Vitis nigra; Bryonia nigram; Chironiam vitam; Bryonia dioica; Bryonia vera; Vitis alba.
English – White bryony; Black-berried white bryony; White hops.
French – Bryone; Bryone blanche; Coulevre.
German – Weisse Zaunrube; Stichwurz.
Polish – Pryestepbiaty.
Dutch – Welde wyngaar; Witte Bry.
Portuguese – Norca branca.
Italian – Brionia, Vita bianca.
Spanish – Neuza alba.
Swedish – Hundrosva.
Natural order: Cucurbitaceae – Monoecia, Monodelphia. Family: Jussieu [vegetable substance] Dioecia gynandria, L. Preparation: tincture of root procured before flowering.
Remember that the pathology which every remedy represents and cures in the human organism can be conceived as an ‘idea’ rather than as a heap of disconnected symptoms. The important remedies of our materia medica have been proven extensively and their symptomatology is sufficiently comprehensive for the contemplative student to extract from it the prevailing ‘idea’.
The Essential Features
In Bryonia we have a patient who is emotionally, bodily and mentally dried up. He wants to be left alone, undisturbed, while at the same time constantly needing great quantities of water to balance his dryness. If this is looked at symbolically, we see that the water element, symbolising the emotions, is lacking or restricted. It will be apparent to you when you look upon a typical constitutional Bryonia type, that there is an element of dehydration at all levels. The sensation of dryness of the mucous membranes is most frequently reported, but the dryness of Bryonia extends to the emotional and mental levels as well. The mind is dry; in other words, the mind lacks nimbleness and agility, it is unimaginative.
Stiffness of the Mind
Constitutional Bryonia patients suffer from a stiffness of the mind; they tend to be very businesslike and matter of fact. Their perspective is quite limited or earthy. Consequently, they often focus their energies upon the attainment of earthly things and material security, especially money. Underlying their rather gruff, businesslike manner, however, a sense of financial insecurity dwells, and the primary expression of this insecurity in Bryonia patients is a fear of poverty. They are afraid of being poor one day, irrespective of the degree of their bank balance or business success.
Bryonia is a remedy which is indicated quite frequently today. The need for Bryonia is quite possibly a result of the pressures arising from the prevailing socio-economic system. The pressures to perform effectively in the business world and to achieve financial success in the face of fierce competition can have a profound influence upon one’s psychological functioning. As a consequence, many susceptible individuals will develop the mental, emotional, and physical pathological indications for Bryonia.
The Bryonia individual, most often a male, will be one who primarily wishes to be alone. This desire to be alone is attributable to a great amount of internal irritability and anger. Underlying the irritability is a considerable sense of insecurity expressed with an irrational fear of poverty and also fear about the future and, most specifically, about the future as it relates to his financial situation.
These people are very businesslike. Business concerns even occupy their subconscious mind; as a consequence, they often will talk about business while in a delirium. As one might expect, they are very careful with their money and reluctant to part with it, though they are not stingy to the extent of Arsenicum or Mercury.
It is unlikely that a Bryonia case would buy expensive goods for himself which he feels to be unnecessary. He may however spend money for a good cause. The Bryonia attitude is a materialistic one. Bryonia patients are earthbound; i.e., earthy in their perspectives and attitudes. They will pursue with determination whatever they decide would be beneficial for them. Bryonia patients with any interest in spiritual matters are definitely the exception.
Emotional Dryness and Desire for Solitude
The emotional dryness manifests in the patients’ irritability and peevishness, major characteristics of Bryonia. They are very serious people, lacking in imagination. They are neither playful nor joyful; seldom will they attempt a joke.
Typically these people lack refinement and sensitivity, but they do retain a specific sensitivity to annoyance. They do not welcome interference in their lives; they simply want to find their own niche, their place in life, and be left alone. They are averse to being bothered by others because of the internal irritability which they are reluctant to show. The problem with any kind of interference is that there must be some reaction on their part; this is tremendously difficult and aggravates them. Their attitude is, “Leave me alone.”
