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Conium Maculatum- The Essential FeaturesIndex
1. Conium Maculatum- The Essential Features
CONIUM MACULATUMPoison Hemlock.
Tincture of fresh plant in flower.
THE ESSENTIAL FEATURESThe idea of paralysis in Conium is not so much the one we know from Socrates' death by the 'noggin of hemlock'; real paralysis comes only as an end result, and this may take a very long time, twenty years, thirty years, or more. Conium suffers with a gradually progressing weakness and paresis, and gradual is the key word here.
The idea is much more that of sclerosis, of becoming hard, especially the glands, which become swollen and indurated. A gradually progressing weakness with the formation of indurations during the decline, is the picture of Conium pathology.
Mental Paralysis and IndurationThis process develops on all three levels. On the mental level, we observe a gradual decline of the intellectual capacities.
The patient becomes more and more dull; he has more and more difficulty in comprehension.
Thinking is slowed down, memory becomes weak, and the patient becomes forgetful. His five senses lose their acuity, and his reserves slowly ebb away. A frequent and characteristic symptom is an inability to sustain mental effort over any length of time.
All these symptoms can also be found in other remedies; but the characteristic here is the snail's pace of the progress. It happens so gradually that the patient is not aware of the process himself. After some years he may go back in his memory and say, 'What is happening to me?' But it takes him years to see the declining process. Nor is this decline observed by the people around him, especially those who are in contact with him every day. The process develops too slowly and undramatically.
Even when he finally feels that something serious and deeply disturbing is going on, he will often say nothing to anybody, because no one else seems to have noticed anything. Finally a kind of stupefaction takes over, and now he feels that this state is definitely leading him into a serious condition of degeneration, of imbecility and premature senility.
Conium produces as it were areas of sclerosis, of callus in the brain. It seems to be a remedy that is very set in its thinking, to the extent that it becomes superstitious. Conium is the main remedy in superstition or 'superstitious thoughts'. It is like an induration in a certain area of the brain.
The patients tend to have compulsive thoughts and to execute compulsive actions, but only in a separate arena of their mental lives. The remainder of the brain is working beautifully, and they are otherwise normal people, performing their tasks, holding their jobs, and fulfilling all their social functions, but in this separate mental arena they have some fixed ideas which they cannot get rid of.
Those superstitious obsessions may be more or less harmless in themselves. They might think, 'If I don't touch the corner when I go around it, something bad is going to happen to me'. Or, 'I mustn't step on the cracks between the slabs of the pavement, and if I do, I will suffer some misfortune'. These ideas may make life intolerable for the people around them.
I remember a case in which the wife related that her husband would not take off his trousers to go to bed until everything was absolutely quiet outside. If he could hear a car, he was unable to take off his trousers. So he waited until he couldn't hear the car any more, and then he started pulling off his trousers.
But soon the noise of another car came, and he couldn't continue taking off his trousers: he had to wait for absolute quiet. This man was a manager in a bank, he had a responsible position, and he was normal in every other way, but he could not be talked out of this obsession.
Of course, there was more to it that. He admitted that his memory had begun to fail, and that his concentration was not the same as it had been. He could not read as much as he used to, because he was slower to comprehend. All of these functions came back after the remedy, Conium 10M in a single dose, and the compulsive action has disappeared.
Conium's fixed ideas often (but not always) centre around needing absolute quiet, as in the case above, and problems with strangers. This is especially true regarding toilets. They often cannot urinate or pass stool if there are people near the bathroom. And they can get terrible constipation because of that, especially when they are travelling, because there are nearly always people around. It is beautiful to see how such behaviour is taken away by the correct remedy.
Emotional Paralysis and IndurationOn the emotional level, we again witness this gradual paralysis with induration. The emotions are gradually weakened and paralyzed until it is impossible to bring them to the surface, to 'move' them. The final state is a condition of complete indifference and apathy, when they find no interest in anything. And when they have gone so far, they are no more able to show emotion when it is needed or appropriate to the surroundings.
