Belladona - The Essential Homeopathic Features
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Tincture of whole plant when beginning to flower
THE ESSENTIAL FEATURES
When one 'clearly perceives what it is in medicines which heals,' as Hahnemann enjoins, then one no longer thinks of a medicine in narrow terms. That is to say, when one understands the essence of a remedy, one can envision the possible applications of that remedy in their broadest context.
Many of our medicines are spoken of as 'acute remedies' or 'constitutional remedies', but no such artificial boundaries exist in homeopathy. In the course of my personal experience I have observed that Belladonna, a medicine generally considered as an acute remedy, is among the most frequently used polychrests for chronic conditions as well.
Belladonna is a remedy characterised by great intensity and vividness. Both Belladonna patients and Belladonna disease processes are impressive because of the great energy they manifest. Thus, Belladonna pathology can be among the most extravagant produced by any remedy in our entire materia medica. Great forcefulness seems to characterise the pathological processes of Belladonna. Similarly, the constitutional Belladonna individual generally appears vital and intense. He seems to possess a great amount of well-balanced energy.
One rarely finds a use for this remedy in depleted, apathetic individuals. Rather, Belladonna people look healthy and robust. They seem to be people without deep miasmatic illness, without many layers of sickness. Consequently, there is frequently a paucity of mental and emotional symptoms in the first stages of pathology of these patients. Furthermore, they almost invariably have clear aggravations after taking the remedy and generally require little long-term management.
In most homeopathic materia medica great emphasis is placed on the 'suddenness' of Belladonna conditions. This 'sudden' quality certainly pertains to acute conditions and also to some of the individual crises of chronic conditions, but in the typical chronic cases one very frequently sees a slow steady intensification of symptomatology over the years. Thus, it is usual to find a history where the symptoms began rather innocuously but have been progressing steadily, such that within the last year or so the condition has become unbearable, driving the patient to seek treatment.
The pathology of the constitutional Belladonna patient generally confines itself to the physical level; this contrasts with the usual patient course seen in other remedies. Typically, a patient will initially manifest only physical symptoms, but, with added stress or suppressive medical therapies, the disease penetrates to involve deeper levels of the organism, i.e., the mental-emotional sphere. Consequently, in most cases, one sees a mixture of both psychological and physical symptoms.
Belladonna constitutions, however, seem to 'quarantine' the pathology to but some specific physical disorder, perhaps because of their relatively higher vitality. In these patients one usually encounters a history of a progressive intensification of the physical disorder and little evidence of mental or emotional affect. For example, one often hears a patient relate a history of migraine headaches which originally were infrequent and rather mild but which have in the past two years increased in frequency to several times a week and which consist of an almost maddening pain.
As a consequence of the above observations, one can say that the diagnosis and prescription of Belladonna is generally made on the basis of physical disorders. However, a characteristic Belladonna personality does exist.
The Belladonna external appearance is one of vitality. These people are full of life and may appear plethoric. Their faces are often red and flushed, and their eyes seem to glisten. As mentioned below, they are not easily ignored or passed by, but tend to stand out in the crowd.
The Mental and Emotional Picture
Belladonna individuals are vivid; they have a type of presence which is not easily ignored. They are the kind of people who stand out in a group; they may even tend to find themselves the centre of attention at parties as a result of their bright eyes and great vitality. However, they are not people who seek out company. The Belladonna personality possesses substance and richness. They are intellectuals of obvious intelligence and a great number of vividly expressed ideas. They have strong, vivid emotions and sentiments, vivid thoughts and imaginations. More than anything they are excitable.
Although they do not avoid company, it appears that their thoughts and imaginations are so vivid that they do not need extra stimulation from outside sources. In fact, they seem to avoid strong stimuli and have an aversion to noisy, bright places. Furthermore, their strong characters do not need support from others. They do not like to reveal their suffering (although in a crisis they are usually unable to hide it). They do not require consolation, and they tend to keep their problems to themselves.
