SPOTTED HEMLOCK-POISON HEMLOCK. (Conium-kwvelov, koneion, hemlock; Maculatum-macula, spot, stain.).
Conium is indigenous to Europe and Asia. It, however, has become thoroughly naturalized in this country, where it grows in waste places, usually by river-sides, to a height of from two to six feet. The entire fresh plant, root excepted, is used to prepare our tincture.
While this fetid, poisonous herb was first proved for out school by Hahnemann, its use as a poison dates back to about the fifth century B.C. It is now conceded that Conium was the Grecian State portion used at Athens as a means of executing certain prisoners, and the Socrates (d. 399 B. C.) was put to death by a drink from this plant. Conium, physiologically, produces paralysis, first of voluntary motion, then of respiration, and we read that Socrates was told that all he had to do after drinking the poison was to walk about until a heaviness took place in his legs and then lie down. Conium would do the rest.
The first use of this plant as a medicine dates back to one hundred years before the Christian era, when it was used as a poultice in erysipelas. Pliny (d. 79 A.D.) says that Conium leaves keep down all tumors. In the first century it was claimed that by anointing the breasts with Conium they ceased to grow and several hundred years later a celebrated Arabian physician (and Hahnemann acknowledges many an idea from the Arabs) praised it as an agent for the cure of tumors of the breast.
In 1760 Baron Storck introduced Conium into more general use for the cure of cancer; but because of the failure to individualize the cases it fell into disrepute, and on account of the massive doses used, Hahnemann says that he was “prevented from recognizing sooner in Conium one of the most important antipsoric medicines” (Chr. Dis.).
Since Conium has been proved we are no longer working in the dark and know in that class of cases it will prove serviceable, and as regards tumors and indurated glands (82) the stony hardness and knife-like pains are our prominent indications.
It is of value for scrofulous constitutions, for the bad effects following sexual excesses (167), for weakness following exhausting disease (156), for paralysis after diphtheria (62) and fro general physical and mental debility (155), and tremulous weakness (192), with sudden attacks of faintness with vertigo. It is a remedy that is more frequently indicated for old people (147) than for the young,
There is a general weakness in Conium, perhaps senile dementia (166), a forgetfulness, especially of dates, inability to get his mind fixed on his business and a tired, weary sensation in brain and body on every attempt to concentrate his thoughts (93).
It is of value in melancholia; the patient is quiet and sad, picks his nose, which bleeds easily and becomes sore, or he picks his fingers until they bleed. It is to be thought of for melancholia in those who suffer from ungratified sexual desire, as well as for hypochondriasis resulting from excessive gratification (168). There is depression of spirits preceding menstruation and melancholia resulting from suppression of the menses (135), with aversion even to the members of her own family. Here we find the mental condition of aversion to people (131), yet dislike of being alone.
Vertigo is a common accompaniment of the Conium condition and may be due to cerebral anaemia (90). The vertigo is especially worse from motion, even slight motion, such as sitting up in (207) or turning over in bed and there is in addition, easy intoxication from the smallest quantity of alcoholic stimulant. It is to be thought of for vertigo due to the excessive use of tobacco and for that found in old people. With the vertigo there may be a feeling of extreme sensitiveness of the brain (91), with a sensation of a hard lump there, or a numbness (91) or coldness inside the head or on one side.
Conium is of great value for partial or complete paralysis of the ocular muscles, particularly of the internal rectus, where any attempt to fix the eyes on any object becomes painful and the object seems to move; or when reading, the letters soon begin to run together. There is vanishing of vision with vertigo, and vertigo when fixing the eyes on any object (207).
Another condition that has been benefited by this remedy is where through sluggishness of accommodation or adaptation the vision is good for fixed objects, but when an object is put in motion before the eyes there is a haze and dimness of vision and vertigo. A curtain blowing in the wind of an empty chair being rocked are familiar examples.
Conium is of great value in superficial inflammatory conditions of the cornea (ulcers (76) and pustules (76)), from cold, injury or a scrofulous diathesis (76), indicated in a general way by extreme photophobia (76), greater than the apparent inflammation would seem to warrant, and aggravation at night on lying down. The spasmodically closed lids are with difficulty forced open and when opened “a profuse flood of hot tears spurts out” (Hering) (76). It has proved of value in cataract (73).
We may have in Conium extreme sensitiveness of hearing associated with the vertigo of the remedy, or loss of hearing due to an accumulation of wax which hardens in the ear.
It is useful in gastralgia, with sudden contractions of the stomach, and associated with cough (51), a spasmodic and so- called stomach cough (44). We might think of it in globus hystericus (119) as it is one of the remedies where there seems to occur a spasmodic constriction of the stomach and oesophagus, with a sensation as if a round body or ball ascended from the stomach to the throat (189). There is pain in the stomach associated with sour eructations (178) and vomiting after eating, and it has been used with success in cancer of the stomach (178) and liver.
There is a sensation of constriction of the hypochondria as from a band (165), great sensitiveness of the abdomen (12) to touch, associated with sticking, tearing or knife-like pains; with these symptoms it has cured hard nodular swellings of the liver as well as enlarged mesenteric glands (83).
Conium is of value in obstinate constipation, with frequent and usually ineffective desire (34), hard stools followed by tremulous weakness, also for constipation that alternates with diarrhoea (34).
It is of value in chronic diarrhoea of old men, sometimes involuntary in bed, the movements followed by tremulous weakness and vertigo, and especially when associated with frequent
urination and an interrupted stream, the urine flows by fits and starts (199). This break in the current on urinating is due to a partial paralysis of the bladder, with pressure to urinate; the flow starts and stops repeatedly “and passing water does not relieve the pressure to do so” (Lilienthal); frequently he can urinate better when standing (200).
Conium is a remedy of great value in the bad effects following excessive sexual indulgence, or for non-indulgence but with out erections (167), or easy emissions without sufficient cause (167), with tremulous weakness (167) and flow of prostatic fluid on the slightest motion or with constipated stool (167), the result being impotency (168) and melancholia. It has also been found useful for the sexual nervousness of strong, healthy men who are unable to have an erection at the time when it is most needed.
In both sexes it is of value for the bad effects of ungratified sexual desire, where the desire has been strong but the opportunity lacking, and as Talcott says, Conium “is, therefore, useful in relieving the ailments of old maids, of widows (131), of widowers, of old people generally.”
It is a valuable remedy for the testicles when they are enlarged and very hard (188), especially as the result of injuries.
In the female sexual sphere, Conium is a remedy that is frequently called for. It is useful in various tumors, including cancer (202) of the uterus and especially of the cervix; tumors that are hard and with burning, stinging and knife-like pains. It is to be thought of in uterine polypi (202) and in haemorrhages from the uterus, with running from the uterus down the thighs (139).
Menstruation is scanty and while usually too early (135), it may be delayed or suppressed and associated with many of the symptoms already spoken of (135). Pruritus of the vulva and vagina frequently follows the menses (158), along with excessive hyperaesthesia of the genital organs. The leucorrhoea is excoriating (126) and burning (126) and follows the menses (126).
A condition often calling for this remedy is where we have swelling of the breasts, with soreness and sharp pains, preceding the menses (23) and if there are any tumors of the breast they are increased in size and more painful at the menstrual period.
Conium is of great value in tumors of the mammary glands (23) and it is believed to have cured scirrhus; anyway, the especial indications calling for the remedy in swellings and tumors of all kinds would be extreme hardness and the sharp, knife-like pains. A point that we take from the Handbook is that in these tumors our remedy is followed well by Silica, which helps to complete the cure begun by Conium.