GELSEMIUM symptoms of the homeopathy remedy from Plain Talks on Materia Medica with Comparisons by W.I. Pierce. What GELSEMIUM can be used for? Indications and personality of GELSEMIUM…



      (Italian –Gelsomino, jessamine).

Although the name of this plant is variously spelled and frequently mispronounced, Gel-se-mium is correct.

Gelsemium, a beautiful climbing plant, with yellow flowers, indigenous to the southern United States, is perhaps the most valuable remedy that this country has as yet contributed to the Homoeopathic Materia Medica. Its medical history only goes back to the time when a Mississippi planter, sick with bilious fever, was cured with an infusion of the gelsemium root, which was administered in mistake for that of another plant.

The first provings were made by Dr. John H. Henry, of Philadelphia, in 1852. In 1862, Dr. E. M. Hale, of Chicago, published a monograph of the results of provings and experiments that he had made with the drug. “Such was the interest excited by this brochure, that the whole edition was disposed of in a very short time, and the remedy rose in the estimation of physicians, till it took a front rank along with Aconite and Belladonna in the armamentarium of homoeopathic practitioners” (Hale).

With increased knowledge of the value of the remedy have come added demands for it, until at the present time there are few, and perhaps no other one remedy, that you will have more frequent use for than the one that we are considering.


      Gelsemium produces prostration, spinal convulsions and paralysis, lowering the force and rate of the heart and finally paralyzing respiration. Consciousness is preserved to the last stage of life.

“It affects principally the nerves of motion; causing muscular prostration through the nerves” (Hering) and we find in general, great prostration and loss of muscular power, with disinclination to make any effort, and, says Hale, “dimness of vision, slight or complete, is nearly always present, together with dropping of the eyelids, with much difficulty in opening them.”

It is a remedy to be thought of in paralysis of various groups of muscles, eyes, throat, sphincters, extremities, etc., and in various forms of hysteria and hysterical convulsions, a

kind of hystero-epilepsy (120).

It is to be thought of prominently in catarrhal affections of various mucous membranes, with a relaxed and debilitated condition of the system, noticed particularly in women, and especially when caused by damp, muggy weather. Another sphere of usefulness is in neuralgias of various sorts, with loss of control of the part, pain in the muscles of the back, hips and lower extremities, the pains being mostly deep-seated. It is also

of frequent use in conditions of passive or venous congestion (207).

It is an important fever remedy and it is one of the prominent thirstless drugs (189).

Mentally the Gelsemium patient is listless and indolent; his ideas flow on in a disconnected fashion and the attempt to think connectedly causes a painful feeling in the head (93), with dizziness, heat of face and cold feet (71). In low types of fever the mental faculties are either dull, with more or less stupor and desire to be let alone, or there is great depression of spirits, with fear of death.

It is a remedy frequently indicated in bodily ailments, especially diarrhoea (57), uterine symptoms, etc., resulting from emotional excitement, such as the anticipation of any unusual ordeal, appearing in public, etc., or from sudden bad news, grief or fear (57).

Vertigo is common in conditions calling for Gelsemium; it is associated with blurring of vision, or loss of sight, and lack of muscular steadiness, especially weakness of the knees (125) so that he staggers when walking. The vertigo is worse when walking or from any sudden movement of the head (207).

Headache is the usual accompaniment of cases requiring this remedy, the condition being frequently one of venous congestion, with fulness and heaviness of head, soreness of scalp and brain and with a feeling as if the head were constricted by a band (105).

Another prominent symptom is where the pain is seated in the posterior part of the head (100) and associated with dizziness and muscular soreness. The pains extend to the shoulders and spine, or from the occiput the pain passes through the head to the eyes, which become sore to the touch. The headaches are worse from heat (95) or hot applications.

It is to be thought of where the head feels confused and large, as if full of stagnant blood, and in general nervous headache, with soreness of the head, face and teeth, and associated with attacks of blindness (98) and dizziness. It is one of the few remedies where the headache is generally relieved after the discharge of profuse, watery urine (93).

It is useful in menstrual headache (95), with blurred vision and nausea and vomiting, which latter relieves the headache, also in headache at the climacteric (96), with drowsiness, vertigo and blurred vision, the pain in the head, in both conditions, being relieved by profuse menstruation.

In cerebro-spinal meningitis (133) Gelsemium is to be thought of when we have, amongst other symptoms, extreme tenderness of the occipital region and intolerance of the slightest touch.

In the eyes, besides the blurring or dimness of vision so constantly found under the remedy, it is of frequent use in serous inflammations, including serous iritis, with a dull aching pain within the eyeball and more or less indifference to external irritants, such as light (76).

