Natrum carbonicum is the first preparation of soda we have to consider. It is much used in the allopathic school of practice as a remedy for acidity of the stomach. It is also used by the physicians of that school in eczema; for instance, in a case in which there is chronic thickening of the skin, the affected parts are bathed in carbonate of soda. No doubt, it relieves, but it cannot cure, unless it happens to be the indicated remedy, in which case it will cure as well as palliate.
Carbonate of soda has also been introduced into practice as a remedy for burns.
In our practice the drug claims a high place, being something of a polychrest. Its most prominent action, or seat of action, seems to be on the stomach and bowels. Many of its symptoms spread from this central point of attack.
For instance, we will find that it has mental symptoms pointing quite plainly to hypochondriasis. We find the patient depressed and exceedingly irritable. This is especially noticed after a meal, particularly after dinner, which is usually the heaviest meal. The degree of hypochondriasis seems to be measured by the stage of digestion. Just as food passes out of the stomach into the duodenum, this hypochondriacal mood lessens, and continues to do so as the food gets further down into the bowels. You will find such a patient decidedly averse to society, even to his own family. The indigestion is more marked after a vegetable diet, particularly starchy foods. The indigestion is accompanied by sour eructations, water-brash and by retching in the morning, with spasmodic contraction of both oesophagus and stomach, with little or nothing coming to the mouth with, perhaps, copious salivation. The abdomen is hard and swollen, especially so after eating. There is accumulation of flatus in the abdomen, and this, when passed, is noticed to be foetid. There is a sort of griping colic just after a meal. The stool is difficult to expel although not especially hard, just as we found in HEPAR last week, and as we find still more marked in SEPIA, which, by the way, is complementary to Natrum carb.
At other times, the patient suffers from diarrhoea. The stool is papescent or watery, with violent urging. This characteristic of the soda salts, you will find to be quite general. You find it also in the Natrum sulph. It seems to be due to the purgative effect of the soda itself. Wine in such cases as this causes faintness and vertigo, not agreeing with the patient at all.
In these gastric and nervous symptoms, we find the nearest analogue to Natrum carb. in SEPIA, which, as I have mentioned a few moments ago, is also its complement. We find in both remedies this aversion to society and indifference to one's own family. We find, too, that both remedies have sour eructations and the formation of foetid gas in the abdomen. I remember curing a case of dyspepsia with Sepia, in which there were very few gastric symptoms, nothing more than a feeling of discomfort, but the mental symptoms were prominent and always ushered in an attack of indigestion. The patient, a lady, became indifferent to her business affairs and also to her friends. She became excessively irritable. She would hardly tolerate even a civil question addressed to her. Sepia entirely cured this patient after she had been six or seven years under allopathic treatment. This shows you how the mental symptoms of Sepia come in, to enable you to decide for it as the remedy. Natrum carb. has almost precisely the same class of symptoms. It may not be so often indicated, but nevertheless, it comes in to supplement Sepia when the general symptoms are those of Soda rather than those of the former remedy. Natrum carb. has rather distension of the abdomen, with fulness and hardness, like all alkalies, while Sepia has more goneness and empty, sinking feeling, which food does not fill up, except, perhaps, at supper. Natrum carb. has one exception to the fulness of the abdomen, and that is, at ten or eleven o'clock in the morning the patient feels anxious and weak, very much as you find under IODINE, but eating relieves this and produces distension.
Then, again, you should remember Natrum carb. in connection with NUX VOMICA. Both remedies have this retching in the morning. This symptom is strongest, however, in Nux vomica. You are often called upon to give Nux vomica when it occurs in pregnant women, or after a debauch, etc. Then, too, you find Natrum carb. parallel with Nux vomica in this hypochondriasis. You must compare the two remedies carefully before you decide which you will give.
We shall see, too, that NATRUM MUR. will have to be compared with Natrurn carb. It is necessary to distinguish between the two because they are both soda salts.
Evidence of the effect of Natrum carb. on the nervous system is shown by the electric changes in the atmosphere. Thus we find it causing nervousness or anxiety, which is worse during a thunder storm. These symptoms occur independently of the timidity which belongs to some people during thunder storms, at which times they secret themselves in the cellar, etc. They are due to the direct effect of the electric changes in the atmosphere on the nervous system, precisely as we find in other remedies, notably in PHOSPHORUS, RHODODENDRON, SILICEA and PETROLEUM. So nervous and restless may the Natrum carb. patients become, that playing on the piano makes them worse and aggravates their complaints. It is not only the music that has this effect, but the efforts they use and the position they take. This is a common symptom in hysterical women. They get very nervous from playing on the piano or from hearing music.
