(From The Homoeopathic Recorder, July, 1890).
THIS drug, Sanguinaria canadensis, the blood root, is closely allied to its botanical relatives, Opium and Chelidonium. It is indeed, a lesser opium, depressing the cerebral functions, causing stupor, irresistible desire to sleep, frightful dreams, while, like Chelidonium, it produces constant pain in the right hypochondrium and, later, a bright yellow, bilious stool, with, however, more nausea and vomiting than either of its relatives cause.
Its physiological action, in general, and from large doses, is upon the membranes of the stomach and air passages where it produces irritation and inflammation. This irritant action evidently extends to the pneumogastric and causes derangement of the liver and digestive tract.
But the study of this abnormal physiology, while of some use to the student in grouping medicines for study, is of little or no use in aiding his knowledge of their symptomatology. The moment one begins to catalogue the characteristic symptoms of a drug, its physiological action is forgotten.
For instance, with Sanguinaria, the following picture of the migraine, which is so often cures, is not made any more clear or more easily remembered by the foregoing statement as to its physiological action: the day of the sick headache, “The Typical American Sick Headache”, may begin with irritability, “She could break things in pieces without cause”; or there is anxiety followed by bitter vomiting. There is often terrible vertigo on rising or turning the head quickly, with a rush of blood up into the head, whizzing in the ears and flushed face.
The actual pain may begin without these preliminaries, as an aching on awaking in the morning; beginning in the occiput and spreading rapidly upwards, settles over the right eye; it increases with the day, being worse about non and declining in the afternoon. Such periodical neuralgias are apt to be worse under Sanguinaria every seventh day (as under Sabad, Silica and Sulphur) and are accompanied by vomiting of bile, dread of light, motion or noise, and are relieved by sleep and a profuse flow of urine.
The location of the pains may vary somewhat, occasionally the vertex, temples or the forehead (always right side) being affected, but the constant and characteristic condition is the aggravation, increasing and ending with the daylight. Enlarged veins about the head and soreness of the scalp generally accompany the Sanguinaria conditions. The pains are like electric shocks, boring, tearing, or, more commonly, bursting.
Spigelia is worthy of comparison here as causing a similar headache, beginning at one point and radiating in different directions; generally worse upon the left side, and, like Sanguinaria, increasing and decreasing with the daylight. The pains of Spigelia are tearing, jerking and severe as in Sanguinaria and more apt to come on in stormy weather. Iris versicolor and Melilotus also cure similar severe nervous headaches.
Sanguinaria has a record in the cure of nasal polypus when accompanied with pain about the root of nose and frequent attacks of acrid fluent coryza. It may then be used locally in a dry powder, dusted upon the parts and with the internal administration of potencies.
In colds or during influenza, when there is much soreness in the roof of the mouth, extending to the pharynx, right side of throat and even down to the lungs, as if parts had been scalded or burnt feeling, there is rheumatic soreness of the muscles of the palate, much dryness down the air passages, loss of taste and smell, Sanguinaria is doubly well indicated.
With, or without, these catarrhal symptoms, the cough which I have seen Sanguinaria cure is a constant dry hacking, from tickling behind the sternum, awakening from sleep.
Sanguinaria has also relieved oedema of the glottis, croup, aphonia and kindred troubles when the cough was dry, harsh and rasping, worse when lying down, with scanty, glairy expectorations, as in Rumex, Spongia, etc.
Its local action upon air passages is the opposite of Tartar emetic, Stannum, Ipec., and like remedies, in that it dries up rather than promotes or increase the secretions.
Occasionally Sanguinaria is called for in Pneumonia. It is of the so-called typhoid or hypostatic form, sub-acute, and the patient is always better when lying upon his back. His face is livid and dark red (as in Opium), the hands show the engorged circulation by their enlarged veins; the cheeks especially show dusky red flushings and the pulse is full, soft, vibrating and easily compressed.
Besides these, a strong indicating symptom is a circumscribed burning in the chest, commonly followed by heat through the abdomen and diarrhoea. The cough will be dry and teasing, with the characteristic dryness of the air passages, and tenacious rusty sputa. Sanguinaria most nearly resembles Veratrum viride in the early stages of Pneumonia, the latter remedy showing, perhaps, greater engorgement, a stronger but more intermittent pulse, and being better suited to such congestions of the lungs in children, that is Sanguinaria.
Later, in pulmonary phthisis, Sanguinaria is the remedy when the above circulatory disturbances are present with hectic, offensive breath and expectoration, weak pulse and frequent palpitation and perhaps hemoptysis. Here Phosphorus is a very close and analogue.
In females Sanguinaria is indicated in a metrorrhagia of black blood, with cough, sick headache, flushed face, etc., or an amenorrhoea with similar accompaniments, or, occasionally, as Sulphur or Lachesis, for the flushes at the climacteric, other indicating symptoms being present.
In rheumatism Sanguinaria meets those odd cases in which the right shoulder and arm are the parts affected, being worse at night in bed, like Magnesium carb.
Its gastric symptoms are not as decided as those of its analogue Chelidonium, and from its exhibition in the nausea of pregnancy, and gastric ulcer, are found to be characteristically accompanied with heat rising up into the head and relief of the nausea, etc., from vomiting.
This by no means exhausts the symptomatology of Sanguinaria but includes its leading and well authenticated uses.
Its most common form of use is in dilutions, made from the fresh American tincture of the root, or, as some prefer, triturations of the fresh root. I have found it just as efficacious in the 30th and 200th dilutions as lower, especially in neuralgias and cough.
This brief study shows that the Blood Root has a larger range than we are apt to accord it. If the profusion with which nature spreads the pure white petals of this beautiful early spring flower in our woods every year is an index of its general applicability, it should be an everyday remedy.