It is of value in paralysis of the upper lid, with drooping of the lid, ptosis (78), and in paralysis of the muscles of the

eye, causing at times, double vision (77). This double vision is noticed on inclining the head to either side, there being single vision when holding the head erect; also double vision that can be controlled by an effort of the will. It is also to be thought of in asthenopia due to muscular weakness (72).

In the ears, we must think of this remedy in deafness due to the use of quinine, as well as in deafness the result of catarrh of the middle ear and Eustachian tube (63).

There is in Gelsemium a disposition to take cold (5), either from the slightest change in the weather to cold, or when during warm and foggy days, the patient, after exercising, sits down in the line of a draft or in a cool room.

It is a prominent remedy in an acute nasal catarrh, the plain cold in the head, where the patients says the she knows that she has taken a heavy cold because of the great muscular soreness and bruised feeling that she experiences. This is a condition that is especially prevalent in summer, from the influence of a cool, damp atmosphere, or in winter or summer, form a sudden change in the weather from dry to damp (9). As physical accompaniments we find, inflammation of the throat, pain in the throat extending to the ear when swallowing (191), deafness, headache, physical weakness and muscular soreness (166).

Gelsemium is to be remembered in hay-fever (88), with all of the above and especially with the head symptoms prominent, while it grip it is the the most frequently called for remedy in our materia medica in the beginning of the disease. Here, as well in fresh cold, the following group of symptoms are apt to present themselves in cases calling for this remedy: Chilliness in back, with desire to cover up warmly or to hug the fire; fever, without thirst (189), restlessness or anxiety, but with a dull, heavy, torpid condition in which they want to be left alone and not bothered with question concerning their symptoms; headache, the head feels heavy and congested as if filled with stagnant blood, with no desire to hold the head, as the trouble seems to be that it is already bound up; dizziness, suffused eyes, sneezing and more or less watery mucus from the nose. Along with this, and equally prominent, we find as aching all over the body, especially noticeable in the shoulders and lower extremities, and an afternoon aggravation.

Gelsemium is to be thought of in neuralgia of the face, pains sharp, face congested and dusky, associated with headache, vertigo and dimness of vision.

It may be useful during dentition (187), when the child has fever, vertigo, drowsiness, sometimes dilated pupils and dim vision, although it is one of the minor remedies in reference to this symptom of Hering’s, “child frantic at times, especially when gums are examined.”

Gelsemium is useful in paralysis of the tongue (192), with indistinct speech, the tongue feeling thick and numb, and it is frequently called for in various forms of sore throat, a prominent symptom being, when on swallowing the pain shoots from thee throat up to the ears (191). In follicular tonsillitis, especially in the beginning, in addition to the pain running to the ears on swallowing, we would find the aching in the shoulders and the muscular weakness so characteristic of the remedy.

We also find it is of value in difficulty in swallowing due to paralysis of the pharyngeal muscles, as well as for paralysis of the throat following diphtheria (62), with, perhaps, a feeling of a lump in the throat which cannot be swallowed. We may find this same feeling of a lump in the throat as calling for the remedy in hysteria (119).

It is a rule that the Gelsemium patient has no thirst (189), but occasionally exceptions to this are found.

In the stomach we are apt to have either a sensation of weakness or emptiness (179), with, probably, the idea that something must be eaten whether there is desire for food or not, or a sensation of oppression or weight on the stomach, or a feeling as of a heavy load in the stomach (179).

It is to be thought of in hiccough (116) and it has relieved some chronic cases, when there has been an evening aggravation.

It has proved useful in gastro-intestinal catarrh, will jaundice (122), persistent nausea, dizziness and diarrhoea, and it is of value in passive congestion of the liver, with vertigo and blurred vision. In many of these conditions Bryonia and Gelsemium have numerous similar symptoms and you will often be determined by the presence or absence of thirst.

Gelsemium is a valuable remedy in diarrhoea, both acute and chronic, resulting from depressing emotion, such as fright (57), grief (57) or any emotional excitement. The stools are generally painless and often and often involuntary. There is frequently found a paralysis of the sphincter ani (160) and in some cases a partial prolapsus of the rectum. (160).

There is an increase of urine in all nervous conditions (199) and Gelsemium is of great value in those cases of nervous excitement previous to the performance of a necessary but distasteful task, such as an examination, one’s maiden speech, or going to see her father at his office, with weakness of he knees (125), cold extremities (71) and frequent maturation of clear, watery urine. We also find a loss of power in the bladder (21), especially in old men (199) or following diphtheria, with difficulty in retaining the urine, as well as paralysis of he funds of the bladder, with the resulting retention and distention (22). In incomplete paralysis of the bladder the flow is intermittent 9199), with a feeling as if something remained behind after urinating (200).