If they get a present, they cannot be happy, and they are also unable to cry when they would like to; their feelings may still be there but they are petrified and indurated, they cannot be moved. Then they become gloomy and unhappy; they do not want company and they feel unable to communicate with anybody.
But this indifference doesn't develop quickly, and again it takes a long time until the pathology has gone this far. Before that state of indifference, there is a stage where patients are worried because they feel that something is happening with their mental condition. They are worried about their health, they wonder what is happening in their mind, how all this will end. They become anxious, and in this state they do not want to be alone. In Conium the aversion to company is not a very strong feature.
How can we speak of induration presented on the emotional level? It manifests as a kind of insensitivity. Conium people are not sweet persons, they are hard, 'down to earth', materialistic and practical people. As the doctor you will see that they are demanding. They will be loyal to you as long as they feel you can help them and as you are not hurting them. But if there is a stage where, in their opinion, you are not helping them enough, they will immediately let you know, demanding their 'rights'.
Conium people are materialists in a different fashion to Platina. They don't have the extreme egotism and haughtiness of Platina, they don't think that they are 'big'. Rather, Conium's attachment is to the material world around him, his property, his habits, his family.
Conium says: 'This is mine. This table is mine. This is my house'. Once any of this is taken away from him, there is a definite morbid, pathological reaction, and this is often accompanied by an induration on the physical level, a tumour which is usually malignant.
These symptoms after a 'material loss' can occur very suddenly, even immediately, at quite another speed compared to the slow and gradual paralysis of the remedy. If, for instance, the patient's house burns down and many valuable things are lost, he can develop symptoms very quickly, especially hard tumours, even cancer, and in such a case Conium will often be indicated.
Suppression of SexualityThe biggest material loss for Conium is the deprivation of regular sexual activity. The moment they lose regular sex with their partner, problems start. The body may function well as long as there is a regular release on the sexual level, a release of the hormones at regular intervals with a specific partner.
This is what they need to feel in balance, otherwise the balance is lost. Therefore you will often see Conium indicated in women who have lost or separated from their partner and do not have a new love affair.
Female Conium patients depend on the regular sexual activity they are used to, and if the husband dies, the woman does not easily start a new affair. Because of this failure to release the hormones, problems will arise, which can go from vertigo, which is usually the first to appear, to trembling and weakness.
It can go as far as developing severe problems, even cancer, and especially cancer of the breast or of the uterus. Cancer of cervix uteri is also often seen. The idea is that a hard tumour develops, mostly of the glands, but it can be anywhere.
Conium is the main remedy for the gland that is affected greatly by sexual activity in man: the prostate. If a suppression of sexual urge in a Conium man is present, the first gland that is affected is the prostate, it can swell and even cause prostate cancer. Moreover, Conium is an important remedy in indurated and malignant swelling of the testes.
Also we may see hypochondria in unmarried men with very strict principles of sexual morality: 'Hypochondriacal complaints, especially in unmarried people who are strictly abstinent in sexual matters'.
Here the comparison with Platina is again very interesting. Conium people have a strong sexual urge, as do Platina, but the difference is that Conium are not oversexed, they are more on the practical side. They don't think of sex day and night, like Platina, rather they look upon sex as something they just need from time to time to release their hormones; they are people without illusions, matter of fact in their approach to sex.
You have to understand the mentality: they feel that the good things which we can enjoy in life are given to us, it is our right to enjoy them. They do not tend to have bad feelings, feelings of guilt or doubt, neither do they tend to hypersexual behaviour. We can say, they know exactly what they want: sex and the release of orgasm is what they need to keep their organism functioning, that is the idea, and they take it as a fact or, as it were, their right.
But if this outlet stops suddenly, once this 'right' is taken away from them, then there is a kind of dizziness, which they constantly complain about, they say that their head is never clear. They start trembling, shaking all over and a feeling of paralytic weakness eventually takes them over. The dizziness can become really severe, and Meniere's Syndrome may develop. Things seem to be turning around them.
The worst situation is when they lie in bed and want to turn to the other side; this movement aggravates them terribly. (This should be differentiated from the similar symptom in Silicea, where the vertigo in bed only arises from turning to the left.)