Irritability and Anger
In our materia medica the Belladonna pathology is presented in such a manner as to make you think that unless somebody is totally psychotic, convulsed or in a delirium you cannot prescribe this remedy. My experience with the chronic patients of Belladonna, with those I call the constitutional type, is quite different. I have seen a lot of Belladonna cases that had no mental pathology at all. As stated, the pathology in constitutional Belladonna is generally confined to the physical plane. But, of course, when the patients' defenses are extensively harassed, there can be deterioration to deeper levels and then we see a sudden appearance of mental pathology.
We do not see a progressive psychopathological state. The mental-emotional pathology that does finally appear in Belladonna can be seen as an accentuation of the described personality type. The same 'intensity' that characterises the Belladonna physical pathology applies to the mental-emotional pathology; they both come on like a storm.
Irritability, anger, and finally violent impulses and violent mania can be witnessed. Irritability is the one symptom which is consistently present even in the early stages of pathology. One very often finds a history of impatience and sudden flares of temper. These patients may literally explode with anger. There are paroxysms of anger and shouting, and a patient may say that when he is angry, "The whole building hears me shout!". The anger is such that it can bring about coughing while the face becomes extremely red. The patient becomes angry even at his own mistakes and then wants to break things. Sometimes the anger alternates with weeping in a state beyond his control.
The anger is, however, equally rapidly forgotten, like a storm that rages and quickly subsides. But beware, should anyone try to give advice to a Belladonna patient while in this temper, however kindly one may try, the result will be to make him furious and explode in an even worse manner.
Anxieties and Fears
Because the Belladonna individual is generally strong in character, he is not prone to suffer fears and anxieties. One does find anxiety about health in some cases, especially fear of cancer, but this fear is easily overcome by the reassurance of a physician and soon forgotten. Anxiety is not generally marked in Belladonna cases, though it may appear sometimes alternating with rage, or in a crowd, or during menses. There can also infrequently occur fear of death or fear of the dark. Of course, the most famous fear of Belladonna is the fear of dogs and fear of animals in general. As Belladonna is a remedy with a vivid imagination it is natural that there should be a fear of imaginary things.
There is also an element of violence running throughout Belladonna. When the patient does begin to show signs of mental-emotional pathology, he may mention a desire to perform violent acts. In the earlier stages the patient may struggle to control various compulsions to violence; e.g., a temptation to bite or to pull someone's hair. He may even feel compelled to grab the hair of an unknown bystander, but he restrains himself. In a state of rage or delirium he may lose control however, and actually strike those around him, biting people or objects, such as a spoon.
Belladonna can become very destructive in its psychosis or delirium. There is a desire to tear one's clothes, to kill people, or to be killed.
A Belladonna patient can become very destructive under the influence of alcohol. The Belladonna mental pathology is very much aggravated by drinking hard spirits.
Rage and Mania
Finally, when all control is lost, one sees the occurrence of one of the most violent manias produced by any remedy. As stated, the Belladonna constitution is generally resistant to psychological impairments, but it may suddenly deteriorate into advanced mental pathology. The Belladonna rage can appear during headaches, or, alternatively, during the excited state a fit can be brought on by simply touching the patient. The Belladonna patient can become frighteningly destructive and wildly violent, wanting to strike people or bite them as previously described.
There is a wildness in him, a wild look on his face, and his strength may be greatly increased. He may turn to barking and growling like a dog in his delirium. During an interval from the enraged state he may want to die, and may try to commit suicide. Belladonna is indicated in cases of manic depression where the state of mania that we have just described is succeeded by long periods of depression with a desire for death, where the patient wishes to commit suicide by hanging or stabbing himself, or in any other kind of violent way.
These violent episodes may also occur during febrile deliriums. One may see such a case in utter delirium, groping around the room and literally trying to climb the walls or trying to gather objects off the wall. In this state the patient sees black animals on the walls and furniture, he spits around and makes grimaces while his strength is tremendously increased. It is truly frightening to observe such a case. At other times the patient hallucinates and sees all manner of phantoms, evil spectres and faces with vicious fangs. He may talk about devils, saying that he will be taken away by the devil. In the midst of these vicious hallucinations the patient may laugh in a sardonic and almost evil manner.
Further symptoms that may be found during a Belladonna state of mania include bouts of knocking the head against a wall, attempts to strike out at imaginary objects, or at people imagined to be on their abdomen or face. Sometimes there are convulsions during the mania state and the fury. In epileptics we see the fury and rage with the full intensity of the remedy and frightful distortions of the face.
