Golden seal. N.O.Ranunculaceae. Tincture from fresh root.
HYDRASTIS contains several alkaloids-hydrastine with its derivative hydrastinine, canadine and berberine. Hydrastine is closely related chemically to some of the opium alkaloids. Laboratory experiments are made chiefly with hydrastine and hydrastinine.
Hydrastine in small doses first slows the pulse by stimulating the vagus; it heightens perception, and cutaneous sensibility, and increases reflex irritability of motor nerves and of muscles. Moderate doses cause, in addition, muscular weakness, tremors and inco-ordination, and some degree of dyspnoea. heavy doses cause clonic and tonic (tetanic) spasms, during which respiration may be suspended, possibly with fatal asphyxia. If this does not happen, weakening of the heart by direct action on its muscular tissue as well as through the inhibitory apparatus ensues, and lowering of the blood pressure, which small doses raise.
Apart from the cardiac effects, the most pronounced local action is on the muscular tissue of the uterus, which is stimulated either rhythmically or tonically, and may produce abortion. It acts less strongly on movement and sensation.
A 10 per cent. solution of hydrastine will dilate the pupil (locally applied) for twelve hours or more.
Poisoning.-Sensitive subjects may be several affected. In one case after 20min. of the tincture drastic purging occurred, of watery, greenish motions, with sinking at the epigastrium, prostration and much palpitation. Waves of heat spread over the hands, neck and head, and after some hours and erysipelatous rash developed on neck, wrists, palms and finger-joints, with severe burning, worse at night, and accompanied by maddening itching. It was followed by desquamation.
From a gargle, swelling of mouth, lips and nose took place, with a stuffy condition; pimples, which became vesicular, formed around the mouth, the vesicles having a depressed centre, like small-pox spots. They dried up and scaled off in seven days.
Experiment on the healthy furnish best the data which can be used therapeutically. The effects of hydrastis fall chiefly on mucous membranes and on muscular tissues, striped and unstriped. The upper gastro-intestinal tract is chiefly affected and, as in idiopathic conditions so in the provings, joint pains may be associated therewith, the larger joints being selected by the drug.
A prover under the influence of hydrastis presents the following picture : he soon experiences belly-ache, in the hypogastrium and especially round the umbilicus, where the pain is made worse by moving about. This is a very constant feature. A weak, faint feeling comes on early and it is worse after a loose action of the bowels, and is associated with sour eructations and loud rumblings. The faintness may be accompanied with pain in the testicles and in the renal and lumbar regions. There may at the same time be pyknuria, with lessened control, the urine occasionally escaping with coughing or eructations.
The actions are usually merely soft and papescent, but are too frequent and somewhat exhausting, and a dull, frontal headache comes on early and persists throughout the experiment, it is worse in a warm room and passes off in the open air. The umbilical pain is also very persistent and is worse on movement. “Rheumatic” pains are felt in things, hips, knees and soles of feet, worse on first sitting down after walking. The eyes are congested and watery, the lids stick together and the nose is stopped up and secretes a clear, thick, stringy mucus. A rough hacking cough from a scrapy feeling in the larynx comes on, and after some days of these symptoms the prover becomes very gloomy and depressed, and feels low and chilly at night. Stomatitis with aphthous patches on the lower lip may be induced. Thus the chief evidences of the influence of hydrastis are seen to be: pains, catarrh of mucous membranes and faintness. The catarrh may affect any mucous membrane, but chiefly those near the surface of the body or its orifices, eyes, nose, throat, vagina, cervix, rectum and urinary organs. At first merely an increase of secretion takes place, then its quality is altered, becoming thicker and stringy, later being yellow, green or even blood-stained. The catarrh may be followed by erosion or ulceration, or by a dry, glazed condition of the mucous linings.
Head.- The frontal headache is chiefly due to catarrh of the nose or eyes, and possibly to that of some of the adjacent sinuses.
Eyes, ears and nose are affected by similar catarrhs, shown by symptoms appropriate to the respective areas-in the eyes it is accompanied by smarting and burning, and by blepharitis; in the ears, possibly by deafness from middle-ear involvement; in the nose, by sneezing and excoriating coryza, which is likely to be scanty indoors and profuse in the open air (iodum). The air feels cold in the nostrils. Ozaena may be present.
Mouth.- The mouth is chiefly affected in weakly subjects, children or women pulled down by haemorrhage or lactation. The throat secretes the same kind of mucus and is sore in the morning on waking and worse when swallowing.
Stomach.- The faint feeling, already referred to, is located in the epigastrium, recalling a similar “gone, sinking feeling” in sepia, sulphur and ignatia patients.
Abdomen.- In addition to the umbilical and hypogastric pains described already there may be pain in the splenic and hepatic regions, extending to the right shoulder, with flatulent colic. After the pale, acrid, loose motions faintness increases. As a later result the most pronounced feature in connection with the action of the bowels is constipation, often associated with piles.