This is the nature of Bryonia, and we must perceive its inner structure along the same lines. The agility goes and a rigidity settles in. This individual is drying up, and in order to keep in balance he must have supplies of water, of emotions and of money, all of which must come from the outside. He is afraid that in his old age nobody will love him, nobody will care about him and he has to have money to pay people. Emotionally he cannot give love but he needs to feel loved in order to feel secure, in spite of the fact that when he is loved, he does not appreciate it. He can be busy and excited, buying and selling on the stock market, for which he can have a great passion, but he is unable to fall passionately in love with a woman.
He cannot feel or express passion, although he can perform sexually. For a Bryonia individual, it is enough that his wife should love him and be available, but he is incapable of romance or appreciation of her tenderness. He is usually angry and irritable and inconsiderate towards others, and after sexual intercourse he retreats into himself and is better if no one bothers him.
In a description of this type it is not possible to describe all the variations of the remedy and all the different moods. The student of homeopathy is required to understand the main ideas that run through each remedy.
Dryness of the Physical Body and Thirst
This same attitude will be apparent when the patient has to move a painful joint. Moving the joint creates a dry and cracking sensation, and he hates to have to do it. This dryness is apparent at different levels of the physical body. The mucous membranes, serous membranes or skin can dry up to a tremendous extent. Further examples of such dryness include: dryness of the conjunctiva of the eyes, so that the eyes cannot be moved without distress; dryness of the synovial membranes, so the joints cannot be moved without pain; dryness of the lining of the intestines so the stool will not move and a most distressing constipation sets in.
Bryonia is, of course, an extremely thirsty remedy. The thirst is for large quantities of cool or tepid water. In Bryonia there is a preference for warm drinks that actually make the patient feel better, often tepid tap water is quite sufficient. These characteristics help to distinguish Bryonia from such remedies as Phosphorus, Natrum muriaticum, and Sulphur which all desire great quantities of cold water frequently. Lycopodium, on the other hand desires and is ameliorated by warm drinks but the quantity of water they require is much less; Lac caninum, Arsenicum and Chelidonium also crave warm drinks.
As mentioned, Bryonia manifests great dryness of the mucous membranes in many conditions. One must be careful when analysing a case however, because some Bryonia patients can experience great dryness of the mouth without thirst. There are other remedies which have dryness and a simultaneous aversion to water. One of these remedies, Nux moschata, possesses such great dryness that the tongue feels stuck to the palate, yet there is an aversion to water. If these patients even attempt to drink water to help wash down some food, they will have to spit out the water; they cannot drink it; there is a complete absence of thirst. Natrum muriaticum often exhibits this symptom also.
So far we have given a description of the symptoms of the remedy. However, you should bear in mind the importance of the pathological picture that presents itself when you combine all the symptoms, for this is where the peculiarity and uniqueness of this personality lie. On prescribing this remedy you should not lose sight of the dryness, of the aggravation from moving these dry parts, nor of the “do not bother me” attitude, and the persistent but slow development of the pathology. Beyond that, you should make an effort to understand the subtleties of the pathology of the personality.
As you perceive the idea behind a remedy, you find yourself prescribing it with more certainty and greater confidence. If, however, you prescribe the remedy on symptoms alone, the margin for error remains very great. In order for one to be able to see these images and ideas correctly, it is necessary to have seen a lot of cases, and most of all to have prescribed the remedy correctly in several constitutional types.
When I started talking about these ideas more than 25 years ago my students got excited and became very receptive. As a side effect of this excitement, several ‘eager homeopaths’ came onto the scene, trying to copy these ideas, as a result creating confusion in the minds of those who were listening. Do not be tempted to fabricate ideas about the remedies before you have seen enough cases and gained some real insight into the remedies, and before being able to confirm your observations.
The Acute State
Bryonia is a remedy that will show persistence and determination, and will not vacillate. The complaints start slowly and develop steadily in a crescendo over a much longer period of time than most other remedies. Acute conditions take several days to reach their full-blown manifestation, whereas in other remedies – e.g. Aconite or Belladonna – we see a much more immediate and explosive reaction of the organism. Bryonia presents a slow but steady development of complaints, which persists until a very serious level is reached.