In the male sexual organs the most noticeable feature of the remedy is the pronounced weakness and relaxation, so that while an erection is but a memory, emissions take place on the slightest provocation (167).

In the female, Gelsemium is of value in congestion (venous) and heaviness of he uterus, associated with melancholia, and in inflammation of the ovaries, with the characteristic headache. It is of value for suppression of the menses, with congestion of the head, or even convulsions.

In dysmenorrhoea and during labor the pains are shooting, going the back and down the thighs, associated with headache, faintness and vertigo. It is useful for “nervous chills in the first stage of labor” (Hering), or when the os feels thick and flabby, et will not relax, as well as for inefficient labor pains (153), when the pains shoot upward, instead of pressing downward. We must remember it in threatening puerperal convulsions (155), with stupidity, twitching of muscles, albuminuria, and sharp cutting pains from the neck or the uterus upward.

Gelsemium is to be thought of in “nervous aphonia, with dryness of the throat” (Hering), as well as in paralytic aphonia that is noticed only during menstruation.

It is of frequent use in catarrhal affections of the air- passages, with the general aching and the relaxed condition of the symptom useful in dyspnoea, with a sense of fulness in the chest, cold extremities, threatening suffocation and desire for fresh air (9); also in threatening paralysis of the lungs (30), especially in old people.

The heart’s action in Gelsemium is usually feeble, the pulse soft and weak, and a symptom frequently met with is a feeling as if the heart would stop beating (113) if she did not move about. there is nervous (111) and hysterical palpitation and a sensation of oppression about the heart (110) the effects of grief (111).

In a little book, “the Garden of a Commuter’s Wife,” there is a family talk us to whether expenditures are warranted or jot, and we find this sentence “Father” (a doctor) “jokingly adds that the cause of much physical and all mental disease is ‘biting off more than one can chew.”

We, as physicians, are constantly meeting with the results of this increase of responsibilities, and whether due to financial, social or church burdens, Gelsemium, is frequently the remedy. In addition to the symptoms already given, including mental heaviness, with am inability to reason out the problem, fear and apprehension as to the ultimate outcome, we have prominently, a stage of physical or nervous restless with inability top knee quiet even when the opportunity offers. Many of these cases will be unable to wholly eliminate the source of worry and Gelsemium will need o be taken regularly and for a long time as it will help to keep in time the unstrung nerves. As far as I have been enabled to see, no tolerant or bad effect follows the prolonged use of the remedy.

In the extremities there is coldness (71), with loss of power and of control.

In the lower extremities the gait its staggering and the limbs feel as heavy as lead, with inability to “direct their movements with precision” (Hering);it may prove useful in paraplegia and in locomotor ataxia, and it is to be thought of in rheumatism, with soreness of the flesh.

In the upper extremities we find it useful when the hands become very tired after play in on the piano and for writer’s cramp (209).

In general, in Gelsemium, we have trembling of all limbs (192) and weak knees (125)’ loss of muscular control; numbness (146) and lack of sensibility of the extremities.

Gelsemium is a very valuable remedy in eruptive fevers, especially measles, with catarrhal symptoms of the eyes, nose and throat, great prostration and perhaps stupor, livid eruption and no thirst. It is not only useful to develop the eruption (130) but also keep it out.

In malarial fevers, whether the so-called bilious- remittents, of the South, or as we find them in this section, the symptoms calling for Gelsemium are apt to be pronounced and unmistakable. There is periodicity to the attack, which generally comes on to ward evening; 4-5 p.m., I look upon as the most prominent time of aggravation for all febrile conditions calling for the remedy.

The chill may be slight beginning in the back (121), of it may be wanting, but there will be a prolonged type of fever (121). Throughout the paroxysm there will be great aching and prostration of the whole muscular system, and no thirst.

The fever is accompanied by headache, stupor, or possibly delirium, dizziness, blindness and faintness, and this is followed by perspiration, aching and soreness in body, “dumb ague” (Hering), and “where the remittent take on the intermittent type” (H. C. allen).

In typhoid fever it is frequently called for (193) in the early stage, with vertigo and dimness of vision, a tired feeling in all the limbs, great weakness and tremulousness of the extremities, soft, compressible pulse.

It is useful in nervous chills, the result of emotional excitement or depression, “in which, with shivering and chattering of teeth, there is no sensation of chilliness” (Hering).

I use Gelsemium in the tincture.

Willard Ide Pierce
Willard Ide Pierce, author of Plain Talks on Materia Medica (1911) and Repertory of Cough, Better and Worse (1907). Dr. Willard Ide Pierce was a Director and Professor of Clinical Medicine at Kent's post-graduate school in Philadelphia.