In a Belladonna case a state of psychosis may arise due to a number of factors in which the natural outlets for the emotions are suppressed. For example, an individual may suffer from excessive anger, whatever the cause, and be unable to find a proper outlet for this anger. Alternatively, a person may be unable to fulfil his ambitions, or may have to suppress them. Other factors include an eruption of feelings which may have been suppressed, or a terrible fright, grief or mortification suffered by the patient. These situations may all lead to a psychotic state. The form of the psychosis may be different, depending mostly on the cause, but the common characteristics are the glistening of the eyes, the heat of the face, the inner excitability, the senseless restlessness and the increased strength. Belladonna should also be thought of in conditions like pyromania and kleptomania.
In a case where the ambitions have been affected the resulting psychosis will show excessive pomposity. The person for instance may say that he has made a great discovery from which he stands to gain a lot of money. He signs cheques for vast amounts to overpay people for buying things that he cannot afford or does not need. He brags a lot and talks in an excited and intense manner. He sleeps only a few hours at night and roams about in an aimless way all day. Should anybody try to contradict him he flies off in a temper and becomes very aggressive, with an impulse to kill.
If the reason for madness is a love disappointment the form of the psychosis may take a on very different aspect. Here you will have a patient who may strip down to only his shirt and run out into the street in broad daylight, gesticulating and uttering many absurd things. He may start a sort of wild dancing, with shrieking, singing, clapping of the hands. The dancing may alternate with sighing. He jumps over chairs and tables, tears his own hair, indulges in obscene talk and cursing. He may spit and bite at those around him.
The madness may alternatively result from grief, and here you may see a different picture again, though the basic characteristics should be present as already mentioned. This patient has a tendency to sit and break pins or sticks, making gestures as if he were drinking. He may go to hide with fear in his eyes. He has a feeling of being possessed by the devil or pursued by the police, or he may feel that he is divided into two parts. He may have the illusion that he is a dog and start growling and barking. He is impelled to touch everything, and aimlessly walks around and around in a circle.
Delusions, Hallucinations and Visions
During the Belladonna psychosis and febrile states the patient experiences vivid delusions, hallucinations and visions. The vivid imagination of Belladonna and its excitability have been mentioned. In certain circumstances this imagination may suddenly burst forth giving rise to hallucinations or visions. Most often this occurs in febrile states, but it also arises in mental disorders. These visions may occur with the eyes wide open; furthermore, the hallucinations are not of pale ghostly images but rather sharp, vivid pictures. If the patient mentions that he has a tendency to be delirious and to see visions as soon as he suffers a fever, this can be a strong confirmation of the diagnosis for Belladonna.
The delusions of Belladonna can be triggered by fever, by injuries to the head, by suppressed menstruation and by hysteria, and they are almost always accompanied by dilated pupils and a red face.
A typical Belladonna delirium is described here by Kent: In the evening he was seized with such violent delirium that it required three men to confine him; his face was livid; his eyes injected and protruding, pupils strongly dilated; carotid arteries pulsating most violently; a full, hard pulse, with loss of power to swallow. Violent delirium; broke into fits of laughter, then gnashed teeth disposed to bite and strike those around.'
The following examples may serve to illustrate the almost unlimited delusions of the Belladonna delirium:
The patient throws his arms about, moves his lips as if talking, urinates outside the pot.
He has delusions of fire on distant home; of someone trying to take away the bed clothes; of body sinking down between the thighs; of cockroaches swarming about the room.
He believes that he sees cucumbers on the bed, or dead persons, or black dogs.
He imagines himself dreaming when awake; sees giants, a friend's head sticking out of a bottle, a transparent and speckled head.
He thinks himself a juggler, thinks that he has a transparent nose.
He sees brilliantly coloured, glittering objects.
He thinks that a physician is a policeman, that he is riding on an ox.
He misrepresents his sensations.
He sees spectres, ghosts, spirits in fire.
His head and nose seemed to be transparent; trees seem to be people in fantastic costume.
He sees large turtles in room.
