The LEDUM PALUSTRE, or marsh ledum, marsh tea, ROSMARIMUM SYLVESTRE, a plant belonging to the heath family, is a native of northern Europe. It is also found in British America along the Canadian lakes. It can hardly be called a constituent of the allopathic materia medica; none of the standard works mention it.
Linnaeus, in his " Flora Laponica," states that Ledum has been used by the inhabitants of northern Europe, especially Sweden, as a popular remedy against whooping cough, bilious attacks, etc. Odhelius recommends it in lepra, pemphigus and other skin diseases. The Swedes used a decoction of it to destroy vermin on sheep and swine. In Lapland branches of it are placed among the grain to keep away mice. It has been used in Switzerland to adulterate beer, but its rapidly acting intoxicating power was attended by the production of intense and obstinate headaches. The whole plant is used in medicine.
Our knowledge of the physiological properties of Ledum is derived from the proving by Hahnemann and his scholars, published in the " Materia Medica Pura," vol. iv. It is but a very fragmentary proving. The Provers' Society of Vienna are now engaged in a more extended proving of Ledum. The provings published are as yet too incomplete to be made the basis of a study.
In so far as our knowledge of Ledum will admit of our making a general analysis of its action, it may be said:
That Ledum acts on the vital force to this extent, that it interferes with and retards the capillary circulation, and particularly in the extremities and the external surface of the body. This is manifest by the coldness especially of the ends of the extremities, which characterizes the fever of Ledum and to which the heat of certain parts of the body at night form the only exception.
On the organic substance of the body Ledum acts extensively and peculiarly; witness the effect upon the skin, on which it produces eczema, lichen, pustular eruptions, pemphigus; and the action upon the small joints of the fingers and toes, in which enlargements, nodosities and deposits of inorganic matter do unquestionably occur.
The sphere of action of Ledum in so far as this is known to us embraces the sensorium, the digestive apparatus, the skin and the fibrous and serous tissues of the joints and their appendages.
The only periodicity remarked in the symptoms is this: that the pains in the joints are all aggravated at night and by the warmth of the bed; and that about midnight this aggravation becomes so great as to compel the subject to throw off the bed-covers.
As peculiarities attending the symptoms of Ledum, it is noted that the pains generally are aggravated by warmth at night, the joint pains (but not the others) are aggravated by motion; the itching of the skin attending the eruptions is aggravated by the warmth of the bed and is not relieved by scratching, until the part affected has been scratched raw.
The pains are in the joints, sticking, tearing or throbbing and a kind of paralytic pain. These pains in the joints are aggravated by motion, while other pains are not.
Ledum produces, moreover, hard and painful nodosities in the joints and then the warmth of the bed is intolerable, inasmuch as it causes heat and burning in the parts affected.
In the limbs, as considered apart from the joints, a feeling of numbness and torpidity.
A further peculiarity of Ledum is the general coldness and lack of animal heat which attends all the symptoms, with the exception of those above named.
Though sleepy and dull by day and in general not refreshed by sleep, the provers are sleepless at night, with restlessness, tossing, and dreams when they doze. On waking, a gentle sweat with itching of the whole body.
The fever consists almost entirely of coldness, shivering, here and there a little heat, as of the 'cheeks or forehead while the limbs are very cold, and a sour-smelling sweat, especially on the forehead; the sweat is often interspersed with shiverings.
As regards the sensorium we find Ledum produces a feverish condition, a discontented and morose disposition, easily aroused to anger, with great intensity of feeling in whatever direction it may be aroused.
Vertigo is felt when walking and standing, even when sitting still, but is much more violent when stooping, when it is attended by a disposition to fall forward or backward; generally there is a constant sensation of unsteadiness and drunkenness in the head. This with the following symptoms should be remembered in connection with the adulteration of beer with Ledum already mentioned.
The head feels as if it were much affected and the brain is sore at every false step. (This is similar to Rhus toxicodendron.) The chief pain is a burdensome pressure in the forehead or over the entire head, with confusion and numb feeling. More rarely a sticking pain in the brain or a tearing in the head and in the eye (resembling Colchicum and Spigelia); at the same time the eyes are inflamed, the lids are agglutinated, and febrile movements occur in the evenings. Eruption and creeping sensation on the scalp.
EYES. The pupils are dilated, the power of vision is diminished, with flashes before the eyes as after running violently. Lachrymation; the tears are acrid, the lids agglutinate, and yet there is no pain in them. In the eye a pressure or burning, but no inflammation. When inflammation does exist in the eye, the pain is tensive or tearing.
EARS. A kind of deafness as if something were laid before the ears. Noise of various kinds like the ringing of bells or the rushing of a gale of wind.
NOSE. Burning internally in the nose, like coals of fire, and the nose is sore on pressure and on blowing it (a similar pain in the urethra).
TEETH. Pains in the teeth are violent, sticking; then attacks of intolerable tearing-outward pain on one side of the face, head and neck through the night, ending with shivering, deep sleep and lack of hunger and thirst.
