Bryonia alba Generalities: Every medicine has a sphere of action, a peculiar nature whereby it differs from all other medicines, and hence it becomes suitable to complaints of one class and not suitable to those of another.
It is like the nature of human beings, as they differ from each other, and also like the nature of diseases, which differ from each other in character.
We study a remedy also in regard to its velocity and continuance, its remittence or intermittence.
The symptoms of some remedies come on suddenly, with great violence, with great rapidity, stay but a short time in their paroxysm, and go off as it nothing had happened.
Others come on slowly, are deep acting and continuous, like the continued fevers. We notice the complaints of Ignatia, how flitting and intermittent and unexpected everything is; we notice in Aconite how complaints come on with violence, and in Belladonna with what suddenness they come on.
When we come to the study of Bryonia alba, we find it is a most persistent remedy; its complaints develop slowly, i.e., slowly for acute conditions.
Its complaints are continuous, remittent, and only occasionally intermittent.
They increase into violence, but the violence is not the first flash as in Aconite or Belladonna, and hence it conforms to a type of disease with continued fever; to rheumatisms that come with gradually increasing severity, gradually increasing and involving one joint after another, until all the white fibrous tissues are in a state of inflammation, pain and distress.
It has inflammatory conditions anywhere about the body, but particularly of the fibrous tissues, serous membranes, ligaments of joints and aponeuroses. It also affects the coating of nerves with its congestions, and these gradually increase in severity.
From the beginning there are present the characteristic features, and it may be seen that this patient is coming down with a Bryonia sickness.
The patient has several days of preparation. He does not feel very well, is languid and tired, does not want to be spoken to, does not want to move, and this gradually increases; pains begin to flit over the body, they move around here and there over the fibres in one place and another, and every time he moves the pain increase, until they end in a steady and continuous pain. The parts become hot and inflamed, and at last he is down with rheumatism.
The complaints come on after taking cold, not the first few hours, as in Aconite or Bell., but the day after an exposure he begins to feel uneasy and he sneezes and the nose discharges, there is rawness in the chest, and in a day or so he has a chill and comes down with some inflammatory trouble, pneumonia or pleurisy.
Its inflammatory complaints include inflammation of the membranes of the brain, sometimes extending, into the cord; the pleural membranes, the peritoneum and the heart covering, these are the most common; it also has inflammation of organs.
When these conditions come on there is noticed, very early in the case, even before the pains begin, an aversion to motion, and the patient does not know why, but finally he observes that his symptoms are made worse if he has to move, so that the slightest inclination to move is resisted with a feeling of anger, and when he does move he finds he is aroused to great suffering, and that all the aches and pains of the body come on.
Thus we have the well-known Bryonia alba aggravation from motion. This runs all through the remedy.
This medicine is suitable in a great many diseases, diseases of a typhoid nature, diseases that take on a symptomatic typhoid, diseases that start out as remittents and run into a continued fever, as in pneumonia, pleurisy, inflammation of the liver, of glands, of the bowels, etc.
It may be a gastro-enteritis or peritonitis, or inflammation of the bowels, with the sensitiveness, the aggravation from motion and the desire to keep perfectly still. Inflammation of joints, whether of rheumatic character or not, whether from cold, exposure or injury.
Bryonia alba is often indicated in injuries of joints where Arnica would be a failure.
There is an extreme state of irritability in Bryonia; every word which compels him to answer a question or to think will aggravate him.
The effort to talk will be attended with horror. At the beginning of complaints you go to the bedside of a patient who has been grumbling a few days; something is evidently coming on; the family meet you at the door and say,
“The patient is almost unconscious;”
you look at him, the face is puffed and purplish, he seems to be dazed, there appears to be a short of venous stasis all over the body, but especially about the face; his countenance is almost that of an imbecile, yet he is perfectly capable of talking, although he has an aversion to it and appears to outsiders to ignore everything that is said.
This sometimes comes on apparently in a short time; the patient awakens in the morning with a dull, congestive headache and a stupid feeling in the head; dulness of mind so that he cannot work, and this feeling gradually increases; such a state is sometimes the forerunner of a serious illness.
