As if one patient - Angustura vera Case

- As if one patient (Greg Bedayn)

In 1799 Hahnemann first applied the genus epidemicus; the single homeopathic remedy to treat a similarly-affected population, during a scarlet fever epidemic he treated in Königslutter, Germany. The story of how he accidentally discovered the genus epidemicus is interesting: There was a large family that had members with scarlet fever. Hahnemann noticed that one of the children who had been taking Belladonna for another reason did not have symptoms of scarlet fever. He discovered that by giving the other members of the family Belladonna, as a prophylactic, they did not get scarlet fever. Hahnemann concluded that a remedy that rapidly cures at the onset of an illness would be the best preventative.
 This serendipitous discovery led Hahnemann into developing the principle of genus epidemicus -where if one takes the symptom-totality from each person in a epidemic population and then puts those features together into one case, as if one person, and gives the indicated simillimum to the entire affected population -that it will cure. The curative results of the genus epidemicus were so positive during the epidemics in the ensuing decades that they not only cured the majority of those affected where nothing else had worked, but they also drew international acclaim towards homeopathy, the new, the rational, medicine. There is something intrinsically powerful about the success of homeopathy in curing large populations that is undeniably attractive to anyone gifted with the power of observation, and it was through these early cures with epidemics that Hahnemann was able to quickly and widely spread the word: Homeopathy. It was from his discovery of the genus epidemicus that Hahnemann later developed his theory of miasms; the taints that color and shape all family trees, as representing the basis of chronic disease.
 About six years ago there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about an epidemic that was killing the northern California sheep population. They referred to it as "Ergot poisoning" and one of the finest schools of Veterinary Science in the country, the University of California at Davis, had thrown up their hands in frustration and called it "an act of God," or something similarly provocative for a homeopath.
 I dialed the operator and asked for the phone number of the two ranchers named in the article. I called both, the second one had many sheep that were affected and we had a long conversation.
 I was told that ergot smut is a seasonal mold that grows on the autumn grass found on the typically foggy California coast, but it grows only in the absence of rain, which would otherwise wash it off. Some years the rains come early and there is no problem; other years the rains come late and there is a substantial loss of livestock due to complications arising from the poisonings that continue sometimes for up to five months.
 The sheep's symptoms were of a neuralgic-convulsive sort. The stricken animals would quiver and shake and then get so stiff they could no longer balance their bodies over their feet; they would topple-over onto the ground and then bounce around a bit in an effort to right themselves. Anxiety mounting, their seizure would only worsen if approached by man or beast. They would die within an hour or two if not rescued by a rancher. It is interesting to note that when the ranchers found sheep in this state, they would hold their hand over the animal's eyes, and slowly the animal would calm down and allow itself to be lifted to its feet, at which point it would gallop off. The ranch terrain is mostly steep hills, and if stricken on the side of a steep slope, the sheep would fall then pitch-pole, end over end, down the hill -a frightful sight.
 The ranches involved were 200-2,000 acres each, with a total population of approximately 10,000 animals. Many of the animals were dying daily. The rancher videotaped the evening feeding process and mailed it to me -saying he was interested in homeopathy if it could help his animals. The video showed some of the symptoms very clearly, so I started packing a field-kit of remedies; Cicuta, Lolium, Ustilago, Strychninum, Nux vomica, Solanum nigrum, Secale as an isode, and a few others. I telephoned the late great George Macleod, in Scotland, and he suggested I try Belladonna followed by Strychninum. Before I could journey to the ranches and apply the remedies, the rains came and washed the mold off the grass, new grass sprouted almost immediately, giving the sheep toxin-free food -the seasonal episode was over. Then, in November 1995, (six years later), the first rancher from the newspaper article called me and said a new episode of toxicity had started and would I come out and take a look at his herd.
