James Tyler Kent describes the symptoms of the homeopathic medicine Sulphur in great detail and compares it with other homeopathy remedies. …

Sulphur is such a full remedy that it is somewhat difficult to tell where to begin.

It seems to contain a likeness of all the sicknesses of man, and a beginner on reading over the proving of Sulphur might naturally think that he would need no other remedy, as the image of all sickness seems to be contained in it.

Yet you will find it will not cure all the sicknesses of man, and it is not well to use it indiscriminately any more than you would any other remedy. It seems that the less a physician knows of the Materia Medica the oftener he gives Sulphur, and yet it is very frequently given, even by good prescribers; so that the line between physicians’ ignorance and knowledge cannot be drawn from the frequency with which Sulphur is prescribed by them.

Aspect: The Sulphur patient is a lean, lank, hungry, dyspeptic fellow with stoop shoulders, yet many times it must be given to fat, rotund, well fed people.

The angular, lean, stoop-shouldered patient, however, is the typical one, and especially when he has become so from long periods of indigestion, bad assimilation and feeble nutrition. The Sulphur state is sometimes brought about by being long housed up and adapting the diet to the stomach.

Persons who lead sedentary lives, confined to their rooms in study, in meditation, in philosophical inquiry, and who take no exercise, soon find out that they must eat only the simplest foods, foods not sufficient to nourish the body, and they end up by going into a philosophical mania.

There is another class of patients in whom we see a Sulphur appearance in the face; dirty, shriveled, red-faced people. The skin seems to be easily affected by the atmosphere. He becomes red in the face from riding in the air, both in very cold and in damp weather.

He has a delicate, thin skin, blushing on the slightest occasion, always red and dirty looking, no matter how much he washes it. If it be a child, the mother may wash the face often, but it always looks as if it had been perfunctorily washed.

Hering called the Sulphur patient “the ragged philosopher.”

The Sulphur scholar, the inventor, works day and night in threadbare clothes and battered hat; he has long, uncut hair and a dirty face; his study is uncleanly, it is untidy; books and leaves of books are piled up indiscriminately; there is no order. It seems that Sulfur produces this state of disorder, a state of untidiness, a state of uncleanness, a state of “care how things go,” and a state of selfishness.

He becomes a false philosopher and the more he goes on in this state the more he is disappointed because the world does not consider him the greatest man on earth. Old inventors work and work, and fail.

The complaints that arise in this kind of case, even the acute complaints, will run to Sulphur. You take such a patient and you will notice that he has on a shirt that he has worn many weeks; if he has not a wife to attend to him, he would wear his shirt until it fell off from him.

Cleanliness is not a great idea with the Sulphur patient; he thinks it is not necessary. He is dirty; he does not see the necessity of putting on a clean collar and cuffs and a clean shirt; it does not worry him. Sulphur is seldom indicated in cleanly people, but it is commonly indicated in those who are not disturbed by uncleanliness.

Odor: When attending the public clinic I have many times noticed that after Sulphur an individual begins to take notice of himself and puts on a clean shirt, whereas his earlier appearances were in the one same old shirt. And it is astonishing how the Sulphur patients, especially the little ones, can get their clothing dirty so fast.

Children have the most astonishing tendency to be filthy. Mothers tell you of the filthy things that little ones will do if they be Sulphur patients. The child is subject to catarrhal discharges from the nose, the eyes and from other parts, and he often eats the discharge from the nose. Now, that is peculiar, because offensive odors are the things that the Sulphur patient loathes. He is oversensitive to filthy odors, but filthy substances themselves he will eat and swallow. He becomes nauseated even from the odor of his own body and of his own breath.

The odor of the stool is so offensive that it will follow him around all day. He thinks he can smell it. Because of his sensitiveness to odors he is more cleanly about his bowels than anything else. It is an exaggerated sense of smell. He is always imagining and hunting for offensive odors. He has commonly such a strong imagination that he smells the things which he has only in memory.

The Sulphur patient has filthiness throughout. He is the victim of filthy odors. He has a filthy breath, he has an intensely foetid stool; he has filthy smelling genitals, which can be smelled in the room in spite of his clothing, and he himself smells them. The discharges are always more or less foetid, having strong, offensive odors. In spite of constant washing the axillae give out a pungent odor, and at times the whole body gives off an odor like that coming from the axillae.

Discharges: The discharges of Sulphur from every part of the body, besides being offensive, are excoriating. The Sulfur patient is afflicted with catarrhs of all mucous membranes, and the catarrhal discharges everywhere excoriate him. Often with the coryza the discharge excoriates the lips and the nose.

