Aconitum Napellus

by James Tyler Kent

Introduction: Aconite is a short-acting remedy. Its symptoms do not last long. It is a violent poison in large doses, either destroying life or passing away in its effects quite soon, so that if the patient recovers, the recovery is not delayed. There are no chronic diseases following it.

Like a great storm, it comes and sweeps over and passes away. By a little meditation we will discover what kind of sickness all this is like, and what kind of a patient is most likely to have that short, sudden sickness.

If we think a moment from experience and homoeopathic observation, we will remember that vigorous, plethoric individuals, when they take cold, come down violently, whereas feeble people, sickly people, come down and recover slowly from acute diseases, and do not become so violently and so suddenly sick.

From this, and from examining the sudden effects of Aconite, it will be easy to see that persons who come down with Aconite sicknesses are plethoric individuals.

Strong, robust people, rugged children and infants become sick, not a very slight cold, or from slight exposure, but from more violent exposure. From being exposed with deficient clothing; from (sudden, violent changes; from prolonged exposure to the cold, north, dry wind.

A vigorous person caught out with thin clothing, or remaining out in the cold, dry air of mid-winter, with its sudden, violent changes, comes down even before night with violent symptoms. This is the class of patients, the plethoric and vigorous, who have a strong heart, active brain, vigorous circulation, and come down suddenly from violent exposure, that need Aconite.

Aconite has in its nature none of the results usually following inflammation. The storm is over so quickly that it seems mostly to conform to the earlier condition. In these vigorous patients sudden congestions are likely to be thrown off by good reaction.

The patient seems to be threatened with a sudden and violent death, but recovery is quick. So, as was observed by Dunham, it is a great storm and soon over. Dunham’s discussion of this remedy in his Materia Medica is very poetical and well worth reading.

Generals: Attacks come on suddenly from exposure to a dry, cold wind. In plethoric children we have an illustration of that in, the sudden congestion of the brain with intense fever, or with convulsions.

We get illustrations of its suddenness and violence in any organ of the body, the brain, the lungs, the liver, the blood, the kidneys. It is suited to the complaints that come on suddenly from the very cold weather of winter, or from the intensely hot weather of summer.

It has the lung and brain complaints of winter, and the bowel inflammations and stomach disorders of summer. We know how these plethoric individuals become suddenly overheated and become violently sick.

Their sudden attacks are frightful to look upon. All these inflammatory conditions are attended with great excitement of the circulation, violent action of the heart, a tremendous turmoil of the brain, a violent shock. with intense fear.

Mind: The mind symptoms that are nearly always associated with Aconite conditions stand out in bold relief.

The patient feels the violence of his sickness, for he is under great nervous irritation and excitement.

Fear is depicted upon his countenance, and the heart’s action is so overwhelming the first thing he thinks of is that he must die; this must mean death, which he fears. It stands out upon his countenance.

He says:

“Doctor, there is no use; I am going to die.”

Many times he actually predicts the moment or the hour of his death. If a clock is in the room, he may say that when the hour hand reaches a certain point he will be a corpse.

When we see this intense fear, this awful. anxiety, great restlessness, the violence and the suddenness of these attacks, we have a case, perhaps, that is dying from the poison of Aconite, or one who needs Aconite.

One who has a sickness resembling the poison of Aconite needs the smallest possible dose of Aconite. It is a very short-acting medicine, and that must be remembered.

It hardly matters what part of the body we are considering we will find inflammatory conditions. But regardless of the region or the locality of the inflammation, that which I have described is the appearance of the patient. Such are the symptoms that will stand out, that you will observe first – the appearance of the face, the mind symptoms, the restlessness, the intensity.

Now, there are many little mental symptoms that are of much less importance than this fear, this anxiety, symptoms that will be masked by these marked symptoms that indicate the patient. He has lost all affection for his friends. He does not care what becomes of them, he has not the slightest interest in them. It sometimes may be a state of indifference.

What I have brought out will enable one to readily see that this picture does not belong to all the remedies in the Materia Medica. In fact, it belongs only to Aconite. No matter what remedy you compare this with, you would find it only under Aconite.

