(The derivation of the word Hydrastis is not known definitely; perhaps from vowp, hudor, water opaw, drao, to act, on account of the powerful drastic or active properties of the juice.)
Hydrastis is indigenous to the United States and Canada, and was used by our Indians not only as a medicine, but because the juice from the root yielded a beautiful yellow color, they used it as a dye for their clothing and implements of war; hence the common names, Golden-seal, Orange-root, Yellow-root, Indian dye.
Dr. E. M. Hale was probably the first to direct the attention of homoeopaths to the value of Hydrastis. In speaking of the use of a remedy from the time “when only the aborigines inhabited the continent,” until to-day, he says: “The biography of a medicine is as interesting as that of a man. We trace its development through infancy, childhood and youth, and note the additions which are yearly made to its growth as a remedial agent. We also note how one after another of its supposed attributes fall away and disappear, or how certain traits of character noticed in its infancy become forgotten, and finally reappear in the future development of its history. A medicine cannot be said to have reached maturity until it has been subjected to a thorough physiological proving. In other words, it is in the hands of the homoeopathic school alone that a medicine is capable of reaching complete development.”.
In his summing up he says: “The action of Hydrastis on the glandular system must be directed and specific. It acts on the glands of the mucous membranes, namely, the intestinal and gastric. It acts on the larger glands, notably the liver. Its primary effect on the glandular system is to excite to unusual secretion when given to a healthy person. Its action on all mucous surfaces is of a similar character. The natural secretion is at first increased; then it becomes abnormal in quantity and quality. At first clear, white, transparent and tenacious, it becomes yellow, or thick, green and even bloody, and nearly always tenacious.”
Hydrastis, says Allen, is “a ‘catarrhal’ drug, causing inflammation of all mucous membranes, with profuse discharges. It depresses the vitality, causing atonic as well as catarrhal dyspepsia, constipation and general weakness. Its action on the liver is marked speaks of herself “as all run down.” She is constipated, has atonic dyspepsia, palpitation and dyspnoea, and, as a usual thing, is subject to catarrhal discharges and ulcerations of mucous membranes. It is adapted to scrofulous affections, especially marasmus in children (129), with great emaciation. It is to be thought of in retarded convalescence (156) from typhoid, with loss of appetite, constipation and profuse of unhealthy odor.
Hydrastis is frequently called for in acute and chronic ophthalmias, especially in scrofulous conditions (76), with swollen lids, profuse discharge, and smarting and burning (73).
It is of value in catarrhal inflammation of the middle ear, after measles or scarlet fever (63), and in otorrhoea, with thick, bland (63) mucous discharge.
In catarrhal conditions of the nose and throat it is, I believe, more frequently indicated than it is prescribed for internal use.
Hale says that it “is one of the most important remedies we possess for the treatment of mucous fluxes, ordinarily known as catarrh. This disorder is not confined to any one portion of the body” but “may exit wherever mucous membranes exist. The only form of catarrh to which Hydrastis is not suitable is to the acute inflammatory. So long as the fever lasts it should not be used.”
It is of value in hypertrophic nasal catarrh, with profuse, yellow, tenacious mucus, the discharge mostly passing into the posterior nares (143), which become obstructed, the whole condition being accompanied by frontal headache (96).
In atrophic catarrh and in ozaena (148) we find frequent calls for the remedy, especially with profuse and bloody discharge and tendency towards ulceration.
While ozaena is curable, the treatment must necessarily be constant and prolonged. You will succeed, however, in only a small proportion of cases, but you may be able to place the blame on the patient, who will tire long before a cure is possible.
Hydrastis is also of value in ulceration with thick, tenacious discharge, the ulcers bleeding on touch.
It is to be thought of in aphthous sore mouth (140), or stomatitis of nursing women and sickly children, and in canker of the mouth (140), especially after the abuse of mercury or chlorate of potash.