At times the fluid that remains in the nose smarts like fire, and when it comes in contact with the child’s lip it burns, so acrid is it; almost like the condition under Sulphuricum acid, so red will be the parts that are touched by it.

There is copious leucorrhoea that excoriates the genitals. The thin feces cause burning and rawness around the anus. In women if a drop of urine remains about the genitals it will burn; very often it is not sufficient to wipe it away, it must be washed away to relieve the smarting.

In children we find excoriation about the anus and between the buttocks; the whole length of the fissure is red, raw and inflamed from the stool. From this tendency a keynote has been constructed, and not a bad one either, all the fluids burn the parts over which they pass,” which is the same as saying that the fluids are acrid and cause smarting. This is true everywhere in Sulphur.

Skin: The Sulphur patient has all sorts of eruptions.

There are vesicular, pustular, furuncular, scaly eruptions, all attended with much itching, and some of them with discharge and suppuration. The skin, even without any eruption, itches much, itches from the warmth of the bed and from wearing woolen clothing.

Many times the Sulphur patient cannot wear anything except silk or cotton. The warmth of the room will drive him to despair if he cannot get at the itching part to scratch it. After scratching there is burning with relief of the itching. After scratching or after getting into the warmth of the bed great white welts come out all over the body, with much itching, and these he keeps on scratching until the skin becomes raw, or until it burns, and then comes a relief of the itching.

This process goes on continuously; dreadful itching at right in bed, and in the morning when he wakes up he starts in again and the eruptions itch and ooze. Crops of boils and little boil-like eruptions come out and this makes it useful in impetigo.

This remedy is useful in suppurations. It establishes all sorts of suppurating cavities, small abscesses and large abscesses; abscesses beneath the skin, in the cellular tissues and in internal organs. The suppurative tendency is very marked in Sulphur. The glands become inflamed and the inflammation goes on to suppuration.

Burning: Wherever there is a Sulphur complaint you will find burning.

Every part burns; burning where there is congestion; burning of the skin or a sensation of heat in the skin; burning here and there in spots; burning in the glands, in the stomach, in the lungs; burning in the bowels, in the rectum; burning and smarting in the hemorrhoids; burning when passing urine, or a sensation of heat in the bladder. There is heat here and there, but when the patient describes something especially typical of Sulphur she says:

“Burning of the soles of the feet in the palms of the hands, and on the top of the head.”

Burning of the soles of the feet will very often be noticed after the patient becomes warm in bed. The Sulphur patient has so much heat and burning of the soles at night in bed that he puts the feet out from, beneath the clothes, sleeps with the feet outside the covering. The soles and palms of the Sulphur patient when examined present a thick skin which burns on becoming warm in bed.

Many complaints come on from becoming warm in bed. The Sulphur patient cannot stand heat and cannot stand cold, though there is a strong craving for the open air. He wants an even temperature; he is disturbed if the temperature changes much.

So far as his breathing is concerned, when he has much distress he wants the doors and windows open. The body, however, he is frequently forced to have covered, but if he is warmly clad he is bothered with the itching and burning of the skin.

Time: As to time aggravations, nightly complaints are a feature.

Headaches begin after evening meal and increase into the night; he cannot get to sleep because of the pain. There is nightly aching and nightly thirst; nightly distress and symptoms of the skin coming on after becoming warm in bed.

“Intermittent periodic neuralgia, worse every 24 hours, generally at 12 A.M. or 12 P.M.”

Midday is another time of aggravation of the Sulphur complaints. It has chills at noon, fevers increase at noon, increase of the mental symptoms at noon, headache worse at noon. Complaints that come once a week, a seven-day aggravation, is another peculiar condition of Sulphur.

Diarrhea: it is a common feature for a Sulphur patient to have a peculiar kind of diarrhoea which has been long known as “a Sulphur diarrhoea,” though many other remedies have a similar condition, viz.: diarrhoea coming on early in the morning.

The Sulphur diarrhoea belongs to the time between midnight and morning, but more commonly the time that he begins to think about rising.

The diarrhea drives him out of bed.

It is generally thin, watery; there is not much gushing, and it is not very copious, sometimes quite scanty, sometimes yellow faecal. After this morning stool he has, in many cases, no further trouble till next morning.

There are many people who go on year after year with, this urging to stool driving out of bed in the morning. The patient suffers from pain, griping, uneasiness, and burning soreness through the bowels. The stool burns while it is passing, and all parts that it comes in contact with are made sore and raw, and there is much chafing.