You will find some of the features in the text under other remedies, but those which I have mentioned collectively will be found only under Aconite.

Take the mental symptoms, intensity marks every one of them. If it is a delirium, it is an intense delirium, with excitement, with fear, with anxiety.

Patients in delirium, with excitement and fear, will weep, as in great torment.

Great excitement, fear, fear of death. You wonder what she is weeping about. There are all sorts of moods intermingled also with the fear of Aconite.

There is moaning and irritability, anger, throwing things away, all attended. with the violence and anxiety. These features that I described as uppermost are intermingled with all the other symptoms.

“Screams with pain.”

The pains are like knives, they are stinging, cutting, stabbing. The intensity of the Aconite suffering is wonderful, so that if the nerves take on neuralgic pains the pains are intense. It is the feeling that some awful thing must be upon him or he could not have such dreadful suffering.

It says in the text, “predicts the day of his death.”

This to a great extent is the result of the awfulness that seems to be overwhelming him. And this mental picture is always present, in pneumonia, in inflammatory conditions of any part of the body, in inflammation of the kidneys, of the liver, of the bowels, etc.

Vertigo: Dizziness prevails throughout all this symptom picture.

“Vertigo, turning and whirling.”

A woman out shopping runs up suddenly against a dog and becomes violently dizzy, she cannot even get to her carriage.

“Vertigo that comes on from fear, from sudden fear, and the fear of the fright remains.”

There is a remnant of that fear left, but it will lead you no more strongly towards Opium.

“Complaints from fear. Inflammation of the brain from fear, dizziness from fear.”

Even congestion of parts as a result of fear. A turmoil in the whole sensorium. Things go round and round.

Head: The headaches can hardly be described, they come with such violence. Tearing burning in the brain, in the scalp, attended with fear, with fever, with anguish; headache from taking cold, from suppressing catarrh in the nose.

Catarrh stops suddenly in plethoric people, from exposure, from riding in the dry, cold wind such as we have in this northern climate in winter.

“Violent headache over the eyes.

Congestion of the brain, with congestive headache, with anxiety, with hot face.”

Eyes: The symptoms that would lead you to give Aconite for affections of the eye are numerous.

Eyes take on sudden inflammation. Congestion of the eye. Blood red appearance of the eye.

Sudden inflammation of all the tissues; conjunctivitis, etc., from taking cold, from exposure to dry, cold winds.

There is a teaching that has long prevailed: give Aconite for the first stage of an inflammation. It is not good teaching, although it is recommended in all of our books. It does not say for what kind, of a constitution, or how it comes about.

Do not practice that way. Get all the elements for an Aconite case, if possible, or give a better remedy. Another practice has prevailed, viz., giving Aconite for fever. Aconite was the fever remedy of many of our early routinists, but it is a bad practice.

Aconite has an inflammation of the eyes that comes on so suddenly that one wonders how that inflammation came in so short a time.

The eyes take on great swelling without any discharge, or only very watery mucus. The sudden inflammations that come on with thick discharges would never be Aconite.

Fever and Chills: Aconite has no results of inflammation. Those conditions that are about to take on the results of inflammation will always indicate some other remedy. You are not to think of Aconite in fever unless the Aconite patient is present.

With the Aconite fever there will be sensitiveness to light.

“Great restlessness with fever.”

Eyes staring, with pupils contracted, “violent aching and inflammation of the deep structures of the ball.”

Give Aconite only when the symptoms agree. An inflammation that is about to run a prolonged course, to take on suppuration, or if it is mucous membrane to take on discharge of pus, will never show you the symptoms of Aconite.

Never give Aconite in blood poisoning, such as we find in scarlet fever, in typhoid fever, etc. We find nothing of the violent symptoms of Aconite in such conditions. The nervous irritation is never present, but the opposite, the stupor, the laziness, the purple skin – whereas Aconite is bright red.

Never give Aconite for any form of zymosis, for it has no zymotic history. There should be no thought of Aconite in the slow coming, continued fever. Aconite has no symptoms like the slow types of continued fevers.

The Aconite fever is generally one short, sharp attack of fever. It is in no way related to an intermittent fever, as it has no such symptoms.

