The skin symptoms, so easily excited in susceptible persons by the emanations of the poison ivy, are but one phase of an action remarkable for its ability to induce a wonderful sensitiveness to those external influences which diminish mobility by quickly abstracting heat. Weather capable of bringing about this result is so common in America that it often corresponds to the genus epidemicus. Sudden changes of temperature, dampness, cold rains, getting wet or chilled while sweating, cold baths, cold applications, uncovering, etc., are but a few of the things which may excite rhus symptoms. Conversely, warmth and motion, which of itself evolves heat, have a relaxing and, therefore, distinctly modifying effect.
Rhus causes the skin to break out in burning, itching vesicles which spread by means of their acrid contents or harden into thick crusts. The eruptions are more likely to attack the hairy parts and are frequently accompanied by heat, erysipelatous redness, swelling and stiffness. In older cases the skin thickens, forms moist, eczematous eruptions or breaks down into weeping ulcers. It often has an unhealthy look and is slow to heal and again it is the seat of itching, crawling, prickling sensations which scratching converts into burning, humid, sore spots. Such effects should remind you of milk crust, erysipelas, intercostal neuralgia and some other diseases. In rhus poisoning a very high potency in the single dose is the most efficient remedy.
Repose is just as unendurable to the rhus patient as it is grateful to the bryonia subject. Rest brings no relief, on the contrary the complaints reappear or are worse then; the bed soon begins to feel hard, tearing, shooting or other pains come on and torment the sufferer until he moves again and again. The pains impel him to move (arsenicum); the physical restlessness reaches its acme in the hours after midnight, greatly disturbing sleep, causing laborious dreams and an unrefreshed awakening. Prolonged rest is followed by slow action and stiffness particularly in the morning; the latter is combined with a desire for motion which, however, is difficult and painful at first, but after becoming warmed up the patient goes along easily enough until weakness overtakes him. The typical rhus state finds expression in a desire for relief from physical rather than mental suffering.
In the deeper tissues a soreness as if the part had lain in an uncomfortable position too long or a feeling of being torn or beaten loose is a rather common occurrence, and has among other things led to its use in sprains and the after effects of violent muscular exertion. It is characteristic of rhus that it affects the left side more, or the symptoms move from left to right. The progression or sequence of symptoms can have little or no meaning for the materialist, but the observer of small things and the student of nature gets hints from them which help him to maintain the delicate balance of the vital forces.
We are accustomed to see tonsillitis, erysipelas and rheumatism attack one side, and when this happens to be the left one, lachesis and rhus come prominently into view. In all throat diseases rhus is to be chosen in preference to lachesis when the attack has been brought on by exposure to dampness, is better from heat and is either eased or not affected by repeated swallowing. Herpetic eruptions are very apt to accompany them. In hemiplegia it is also necessary to make a differentiation, but the sleep symptoms of the snake venom lighten the task very materially.
A strand of red runs through its symptomatology. It is not a rare thing to see the urine leaving a red stain or stools that are brick red from blood, when it is indicated. In pneumonia when the expectoration is rusty red it is one of the most useful remedies. Then we have dysentery with its red, mucous stools and puerperal fever with muddy, red lochia. A tongue which is dry and red or has a triangular red tip is frequently found in any or all of the above mentioned diseases. Sometimes a bloody, red saliva runs from the mouth during sleep. There is much craving for cold drinks, particularly in fevers, although they may sometimes increase the cough, the chill or the diarrhea.
The circulatory manifestations are more evident during rest. The pulse is mostly soft and sleeplessness is prominent.
The chill is remarkable for the large number of its concomitants, among which rheumatic pains in the limbs are much in evidence. Sometimes it is right sided while the heat is left sided. During the heat thirst for little and often, especially at night, comes on, a triangular redness appears on the tip of the tongue and a regular typhoid state with sordes on the teeth, diarrhea, restlessness and increased distress after midnight supervenes.
The sweat is often critical but seldom debilitating. There are times when it has a musty odor or causes itching of the skin. It may cover the whole body except the head, or the affected part only, and is more profuse on falling to sleep, during pain and from exertion. This musty or mouldy odor is not confined to the sweat by any means, for it is present in the expectoration and other secretions. Occasionally it takes the form of an illusion of smell or taste.
In the typhoid state it stands pre-eminent. The tongue may present the classical triangular red tip so indicative of this drug, simply being red at the point.
There are two diseases which so. often depict rhus that they deserve especial mention. The first of these is lumbago, which as you know belongs to the rheumatic group. The cases for which it is suitable are often caused by getting wet and are relieved by continued motion or lying on a hard surface. Then we also have sciatica, so often brought about by exposure combined with imperfect elimination, with its pains, which are relieved by rubbing, heat and exercise.
To sum up we have:
- Affections caused by exposure to cold, wet or getting drenched while sweating, cold baths, etc. Effects of hard labor and exposure. Laborious dreams.
- Symptoms which appear on the left side or move from left to right.
- Rusty red secretions.
- Stiffness and soreness of the affected parts. Sensation of something tearing loose.
- Vesiculo-erysipelatous eruptions with stiffness of the skin. Humid eruptions. Vesicles about the mouth.
- Extreme restlessness, can not find a comfortable position; must move to get relief. Inclination for motion, which brings relief, is the great characteristic.
- Triangular red spots on tip of tongue,. or a dry stripe down center.
- Aggravation on beginning to move but amelioration from continued motion.— Homeopathic Recorder.
Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 3, 1909, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.