Desires and aversions: The Sulphur patient is very thirsty.

He is always drinking water. He wants much water.

He also speaks of a hungry feeling, a desire for food, but when he comes to the table, he loathes the food, turns away from it, does not want it.

He eats almost nothing, takes only the simplest and lightest things. There is a craving for stimulants, for alcohol, and an aversion to milk and meat; these latter make him sick and he loathes them.

One of the old men invented out of these things the keynote “drinks much and eats little.”

This is true under Sulphur, but many other remedies have the same thing. As to the use of keynotes I would impress on you that it is well to gather together all the symptoms with their associations. It will not do to place much dependence on one little symptom, or even on two or three little symptoms. The symptoms of the whole case must be considered and then, if the keynotes and characteristics and everything else cause the remedy to be well rounded out and full, and to look like the whole patient, only then is it suitable.

There is emptiness occurring at 11 o’clock in the forenoon. If there is any time in the whole twenty-four hours that he feels hungry it is at 11 o’clock. It seems as though he cannot wait for his dinner.

There is this also about the Sulphur patient: he is very hungry about his customary mealtimes and, if the meal is delayed, he becomes weak and nauseated. Those that are accustomed to eat at about 12 o’clock will have that all-gone hungry feeling at 11 A.M. Those accustomed to eat about 1 or 1-30 will have it about 12 o’clock. The all-gone sensation is about one hour before the accustomed time of eating with many people.

In a sort of condensed way a strong Sulphur group is this: an all gone hungry feeling in the stomach at 11 A.M., burning of the soles and heat in the top of the head.

These three things have been looked upon as a sine qua non of Sulphur, but they are scarcely the beginning of Sulphur.

Skin: There is an unhealthy condition of the skin in Sulphur aside from the eruptions.

The skin will not heal. Small wounds continue to suppurate; abscesses formed under the skin become little discharging cavities with fistulous openings, and these leak and discharge for a long time.

Sulphur produces an infiltration in inflamed parts, so that they become indurated and these indurations last for years. When the inflammation is in a vital organ, like the lungs, this infiltration cannot always be endured; it leaves infiltrations after pneumonia called hepatization.

Sulphur produces this same tendency in inflamed parts throughout the body and hence its great use in hepatization.

Sulphur is a very useful remedy when the patient does not react after a prolonged disease, because of a condition in the economy, a psoric condition. When a patient is drawing near the end of an acute disease he becomes weak and prostrated. The inflammatory state ends in suppuration and infiltrations; the patient is in a state of weakness, much fatigued and prostrated, and has night sweats.

He does not convalesce after a typhoid or other acute disease. There is slow repair and a slow, tired economy, and order is not restored after the acute disease. Sulphur often becomes very useful in such conditions. Old drunkards become debilitated and have violent craving for alcohol; they cannot let liquor alone. They crave strong and pungent things, want nothing to eat, but want cold water and alcoholic drinks, They go on drinking till greatly exhausted and then their complaints come on. Sulphur will for a while take away this craving for drink and build him up.

The tissues seem to take on weakness, so that very little pressure causes soreness, sometimes inflammation and suppuration. Bed sores come on easily in a Sulphur patient, as there is feeble circulation. Induration from pressure is also a strong feature.

Sulphur has corns from pressure, callosities from pressure. These affections come easily. If a shoe presses anywhere on the skin a great corn or bunion develops. Where the teeth come in contact with the tongue and other parts of the buccal cavity nodules form and these little nodules in course of time commence to ulcerate.

It is a slow process with burning and stinging. They may go into cancerous affections. They may be postponed for a long time and afterwards take on a state of malignancy. Cancer is an outgrowth of a state in the body, and that state may come on from a succession of states. It is not one continuous condition, but the malignant state may follow the benign. Sulphur removes these states when the symptoms agree.

We notice a marked evidence of disturbance of the veins under Sulphur. It is a venous remedy, has much vein trouble. The veins seem to be relaxed and there is sluggish circulation. There is a flushed appearance of the face here and there from slight irritation, from the weather, from irritation of the clothing.

Tumefaction of the face. Sulphur has varicose veins; most marked of these are hoemorrhoidal veins, which are enlarged and burn and sting. Varices of the extremities. The veins even ulcerate, rupture and bleed. When going out of a cold into a warm atmosphere the patient suffers from enlarged veins, from puffiness of the hands and feet, from a sense of fullness throughout the body.