We find, when a pneumonia or inflammation of the liver, or some slow insidious inflammation is coming on somewhere in the body, but not yet located, that this state will begin in the morning.
This is peculiar about the aggravation of Bryonia – its troubles commence many times early in the morning. On waking, with the first move, he realizes that things are not all right, there is a state of stupidity bordering on unconsciousness.
Those who have been grumbling for a week or ten days wake up in the morning feeling miserable, some time that night or the next day they have to send for the doctor. If this is watched for a few days, a continued fever is observed.
Or at night a chill will come on, with much pain in the chest, rusty expectoration, short, dry cough and other symptoms that will be spoken of under Bryonia later, showing that the trouble is going towards the chest; or the condition may gradually increase as a congestive, dull headache.
This will be seen when congestion of the brain is coming on. Bryonia sickness often picks out plethoric subjects, those who are venous in their make up, those who, when suffering with cold, come down with catarrhal congestions.
Catarrhal fever may be covered by Bryonia alba.
Mind: This sluggish state of the mind then is the state of Bryonia, not an excitable state, as in Coffea, Nux vomica, Ignatia, but sluggish aggravated from motion, aggravated from being talked to; wants to lie still in bed; very great irritability, which is as extreme as that found in Nux or Chamomilla.
It also has acute complaints aggravated from anger, from being aroused, from being disturbed, from controversy. Following the early sluggishness, there is later a state of complete stupefaction in Bryonia, in which he becomes quite unconscious, as in typhoid.
He goes from a state of partial unconsciousness to one of complete unconsciousness, as in hydrocephalic children.
In rheumatic complaints, in pneumonia, and in typhoid conditions, when he is aroused from this stage of stupefaction he is confused, sees images, thinks he is away from home and wants to be taken home.
Sometimes he will lie and say nothing but that he “wants to go home.”
The delirium is of a low type; it is not the flashing wild excitement of Belladonna or Stram.; it is the very opposite; he talks and wanders and does not say much unless he is disturbed. You disturb him and lie says,
“Go away and let me go home,” and if you let him alone he will relapse into a perfectly quiet state and seldom speak.
“Irrational talk or prattle of his business, aggravated after 3 P.M.”
Usually you will find the delirium commencing about 9 P.M., and keeping up all night like the fever.
The acute mental state you will find manifesting its symptoms on rising in the morning, but as the febrile state advances and takes possession of him the symptoms will take on a 9 P.M. aggravation; those who have chill will have it at 9 P.M.; in those who have a fever, the fever will come at 9 P.M.
If mental symptoms are uppermost they increase and spread over the night. It has a 3 P- M aggravation. Belladonna will begin at 3 and run on towards midnight, but Bryonia will begin at 9 P.M. and run on through the night.
The aggravation of the Chamomilla patients, who are also extremely irritable, is at 9 A.M. Sometimes we go to the bedside and can hardly distinguish between Bryonia and Cham. because they are both so spunky, but the Chamomilla baby is worse at 9 A.M. and the Bryonia alba baby is worse at 9 P.M.
in Bryonia there is a key-note which really applies to a dozen or more remedies,
“he wants something and he knows not what.”
It is a very important symptom of Bryonia. It is a symptom that calls for Bryonia only when the rest of the symptoms agree. You go to a child who is being carried in the arms of the nurse and wants one toy after another; you get the toy he wants and he does not want it and will throw it back at you.
When that case is looked into thoroughly it may be covered by Kreosote; another is never satisfied with anything and rejects everything he asks for; you look into that case and it may be covered by Chamomilla.
“Desire for things that cannot be had which are refused, or not wanted when offered.”
“Anxiety in whole body compelled him to do something constantly.”
There is a feature worthy of consideration because it sometimes makes a case appear inconsistent. It is due to his anxiety that pervades the whole body.
In Bryonia alba, as in Arsenic there comes an anxious and uneasy feeling which compels him to move, but he is worse from motion, yet so uneasy and anxious that he must move.
There are pains so violent that he cannot keep still, and yet when he moves he screeches from the pain. So it is really not an inconsistency but simply due to the great violence of the pain. Even though he knows that the motion is going to make him worse, he cannot keep still, for the pain is so violent.
