Alum-The Sulphate of Aluminium and Potassium. Formula: Al2(SO4)3, K2SO4, 24H2O.
The chief effects of material quantities of alum are due to its astringency. It coagulates albumin and (especially the dried alum) absorbs water rapidly from the air or from the tissues when applied to granulations or even to the skin.
It has, however, a distant poisonous effect, irritating the liver and kidneys, and causing descending degeneration in the medulla and cord from a central lesion. The symptoms associated therewith tremors and twitching or clonic spasms, and (later) some degree of paralysis, and diminished cutaneous sensibility (numbness) and torpor.
The first effects of substantial doses are the local ones, dryness, sweet taste in the mouth and throat, followed by constipation. Vomiting comes on, and after still larger doses, diarrhoea, burning thirst and difficulty of swallowing. Albuminuria and possibly haematuria may be induced. The pulse becomes small and frequent, and fainting occurs prior to death taking place.
The foregoing symptoms (with corresponding pathological changes in the various tissues) were due to poisoning or to laboratory experiments.
– Some of the above were also experienced by experimenters taking dilutions in repeated doses from the 1x to the 12c.
Nausea, heat in the stomach or heaviness and throbbing in the epigastrium, in some cases accompanied by loss of strength, chilliness, faintness, extreme pallor with blueness of lips, cold sweat sixth centesimal attenuation. A sinking in the epigastrium was felt at 11 a.m. (sepia, sulphur) with throbbing there, and palpitation; after eating something the prover felt stronger. “Restlessness, mental rather than bodily. with excitement, accompanied some of the gastric symptoms.
As recovery took place :”chilliness gave placer to heat” and the blood rushed to the head. The symptoms were followed by extreme weakness for some time.
Pains in various parts of the body, described as stitching, bruised or rheumatic, were experienced; they occurred in some instance when walking,(limbs), but those in the chest were better when walking, but worse in the morning while washing and dressing.
A singular dysaesthesia occurred in two experimenters, in the shape of pain in arm and leg a(right) as if a cord were tied tightly round the limb causing a full feeling in it, as if it would burst; it was accompanied by loss of strength. This recurred at intervals; consciousness was not affected.
Weakness, as after an illness, was a feature induced in most of the provers, quite disproportionate to the doses taken.
Head.- Headache-pressure over the eyes, especially on moving the lids- is produced, worse in the morning and relieved by drinking cold water; also sneezing and yellow bland discharge from the eyes were noticed, but the nostrils and mouth were day.
Twitchings in the limbs, especially the arms, and extending like spasms to the trunk, cramps and stiffness in the neck, tremor of muscles (which were transitory manifestations) and mental depression indicated a slighter degree of nerve irritation than that recorded in the poisoning. Some of these symptoms and the weakness and muscular pains are reflected in the alumina pathogenesy.
Alum is used locally as an astringent-for an eye lotion in the strength of 4 gr. to 1 fl.oz.of water; for the throat as a gargle twice this strength.
It is not much used antipathically, but in the absence of better remedies, it may be given for haemorrhages (e.g., in enteric fever) in doses of 5 to 10 gr. by the mouth.
The homoeopathic use of alum has not been considerable and it is not always clearly associated with its pathogenesis.
Nevertheless its main therapeutic value may be referred to a few groups; (a) Weakness; (b) inflammation, chronic, accompanied with small-cell infiltration and ending in a cirrhotic condition or induration, or in ulceration; (c) catarrhs; (d) varicosis.
One or other of these features appears to be at the base of or associated with most of the lesions or states for which alum may be used homoeopathically.
(a) Weakness.-There is fatigue and deficiency of muscular power generally, but especially of the arms and legs-a half- paralysed. Such weakness may be met with in auto-toxaemia or in commencing paralysis agitans. Either striped or unstriped muscle may be thus affected and some of the visceral symptoms mentioned later may be thus explained. Some of the weakness may be due to spinal involvement.
(b) Chronic inflammation is present in many parts and its outstanding characteristic is thickening or induration. The drug is recommended by Kent (loc.cit.) in ulcers with indurated base, and where crusts form and fall of without healing having taken place. Indeed, he regards “induration”; wherever found, as one of the indications for alumen. Patients requiring this remedy are liable to recurring “colds” and the stress of them often falls on the throat, resulting in hard enlarged tonsils and in bullety glands in the neck; other sites which undergo this induration are the mammae and the cervix uteri. Other drugs to consider in such cases are baryta carb., calcarea, and sulphur.
(c) Catarrh.- The mucous membranes which are affected by alum secrete a copious, thick, yellow discharge., which will be met with when considering local conditions.
In some instances superficial exfoliations occur, leaving small raw erosions upon which whitish deposits or aphthae are liable to form.
