelope of the ball bursts and there is ejected from the cavity a brownish powder which consists of the spores of the plant. This, when applied to the skin, produces an eruption much resembling herpes, and which bleeds readily. Bovista affects the circulation in a very peculiar way. It seems to produce a relaxation of the entire capillary system. Whether it acts through the blood, or through the nervous system, I am unable to discover. This relaxation of the capillaries favors the haemorrhagic diathesis. On account of this unique action of Bovista, we find it useful in epistaxis. Whether the haemorrhage be associated with menstrual irregularity or whether it arises from traumatism, Bovista may be the remedy.
We find it useful in uterine haemorrhage when the uterus is engorged (here it is similar to USTILAGO and SECALE), particularly when there is flow of blood between the menstrual periods from any little over-exertion; here it is exactly like AMBRA GRISEA. The menstrual flow of Bovista has this to characterize it: THE FLOW OCCURS CHIEFLY OR ONLY AT NIGHT OR EARLY IN THE MORNING. It would seem that the exercise during the day, by favoring the circulation, tends to diminish the uterine congestion.
Another peculiarity of the Bovista, which I might as well mention here, is a puffy condition of the surface of the body. A lady, for instance, holding her scissors notices that a deep crease is made in the thumb and finger by the instrument, showing that there is a slight cedematous condition produced by the sluggish passage of the blood through the veins.
The Bovista also produces some symptoms of suffocation. It is used, for instance, in some countries to stupefy bees in order to facilitate the collection of honey. The symptoms of asphyxia are very much like those produced by the fumes of charcoal, so Bovista has been used as an antidote to the effects of charcoal fumes.
ARNICA is another antidote to charcoal fumes.
You must remember all these symptoms of Bovista, and also another group likewise dependent upon the circulation, and that is, the heart feels enormously large, with oppression of the chest and palpitation after a meal and also during menstruation. Associated with the heart disease, and also with the deranged menses, is a headache deep in the brain, with a feeling as though the head were enormously large or swollen.
Another remedy is MITCHELLA, which may be used in case of engorged uterus when the flow is not so passive as in the case of the remedies already mentioned. The blood is brighter in color and the haemorrhage is associated with dysuria.
The next remedy that I want to mention as similar to Secale in haemorrhages is TRILLIUM PENDULUM. This remedy is useful in an entirely different type of haemorrhage from that calling for the former. It is indicated when the flow of blood is bright red and profuse, and is attended with a faint feeling at the epigastrium, coldness of the extremities, and rapid and feeble pulse. It is more closely allied to Cinchona than to any of the remedies thus far mentioned. It is indicated more by the active acute haemorrhage than by the chronic slow oozing calling for Secale.
HAMAMELIS is likewise indicated in haemorrhage. It acts principally on the veins. It is called for when there is hammering headache, especially about the temples. The patient exhibits no alarm or anxiety concerning the haemorrhage. The flow is dark and rather passive. There is a feeling of soreness in the affected part. The patient is greatly exhausted by the flow of blood.
ERIGERON CANADENSIS is indicated for haemorrhages from the uterus associated with painful urination. How can you distinguish it from Mitchella ? The Erigeron haemorrhage comes in fits and starts; it comes with a sudden gush and then it stops again.
Sometimes the cavity remaining after the extraction of a tooth bleeds persistently. If you clean out that cavity so as to remove the clot, and apply to it a piece of cotton soaked in tincture of Trillium, you will often check that haemorrhage even when other styptics fail. The Erigeron I have never used in that way and cannot, therefore, tell what effect it would have. I have used Trillium" in the same way in nosebleed.
I would like to mention here FERRUM PHOSPHORICUM. It acts upon the circulation very much as does Hamamelis. It is an excellent remedy in that stage of inflammation that we describe as "dilatation of the bloodvessels." Given then, it prevents further extension of the disease. Thus in engorgement of the lungs, it prevents the subsequent pneumonia. The chest feels sore and bruised, the pulse is full and round, but not rope-like as under ACONITE. The expectoration is scanty and blood-streaked. Whenever the discharge contains blood and you have not the sthenic fever that belongs to Aconite, you may depend upon Ferrum phos. Sometimes in the summer complaint of children, the bloodvessels of the abdomen become greatly distended. The diarrhoea which shows itself, is somewhat watery and contains mucus and blood. There may be a little urging to stool but no tenesmus. If tenesmus appears, Ferrum phos. ceases to be the remedy. If your case advances to the production of pus or muco-pus, Ferrum phos. can do no good.
You can also use Ferrum phos. in the beginning of hydrocephaloid ; when in one of these violent attacks of summer complaint the child becomes drowsy and heavy, its eyes suffused with blood and a full soft pulse. It has not the hard tense pulse of ACONITE or BELLADONNA.