Broad-leaved Kalmia, Calico-bush, Mountain-laurel, Spoonwood, a native of North America, not mentioned in allopathic works on materia medica. Bigelow, in his "Medical Botany," and Barton speak of poisonous effects from eating the flesh of game which has fed upon the berries of the Kalmia ; and from eating honey supposed to have been gathered by the bees from the blossoms of the Kalmia.
The proving of Kalmia was made by Dr. Hering, of Philadelphia, and first published in the "Transactions of the American Institute of Homeopathy," vol. i., 1845. To this proving were subsequently added the results of further observations by Dr. Hering, a proving by Dr. J. Buchner, of Munich, and some clinical observations by Drs. Okie, of Providence, Williamson and Jeanes, of Philadelphia, and Gray, of New York, and the whole was published in part v. of "Hering's Amerikanische Arzneiprufungen," 1., 1857.
In introducing his proving, Dr. Hering remarks: " Kalmia may be a very important remedy in acute as well as chronic diseases.
As Ledum palustre finds its place in the swampy mountain meadows of Germany and northern Europe; as Rhododendron chrysanthum adorns with its yellow blossoms the elevated plains of Asia, so Kalmia latifolia displays itself in the narrow stony valleys of the brooks and smaller rivers of North America, and enlivens their banks with its evergreen foliage. In May and June it spreads out over them a rosy drapery, hanging down in such beauty from the rocky walls of the valleys, as to strike with wondering admiration even those who have been accustomed to the luxuriant glory of a tropical vegetation.
As the mountain Rhododendron thrives in the home of the storms and under the Alpine mists, as Ledum flourishes in the regions of the swamp clouds of mountain ranges, so Kalmia prefers the fogs of the valleys. But all three have a mountain home. The entire family appears to correspond to those great families of diseases which we call rheumatisms and gout, and particularly to the northern forms of them. In intermittent and particularly in remittent fevers with a so-called gastric-nervous character, and which run a tedious course, all three remedies have shown themselves to be indispensable.
There are but few remedies in the materia medica which have so great a mastery over the pulse and with so beneficial action diminish the too quick pulsations of the heart, as Kalmia and its cognates. Of course this is only in cases which in other respects correspond to the action of this family."
Kalmia, Rhododendron and Ledum act very often beneficially, when there is a very frequent pulse.
Next to this family stands the Colchicum family, which, singularly enough, is as often applicable in gout, and moderates the pulse as well as the Rhododendron family in rheumatism. But we must be careful never to give; one after another, never to give Kalmia, Ledum and Rhododendron in suc cession, nor (of the Colchicum family) Colchicum, Veratrum and Sabadilla.
In heart diseases that alternate with rheumatism, or that have developed themselves out of rheumatisms, Kalmia promises to be a very important remedy.
(In a note Dr. Hering says: " This was written in 1843. This conjecture was brilliantly confirmed. In 1853 Dr. Okie cured two cases with hypertrophy of the heart arising after acute rheumatism. In one of these cases auscultation showed thickening of the valves.")
The proving of Kalmia is as yet so fragmentary that nothing like a complete analysis can be made of it.
Its action upon the vital force is evidenced in the modification of the heart's action, which in small doses it accelerates, in large doses it moderates, reducing it almost to a minimum, producing at the same time spasm of the glottis, paleness of the face, nausea, obscure vision, coldness of the limbs, etc. The pulse is reduced to 35 or 40 beats.
The action upon the vital force is shown likewise by the pains, and still more by the excessive weariness, languor, lassitude in the limbs and especially in the lower extremities, a symptom which, unattended with any swelling or evidence of inflammation, is quite characteristic of Kalmia.
The action upon the organic substance is not so clearly shown in the proving. Yet so powerfully curative has Kalmia proved in grave organic affections of the heart and kidney that we cannot doubt its power to effect changes in the tissues of the body. It produces an itching, erysipelatous eruption something like that of Rhus, along with dangerous asthmatic symptoms. Also pimples and pustules in various parts of the body which itch very much, and after being scratched burn. The peculiarities of the action of Kalmia display themselves in the coldness and imperfect reaction of the fever, in the very great reduction of the pulse from large doses, and in the severe pains and great lassitude felt in the extremities and particularly the lower. The pains extend through an entire limb, as, for example, from shoulder down to the fingers, from the hypochondrium to the hip and from the hip to the heel. These sensations indispose the prover to motion and exertion of any kind, and are greatly aggravated by moving.
The vertigo is very marked. It accompanies every group of symptoms.
The sensorium is oppressed. Vision is obscured.
HEAD. In the head, pain in the vertex, which extends up from the cervical vertebrae (resembles Belladonna and Silicea). Headache in the forehead on waking in the morning; this is a frequent symptom.