Another property of the Natrum carb. is its use in ill-effects of summer weather; this is common to all the soda salts. We find Natrum carb. indicated when there is a great deal of debility caused by the heat of summer, particularly when the patient is subject to chronic headaches, which are worse every time he exposes himself to the heat of the sun. Natrum carb. is particularly called for in the chronic effects of sunstroke. It may have been years past that the patient was overcome by the heat; and now with the return of hot weather, he suffers from headaches.
Natrum carb. also weakens the nervous system in another direction.
We find it exhibiting great debility, which is marked with every exertion on the part of the patient. His walk becomes unsteady ; any little obstruction on the pavement causes him to fall. His ankles turn in when he attempts to walk. I have a patient in good health who has had five falls within one year, and for these accidents I can find no reason. These are the cases that require a remedy, not for the effects of the fall, but to tone up the joints or muscles. Other remedies besides Natrum carb. having this weakness of the ankles in children are SULPHURIC ACID, CAUSTICUM, SULPHUR, and, perhaps, PINUS SYLVESTRIS. I mention this last remedy with reserve, for while it has been highly recommended in our literature for weak legs, it has failed in a number of cases.
You will find that Natrum carb. will relieve soreness of the feet, and particularly of the soles, accompanied by swelling of those parts. You may also use it for ulcers on or about the heels after a long walk. This symptom brings to mind a peculiar circumstance that I would like to mention. Certain remedies have an affinity for certain parts of the body. A soldier who had been marching a great deal had two ulcers, one on the heel, the other on the instep. Natrum carb. cured the one on the heel but not the one on the instep, which was afterwards cured by Lycopodium. LYCOPODIUM acts on the instep and Natrum carb. on the heel. The same thing you note all over the body. There are drugs that act on the right tonsil and not at all on the left. You find some remedies which act on the great toe and not at all on the others.
On mucous membranes, too, we find Natrum carb. exerting considerable power. The crude drug has been known to produce in workmen engaged in its manufacture, small ulcers on the cornea. Given internally, it has cured small corneal ulcers or phlyctenules, with great photophobia and stinging pains ; particularly are these symptoms marked in scrofulous children.
The catarrhs curable by Natrum carb. are not commonly met with, but when they do occur, there is no drug that can take its place. The coryza is fluent, and is provoked by the least draught of air, and seems to have a periodical aggravation every day. It is entirely relieved by sweating. Chronic cases of nasal catarrh or ozaena even call for Natrum carb. when we find thick yellowish-green discharge from the nose, or hard foetid lumps. The tip of the nose is red, the skin peels off. You find not infrequently when Natrum carb. is indicated, that there will be accumulation of mucus in the posterior nares, or in the throat, in the morning, causing "hemming" and hawking until it is raised. This is a very common symptom in all the alkalies.
The cough seems to have its aggravation whenever the patient enters a warm room, and is attended with purulent green sputum of a salty taste. Among other remedies which have this cough worse in a warm room, BRYONIA stands foremost.
Natrum carb., as I have already told you, is often used in the treatment of eczema. It seems to have a particular affinity for the dorsa of the hands. The skin there becomes rough, dry, and chapped. Here again you find SEPIA comparing well with Natrum carb., being particularly indicated for this form of eruption when there are little ulcers about the joints of the hands. Natrum carb. also cures herpetic eruptions with yellow rings.
On the genital organs Natrum carb. has some effect. Particularly do we find it indicated in diseases of females, when there is pressure across the hypogastrium as if everything was being pushed out. If you make an examination in these cases, you will find the os uteri indurated and misshapen. There is considerable congestion of a passive kind in the uterus, causing pulsation there during and after coitus. The extra influx of blood caused by sexual erethism brings about this pulsation. The leucorrhoea which Natrum carb. causes is thick and yellow, and sometimes has a putrid odor, and ceases after urinating.
There is another use you may make of Natrum carb., and that is when labor pains are weak and cause a great deal of anguish, tremor, and perspiration with every pain, and are relieved by gentle rubbing.
We also find Natrum carb. to be one of the remedies useful for expelling moles or the products of a false conception.