Kent summarises the whole picture beautifully:
'The mental symptoms of Belladonna are delightful to study, but dreadful to look upon. The mental symptoms are such as come on in intense fevers, such as are observed in maniacal excitement, in delirium. Excitement runs all through. Violence runs all through the mental symptoms. It is a wild state. He is wild; striking, biting, tearing things, doing unusual things; doing strange things; doing unexpected things. He is in a state of excitability. These mental symptoms that come on during fevers, the delirium and excitement, are very commonly ameliorated by eating a little light food.'
The intensity that characterises the mental-emotional pathology of Belladonna is mirrored by the intensity of the sleep, which in this remedy is of exceptional interest. Patients may talk loudly during sleep, even in a quarrelsome manner. They confess things they have done during the day in a very vivid manner. They sing or croak during sleep. They turn around restlessly in bed in a kind of fury and stretch and kick the sleeping partner. They grind their teeth and in general those who sleep with them will tell you of the intense activity that characterises their sleep. They may be prone to somnambulism, or may suffer from insomnia the whole night, with starting at the least noise, burning skin, constipation and headache.
The Belladonna Child
The Belladonna vitality and vividness are nowhere more apparent than in the child, who is full of energy and restlessness. His appearance is characterised by red cheeks, hot skin and glistening eyes. He jumps around all over the room, from the chair to the table to the bed. In the consultation room he will not stay in one place. This is a lively child, full of imagination and very impressionable. Whatever the child experiences during the day seems to be re-lived during sleep. The mother will tell you about his sleep and the intensity with which this child sleeps, the restlessness, talking or screaming during sleep, even getting up and walking around. The child is difficult to wake and has nightly enuresis, particularly after sugar or sweet things. He is aggressive and fights with other children, but is not malicious like the Stramonium child.
While studying the child's history you will learn that the child is prone to convulsions with high fever. When suffering from abdominal pain there is vomiting of all food, and a violent thirst develops, coupled with great prostration. Lying flat on the abdomen ameliorates the pain. The convulsions are brought on from light, from a draft of cold air, from the infant becoming cooled. They are more likely to occur in nervous, brainy children, with a good sized head.
In the case of an inflammation of the meninges the child becomes wild and beside himself. The aggression increases tremendously, he strikes those around him, makes terrible grimaces, has contortion of the limbs and becomes tremendously restless. In delirium the child talks a great deal, and this is followed by laughing; he does not recognise his parents. The convulsions can be so strong that the child may fly off the bed to the floor from the sudden convulsion.
While the child is unconscious and convulsed, he bores in to the nose with his forefinger, so hard and with such force that he bores a hole there. If the nurse tries to prevent the child's hand from doing such damage to himself a severe convulsion supervenes. Special attention should be placed here on this strange symptom for Belladonna: boring with the finger in the nose and cheek ameliorates the general condition of the child.
'In Belladona the infant also commonly remains in a profound stupor, the profound stupor that goes with congestion of the brain; pupils dilated; skin hot and dry; face red, throbbing carotid arteries. Finally the child becomes pale as the stupor increases and the neck is drawn back, because as it progresses the base of the brain and spine become involved, and the muscles of the neck contract, drawing the head backwards, and he rolls the head; eyes staring, pupils dilated. This mental state is associated with scarlet fever and with cerebrospinal meningitis.'
Belladonna is one of the remedies that fits most closely the symptomatology of the terrible disease that hits the young: Gilles de la Tourette's syndrome. The child makes terrible tics and grimaces, and is so restless that he cannot be restrained to sit quietly for five seconds. He spits, repeats obscenities, makes terrible sounds with his nose and larynx, groans, coughs, barks, looks retarded, sometimes is destructive and at other times tender. He seems impulsive, doing everything and anything that comes to his mind.
Crying seems to ameliorate the Belladonna symptoms, even in adults. A tearful mood in children and even babies is characteristic, but they do not want consolation, which only aggravates their condition. They cry for the sake of crying and this seems to do them good. Eating ameliorates most of the conditions in Belladonna. It has been observed in hydrocephalic children that they cry until they get something to eat.