 A few days later, I gathered my travel kit and a homeopathcolleague, Sarah Nielsen, RN, and we drove to the ranch, located a few miles inland from Tomales Bay, about one hour drive north from San Francisco. We arrived and inspected the herd at their morning meal. There were two distinctly different problem-groups. For example, some of the lambs were suffering from failure to thrive and a marasmus, which we repertorized in general as emaciation. The lambs were from just hours, to 5 days old and looked markedly emaciated. Some appeared as if they did not know how to suckle. Many of the lambs were gaunt, back arched up, head hanging down with droopy ears. The sheep, on the other hand, had no emaciation but instead had a transient ataxia made worse from touch or loud noises. These "shakers" would become anxious when approached, and, if we moved in close to touch them, their shaking would suddenly get much worse, and, trying to run away, they would usually fall down into a position of opisthotonos (head thrown back, chest bowed out, limbs straight and rigid). Once they had fallen down, their breathing would usually get faster and faster in fits of increasing anxiety. In extreme cases the mouth would open and the tongue would appear thickened; the air passage seemed to be cut off with an accelerated heart rate; death would follow. Just before death, they would often go into a frenzied fit; eyes bulging, lips pulled back tight on the teeth in trismus, the body in tetanic rigidity.
 Repeatedly I asked the ranchers, in differing ways, if there was any incidence of gangrene, bleeding, uterine symptoms, or any discharges from the sheep, in an attempt to confirm that the symptoms were indeed caused by ergot poisoning (Secale). Repeatedly I was told there were no such symptoms. I read everything I could find on Ergot and Ergotism. This source has an interesting history, being the substance from which Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is made; these ranches happened to be in Marin County, where much of the "Acid Generation" of the 1960's was spawned and I grew excited, anticipating a case of "Metaphorical Naturalism" -where the in-nature characteristics of the simillimum are reflected in the characteristics of the patient. I also uncovered stories of how, during the American colonial period, the Salem witch trials involved people who had been surreptitiously poisoned with ergot (Claviceps purpura) causing a convulsive, hallucinogenic state which was often the sole reason that they were burned at the stake as witches. While the symptoms of ergotism were somewhat similar to our sheep's symptoms, ours had no discharges, no uterine symptoms, no hemorrhages, and no symptoms of gangrene -at least one of which we would like to see in Secale poisoning.
 I pondered what LSD and the Salem witch-hunts might have to do with these staggering/dying sheep but decided to look beyond Secale, based on the lack of any confirming symptoms of ergot poisoning. At about that time, the UC Davis team produced a paper written on the subject of the New Zealand Ryegrass Staggers -referring to a seasonal poisoning-epidemic in sheep caused by the toxic endophyte, Acremonium lolii. These symptoms matched those of our sheep perfectly and I felt that it must have been the Acremonium which had activated the sheep's predisposed susceptibility to their transientataxia made worse by anticipation of being touched. This was showing up as a presentation of individualized susceptibility, or non-specific resistance. That is to say, all the sheep ate the same grass but not all the sheep were affected in the same way; only the susceptible sheep were affected by the toxin. (This is a crucial key to understanding chronic disease that western medicine blindly ignores). At this point I felt it was possible to cure the herd of this problem, if we could find the genus epidemicus; a single remedy selected for the entire population based on the totality of symptoms of that population, as if it were one patient.
 "The most important sentence in homeopathy is 'as if one person.'''
 -Jeremy Sherr, Homeonet 1996
 A repertorization of the sheeps' general symptoms brought up two rubrics that caught my eye: 'Stiffening out of body' and 'Fear touch,' which seemed to be at the crux of the problem. After graphing these with 'Emaciation' (in the lambs), the main remedy choices in the Complete Repertory (with MacRepertory analysis set to: totality, small remedies, and rare-strange-and-peculiar remedies) were: Arnica, Ignatia, Cina, Ipecacuanha, Chamomilla, Cuprum, Angustura vera, Ferrum- phosphorica, Stramonium, Phosphorous, Plumbum, and Camphora. After some thought, we weren't satisfied with any of the polychrests so we studied Angustura.
 Angustura vera was first proven by Hahnemann and is listed in his Materia Medica Pura (1827). It is made from the bitter bark of the Galipoea cusparius-officinalis tree from Venezuela (Hahnemann mistakenly refers to it as Bonplandia trifoliata in his Materia Medica Pura). Its local reputation was almost as significant as that of Cinchona bark as a febrifuge in certain fevers, and as an allopathic suppressant for discharges. (Note: The ever popular gastronomic-tonic "Angustura aromatic bitters" is not made from Angustura but was originally made in the town of Angustura in Venezuela, after which it was named).
