Allium cepa – the red onion. N.O.Liliaceae Tincture from the fresh bulb.
THE chief ” sphere of influence” of allium cepa is the upper respiratory tract, extending from the eye to the larynx and trachea. In this area onion produces catarrh, whether” administered by olfaction” (contact with the acrid volatile emanations of the raw bulb) or taken internally as tincture. The volatile oil owes its acridity to sulphide of allyl (C3H5)2 S, nearly related to oil of mustard. Subsidiary spheres are: parts of the digestive tract; the peripheral nerves, especially if damaged by traumatism; and certain lymphatic and venous channels suffering from septic infection or exposure to cold and wet.
The ocular conjunctiva is one of the first mucous surfaces to be affected. The primary irritating effect of handling the raw bulb is a physio-chemical one-a rapid flow of tears and smarting of the eyes. The conjunctiva is irritated, reddened, secretes too freely, smarts or burns, and there is some photophobia. The left eye is most affected. This differs somewhat from the effect of the drug after absorption, which is to produce excessive bland lachrymation.
The nasal mucosa is simultaneously involved and an acute coryza is induced. Sneezing, heat, heaviness in the forehead (frontal sinus involvement) and a passing dryness of the nostrils occur. The last is soon succeeded by a profuse, thin, watery, acrid discharge, reddening the alae nasi and excoriating the upper lip.
The throat is similarly affected with dryness, with a constrictive feeling and pain extending to one or other ear. The tongue and mouth feel dry and burnt (early and afterwards may be sticky. Tickling feeling and hawking of mucus, which may be tasteless or of a sweet nauseous taste; it is chiefly lumpy, but if requiring cough to expel, it may be frothy.
Extending downwards, hoarseness, tickling and a sensation of constriction in the larynx come on, embarrassing the breathing and causing spasmodic cough. Inspiring cold air brings on a hacking cough. Extensions of pains and shootings in various directions, directions, throat to ear, eye to nose, &c., take place as in a common cold. Indeed the onion reproduces very faithfully this “vulgar” ailment, with the modality “worse in the evening and in a warm room” qualifying most of the local symptoms mentioned.
The provings seem to show that the effects of the drug may go even further in imitating this prevalent malady by inducing many feverish symptoms. Such are headache (in temples or forehead and often unilateral), thirst, general feeling of heat with shivering, “chills up the back,” alternation of heat and chills, restlessness, a certain amount of muscular aching and disinclination for exertion, mental and physical.
Toothache is sometimes associated with the coryza produced by allium. It is chiefly in the molars, and has the feature of changing rapidly from one tooth to another or from side to side, and, like the catarrhal symptoms, is worse in the evening and in a hot room, resembling in these three peculiarities the modalities of pulsatilla.
Abdominal symptoms were repeatedly induced in provers. Though not characteristic of any one named malady, they are too conspicuous to be overlooked. They include abdominal distension (before dinner!), as if the clothing were too tight, rumbling in upper abdomen, eructations, but especially the passage of flatus downwards, colicky pains with urging to stool, with passing of wind only or leading to loose actions. Some of the abdominal pains were increases by eating.
Pelvis.- Though not digestive symptoms, this seems to be the place to mention that in men various discomforts in the lower abdomen and pelvic organs were brought on. Pains in the groins, or referred to the internal inguinal ring, “drawing” in the spermatic cord, and stitches in the rectum are recorded. More definitely genital effects, indicated by pain deep in the pelvis, as if in the prostate, came on (more than once) post coitum, and intercourse was prevented by a weak feeling in the hips. In women provers no effects on the genital functions were noticeable.
From these abdominal and pelvic symptoms it is an easy step to urinary manifestations. These occur in the shape of burning and pressure over the bladder, extending to the sacrum later; pain in either kidney with irritable bladder; dysuria and frequent urging; urine red sediment.
Nerve Pains.-Sharp or shooting pains in various parts of the body come on while proving allium cepa. They are found anywhere from the head, face, neck, arms, chest, down to the heels. The kind of pain most frequently experienced is fine lines of pain as if shooting along small nerve fibrils and occurring in different sites with rapid changes. Pains in small spots in the legs causing desire to rub or bathe them, pain on going upstairs, and pain in hips on rising from a seat may also be found, but the fine lines are most characteristic. The evening aggravation is also noticeable. Neuralgia in amputation stumps may be brought
By far the most frequent use of allium cepa is for “common feverish colds.” The remedy must be carefully selected; it will disappoint if given by routine. The coryza often begins on the left side. Many fine differences of site and sensation may be present without invalidating the choice, but to ensure success it should be given early, and the modalities of worse in a warm room (better in the open air), and worse in the evening must be present. The feature acrid nasal discharge with bland lachrymation is also insisted upon, but is of less importance than the points just mentioned. It is also sometimes difficult to identity, for though the tears may be bland the conjunctival catarrh may be irritating. Euphrasia causes and cures the converse condition, bland nasal and acrid ocular discharge.
The catarrhal symptoms have led to the use of allium for hay fever with morning sneezing. The modalities already mentioned must be present, and the same is true in earache, for which Kent recommends this medicine, placing it in a trio of remedies of which the other two are chamomilla and pulsatilla.
The laryngeal symptoms indicate its use in coughs which are spasmodic, like whooping-cough, or where the cough causes acute tearing pain in the larynx. The pain may cause the patient to grasp the larynx, apparently to support or soothe it (not with the desire to pluck at it as if to remove an obstruction, as happens in some cases requiring aconite). Deep breathing may excite some of the chest pains. Though cough, like other symptoms, may be worse in a warm room, nevertheless a breath of cold air may bring on an individual paroxysm. This contradictory symptom (as it appears at first sight) should not be considered to contra-indicate allium. Some of the catarrhal symptoms have led to the prescription of allium in the early stages of measles, and even for nasal polypus. Here (once more) it is the modalities which will influence the choice.
There are not many mental indications for allium, except those mentioned as associated with feverish colds.
Neither the abdominal nor the urinary symptoms of allium have been much utilized clinically. Colic, loose or diarrhoeic stools, offensive flatus, with urgent and painful micturition, general bodily aching and shooting. pains in fine lines, headache and restlessness, may indicate the drug in some cases called abdominal (or gastric) influenza.
Finally, the drug has been used for phlebitis and lymphangitis, indicated apparently by the thin lines of pain, as in whitlow & c.
These are clear and constant, viz:-
(1) Neuralgia in thin lines of pain. Quick change of locally of pain. Traumatic chronic neuritis.
(2) In feverish colds with acridity of nasal discharge and blandness of tears.
(3) Phlebitis and lymphangitis.
(4) Sore heels from friction.
In evening, warm room, first lying down (cough), rising from a seat and going upstairs (hips, &c).
Open air, menstruation (headache), moving about (colic).