Restlessness during stool is another characteristic in Belladonna children. When children are sick in bed with congestion of the brain, they have an intensely hot head while throbbing is apparent. The temporal arteries and the carotid arteries pulsate, with great violence.
During fever, Belladonna children can also behave like Chamomilla or Cina. They are capricious, cannot stand being talked to in a nice pacifying voice, fly into a temper on being given good advice for anything, complain that everything tastes bitter, desire things which when offered are refused, and cry with the least provocation. Lastly, Belladonna should be considered in cases of worms in children.
The sexuality of Belladonna is usually well balanced, but when this sphere is affected the result can be a tremendous increase in desire leading to excessive practices such as nymphomania and frequent masturbation. This heightened sexual excitement cannot be satisfied easily. Thus we find cases of Belladonna who are shameless in their sexual conduct and sometimes practice exhibitionism. The excitement is so great that interrupted coition can cause a general upset of the organism leading to the appearance of a headache or even a fever. In women the increase in desire can lead to an obsession with the idea of marriage.
The Belladonna speech is characterised by a number of difficulties and impediments. There seems to be a weakness of the organ of speech, leading to stammering like one who is intoxicated. Speech may be confused, hasty, incoherent, even unintelligible. Temporary speechlessness may occur, where the patient cannot utter a sound.
The symptomatology in this remedy may be brought on by a number of different factors, the main one of which concerns the circulation which, when affected by a stress factor, especially heat or cold or excitement, may cause symptoms to appear. Unfulfilled ambition is another factor, when one expects that he will become rich or famous from a project and this does not come true. Injuries to the head, disappointed love, reverses of fortune, grief, anger and fright are further factors to be considered in a Belladonna case.
The Belladonna pathology tends to be carried to extremes. For example, when irritability appears, it tends to be extreme irritability. Similarly one may note the greatly heightened intensity of the physical complaints; for example, the headaches are rarely mild and nagging but severe, throbbing and bursting, indeed they are among the most violent in all of our materia medica. Again, when the fever rises, it rises fast and is very high.
It seems that the expression of the symptomatology cannot be restrained by the organism; it breaks out, rages wildly and then passes suddenly leaving the patient exhausted. As stated, the individual crises may occur with suddenness, but the chronic conditions tend to slowly mount in intensity, gradually approaching the extremes described.
As previously stated, the vast majority of Belladonna cases involve predominantly physical pathology. The pathological processes of Belladonna tend to be concentrated on the vascular system. Flushing and vascular congestion are the hallmarks of this remedy, with engorgement of blood vessels and throbbing, pulsating pains. In acute conditions the congestion may be truly violent, characteristically involving intense heat and a sensation as if the part were burning. The patient is compelled to use cold compresses, even ice, to find relief. This heat can be so intense that one can literally see steam emanating from the compress.
In the chronic conditions, however, milder conditions can be seen. Flushing of the face is a well-known characteristic of Belladonna, but one may also see flushing in other regions such as the back or the extremities. For example, episodic congestion of the legs can occur where the feet become hot and have to be uncovered for several days until the congestion subsides. Belladonna also has marked dryness of the skin and of all the mucous membranes, yet when this dryness involves the mouth, there is generally little thirst.
Anything that markedly alters the circulation can provoke or aggravate the Belladonna state. Generally, overheating and abrupt exposure to cold can provoke or aggravate the symptoms, not just in the immediate sense but also chronically. One often hears a history of chronic headaches or vertigo, etc., which began after a patient washed his hair and immediately went out into the cold air. Belladonna patients can be either warm-blooded or chilly or sensitive to both heat and cold. Rarely does one find in the constitutional Belladonna extreme chilliness or warm-bloodedness.
The consistent theme is that abrupt temperature changes provoke symptoms by altering the circulation. Belladonna can be adversely affected by exposure to the sun, to overheating from sitting in the sun. It is curious that such apparently vital patients can be so easily discomfited by so mild a stress as entering the cold when overheated. It is as if the intense energetic state of Belladonna is but precariously held in balance, vulnerable to the slightest bit of extra stimulation.
Also, hormonal disturbances may bring about these circulatory changes; consequently, many of the complaints of Belladonna occur around the time of menstruation: before, during, or after. Symptoms may also follow childbirth or hysterectomy.