Urinary Organs.-Pyknuria, lessened control, offensive urine with ropy mucus from catarrh of bladder fro the vesical symptoms.
Respiratory System.- Catarrhs of larynx and bronchi are accompanied by harsh cough, dry in the former case and rattling in the latter. There may be rawness and burning in the chest.
Back and Limbs.- The symptoms of these parts have already been sufficiently dwelt upon.
Skin.- Erysipelatous rash and umbilicated vesicles about mouth already described; profuse perspiration on unhealthy odour may be present.
In allopathic hands the alkaloids are used for lessening uterine haemorrhages, but are not serviceable in post-partum bleeding. As a simple bitter they and hydrastis have been used. Thus the extensive knowledge we possess of hydrastis is of little or no therapeutic value on antipathic principles.
Homoeopathically it is used for catarrh in any stage in the areas which the drug has already been seen to affect, but especially in the advanced stage where the discharge is becoming muco-purulent. In gonorrhoea and leucorrhoea it is useful, both internally and locally. It has acquired a special reputation in “erosion” of the cervix and even in cervical carcinoma, where the thick, offensive, stringy discharge and pruritus are its indications. For ozaena and stomatitis it is specially useful after excessive use of mercury. it should be given in post-nasal catarrh, with sticky mucus in posterior nares, requiring hawking to dislodge it.
Stomach.- A faint feeling, or gone, sinking feeling located in the epigastrium is a guiding symptom of hydrastis-irrespective of nausea or vomiting, which are not notable in its pathogenesis. Chronic catarrh of the stomach and “atonic dyspepsia” in old people have been much benefited by this drug. A yellow, slimy tongue showing marks of teeth and sodden-looking pale face are other indications. The experience of Dr. Arthur Clifton must receive mention here. He regarded it as of great value in such cases, which, in his opinion, often precede cancer of the stomach. His indications were, “obstinate constipation, flatulence, pain in the bowels, kidneys and liver, but without the altered tongue and pain after food…. The complexion is….brown or earthy, and the skin generally dry and harsh.” Such cases are very refractory to either allopathic or homoeopathic measures, but Dr. Clifton found hydrastis more valuable than any other drug.
Abdomen.- It is one of the prime remedies for constipation with no desire for stool for days but without any other special features, and is most useful in the lowest dilutions. The faeces may be coated with mucus. It has been given in gastro-duodenal catarrh with the stomach indications mentioned, and with jaundice in old persons debilitated by illness or alcohol or spermatorrhoea.
Genito-Urinary System.- Hydrastis internally and as a wash for chronic cystitis is very useful-offensive urine, and frequent micturition are indications. For the thick, yellow discharge of fully developed gonorrhoea it may be used in a similar manner and also for leucorrhoea with the typical discharge, and with pruritus and (perhaps consequent) sexual excitement.
The back and limbs are affected as in the pathogenesis and find their appropriate remedy in this drug.
General Symptoms.- (See “Leading Indications.”)
Fevers.- Low types of fever may require hydrastis at the less acute stages-especially where jaundice, great weakness and offensive perspiration are present.
Mammary Carcinoma.- Hydrastis in the higher dilutions (12 and 30) has achieved some surprising results, even where the skin has become adherent and puckered and the nipple retracted, and sharp, shooting pains exist. For cases where operation is undesirable or is refused it should certainly be considered; where it does not cure it is a valuable palliative, usually relieving pain. It has been very valuable in recurrences, where the lymphatic circulation of the arm is interfered with and the limb is heavy, swollen and painful. it is also credited with a beneficent influence on benign tumours of breast.
Stomatitis of nursing infants and cracked nipples of their mothers are curable by this remedy, locally and orally.
The skin eruption resembling variolous spots, coupled with the pronounced backache, fever and great weakness, have caused it to be used in small-pox, but it has not become as popular a remedy for that disease as are antim. tart, thuja and variolinum. It would be worth consideration in some of the acute attacks of eczema resembling in parts erysipelas in old, gouty subjects, and it is reputed to have been curative in ulceration of skin (syphilitic and other) in lupus and even in epithelioma. Intertrigo should also be mentioned.
(1) Mucous catarrh in many sites, especially gastric and utero-vaginal and orificial; the type of discharge is first clear and thick, and then yellowish, very stringy, acrid and sometimes offensive.
(2) Prostration due to chronic disease, alcohol and excesses; faint feelings.
(3) depression and gloom.
(4) Obstinate constipation, with or without piles.
(5) Constant, dull, frontal headaches.
(6) Faint or sinking feeling in the epigastrium-at no special time.
(7) Various abdominal pains extending to lower right scapula, caecal region, testes, or spleen.
(8) Jaundice and “low” febrile conditions.
(9) Pains of cancer-stomach and breast or cervix uteri.
Warmth (skin); after meals (stomach); out of doors (coryza); morning on waking (roughness in throat), swallowing (sore throat); morning (palpitation).
Pressure with hand (headache and many symptoms); rest; passing flatus.