On sudden motion, for example on turning the head to look behind them, everything seems to turn around them. They complain about the head problem, it is nearly indescribable for them: they do not say vertigo, instead they use words like a buzzing inside the head, a noise, a dizziness, or similar terms.
In a recent case from Argentina (quoted in Klassische Homoopathie 5/93), a 57-year-old man got 'vertigo, worse when turning around in bed, with a feeling as though the brain had gone to sleep'. This came on after his wife had (in his words), 'condemned him to celibacy'.
In other cases, patients start to tremble and feel as if paralyzed all over; even mentally paralyzed, unable to perform any duties, with problems in concentrating; unable to stand mental effort for any length of time.
Conium are also fixed on their sexual patterns, not at all flexible. They are not oversexed, and they do not tend to promiscuity or extramarital relationships. On the contrary, when they make a decision to keep with one partner, they will stay together until the partner dies.
Typical symptoms will be: complaints of swollen glands, the head is not clear and there are headaches, even very severe headaches, or headaches together with vertigo. The patient starts trembling and feels weak. With this picture you might prescribe Gelsemium, Cocculus or Carbo vegetabilis. But once you have the information about the loss of a partner and the abrupt end to sexual activity, then there is only one remedy that will help and this is Conium.
Of course, such a history also happens to other people who do not need a remedy, but where other organisms can manage this interruption and can balance themselves, it will be Conium who, almost invariably, will develop pathological symptoms.
Further Mental SymptomsSome proving symptoms to show how the Conium pathology affects the intellect:
'Dullness; difficulty in understanding what he is reading, with confusion of the head'.
'Dullness, like stupefaction; difficulty in understanding what he is reading'.
'Want of memory'.
'Forgetfulness and weakness in head'.
'Unable to correctly express oneself by talking, with difficulty of recollecting things'.
'Inability to sustain any mental effort'.
There are often states of difficulty in concentration and absence of mind, even insensibility and confusion, especially after awaking from a midday nap.
There are many emotional symptoms where anxiety, gloomy thoughts, fears and peevishness dominate. They correspond to the state where the patient begins to feel his decline (see above), but they can also appear in other situations.
For instance: 'Deeply absorbed in thought, he meditates anxiously about present and future, searching for solitude'. 'Hysterical anxiety'. 'Ill humour and gloom'. 'Constant ill humour and peevishness'. 'Peevish mood; does not know what to do; time passes too slowly'.
From a proving by Robinson: 'She feels peevish, vexed, and easily put out about trifles'. Where these symptoms dominate there may be a rather contradictory attitude toward human company, as is manifested in this proving symptom: 'Shuns people and their approach, and at the same time dread to be alone'.
In the context of the menses, there are also states of sensitivity, tearfulness and restlessness. 'Before the menses, aching in all limbs, with tearful mood, restlessness and anxious worry about trifles'. Or: 'She is easily moved by trifles, moved to tears'.
In the Chronic Diseases, we even find a veritable weeping fit which later transforms into vertigo and weakness: 'Paroxysm: alone at home, she feels an inclination to weep; after yielding to it, the weeping changes to a loud sobbing; afterwards flickering before the eyes and indistinct vision, so that she had to hold on to something when walking; afterwards weariness in all limbs and a dull headache'.
A number of mental symptoms corresponds with the stage of indifference, apathy, emotional paralysis and petrefaction: 'Very ill-humoured, every afternoon, from 3 pm to 6 pm, as though a great guilt weighed upon him, with paralysed feeling in all the limbs, indifference, and taking no interest in anything'. 'Morose mood; everything about him makes an unpleasant impression upon him'. 'Disinclination for work'. 'No pleasant feelings whatsoever'.
Conium has successfully been used in depressive states, and it is easy to see that the depressive element prevails in the remedy. There is on record a cured case of a woman who fell into a 'very unhappy mood' every 14 days. She had no desire to dress, to eat anything, to talk or to see her children.
