A short history of this plant would begin about 1735, when John Tennent, a Scotch physician, while in the Western part of New York State, noticed that the Seneca Indians obtained excellent results from a certain plant as a remedy for the bite of the rattlesnake. After a good deal of effort and much bribing, he was shown the roots and given to understand that what is now known as Seneca snake-root was the agent used.
Dr. Tennent noticed that the symptoms of the bite were similar, in some respects, to those of pleurisy and the latter stages of pneumonia and conceived the idea of using the root in those diseases. His success was so great that he published an account of the remedy in Edinburgh and soon it was being used through-out Europe.
While still an officinal remedy in the old school, it is seldom used by them. They consider it as a stimulating expectorant, as it “promotes the secretion of the bronchial mucous membrane, and probably that of other membranes. I is used in chronic bronchitis, especially in the case of aged people, in whom this disease is usually complicated with emphysema” (Ringer).
We as homoeopaths should use Seneca much oftener than we do for there are special indications for it in laryngo-bronchial catarrh and in paralytic symptoms of the eyes and larynx.
It has been used for ptosis (78), or partial paralysis of the upper lid, especially when associated with paralysis of the muscles of the eye.
It has proved useful for paralysis of the l. oculo-motor nerve and of the superior muscle, with double vision (77), better only by bending the head backward. Dr. G. W. McDowell informs me of several cases of hyperphoria of 1degree or 2degree (difference of lever between the two eyes) that have disappeared in a weak or two under the use of this remedy.
It has proved useful in muscular asthenopia (72), with flickering before the eyes and lachrymation, and of great value in promoting the absorption of fragments of lens after cataract operations, or injuries to the lens.
It is to be thought of in cystitis, with irritability of the
bladder, frequent desire with scalding (194) before and after micturition. The urine is diminished in amount and loaded with shreds of mucus (199).
In the larynx, Senega has hoarseness (117) and aphonia after use of the voice, as in singers (118), with severe burning and hawking of much mucus. In catarrh of the larynx, calling for the remedy, the voice is very unsteady, due to the accumulation of mucus, or there may be sudden hoarseness when reading aloud, with partial paralysis of the vocal cords (207).
In bronchial catarrh there would be an accumulation of mucus that is expectorated with difficulty, oppression of breathing and soreness of the walls of the chest, with a sensation of pressure or weight on the chest (20).
In both laryngeal and bronchial catarrh we have cough and expectoration of mucus, worse in the morning before breakfast, and evening at night, worse lying on the r. side (42) and from being in a warm room (41).
In chronic bronchitis of old people (47) it is of benefit with aggravation on the return of cold weather and with great difficulty in raising the large amount of tough mucus (69).
Soreness of the walls of the chest is prominent under this remedy (30), soreness from coughing or sneezing, and aggravation from pressure or moving the arms.
There is a burning sensation under the sternum, worse from motion and deep inspiration, and Dr. H. N. Guernsey says it is indicated “when there is great burning in the chest, either before or after coughing.”
It is to be thought of for congestion and oedema of the lungs (29), with great dyspnoea, and in r.-sided pneumonia (151), with rattling of mucus (45) and violent stitches in the chest (30) on coughing and deep breathing.
It is of value for exudations in the pleura (150) after Bryonia has ceased to act.
Lippe says that Senega is a remedy “especially suitable for plethoric, phlegmatic persons.”
I use Senega 3rd.