You might find something that would deceive you in one attack of intermittent fever, but the very fact that there was a second one would shut out Aconite. Some remedies have periodically or waves, Aconite has no such a condition.

The most violent attack of fever will subside in a night if Aconite is the remedy. If it is not it is a pity that you made a mistake in giving it, for it will sometimes do mischief. All things that exist in a sickness must be taken into account, not only what the remedy does cover, but what it does not cover.

Aconite has inflammation of the eyes, with burning and sudden swelling; the lids swell so rapidly that they cannot be opened except with great difficulty, and when they are forced open by seizing the margins of the lids with a pair of forceps drops of hot water will fall out, but no pus.

This comes on rapidly from taking cold. Whenever there are inflammations of the mucous surfaces bloody water is apt to flow.

Suddenly the blood vessels become engorged and ooze, the blood vessels rupture and the capillaries ooze.

Ears: Inflammation of the ear comes on just as suddenly.

“Throbbing, intense, cutting pains in the ear.”

The child comes home after being out in the cold north wind, and is not sufficiently clad, and now it screams and puts its hand to the ear. The attack comes on early in the evening, after being out in the daytime.

Fever and anxiety; child must be carried. The suffering is intense. Noise intolerable. Music goes through every limb, so intense is the sense of hearing.

Everywhere in the body will we find that same intense condition of the nerves. Wherever there are complaints they are intense, violent, and the patient is always in a state of anxiety and irritability.

“Stinging, burning, rending, tearing, cutting pains in the ear.”

Coryza: Coryza if attended with violent headache, coming on in the night after exposure and taking cold during the day, suddenly, this short acting, very quick-acting remedy will be indicated.

The coryza that comes on from Carbo veg. comes on several days after the exposure. The coryza that comes on from Sulphur also develops several days after the exposure.

The Carbo veg. patient becomes overheated and takes cold by keeping on his overcoat when he comes into your office. In Aconite he goes out in cold air with his light clothing, and comes down, if he is a plethoric individual, before midnight.

But especially is it often indicated in the coryza of the rosy, chubby, plethoric baby. Not in the sickly or pale ones.

These sickly ones will come down later; their vital activities are so reduced that their complaints do not come on sometimes for two, or three days.

So that if you take a sickly one and a vigorous one in the same family and expose them both one will have croup tonight and need Aconite, and the other will have it the next morning and need Hepar.

Face: The symptoms likely to occur with coryza are nosebleed, headache, anxiety and fear. The anxious expression is one of the first things observed in the Aconite sufferer. The Aconite pneumonia will often show itself on the face.

Look at the face; there is great anxiety. It shows much of the proving of Aconite. You know there is much in the expression of the face that will enable one to read all that is going on in the body; it tells the story,

The pleasures and sadness, and the distress of the human family, much of which you can generalize, and see at a glance that some great thing has happened. You have only to guess once or twice before you hit it. Here you have the anxiety.

“One cheek red and the other pale” is in a good many remedies, but the anxious expression, and the fear, and the heat, and the restlessness, and the suddenness with which it comes on in a plethoric individual yesterday it was very dry and windy – and you will at once place this symptom with Aconite.

But it might be one of several other remedies, were other conditions present.

“Neuralgic pains in the face, like hot wires running along either side of the face.”

The individual rides in the cold, raw wind, and his face was exposed to the cold wind. He becomes numb, then pain sets in, intense pain.

He cries out and shrieks with the knife-like cutting pains. Aconite will relieve.

“Crawling, creeping like ants”; Aconite has that sensation along the course of the nerves. It has a sensation like ice water poured along the course of the nerves.

Sciatica when the sensation is felt down the nerve like ice water.

“Creeping, tingling and crawling in the face, with or without pain.”

There is intense heat intense fever in the face. The side of the face laid on will often break into a sweat, and if the patient turns over, that side will at once become dry, and the other side will at once break out in a sweat.

Mouth and teeth: Oh, what a comforting remedy it is for toothache.

It has been so useful in toothache that nearly every old lady nowadays knows enough to put a drop of Aconite on a bit of cotton and put it in the old hollow tooth. It will quite often palliate.