The periodic recurrence of this unhappy state may be a hint that Conium could also be indicated in cyclic manic-depressive states. And though the depressive symptoms preponderate, we still see proving symptoms like this: 'He is averse to being near people, and to the talk of those passing him; is inclined to seize hold of and abuse them'.
A cured case, fragments of which are very often quoted in literature, shows that Conium can be useful when there is an alternation of marked manic and depressive stages:
'A 16-year-old boy... became mentally ill... It was peculiar that he was alternately in a depressed mood for 10 days and then again in an excited mood for 10 days. He is silent for 10 days, sad and worried, picks his fingers, lies in bed most of the time, does not like to answer questions, with more frequent urination during the night. Confused feeling in head, often sits as if he were in a dream. Eats and drinks but has a stool only every third day; weak memory. Timid, cannot be persuaded to any work. Sleep very restless. Then very excited for 10 days, vehement, domineering, quarrelsome, tends to scold. Likes to wear his best clothes, makes useless purchases and then cares very little for them, wastes or ruins them; does not want to work, prefers to play; picks quarrels, does not tolerate contradiction. Continuously picks his nose which bleeds easily'.
Conditions of WeaknessAs mentioned above, the Conium weakness increases very gradually, year after year, finally amounting to complete paralysis, and this process may take many years. Conium is an important remedy in chronic recreational drug users; not for the acute consequences of high doses of cocaine, for instance, but for people who are more careful with drugs.
They take small doses of drugs, they enjoy them little by little for many years, and very gradually they keep going into a state of loss of power on all levels, mental, emotional, and physical, so slowly that it is hard to perceive. After many years, the mind is totally paralysed, they cannot think any more, imagination is exhausted, all energy is lost. In chronic drug users who do not take large or strong doses of narcotics, Conium will be indicated if there is such a gradual loss of power.
I include alcohol as a recreational drug here; Conium is in any case sensitive to alcohol and is easily affected by it. Hahnemann writes: 'The least quantity of spirituous drink intoxicates him'. Headaches are aggravated from alcohol, and the characteristic process of weakening and decline may be sped up by alcohol. But we have to know that underneath there is a predisposition; alcohol and drugs may catalyze and intensify the process, but they are not the deepest reason for the pathology.
On the physical plane, the weakness of Conium especially manifests in the urinary and genital systems. In spite of the intensity of the sexual desire, the sexual powers are weak, and there is often impotence. Men tend to have ejaculatio praecox, and women may also get orgasms without even touching their partner. To quote Hahnemann's own delicate phrase: Emission even while frolicking with a woman'.
I once treated a female patient who used to flirt with priests. She liked to make them excited, and she would have a complete orgasm while she was flirting with them, without ever touching them. This symptom made me think of Conium. You may wonder why I call this a state of weakness. But in fact this is how I understand it: the sexual organs are weakened, almost paralyzed, and they are unable to hold back the release of the orgasm. A little stimulation, then orgasm happens, and that is it.
A keynote for Conium is interrupted urination. People in a Conium state will be urinating and the urination suddenly stops, in the middle of the flow. They wait a moment, and it starts again, stops again and so on, three, four or five times, before the urinary tract is empty. 'The discharge of urine suddenly stops during urination and only continues after a while'.
Such a symptom may point to a weakness of the bladder in expelling the urine, but sometimes also to a stenosis of the urethra or to the swelling of the prostate. If the urethra is narrowed because of an enlargement of the prostate gland, Conium may be indicated as well. If the urethral stricture is caused by inflammation and cicatrization, you should also think of Thuja and Medorrhinum when other symptoms agree.
An interesting modality: complaints of the extremities which respond to Conium are relieved by letting the affected limb hang down. This modality is indeed a strange, rare, and peculiar symptom that should call Conium to mind. As Kent puts it: 'Conium differs from a great many medicines. It is common for pains and aches to be relieved by putting the foot up on a chair; by putting them up in bed. But the patient with rheumatism, with ulceration and the other strange sufferings of the legs, will lie down and permits his legs to hang over the bed up as far as the knee'.