The Sulphur patient emaciates, and a peculiar feature is the emaciation of the limbs with distended abdomen. The abdomen is tumid, with rumbling, burning and soreness, and with the distended abdomen there is emaciation of all other parts. The muscles of the neck, back thorax and limbs wither, and the muscles of the abdomen are also wasted, but there is much distension of the abdomen itself. This condition of affairs is found in marasmus.

You will find a similar state under Calcarea; and, in women needing Calcarea, you will notice great enlargement, distension and hardness of the abdomen with shriveling of all other parts of the body.

Under Sulphur there are flashes of heat to the face and head, like those which women have at the climacteric period. The flash of heat in Sulphur begins somewhere in the heart region, generally said to be in the chest, and it feels as if, inside the body, a glow of heat is rising to the face. The face is red, hot and flushed, and finally the heat ends in sweat.

Flashes of heat with sweat and red face; the head is in a glow. Sometimes the patient will describe a feeling as if hot steam were inside the body and gradually rising up, and then she breaks out in a sweat. At times you will see a woman having little shiverings followed by flashes of heat and red splotches in the face, and then she fans vigorously; cannot fan fast enough, and she wants the doors and windows open.

Such is Sulphur as well as Lachesis and many others. When the flashes begin in the chest, about the heart, it is more like Sulphur, but when in the back or in the stomach it is more like Phosphorus.

Among other general aggravations we have an aggravation from standing in Sulphur. All complaints are made worse by standing for a length of time. Standing is the most difficult position for a Sulphur patient, and there is an aggravation of the confusion of mind, dizziness, the stomach and abdominal symptoms, and a sense of enlargement and fullness of the veins and dragging down in the pelvis in women, from standing. The patient must sit down or keep moving, if on her feet. She can walk fairly well, but is worse when standing quiet.

An aggravation after sleep fits into many of the complaints of Sulphur, but especially those of the mind and sensorium. Most of the, complaints of Sulphur are also worse after eating.

The Sulphur patient is aggravated from, bathing. He dreads a bath. He does not bathe himself and from his state in general he belongs to “the great unwashed.” He cannot take a bath without catching “cold.”

Children’s complaints. Dirty-faced, dirty-skinned little urchins, who are subject to nightly attacks of delirium, who suffer much from, pains in the head, who bad brain troubles, who are threatened with hydrocephalus, who had meningitis, need Sulphur.

Sulphur will clear up the constitutional state when remedies have failed to reach the whole case because they are not deep enough. If the infant does not develop properly, if the bones do not grow, and there is slow closing of the fontanelles, Calcarea carbonica may be the remedy and Sulphur is next in importance for such slow growth.

You would not suppose that the Sulphur patient is so nervous as he is, but he is full of excitement; easily startled by noise, wakens, from sleep in a start as if he had heard a cannon report or seen a “spook.”

The Sulphur patient is the victim of much trouble in his sleep. He is very sleepy in the fore part of the night, at times sleeping till 3 A.M., but from that time on he has restless sleep, or does not sleep at all. He dreads daylight, wants to go to sleep again, and when he does sleep he can hardly be aroused, and wants to sleep late in the morning. That is the time he gets his best rest and his soundest sleep. He is much disturbed by dreadful dreams and nightmare.

When the symptoms agree, Sulphur will be found a curative medicine in erysipelas. For erysipelas as a name we have no remedy, but when the patient has erysipelas and his symptoms conform to those of Sulphur, you can cure him with Sulphur.

If you bear that distinction in mind you will be able to see what Homoeopathy means; it treats the patient and not the name that the sickness goes by.

The Sulphur patient is annoyed throughout his economy with surgings of blood here and there surging, with fullness of the head, which we have heretofore described as flashes of heat. It has marked febrile conditions and can be used in acute diseases.

James Tyler Kent
James Tyler Kent (1849–1916) was an American physician. Prior to his involvement with homeopathy, Kent had practiced conventional medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He discovered and "converted" to homeopathy as a result of his wife's recovery from a serious ailment using homeopathic methods.
In 1881, Kent accepted a position as professor of anatomy at the Homeopathic College of Missouri, an institution with which he remained affiliated until 1888. In 1890, Kent moved to Pennsylvania to take a position as Dean of Professors at the Post-Graduate Homeopathic Medical School of Philadelphia. In 1897 Kent published his magnum opus, Repertory of the Homœopathic Materia Medica. Kent moved to Chicago in 1903, where he taught at Hahnemann Medical College.

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