A dose of Aconite will act much better. But the violence of the toothache; again the same old story, from the dry, cold winds, plethoric individuals, with hollow teeth, pain intense, cutting, shooting pains in the teeth.

Sometimes these pains are in sound teeth and affect the whole row of teeth. Violent pains from exposure, such as riding in the wind. The pains are relieved and go away speedily after a dose of Aconite.

Disturbances of taste, disordered stomach. Everything tastes bitter, except water; and, oh, how the Aconite patient longs for water. It seems almost impossible for him to get water enough and it agrees well.

Burning is a symptom that runs all through the remedy, you will find it descriptive of all the pains. Burning in the head, burning along the course of nerves, burning in the spine, burning in fever, sometimes burning as if covered with pepper.

Throat, palate and tonsils: Aconite is a very useful medicine in inflammation of the throat, when there is burning, smarting, dryness, great redness of the tonsils, or the fauces, the whole throat.

Sometimes the soft palate is greatly swollen. A high grade of inflammation, acute inflammation of all that can be seen and called throat. But that alone would not indicate Aconite.

It cures that kind of case, it cures inflammation of the throat, but every homoeopathic physician knows that forty or fifty remedies could be selected just as well as Aconite from all that I have said.

I have only mentioned a nondescript case. No homoeopathic physician could prescribe upon that kind of evidence.

But you note the kind of throat – every physician must ask himself the question:

“What would make that kind of a throat an Aconite case?”

And then the question would come up, could he not prescribe for it as well if he had not seen, the throat?

The throat does not do much towards representing, to an intelligent physician, the patient.

If it was necessary to represent to the mind of the physician the inflamed part itself, how would he treat the liver?

He cannot see it. How would he prescribe for the stomach? He cannot see it. We are then compelled to fall back upon that which represents to the intelligent physician the very nature of the patient himself, and then at once we will see the reason for some of these things.

If you present and Aconite patient well before the mind you can prescribe. It would be well to see anything that is visible. If you could see, the liver, I would say look at it. If you could see the heart, I would say examine it.

What is it in this throat that really represents the patient?

Of course, any soreness of the throat makes it difficult swallow. I mean to infer that there is nothing in the soreness to represent to the physician the Aconite patient. If that individual were a plethoric individual, if he had been riding in a cold, raw wind a good part of the day, and he had wakened in the night with a violent burning, tearing sore throat, and he could not swallow, and the fever came on high, and he had thirst for cold water and he could not get enough of it, he was in an anxious, feverish state, you have then a patient to prescribe for.

Many times will patients become intelligent enough under your observation to write just what some member of the family acts like. You know just what the patient looks like.

The black man will sometimes give the best kind of a description, better than the Vassar girl, who writes us:

“Doctor, will you please send the medicine have looked into the throat and it is red.”

Stomach: With the stomach symptoms what an anxious patient we have! The pains are dreadful.

Burning pains, tearing pains, with anxiety, with restlessness, with fever, coming on from taking cold – not from overeating, but from taking cold, which has settled in the stomach; from exposure to an ice bath, or in a very hot summer from intense heat, associated with an irritable brain in vigorous children.

Vomiting and retching, tearing, as it were, the very inside out by the awful retching. The vomiting of blood, bright red blood.

This is descriptive of the general stomach trouble. During this febrile state he craves bitter things, wine and beer, and brandy, but they will come up as soon as they reach the stomach.

He craves pungent things, nothing tastes bitter enough.

“If he could only get something bitter.” And yet his food tastes bitter, everything he eats tastes bitter, everything except water.

The word in the text is a clinical word; it says “gastric catarrhs.”

It is a very sharp, acute inflammation of the stomach. Retching, vomiting, of bile, vomiting of blood. Ineffectual urging to vomit, when there is nothing in the stomach.

With it there will be anxiety, restlessness, fear of death. The fear depicted upon the countenance makes an awful expression.

Aconite is a useful medicine in inflammation of the liver, when it comes suddenly. It is not very useful in repeated attacks, but in the first attack.

Liver: Violent inflammation of the liver, with violent tearing pains and much burning. Then comes the restlessness, the awful tortures of anxiety, moving constantly, fear of death, red face, glassy eyes, great thirst.