In the throat sticking pains and sometimes a sensation as though there were a plug in the throat. (Sore throat with fine sticking pains.)
The stool is not well defined in the proving. Both constipation and a kind of dysenteric diarrhoea are described, yet no distinctive characteristics are given. It is not probable that Ledum is a remedy for either complaint.
URINE. As regards the urine the same two-fold report is given; sometimes the evacuation is frequent and copious; sometimes it is infrequent and scanty. More careful provings on this subject are greatly to be desired, for the symptoms of the joints and the fevers would lead us to look upon Ledum as a valuable remedy in certain difficult forms of gout and of rheumatic gout; and in such diseases experience has shown it to be a most useful remedy. Pathology teaches us that in these affections the quality of the urinary secretion is much altered; and we should expect Ledum to produce analogous alterations in the healthy subject. It is probable that the Vienna provings now in progress will give us information on this subject.
The menses are hastened in their oncoming and are more copious than is usual, the flow being florid. In this respect, the action of Ledum upon the mucous membrane of the uterus is analogous to that upon the mucous membrane of the respiratory organs; for among the symptoms of the latter we find nose-bleeding, the blood being florid, and also spitting of florid blood frequently and in quantities; and in haemoptysis Ledum is one of our most valuable remedies.
RESPIRATORY ORGANS. Dyspnoea, constriction of the chest, worse on motion, walking, going upstairs ; sometimes a tickling or creeping in the trachea and then embarrassed respiration. Cough, which sometimes takes away the breath. Remember that Ledum was a popular remedy for whooping cough. The cough is frequently attended with copious expectoration of florid blood, but especially at night and early in the morning, with purulent sputa.
Drawing and tearing stitches in the chest, which are felt on moving the arms and when sitting. Pressure on the chest, worse on expiration and on moving.
BACK. Pain in back and loins, like a stiffness after sitting. Violent cramping pain over the hips. It occurs in the evening, and is so violent as to take away the breath, and that one cannot rise from a chair without aid. Also a drawing and tearing which extend from the loins into the occiput, and hot cheeks and inflamed eyes.
EXTREMITIES. In the upper extremities painful stitching about the shoulder on raising the arm; also in the hands, ankle, and in the toe and knee-joints, especially worse on moving.
Pressive pains in the shoulder and elbow-joints, more violent on motion, as likewise it is in the hip-joint. Beside this, there is sensation of heaviness in the arm, with a feeling of tenseness in the muscles of the forearm.
In addition to these symptoms, we have in the carpus and in the thigh a feeling as if the muscles had not their proper position. A similar sensation about the ankles, legs, the dorsum and margins of the feet, and in the toe-joints and on the soles of the feet; all worse from motion.
Also a tearing pressure from the hip-joint down to the ankle; also from the shoulder-joint to the hand, worse on motion.
The limbs generally are languid, tired and lax. The small joints of the fingers, the knee-joint and the feet become the seat of nodosities, concretions or " gout stones."
The feet become and remain swollen. Ledum seems to act especially on the left shoulder and the right hip-joint. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF LEDUM. Hahnemann observes that Ledum, from the symptoms which it produces, promises to be useful only in chronic affections, in which coldness and lack of animal heat predominate. This is not altogether justified by experience. It restricts too much the scope of the drug.
In a number of cutaneous diseases, Ledum promises to be of service, and it has become an established remedy. Thus, according to Ruckert, "in pimples and pustules on the forehead, and in other parts of the body; in red blotches upon the face, which has a sticking pain when touched; in blotches on the forehead, like those to which brandy-drinkers are subject; biting itching on the chest, with red spots and miliary eruption."
In the proving, the eruption is described as: "Small round, red spots, insensible, on the inside of the arm, on the abdomen and on the feet;" "small pimples on the whole body (except face, neck and hands), with itching by day and only sometimes at night. Scratching relieves for a short time only." " Itching of the joints." " Tremendous gnawing-itching on the dorsum of both feet; after scratching it gets worse and worse; much more violent in the heat of the bed."
It will be applicable for various forms of lichen.
Teste, a more brilliant than trustworthy writer, says that Ledum is a specific cure for wounds with pointed instruments and for the evil effects of the sting of insects, from mosquitoes up to wasps. He applied locally a solution of the 15th dilution.
But the most interesting application of Ledum is in gout and rheumatism.
The characteristic indication is the aggravation by motion, and the midnight aggravation by heat, shown by throwing off the bedclothes. The febrile symptoms indicate that Ledum cannot be applicable in very severe acute cases; it would seem very appropriate to such cases as have been brought under the injudicious use of Colchicum to a low asthenic state.
It is in such cases that I have found Ledum a most serviceable remedy.
Also in haemoptysis with florid blood and attended by rheumatic pain.
Its empirical domestic and allopathic use in whooping cough should not be forgotten, though Bïenninghausen says of it:
This drug (used in some parts of Germany successfully in whooping cough as a domestic remedy) has never been given by me, and cannot, I think, be very often indicated.