An ulcer on the foot that is painful even when lying in bed, is ameliorated by hanging the legs down from the knee. We may comprehend this peculiar symptom by knowing the pathology of the remedy, especially from the case of Socrates, who observed that its actions started by paralyzing first the lower extremities. It is therefore possible that Conium restricts the blood flow in the lower extremities, causing problems thereafter.
The Conium VertigoVertigo is one of the most prominent features of the remedy. It may occur on rising from bed or from a seat, or on walking, on going downstairs, when lying, etc. But the most characteristic modality is vertigo on turning in bed. Also on moving the eyes or the head, especially in sideways motion. In this kind of vertigo Conium is the main remedy together with Belladonna, especially when the vertigo occurs when turning around in bed. Clarke mentions a case of lumbago with the symptom 'cannot turn over in bed without being dizzy' that was cured with Conium.
You may also compare Cocculus, because the Conium vertigo frequently has to do with an accommodation weakness of the eyes, as in Cocculus.
Nash reports a case where a patient seemed to have all the symptoms of locomotor ataxia. The striking symptom was that he could not, when walking, turn the head or the eyes the least bit sideways without staggering or falling. When he went out with his wife, he always walked in front of her or behind her, but never by her side! This strange behaviour made Nash think of Conium.
Some more proving symptoms and cured symptoms relating to the Conium vertigo:
GeneralitiesGlandular induration as a result of contusion. Conium has acted very well even in mammary cancer which developed after a blow against the breast, in cancer of the lip after long-time pressure by a tobacco pipe, etc.
Lassitude and weakness, even amounting to fainting. A striking symptom is a tremulous weakness after every stool that ceases in the open air. 'Sudden relaxation (a kind of paralytic weakness) while walking' has also been cured by Conium. But usually the weakness will develop very slowly and deeply, as discussed above. 'So weak that she has to lie down; sick and weary in the morning in bed, with ill-humour, sleepiness and pains in the stomach'.
The paralytic states of Conium usually begin below and proceed upwards (as in Socrates' death); this direction of development may also manifest in other Conium symptoms.
They are particularly sensitive to complaints from walking in the open air where exertion and cold may combine: 'Great liability to catch a cold, even in a room, after a walk in the open air, during which he had perspired'. 'Walking in the open air makes her weary, and the air affects her'. Extreme exhaustion, sudden relaxation, ill humour and other complaints appear after walking in the open air.
Warmth will usually ameliorate, particularly warmth of the sun. 'Chilly with trembling in all limbs, and therefore she has to remain constantly in the warmth of the sun'. Bright light, however, will often disturb the patient very much, and excessive photophobia is a striking symptom of Conium.
Two strange symptoms that can be understood as keynotes:
'Violent headache with vertigo, from which she suffered for three or four days; she was sad and silent, just sitting there the whole time'. Sick headaches with vertigo and an inability to urinate. There are also headaches with unsatisfactory and too small stools.
The most important symptom is a weakness of the eye muscles, and particularly of the accommodation of the eyes, sometimes amounting to paralysis. The remedy may be indicated in presbyopia, as Hahnemann already presumed in the Materia Medica Pura. 'Far-sightedness; could distinctly see rather distant objects'.
In Meniere's disease it is the first remedy to be thought of.
Tendency to bore or pick in the nose, which bleeds easily.
Eruptions in face, itching; pustular or vesicular; gnawing ulcers in face. Blisters at the upper lip, at the margin of the red portion, painful. Indurated tumours on cheeks and especially on lips, also as a consequence of pressure or contusion (tobacco pipe). Malignant tumours of the lips. Hardening and enlargement of the submandibular glands. Tearing stinging face-ache, directly before the ear; or a drawing pain from the jaw to the ear, or else painful tension near the ear. Facial pains that mostly occur at night.
Drawing toothache, extending through the temples, aggravated by eating cold things, but not by cold drinking.
Bitter taste in throat.
Respiration, Chest and Cough
Irritation to cough in the larynx, especially in this form: dry spot in the larynx, where there is a crawling, and almost constant irritation to dry cough. There may also be itching, tingling or scraping in throat, provoking dry cough.
