Clinical Cases Materia Medica

Gelsemium Sempervirens

The author represents the homeopathic remedy Gelsemium and shares some insightful cases.

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OFTEN it is difficult to prove the efficacy of homoeopathic remedies, because in their attenuated from they make their way silently through the human body, and when they bring about a cure, it is without song or brass bands. It may take a homoeopathic physician years before he gets a real convincing proof of their action, even in remedies frequently prescribed. This is true especially when the remedies are employed in chronic functional conditions. That was also my experience with Gelsemium.

This remedy is not unknown to the old school, but since they used it in large doses, they experienced often more harm than benefit. Hence we find here and there warnings about Gelsemium, and in the fluid extract it can have poisoning effect, even in doses of ten to twenty drops. The Indians knew of this action, and called Gelsemium “bebo-sito” (the glass coffin), because the poisoned person remained fully conscious with open eyes and laid stiff and motionless.

Since modern investigations constantly allow us remarkable vistas into the wonderful functions of our body, one would think it time that the poisons of wild tribes be unveiled as to their action. Instead we are often surprised by sharply outlined pictures of poisonings, which do not well fit into our pattern, and which can only be appreciated as useful remedies according to our simile law. The many lines of action, often apparently contradictory, are to us homoeopathic physicians just as many stimuli to their use in sicknesses, which also present similar riddles. Thus Gelsemium became our greatest and most reliable remedy in paralyses, less in total paralysis of the “glass coffin” type, which we hardly ever see, but more so in the different paresis of local nature; ptosis, diplopia, oesophagus spasm, postdiphtheritic paralysis, all of which we often meet with in our practice.

Cuthbert in the Journal of the American Institute of Homoeopathy, 1938, No. 3, draws a very striking picture of our remedy and counts it among his twelve favourite remedies, which he uses even oftener than Nux Vomica, and without which he would not care to practice. Actually, Gelsemium is one of those remedies, which in certain circumstances show easily the unquestioned superiority over other therapeutic methods. When I say that we happily hardly ever see total paralyses as in ante- mortem Gelsemium poisoning, we yet often see conditions which vividly remind us of such, like the total motor paralysis following a shock, or in the course of acute sickness. Not without reason in Gelsemium one of our most important remedies in grippe, in which just such a stupefied, typhoid debility becomes characteristic. The amelioration from alcohol and stimulants, as utilized especially by men, belong to the symptom picture of our remedy, which is fully able by itself to overcome appearing heart weakness,and not only when the well-known subjective sensation “as if the heart would stop” is present. Often have I used Gelsemium with success in 3x or 6x in cases with weakened heart muscle during convalescence and in nervous exhaustion.

The road to paralysis is often via tremors. The tongue, hands, limbs tremble, even the retina (if I may interpret the well-known flickering before the eyes during migraine attacks thus). Gelsemium seems to have a special affinity for the eye in ptosis, nystagmus, many disturbances of vision, glaucoma, pain, etc. This leads me to my own experiences with this remedy, which differ from those of Cuthbert, who saw result only from low potencies; in acute sickness he used 1x to 2x, in sub-acute cases 3x, while I found it very reliable in the 30c, especially in one-sided headaches.

During my adolescence I often suffered from that condition, which always began and ended the same way. After blinding from strong light, or without it, suddenly flickering appeared before one eye, which spread within 15 minutes over the entire field of vision, and then disappeared entirely. In another 15 vision a headache on that side began and increased steadily, lasting several hours, often accompanied by nausea. Of course, as the son of a homoeopathic physician I was often given medicines at such occasions, as also preventives, which latter seemed to be inefficient. It is well known, that during an attack of migraine not much can be done. But I remember one remedy very well, for it cut short an attack during a journey, after flickering scotoma (visual disturbance) was fully developed, and that was Gelsemium 30c from my fathers pocket medicine cases, just a few pellets on the tongue. Later Iris cured me entirely of my trouble.

My oldest son of 17 has also suffered from migraine for a few years, but without scotoma, which appears especially during hot south winds. I have give him especially Gelsemium 2x to 6x which was helpful for a while and then become ineffective. Therefore I went over to the 30c, a few pellets in water during the attack. When a contemplated journey demanded taking along a palliative, the boy selected the 30c, stating that these globules had the best. This absolutely uninfluenced statement is in perfect agreement with may many experiences in my practice and with reports in our older homoeopathic literature.

Miss M., 23, consulted me lately, a very intelligent, hard- working stenographer, who had been under my care for three years on account of migraine, which I had treated with very lasting success, while I have held the very best result in so many other cases. This was the worst case I have ever treated. For a long time she was treated at the University Clinic without benefit. the attacks appear several times each week during the summer, and remind one in their beginning of the aura preceding epileptic attacks: Flickering scotoma, severe paresthesia of tongue and left hand, creeping into upper arm, followed by one-sided headache on the other side with convulsive jerks. During severe attacks patient is unable to work for at least half a day. A sister suffers the same way. Since my treatment relieved only partially, she stayed away for longer time, trying her luck with much advertised anti-neuralgics, which she always carried with her. While visiting another patient I met her again, and she had them one of her awful attacks. She begged of me that I give her ” something”. I dissolved a few globules of Gelsemium 30 in a glass of water, and had her take a swallow of it frequently. the quick relief was so impressive, that she again called during my office hours, asking for further treatment. In turning to my ledgers I found that in 1936 and 1935 I had given her Gelsemium 30c during attacks with much improvement, but that continued use of it did not produce a cure. But then the attacks came on only two or three a month, instead of that often each week now.

Such clear and uniform demonstrations, during many years, and on naive and unprejudiced persons must eventually prove convincing, as the physician, who collects them, plays an impartial role, different from the investigation, whose object is to quickly solve a therapeutic question.

That the high potencies are considered especially effective may anger modern sceptics. Or is it not offensive to the scientifically struggling physician, if his few pellets are in a superior competition with the modern neuralgics, which are exactly constructed and dosed–three tiny sugar pellets which he carried with him for years in his pocket case? But it is our duty again and again to advertise the high potencies which we cannot understand, if they prove so efficient and that so regularly.


About the author

Martin Schlegel

Lindau Bodensee, Germany.


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