COLCHICUM AUTUMNALE-MEADOW SAFFRON. (Colchicum-koxikov, Kolchikon, a plant with a poisonous, bulbous root).
Colchicum was so named either because it grew in profusion in Colchis, now known as Mingrelia, a portion of Asiatic Russia, or because, according to Greek legend, Media, the soreness and poisoner, lived and finally died in that country.
Colchicum autumnale, the meadow saffron, grows naturally in the temperate climates of Europe, blooming in the autumn.
It is an old remedy in the treatment of gout, and seemingly the old-school physicians of to-day have made but little progress in the knowledge possessed by the ancients concerning its medical properties and uses, including the question advanced as early as the fifth century, whether, although it gives magical relief, its frequent and continuous use does not favor the frequent recurrence of the attacks (from Dunham).
This view is accepted by Ringer, 1876, who says: “Colchicum is merely palliative, removing for a time the patient’s sufferings, but as experience abundantly proves, in no way protecting him from their recurrences. For it is on all hands accepted that Colchicum is inoperative to prevent a return of the attack; nay, many who suffer from it are of the opinion that while the medicine removes altogether an existing attack, it ensures the speedier return of another. Hence, gout-ridden people commonly advise their fellow-sufferers to abstain from Colchicum.”
Colchicum was first proved by Stapf, one of Hahnemann’s fellow proves.
To quote directly from the Handbook: “It produces violent inflammation of the gastro-intestinal canal, with profound depression of the heart and of the temperature. There are always extreme prostration and tendency to collapse, with internal coldness. It produces acute inflammation of the kidneys. “It is especially interesting to note that it produces symptoms of the acute manifestations of gout, quite apart from any direct manifestations of the excretion of urea or uric acid. “Its relief of acute gout seems to be a purely homoeopathic action.”
Ringer says that it is well known that Colchicum “gives prompt relief from the pain, inflammation and fever of gout. But now?” since it has been “experimentally shown that it exerts no influence on the elimination of uric acid in gouty people.”
As Ringer has acknowledged that “poisoning by Colchicum produces pain that has been felt in all the extremities;” that Colchicum as a medicine “gives prompt relief in an attack of gout;” and that the continuous use of it “ensures the speedier return of another attack,” does it not seem that a scientific physician who wanted to know, instead of asking “how” it acts, would see that it is through the homoeopathic law of cure?
The Colchicum patient is intolerant of pain (148) and of external impressions and touch; strong odors, bring light or rudeness of others upset his temper and make him exceedingly cross and irritable (184). Some of these mental symptoms will be found associated with many a condition calling for the remedy.
Another prominent symptom in nausea or disgust for cooked food as soon as he smells it. The sense of smell is extremely acute and all strong odors are offensive and distasteful, and particularly so in reference to the odor from cooking.
He may have a craving for various things, still, when they are brought to him (6) and especially if he smells them (6) he is seized with extreme aversion, becomes nauseated and may even vomit. The odor of meat-broth causes nausea; the odor of a freshly-poached egg makes him almost faint, are some of the pathogenetic symptoms.
The region of the stomach is sensitive to pressure and there are “frequent and copious eructations of tasteless gas” (Dunham). There may be a sensation of burning in the stomach (178), but more frequently a sensation of icy coldness there (178), and great distention of the abdomen with gas (13).
It is to be thought of in gastralgia, with severe crampy pains and diarrhoea, retching and vomiting, especially when due to the repression or retrocession of gout.
It is of value in ascites (11) and other abdominal conditions, with, as the leading indication, the nausea or vomiting from the smell of food.
The stools of Colchicum are seldom profuse, the movements may be painless, or with colicky pains and severe tenesmus. In dysentery, and especially when recurring in the autumn (58), there is more or less constant tenesmus (61), tympanites (13) and colic, with inability to stretch out the legs and relief of the colic from bending double (174). The stools are watery, jelly- like, or like gelatine, bloody, mucous, or changeable in character; at times the stools consist of reddish water containing shreds like the scrapings of the intestines (60).
Colchicum is of value in croupous nephritis (124), with scanty, dark or black (193) and bloody urine, associated with tenesmus, and especially if there is also inflammation of the neck of the bladder, with burning on urinating (194); there is usually severe pain in the region of the kidneys, with aggravation from stretching out the legs, as it seems to cause abdominal pressure on the kidneys, constant chilliness and cold extremities, and a feeling of coldness in the stomach.
It is to be thought of for suppression of the urine during typhoid (200) or after scarlet fever (200).
In the heart Colchicum is of value in subacute or chronic pericarditis, with effusion (109), especially when associated with rheumatic conditions (162). There will be severe stitches about the heart and oppression (10), necessitating deep breathing (107), oppression of the chest (29) and dyspnoea as if the chest were squeezed with a tight band (27). In these cases the heart’s action is weak and indistinct and the pulse may be even thread like; as an accompaniment there is frequently a feeling of icy coldness at the pit of the stomach (178).
Hughes, in speaking of the two reports of the use of Colchicum, says: “It displayed such remarkable power of controlling rheumatic pericarditis, that it ought to be more frequently used in the treatment of this affection.”
Goodno says: Colchicine, an alkaloid of Colchicum, “has proved a valuable preventive of rheumatic pericarditis, not one case of pericarditis having occurred in over hundred and fifty case of rheumatic fever treated with this remedy by the writer and several friends.”
Colchicum is useful in hydrothorax (29), with great dyspnoea and oedema of the extremities (63), when dependent upon chronic troubles of the kidneys and heart.
It is of great value in gout (84) and in the gouty diathesis, with soreness of the flesh and joints, extreme irritability of temper (184), intolerance of touch and the gastric symptoms of the remedy, especially the distress from the odor of food cooking. The joint of the great toe is apt to be affected and we have sharp sticking pain and extreme sensitiveness to touch, so that he even fears having anyone come near him (84). It is useful in rheumatism or gout of the heel (84), which is extremely sore to the touch (71).
In articular rheumatism, Colchicum seems to be a frequently neglected remedy. The pains are sharp and shifting (149) and worse towards night, and there is the same sensitiveness to touch, the irritable disposition and the gastric symptoms with which we are familiar. Any joint may be affected but the smaller ones are especially apt to be involved (161). The pains are violent, often paralytic, so that the patient can hold nothing in the hands, or when the feet are affected, they become swollen and oedematous and it is difficult to lift them from the floor. If not indicated during the acute attack, it is frequently called for at the end, with the wandering. spasmodic pains.
In typhoid, in addition to the suppression of urine (200) already spoken of, Colchicum would be of value when there is great prostration, tympanites (130) coldness of the stomach (178), cold breath (24) and cold sweat, nausea and vomiting.
I use Colchicum in the tincture or 3x.