We can better understand the chronic state of Bryonia by examining Bryonia’s acute state. Typically during severe Bryonia acute states, usually involving fever and bronchitis, patients realize that they need to muster all of their recuperative powers. Their suffering and irritability are tremendous. They want to be left alone in order to collect all their energy, to ensure that they will be able to weather the illness. Even in their normal chronic condition, Bryonia individuals don’t easily seek help for mental or emotional problems; they would rather attempt to work their problems out by themselves. In this acute state they are dry and dehydrated. The mouth is very dry and there is a constant need to drink. During a fever, the patients tend to become irritated when someone enters the room to talk to them, console them, or to offer help. They feel that quiet is the best thing for them. It is very distressing for them to have to react to anything, or even to have to move. During a fever, the simple question, “Do you want a cup of tea?” is liable to make the Bryonia patient feel worse. He feels that the simple act of answering such a question will cause an aggravation by expending the recuperative powers.
The usual observation made in a Bryonia case is that the person attending the patient will say that the patient is very ill and does not want any interference. On being offered a cup of tea, even though the patient is thirsty, he is aggravated by the fact that someone has disturbed him. But when the tea arrives, he will drink it with great relish. He is very thirsty and is often ameliorated by warm drinks. However, the whole process of being asked and of having to respond remains very aggravating. In such a case it is best to leave the tea and go out of the room immediately. If you are sensitive enough you will perceive the aggravation, even without words. Kent writes: ‘Do not cross a Bryonia patient for it makes him worse.’ The patient himself feels that it is unfair to treat others, who are interested in him, in this way, but he cannot help it.
Aggravation from Movement
Exhaustion and sluggishness play a role in this unwillingness to interact with others when ill, but far more responsible is an irritability and a basic aversion to motion. Any motion – that of physically moving, even breathing or moving the eyes, or the effort of feeling or talking, even of thinking – aggravates Bryonia patients; they do not want to move. They are aggravated from movement; and here we have the greatest characteristic and keynote of Bryonia. Such is the aggravation from motion that you may not be able to make a physical examination, as the patient faints as soon as he tries to raise himself in bed.
I recall a case of Bryonia that I saw in South Africa. When I entered the patient’s room, he was lying facing the wall. He coughed and lay perfectly still with his back towards me. During the entire visit I conversed through an interpreter, and the patient never once turned around to look at me; it was too painful for him to move. He offered very little information. The person who was interpreting and who had been caring for him, said that he had had no appetite for two to three days, that he had been in a great deal of pain while coughing and would lie in one position only, never moving. He did not want anything; he only drank water from time to time. He was given Bryonia, and the next day he was much better and recovered without needing any other remedy.
The aggravation from movement of Bryonia makes it a good remedy for arthritic conditions. Severe arthritic inflammations that are aggravated by the slightest movement will often be benefited by Bryonia. An important observation, however, is that sometimes, when the joint pain is extremely intense, the pain can be so severe that, despite being aggravated by motion, the patient feels compelled to get up and walk about. The suffering is so great that he has to move. This paradoxical restlessness can at times create confusion with Arsenicum and Rhus toxicodendron.
A further important keynote of Bryonia is an amelioration from pressure. Many forms of pain and discomfort are ameliorated by holding and pressing upon the affected part. Lying on the painful side (e.g., in headaches, chest pain, etc.) frequently provides respite from the pain. An important observation in cases of acute appendicitis corresponding to Bryonia, is that there will seldom be tenderness to direct pressure. When the examiner’s hand is suddenly removed from the abdomen, however, severe pain occurs. This presentation is classic for Bryonia: with pressure there is an amelioration of the pain, but the sudden release of pressure (sudden motion) provokes pain. Bryonia is one of the specific remedies for acute appendicitis; it will cure a very large percentage of cases which present with marked rebound tenderness and a lack of significant tenderness to direct pressure.
Bryonia is full of anxiety and despondency. He is not easily pleased with others, and often does not know himself what he really wants. There is an internal restlessness that forces him to move about, in spite of being aggravated by motion. There is anxiety and fear, including fear of death and fear that he will not recover from his illness. But his mind which is logical and practical does not allow the fears to overwhelm him. He may allow his temper, his anger, or his irritability to reach violent expressions, but he will not allow the fears to cloud his mind completely.