(d) Around such lesions as these, or surrounding ulcerations, dilated venules are often found.
Circulation._ A headache, such as that experienced by the provers (q.v) would indicate alum; and clinically it has proved successful in a form of headache described as a burning and pressure on the vertex, as if the skull would be crushed in./ This type is relieved (curiously enough) by firm pressure and by icy cold applications, which require frequent repetition. This is an instance of a local symptom contrasting with a general one, for the alum patient is very sensitive to cold and to changes in the weather. This modality and its local exception are present also in the arsenic pathogenesis.
Eyes.- A yellow, non-irritating discharge from the conjunctive may require alum internally; the lids do not stick together. A Symptom not of catarrhal origin is prominent, viz, double vision in a poor light.
The nose is usually dry, but a mucous polypus (on the left side) may require alumen for its cure.
Mouth and Throat.- The mouth burns in alum cases; it may have erosions or aphthae in patches, and burning spongy, bleeding gums, with offensive saliva. The uvula is elongated.
Great thirst for ice water is prominent. Such a state may be present in scurvy, pyorrhoea alveolaris, mercurial or lead poisoning, and some other septic infections.
The face may be yellow or cachectic-looking or pallid with blue lips.
Larynx.- Chronic aphonia or hoarseness comes on after a long series of colds, with tonsillitis, & c. The patient constantly clears his throat and expectorates yellow mucus, but in the evenings there is often a dry cough, worse on lying down. Such a condition it is suggested may end in laryngeal tuberculosis-at any rate the drug may have to be considered in this form of “phthisis” or in syphilitic conditions. Old people with chronic laryngitis, tracheitis and bronchitis, who each morning expectorate a quantity of stringy mucus, difficult to get up, or who even get some haemoptysis, may be benefited by the same remedy.
Abdomen.- Flatulence and colic of a boring, tearing character, with retraction of the navel, as in lead colic, are likely to require alum. Indeed, the colic is so like lead colic that alum has been successfully used for that ailment and is recommended to lessen the susceptibility to plumbism in lead workers.
The constipation which is caused by alum is marked by urging without result until a large accumulation of faeces has taken place. The stool is formed of small hard lumps, like sheep dung. After an evacuation the feeling of a quantity of faeces being left in the rectum may be present, which may be a correct interpretation of the sensation. Lack of muscular power may be one cause of this constipation; when it occurs in old men the presence of an enlarged prostate interrupting the peristaltic wave may be an explanation of it. Piles which ulcerate may occur.
Urinary system.- A similar symptom exists in connection with micturition- the bladder cannot be completely emptied, a considerable amount of residual. Urine being found on examination. The stream is slow and falls down perpendicularly from the urethral orifice. These features and the bowel symptoms just mentioned indicate the prostrate as the cause and alum as a probable remedy. Urethritis, with bland yellow discharge, may go on to thickening and stricture. The drug may be useful in chronic gonorrhoea.
In women vaginal leucorrhoea may be present-a bland yellow discharge. Ulcerated spots on the mucosa, with sore surface and varicose edges may render sexual intercourse unbearable. A hard, heavy uterus may create a sense of bearing down, and the cervix may share in the induration which serves as an indication for alum.
Spinal Symptoms.-We have seen that descending sclerosis is attributed to poisoning by alum. There are a few symptoms which point in this direction and which would indicate the drug as a remedy-a sense of constriction around the limbs- a girdle pain as it were; numbness and tingling of the extremities, especially numbness and coldness of the feet; or alternatively the soles of the feet are sensitive on walking; numbness and clumsiness of fingers. A pain in the dorsal spinal region at the level of the inferior angle of the scapula is another point, and coldness along the spine as if ice-water were poured down it.
Sleep.-Alum patients are very subject to “night-mare.”.
1) Great sensitiveness to cold (except head) and to change of weather.
2) Muscular weakness-plain or striped muscle, as shown in limbs, viscera, & c., or general.
3) Catarrh with bland yellow discharges.
4) Colic like lead colic; also lead colic itself.
5) Indurations: around ulcers, of glands and glandular organs.
6) Palpitation when lying on the right side.
7) Constipation as described on p. 120.
8) Thirst for ice-cold water.
9) A typical burning and pressive headache, relieved by pressure and ice-cold applications.
10) Constriction pain in the limbs.
11) Numbness of feet (or sensitiveness) and numbness and clumsiness of fingers-letting things drop.
Cold, changes of weather lying down (evening cough).
Firm pressure (vertex headache), icy cold applications (vertex headache).
There are few general modalities which will lead to the selection of alum as a remedy, and the literature gives the impression that there may have been some confusion. between that drug and alumina, which has been more fully proved and more extensively used.