 Hahnemann talks about the symptoms of Angustura poisoning:
 Trembling, soon passing into violent convulsions. When touched, tetanus suddenly ensued. Eyelids wide open. Trismus, with wide separation of the lips, so that the teeth were quite exposed. Limbs stretched out to the utmost, stiff, and stark. The spinal column and head strongly drawn backwards. The trunk was from time to time shaken by violent jerking along the back, as from electric shocks, and somewhat raised. Respiration intermitting. Death after an hour. Half an hour after death the body was stiff and stark.
 These being the exact symptoms of the sheep, I packed the remedy with instructions and shipped it to the ranch.
 Two weeks later, the rancher called me to report they had given the Angustura vera 12c daily to the orphaned lambs as instructed in their formula, and to the general sheep population in their water troughs. I had written detailed instructions on how to charge-up gallon containers of distilled water and then charge the community water troughs with them, which they did religiously every day for one week. The lambs that had been suffering from marasmus had leapt back to the land of the living, with remarkable growth and renewed vitality -it amazed the ranchers who had been hopeful yet skeptical. The sheep stopped shaking and falling over; it was a short tapered resolution -the acute symptoms of toxicity were over.
 Then it rained, washing off the existing mold; the green grass popped up and the sheep's intake of the toxins stopped. I remember thinking at the time I'd have liked to have had more time to test and confirm the limits of the curative potential of Angustura with this herd, but the seasonal episode of endophyte proliferation was now passing until the following autumn.
 This process showed us the true genius of the genus epidemicus, in that the same remedy cured both the lambs and the sheep, each of a different pathology. Only the lambs had emaciation -the sheep had totally different symptoms -the shaking/stiffness, which grew worse from touch. By finding a remedy that was indicated for both sets of symptoms, and by treating the entire population as one patient, we discovered Hahnemann's genus epidemicus. It is interesting to note that the sick lambs were mostly orphans, and had not had mother's milk. It is possible they were exposed to the toxin in-utero. Sarah found Angustura listed in the rubric 'trismus neonatorum' which might explain the lambs' inability to suckle.
 Then something quite unexpected happened. Two weeks after the sheep were given the first dose of Angustura, an unusually violent storm swept over Northern California. It devastated the subject ranch which is located on the tallest hills within sight of the ocean at Tomales Bay, approximately 45 miles north of San Francisco. The winds were clocked at 100+ mph. The roof was blown off the barn, as were the barn doors. It blew a 2,500-gallon steel water tank through the air one-and-a-half miles until it crashed into a distant neighbor's building. Most trees, fences, and gates were destroyed by the high winds.
 Before first light the following morning, the ranchers went out in the onslaught searching with flashlights for animals in trouble. They found twenty-four new lambs that had not lived through the night, dead from exposure. There is a peculiar symptom with the local ewes that they tend to birth during storms. It appears to be a contraction response from their fear of the storm. Another theory is that during storms the predators are too busy avoiding the elements to be on the prowl for new lambs so the birthing sheep tends to deliver during stormy weather.
 The husband and wife team were clearly grief-stricken as they gathered their dead lambs on the truck to take for burial. The woman-rancher relates the following story: "I saw Gordon pick up one of the lambs and just as he was putting it on the truck he stopped and turned it over a few times -he said he thought he had seen its ear twitch -so I took it up the hill to the house and put it in front of our wood-burning stove on a pad and left it while I checked the house for damage (I should mention that this same lamb had had one eye pecked out the day before by a crow). The electricity had gone out during the night and we had no phone. I checked the lamb periodically -it was not breathing and had no pulse. I held it in my arms and rubbed it and sang softly to it but it seemed to be going into rigor mortis."
 Half an hour after death the body was stiff.
Materia Medica Pura (Angustura)
 -Samuel Hahnemann
 "I felt so defeated, I wept. Gordon came in and we just sat in silence together with the dead lamb at our feet. For some reason I decided we should decorate the Christmas tree to take our minds off our problems. With flashlights we began to hang ornaments, then I remembered the story you told me..."