Early in the case he was able to keep still, and found that he was better from keeping still, and that the mental state was better from keeping still, and that the anxious restlessness increased the more be moved, until finally a reaction comes and he is obliged to move.
You would think, looking at the case superficially, that that patient is better from motion as in Rhus tox., but in Rhus you find that the patient moves and in moving he gets feeble, and when he sits down the pains begin to come on again.
There is the distinction between the two, and yet they look alike if not examined into carefully. It is common for Bryonia to be ameliorated from cool air, and from cool applications.
Now, if he moves, he gets warmed up, the pains are worse, but there are rheumatic complaints of Bryonia which are better from heat, and under these circumstances he is better from continued motion.
It is another form of relief, and another of the modalities. I sometimes wonder whether Bryonia has a greater element of relief from heat, or greater element of relief from cold.
Most of the head complaints that are of a congestive character are better from cool applications, from cold air, etc. Yet there are some of the Bryonia head com plaints that are relieved by hot applications, and these seem to have no accompanying cerebral congestion.
So that Bryonia has opposite modalities, but in all its opposite states there is still a grand nature running all through, sufficient to detect it.
In a damp climate Bryonia is one of the most frequently indicated remedies, but in the clear climates, where the thermometer runs low, Aconite will be indicated more than Bryonia.
Still further South, the complaints assume more of the constitutional state of Gelsemium in inflammatory conditions. We know in the far North the sudden, violent cold brings on violent colds like Aconite, while here the complaints are more insidious, like Bryonia, land further South.
These atmospheric changes should be thoroughly considered in relation to our Materia Medica.
The mental state of Bryonia is usually relieved from cool air, he wants the windows open.
Anxiety, confusion of mind, fear, etc., are ameliorated from being cool. Sometimes the delirium, and the congestive fullness of the head affecting the mind, will increase if the room becomes very warm, or from the heat of the stove, from becoming heated, or from warm covers.
In children this will be noticed, whereas if the window be thrown up to relieve the stuffiness of the room the child will sleep quietly. Such remedies as Bryonia, Apis, Pulsatilla, and many others, come in here.
If you go into a room and find the child raging with delirium, turning and tossing, and the mother is trying to keep the room warm because she is chilly, and you say,
“Why, how stuffy it is in here!” and you open the window and then notice that the child goes off to sleep, do not overlook that; because that relief was caused by something.
There should be nothing that can possibly occur to a patient, but that you should solve the meaning of before you leave the room. Settle in your mind as to what it was that caused it.
“Fear of death.”
Full of fear, anxiety, despair of recovery, great despondency. Both mental and bodily quietness is required, that is, he wants to keep still.
Often he wants the room dark. It has complaints from getting excited. Bryonia patients are nearly always worse from visitors.
Do not cross a Bryonia patient for it makes him worse.
“Bad effects from mortification.”
“Ailments arising from chagrin; ” these are headaches usually.
Violent, congestive headaches that come on a few hours after altercation or controversy, or little misunderstandings with somebody that he cannot talk back to, will be covered by Staphysagria, but Bryonia also has that.
Staphysagria is suited to irritable, violent, nervous, excitable people, that get into violent altercation or dispute. If a headache comes on, such a patient may need Bryonia.
If in a chronic state a patient says,
“Doctor, if I ever have a dispute with a man over anything I come down with nervous excitement, sleeplessness, headaches;”
you do not have to work long upon that case, because more than likely Staphysagria will be suitable.
Bryonia has dizziness; the dizziness is worse in a warm room. You will notice, as I go through, that in everything of a nervous nature, nervous excitement, and commonly the bodily state, the patient is worse from a warm room, worse from too much clothing, worse from the warmth of the bed, wants the windows open, wants to breathe fresh, cool air.
He suffers more than ordinary persons, from a stuffy room. Persons who are subject to Bryonia conditions in church, at the opera, in close warm rooms, like Lycopodium. Girls that faint every time they go to church are relieved by Ignatia.
Head: We commence now with the study of the head.
The head complaints may be looked upon as striking features of the remedy, because there is pain in the head with almost every acute complaint.
Headaches are associated with inflammatory and congestive complaints.
The mental dullness and confusion of the mind is spoken of with the congestive headache, and bursting headache.