Palpitation of the heart after stool, with intermission of heart beats. Violent palpitation: after drinking , when rising from bed.
With many Conium complaints, there is loss of appetite. But Conium has marked desires: for salt and salty food; for sour food; for coffee. Milk does not agree. Bread tastes bad and 'does not go down'.
Distension of abdomen, the belly is often hard and tense, with flatulence. 'Hardness and severe bloating of abdomen, in the evening after eating, the umbilicus protrudes which makes her sleep restless'. Swelling of the mesenteric lymph nodes.
Rectum and Stool
Conium has some very characteristic and unusual symptoms in this region. The symptom 'Discharge of cold flatus' seems to be unique in the materia medica. Clarke reports that in a case of severe diarrhoea where the stools felt cold Conium was successfully given.
The best-known symptom in this region has been quoted above:
The ill effects of sudden loss of a sexual partner in both sexes are discussed extensively above.
In this region, Conium has particularly caused and cured indurations and hard tumours with stinging, shooting pains. It has been frequently used in mammary and uterine cancer, and in induration and enlargement of the ovaries as well. Some proving symptoms: 'Hardness of the right breast, with painfulness to touch and nightly stitches with it'. 'Stitches, as with needles, in the left mammary gland'. Conium proved especially useful, in hard tumours after a blow or beating against the mamma.
Neck and Back
Conium is an important remedy in indurated swelling of cervical lymph nodes.
Weakness, powerlessness, prostration, lame feelings and paralysis of the extremities are symptoms of Conium.
Insomnia and late falling asleep, only after midnight.
Great internal and external heat, with great nervousness. Burning heat through the whole body. Sensation of internal and external heat after sleep. A fever symptom from the Chronic Diseases; 'Sensation of heat in whole body, also increased warmth of skin which can be felt externally, with dry and sticky lips, without thirst, even with aversion to drinks, and with an insipid saliva in the mouth; noise and shining objects affect him, as well as any motion; he wants to sit lonesome with closed eyes'. Chilliness, shivering and coldness, especially early in the morning and in the afternoon; at 5 am; from 3 to 5 pm.
Itching of the skin, especially of the backs of the fingers. 'Itching stitches, as from fleas, one directly after the other, here and there on the body, but always single stitches, never two at the same time'.
An example by Hartlaub: 'Sudden herpetic eruption on forearm, beginning as a small spot and gradually spreading over arm; skin became porous, very red and raw, with furrows and depressions. Sore, broken places formed here and there in the skin, viscid lymph or blood oozing from them, lymph drying and forming white crusts under which the exudation still continues; intense itching in affected parts, with irresistible desire to scratch, particularly in evening; surrounding lymphatics swollen and involved...' Burning nodules on the skin during the menses, disappearing with the end of the bleeding. Petechia, especially in old people. Tendency to necrotic ulcers.
CLINICALAsthma. Bladder, inflammation of. Breast, affections of. Bronchitis. Bruises. Cancer. Cataract. Chorea. Cough. Cysts, sebaceous. Depression. Diphtheritic paralysis. Dysmenia. Erisipelas. Eyes, affections of. Galactorrhoea. Herpes. Hypochondriasis. Jaundice. Liver, enlarged. Melancholia. Menstruation, disordered. Numbness. Ovaries, affections of. Paralysis. Peritonitis. Phthisis. Pregnancy, breasts painful in. Prostatitis. Ptoses. Scrofula. Spermatorrhoea. Sterility. Stomach, affections of. Testicles, affections of. Trismus. Tumours. Ulcers. Vertigo. Vision, disordered.
RELATIONSAntidoted by: Coffea, Dulcamera, Nitricum acidum, Nitri spiritus dulcis
It antidotes: Mercurius, Nitricum acidum, Sulphur.
Compatible: Arnica, Arsenicum, Belladonna, Calcarea phosphorica, Lycopodium, Nux vomica, Phosphorus, Pulsatilla, Rhus tox., Stramonium.