‘The mental state of Bryonia is usually relieved from cool air, he wants the windows open. Anxiety, confusion of mind, fear, etc., are ameliorated from being cool. Sometimes the delirium, and the congestive fullness of the head affecting the mind, will increase if the room becomes very warm, or from the heat of the stove, from becoming heated, or from warm covers. In children this will be noticed, whereas if the window be thrown up to relieve the stuffiness of the room, the child will sleep quietly. Such remedies as Bryonia, Apis, Pulsatilla, and many others, come in here. If you go into a room and find the child raging with delirium, turning and tossing, and the mother is trying to keep the room warm because she is chilly, and say, “Why, how stuffy it is in here!”, and you open the window and then notice that the child goes off to sleep, do not overlook that; because that relief was caused by something. There should be nothing that can possibly occur to a patient, but that you should solve the meaning of before you leave the room. Settle in your mind as to what it was that caused it.
“Fear of death “. Full of fear, anxiety, despair of recovery, great despondency. Both mental and bodily quietness is required; that is he wants to keep still. Often he wants the room dark. It has complaints from getting excited. Bryonia patients are nearly always worse from visitors. “Morose”. Do not cross a Bryonia patient for it makes him worse. “Bad effects from mortification.” “Ailments arising from chagrin”; these are headaches usually. Violent, congesting headaches that come on a few hours after altercation or controversy, or little misunderstandings with somebody that he cannot talk back to, will be covered by Staph., but Bryonia also has that.
Staph is suited to irritable, violent, nervous, excitable people, who get into violent altercation or dispute. If a headache comes on, such a patient may need Bryonia. If in a chronic state a patient says, “Doctor, if I ever have a dispute with a man over anything I come down with nervous excitement, sleeplessness, headaches;” you do not have to work long upon that case, because more than likely Staph, will be suitable.’
The Bryonia Child
Bryonia children, during acute illnesses, will often ask for things that they cannot have. In the midst of their fever and moaning they will call out their demands, which typically will be for several impossible things. Should their parents hand them one of the items, they will immediately throw it away like the Chamomilla child does. The especially characteristic trait, though, is that they ask for things that are difficult for the parents to find. There is a feeling of dissatisfaction, of discontent inside them; they don’t actually know what they want. “He wants something and he knows not what” is a very important symptom for Bryonia. It is a symptom that calls for Bryonia only when the rest of the symptoms agree. You go to a child who is being carried in the arms of the nurse and wants one toy after another; you get the toy he wants and he does not want it and will throw it back at you. When that case is looked into thoroughly it may be covered by Kreosotum; another is never satisfied with anything and rejects everything he asks for; you look into that case and it may be covered by Chamomilla.
A characteristic that one may at times encounter is a tendency for nose-bleeds in children during the night while they are in bed, between 3-4 a.m. Children seem weary, easily fall down from dizziness. In brain infections children perform a strange chewing motion as if they were chewing the cud. This usually occurs during sleep. The mouth may distort during sleep when there is brain involvement.
Bryonia’s well-known time of aggravation is the morning on waking and at 9 p.m.; there is a general aggravation at this time.
This is how Kent describes it:
‘In rheumatic complaints, in pneumonia, and in typhoid conditions, when he is aroused from this stage of stupefaction he is confused, sees images, thinks he is away from home and wants to be taken home. Sometimes he will lie and say nothing but he “wants to go home.” The delirium is of a low type: it is not the flashing wild excitement of Bell, or Stram.; it is the very opposite; he talks and wanders and does not say much unless he is disturbed. You disturb him and he says, “Go away and let me go home” and if you let him alone he will relapse into a perfectly quiet state and seldom speak. Irrational talk or prattle of his business aggravated after 3 p.m. Usually you will find the delirium commencing about 9 p.m. and keeping up all night like the fever. The acute mental symptoms appear on rising in the morning, but as the febrile state advances and takes possession the symptoms take on a 9 p.m. aggravation; those that have chill will have it at 9 p.m.; in those who have a fever the fever will come at 9 p.m. If mental symptoms are uppermost they increase and spread over the night… Bryonia will begin at 9 p.m. and run through the night.’
When delirious, Bryonia patients will, in addition to talking of business, often express the wish to go home, even if they are already in their home. The origin of this delirious request is the feeling of security they enjoy when they are in their own place. This trait is very strong.
Bryonia is one of our major polychrests and a remedy that covers a vast amount of pathology. The above description has not exhausted the symptomatology and the conditions in which this remedy could be prescribed, and therefore we give below some characteristic mental conditions for the conscientious student wanting to know more about the mind of Bryonia.