The head feels so full she wants to press it with the hand, or tic it up; tight pressure, over the whole skull, is grateful. The headaches are worse in a warm room and commonly worse from heat.
Sometimes superficial neuralgias have relief from local heat, but a warm room or a close room is very distressing to the Bryonia headache. Headaches as if the skull would split open; the pains are worse from every motion, even the winking motion of the eyes, the motion necessary to talking and the effort of thinking so that all exertion of body or mind becomes impossible with a severe headache.
Must keep perfectly quiet. Sometimes lying down and keeping perfectly quiet in a dark room will give some relief. Light aggravates; if you think a moment you will see that the accommodation to light and shadow of a room involves motion; it is said that the light aggravates, but even here it is the motion that is carried on by the muscles of accommodation.
The headaches of Bryonia are very commonly the forerunner of other complaints, congestion of the lungs, bronchitis, congestion of some other part of the body; he wakes up in the morning with headache; if it be coryza that is coming, he has the headache in the morning and through the day he commences to sneeze; or if the trouble is in some other part of the body, before the symptoms develop, he wakes up in the morning with this congestive headache over the eyes or in the back of the head, or both; it seems as if the head would burst; better from pressure, worse from the warmth of the room, and worse from every motion.
Headache over the eyes, sometimes like the stabbing of a knife, worse from the first motion. He realizes it on waking upon moving the eyes, with soreness in the eyeballs, with bruised feelings all over.
The motion of the arms, doing work with the arms as in various kinds of business that are carried on with the use of the arms and hands, is generally accompanied by complaints of the upper part of the body and especially the head, so that one of the old key-notes in the time of Hering was “complaints from ironing.”.
You know that ironing is commonly carried on in a warm room, it involves the motion of the arms, and thus brings in two most striking features of Bryonia, so that this key-note is no longer an abstract statement; it is not to be considered apart from the general nature, but only serves to bring it out.
Splitting, violent congestive headaches; headaches as if everything would burst out of the forehead. Pressure pain in the forehead, fullness and heaviness in the forehead as if the brain were pressed out.
This fullness or congestion of the head, is accompanied by what was described as sluggishness of the mind, and it will often be noticed that the countenance is somewhat besotted.
The patient looks as if he were an imbecile. The face is mottled, and purple, with congestion in a marked Bryonia state. The eyes are red, and congested; he is listless, does not want to move, to speak, or to do anything, because all these things are motion, are efforts, and they make him worse.
You will see this is also true in Belladonna; it has all of this congestion and pressure; but remember Bryonia is slow, sluggish, passive and insidious in its approach and progress, while in Belladonna the mental symptoms and everything in connection are marked by activity. With the headaches there is more or less burning, and sometimes throbbing.
The throbbing is seldom felt until he moves. After any movement, like going up stairs, walking, or turning over in bed during the headache, he feels the violent throbbing; on keeping still a moment it settles down into a bursting, pressing pain as if the skull would be pressed open.
There are many other pains in connection with the Bryonia headache; in the text it is described:
“tearing and stitching pains.”
“Shooting pains,” sharp pains.
Some of the pressing pains are described as if a great weight were on the head, but the same idea prevails; it is an internal pressure; a sluggishness of the circulation in the brain, a stasis as if all the blood in the body were surging in the head.
“Stitches in the head.”
“Rush of blood to head.” Threatened apoplexy.
“Headache after washing himself with cold water when face was sweating.”
That is, taking cold from suppression of perspiration.
“Always on coughing, motion in head like pressure.”
The headache is so bad in many cases of pneumonia or bronchitis, in fact in any of the inflammatory or congestive conditions, that very often you will see the patient grasp the head when he knows he is going to cough.
He holds his head because it hurts so from the action of coughing. Many remedies have this, but it is in keeping with the general aggravation of Bryonia from motion, from jar, from any effort.
“The headache is expanding, aggravated by the slightest motion; after eating.”
The aggravation after eating is in keeping with the Bryonia state in general. The Patient himself, in all complaints, feels worse after eating. It hardly matters what the trouble is, it is worse after eating; the cough is worse after eating, the gouty, state is increased by eating.
The Bryonia patient will finally sum up the whole subject and say,