In the pharynx it is of use in catarrhal pharyngitis, with hypertrophy of the mucous membrane, rather free discharge of tenacious mucous and with burning and rawness extending into the nose and chest; also in chronic or follicular pharyngitis (149), are deep red, as if injected with blood; these follicles are very irritable, the pharynx feels raw and with decided aggravation on breathing cold air.
In laryngeal catarrh the mucous membrane is pale and the vocal cords relaxed (207), with harsh, rough voice. In bronchial catarrh, as in all other catarrhal conditions calling for the remedy, there is a profuse secretion of yellow tenacious mucus (69).
The tongue of Hydrastis is large and flabby, showing the imprint of the teeth (192), and with a peppery feeling or sensation as if it had been burnt (140), especially on the forward half of the tongue.
The Hydrastis patient is weak, emaciated and of a cachectic habit; he has loss of appetite, a sensation of sinking or goneness in the region of the stomach (179), which is not relieved by eating, soreness and burning (178) in the stomach and perhaps, a sensation of pulsation there (181). There is frequent vomiting of food or mucous, or acid risings (178).
It is useful in atonic dyspepsia (178), especially in old people, in gastritis and gastric catarrh (178), in ulcer of the stomach (181) and for what has been diagnosed as cancer of the stomach (178).
It is of value for torpidity of the liver. with light- colored stools and jaundice (122); for gall-stone colic with jaundice (82); and for chronic catarrhal inflammation of the bowels, with slimy tenacious discharges, or with soft or hard balls of faeces covered with mucus (35).
In constipation it is of value, especially as found in children (34) and old people, and usually due to a sluggish condition of the bowels, or to habit; also for constipation resulting from the use of purgatives (34). We must not forget the remedy in constipation with haemorrhoids (88), with weak feeling in the stomach, sour eructations (178) and headache, also for constipation and piles during and during and after pregnancy (153).
It is of value for prolapsus of the rectum (160), especially in children who are constipated, in ulceration of the rectum and in fissures of the anus (159).
Hydrastis is, of course, of value in gonorrhoea, with thick, yellow discharge, as well as in a chronic condition (83), but when Hering says that this condition is “accompanied by great moral and physical depression,” it seems as though it should be looked upon as a natural state rather than as a guiding symptom. In cystitis we would think of its use with thick, ropy mucus (199) in the urine.
In the distinctive female sexual sphere we have to rely mostly upon clinical evidence, as but few women have proved the drug. It has been found of value for leucorrhoea, either uterine or vaginal, with profuse (126), yellow or tenacious discharge (126), yellow or tenacious discharge (126), and associated with great prostration, or with derangements of the liver, constipation and haemorrhoids.
While it is probably that Hydrastis is not given internally as frequently as the symptoms call for it, it is used locally, in catarrhal conditions of the uterus and vagina, without much attention being given to the symptoms. The empirical use of this or any other remedy is very apt to be disappointing.
Among the things where it has proved its value are: pruritus of the vulva (156), usually associated with profuse leucorrhoea; inflammation and ulceration of the cervix of the uterus (204), with fungoid excrescences (202) and especially with hemorrhages, due to the ulcerations, and with profuse tenacious leucorrhoea; uterine fibroids (202); chronic enlargement of the uterus (subinvolution) (204).
Where we should know more about the remedy is in cancer of the uterus (202) and breast (23), and you are referred for help in this direction to Hughes’ lecture and to the many cases cited by Hering; here we will simply quote one sentence from the latter. “In cancer, Hydrastis removes the pain, modifies the discharge in a marked degree.”
“On the skin,” says Dearborn, the action of Hydrastis “is less direct or distinct” than on mucous membranes, “and is adapted rather to secondary, unusual or in active types of disease, due to lowered vitality or constitutional impairment.”
It has cured lupus (128), epithelioma (68) and malignant ulcers of the face and various organs. It is useful, both locally and internally, for varicose (205) and other old ulcers, which bleed easily and smell badly, and for bed-sores (21).
It is indicated in, and will cure, eczema of the scalp when it extends to the margin of the hair on the forehead (91).