 During my first visit to the ranch, I had seen a newborn lamb lying dead on the barn floor when I arrived in the morning. It was such a disturbing sight; this lifeless caricature of youth. Later that afternoon, the woman rancher noticed me staring at the dead lamb and told me that she thought she had seen it move, so I immediately kneeled down and gave it a squirt of Cicuta 1M which I had with me, but to no avail -she looked at me and said "Now that would really impress me!" So I told her the story about how Dr. Stuart Close had once treated a 45-year-old woman who had already been pronounced dead, on site, by her family physicians. Close arrived at the residence as the relatives were standing around the parlor, drying tears, etc.; he quickly examined the patient. No radial pulse, limbs cold and rigid, face with an expression of death, both feet and legs were gangrenous up to the knees -the living manifestation of death. He tapped a few pellets of Arsenicum 45M (Fincke) under her lip and rubbed it against her gum. "Presently she opened her eyes and looked at me as I bent over her, and whispered to me 'I'm coming back.' In ten minutes more she was talking to me in an audible voice, asking questions about herself and what had happened. I had difficulty keeping my patient quiet and had to prevent her from talking. Reaction had come on with a vengeance. She went on to make an uneventful recovery and has led a healthy life for these 20 years past."
 So, with this story in mind, the woman rancher got the bottle of Strychninum 12c (in water) and put a few drops on the lambs nostrils. She relates: "Instantaneously the lamb twitched and jerked around a bit and shook, then went still again. I could hear the heartbeat; then it slowed and stopped again. I gave him another few drops of the remedy and the same thing happened. Then I put a squirt of Angustura vera down the lambs throat and with that he simply leapt back to life! Within ten minutes he was up and walking and would not let us alone as we decorated the Christmas tree in the early morning twilight, rubbing his little head against our legs to show us his gratitude."
 By the following morning, the lamb was doing so well that they put him out in a pen, and he's done quite well since. He turned into a husky little lamb and they've named him "One-eyed Jack."
 I was stunned when I received this information. It was enough that the single remedy had acted on the entire herd for differing pathologies, but to bring back the dead!
 One week later the woman rancher called to ask advice on how to follow-up on a sheep that had been attacked by a coyote: its throat had been torn open and the esophagus was punctured. Wide eyed and terrified, the sheep would not calm down. A hissing sound came from the punctured throat as she breathed. The rancher had only the remedies I had left there earlier to test on the staggering sheep. No Aconite, no Stramonium, no Opium, no Arnica, no Calendula, etc. Not being able to reach me at first for advice, the desperate rancher had given it a dose of Angustura. The sheep immediately calmed down to the point where they could approach it and touch it. This sheep went on to have an uneventful recovery. A few days later, the rancher called me again. Another lamb had been similarly attacked by a coyote and had open wounds on its ear, throat and jaw with much swelling, and it was acting extremely frightened. It was almost impossible to herd her into the corral. Again they squirted a stream of Angustura that made contact with the animal's nose and it immediately calmed down and even walked up to the woman rancher and nibbled on her tattered coat-tail. This would have been an unusual display of ease in a typically pusillanimous sheep, rare in one who, only moments before, had been so terrorized. We felt this to be very significant. The woman rancher commented on how the entire herd had become much more approachable and less skittish since the prophylactic watering-trough dosings of Angustura.
 I feel this case shows the broadly curative potential of the genus epidemicus/simillimum. The single remedy showed curative action on acute poisoning-epidemic symptoms as a specific, on chronic symptoms (pusillanimous/shyness), and on acute firstaid symptoms (terror, open wounds), in one herd of animals including a subgroup that was possibly made toxic in-utero. I would like to spend more time testing the limits of Angustura vera on this herd. I have since given the entire herd on this one ranch (as a control) a single dose of Angustura vera 10M, to see if it will permanently shift their susceptibility to the ryegrass staggers, as I suspect it will.
 Greg Bedayn, RSHom (NA), CCH, lives and practices in Lafayette, California.
 gbedaynaol. com -Fax: 510-930-9540 


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