Headache in the forehead and over the eyes and nose. The headache extends from forehead and temples down into the canine and molar teeth, into the face and the sides of the neck.
EYES. In the eyes, pressure and aching, and stitches along with rheumatic pains in the limbs; vision obscured along with the vertigo; sticking pain under the left eye.
FACE. Stitches and tearing in the bones of the jaw and face. (These symptoms might suggest facial neuralgia.)
The lassitude which characterizes Kalmia is first felt in the muscles of mastication.
STOMACH. Eructations, nausea and vomiting from large doses; pressure in the epigastrium, relieved by sitting erect, worse when bent over; with the sensation as if something were being pressed under the epigastrium. (This symptom should be remembered in connection with heart disease.)
RESPIRATORY ORGANS. Some degree of cough from a scratching in the throat, day and night, with mucous expectoration in the evening, of a saltish taste.
Dyspnoea, with a feeling as if there were a swelling in the throat. Dyspnoea, with pains in the limbs.
HEART. Palpitation of the heart. In large doses it diminishes the pulse, with great weakness in the arms and legs; vertigo on every attempt to move; pulse scarcely perceptible, very weak and thready. These are the effects of poisonous doses. The effects of small doses are to produce palpitation.
TRUNK. Tearing in the nape of the neck; darting from nape into the head (Belladonna, Silicea) ; weak sensation from abdomen into neck.
Pain in right side of neck, also violent pressure. Pain and violent pressure on both sides of neck.
Violent pain in three upper dorsal vertebrae extending through the shoulders.
Constant pain in the spine, sometimes worse in the loins, with great heat and burning.
Sensation, as if the spine would break from within outward.
Violent pain down the spine.
Backache during the menses.
Aching across the loins; pains also during menses; feeling of paralysis in sacrum; also evening in bed, with heaviness in the head.
UPPER EXTREMITIES. Pains in the scapulae, going through shoulders; tearing pressing in right shoulder; tearing from right shoulder down the arm; pressing below the left shoulder ; drawing pain in the left arm at night; pains in the left arm.
Weakness in the arms, with slow pulse ; tearing from left elbow along the index finger, which is spasmodically flexed; tearing from the knuckles of the left fingers to the elbow; repeated stitches in the hands; pains close on the wrist; a kind of paralysis in the hands; pains seem to paralyze the hand.
The pain seems worse in left arm; it moves and does not affect the joints particularly; it is characterized by weakness and a paralytic condition.
LOWER EXTREMITIES. Stitches into the ossa ilii; tearing on the ossa ilii down the thighs into the feet.
Tearing in the flesh of the whole left limb.
Soreness of the left thigh down to the heel; pain in right glutei, in right limb; in thigh, before menses.
Pain in knees and feet; aching in calves; weakness in calves; paralytic sensation along shin-bone; aching in feet, in calves, with slow pulse; jerking in heel; stitches in toes and in soles of feet.
To recapitulate: We do not find any description of inflammation, swellings, redness of the joints, nor of deposits in them; nor is there pain which is confined to the joints, aggravated by touch, motion, heat, etc. On the contrary, the pains extend throughout a great portion of the limbs, move quickly throughout their province, and are attended by weakness and by some disturbance of the circulation. These paralytic sensations and great pains and achings in the limbs seem to be characteristic, for they accompany nearly every group of symptoms.
It is evident that though Kalmia is similar in action to Colchicum, Ledum and Rhus, yet it is not so clearly called for in articular rheumatism or in gout. Its decided action on the heart led Dr. Hering to suspect its value in rheumatic heart affections, a value established by clinical experience.
In 1853, I had a most interesting case of this kind. A little girl of ten years had been ill ten days of what had been called " neuralgia of the chest." When I entered the room, her attitude, propped up in bed, her anxious expression of face, the livid hue of countenance and the visible, tumultuous and very rapid action of the heart, made it evident that she was suffering from violent acute endocarditis,—perhaps, also, pericarditis. She had just had acute rheumatism, great weakness of limbs, but no pain. I gave Kalmia latifolia, though her case was pronounced hopeless, and I had no hope of her. She recovered completely, continued to take the remedy, and, to my surprise, had no valvular murmur. She is now grown up and well.
Dr. Gray, of New York, guided by a "medium," gave Kalmia in prosopalgia; the symptoms indicate its use in that affection.
Dr. B. C. Macy, of Dobb's Ferry, published in the "American Homeopathic Review" a most interesting case of Bright's disease of kidney cured by Kalmia. He was induced to give Kalmia by the great and persistent pains in the limbs.
This is especially interesting, because as yet we have no kidney symptoms that would suggest the use of Kalmia in Bright's disease.