Chapter 1 – Tinea

Herpes circinnatus (ringworm of the surface) is usually treated, and with fair success, by Sepia, but that when the proving of Tellurium produced so similar an eruption to Tinea, Dr. Hughes started prescribing it instead of Sepia….


THAT Ringworm (Herpes s. tinea tonsurans) is due to a specific fungus is one of the certainties of practical medicine; that the recognised treatment of the same is by external applications with the view of killing the fungi, no one needs to be told. Hitherto its medicability by internal remedies has been admitted by a certain section of the homoeopathic school of medicine. Indeed the more staunch Hahnemannians have always fought for this view, and time and again have proved its practicability; on this point I have been able to verify their views clinically.

For years, in common with many others, I have been constantly in the habit of treating and curing ringworm by internal remedies with relative success. For all that I have thus far never had anything approaching to a clear notion of its true nature, and some of the cases would persist in not getting well; and this lack of a definite idea of its nature, and also the uncertainty of its cure, is I believe fully shared by those who have thus habitually considered and treated ringworm constitutionally. It is due, let us say, to psora, but we have no clear conception of what psora is. Psora needs to be split up into its roots in the vague, its trunk and boughs run away into anywhere. The psora of the homoeopaths seems somehow true, but it has no proper beginning, no definite course, and ends in pathological chaos.

Perhaps we study it in Hahnemann, and in the best writers on the subject, and after doing our best to master it, we rise from our studies with no clear idea, and we finally decide to abandon psora as an intangible myth, and then we proceed with our clinical work; but, before long, we stumble against a very tangible something, and on looking at the stumbling block, we find writ large upon it the word Psora! Have I then hit upon a solution of the psora-problem? No; but if we cannot break the whole faggot, we may perchance break one stick of it.

Hughes, in his Manual of Therapeutics, says that Herpes circinnatus (ringworm of the surface) is usually treated, and with fair success, by Sepia, but that when the proving of Tellurium produced so similar an eruption, he (Dr. Hughes) followed Dr. Metcalf in prescribing it instead of Sepia for this disorder, and has never failed to cure it speedily thereby.

Of ringworm proper of the scalp, Hughes thus writes:-( Manual of Therapeutics, p. 520) “That this disease is, when recent, amenable to internal remedies alone seems to disprove the theory of its parasitic origin. The medicine for it is Sepia, at about the 6th dilution; but if this fails, you must resort to some local parasiticide, of which I suppose a solution of Sulphurous acid would be about the best.”

Some time since I published a small volume, entitled Five Years’ Experience in the New Cure of Consumption by its own Virus, and the fifty-third illustrative case therein runs thus (p.95):-

The influence of the virus upon the teeth and their growth and appearance is very striking. What I regard as tubercular teeth are those-often more or less rudimentary-with holes in their external surface. Whether this is a recognised pathological fact I do not happen to know, perhaps is it not. But it is an important clinical observation. I recognized it clinically some three years since, while treating a highly strumous lady with many scars and glands in her neck.

While under the virus I noticed an extraordinary improvement in her teeth, they became a nice color, and the numerous superficial holes cleaned and partially disappeared. It was even more apparent and striking in the following case:-

A girl of 11, with ringworm on the scalp; the lymphatic gland everywhere palpable, and her ribs very flat; strawberry tongue; a bad cough, worse at night; although 11 years old she had practically no teeth, that is to say, they were rudimentary and not above the level of her gums. All her mother’s brothers and sisters and died of consumption; after three months’ treatment with our ordinary remedies we had made but small progress, and then I kept patient altogether five month under the bacillic virus, with the result that her palpable glans ceased to be palpable; her ringworm disappeared; her ribs took on a better form; her breathing was notably better; and, mirabile dictu, her teeth and has a mouthful of teeth which are quite passible.

It may be noted that the ringworm had disappeared, and in respect to this nasty thing I find it generally disappears under the influence of the virus. I learned this very important fact also purely clinically in the following manner:- A whole family of children of different ages had ringworm for a full year, and the mother told me on bringing them that she had already spent over 60 pound on medical fees for its cure, but in vain. All known remedies had been applied by the local doctors in two neighbourhoods, and several skin specialists had worked hard at their poor heads, but to no avail. Their heads were shaved and their scalps were well scoured night and morning but still the ringworm persisted.

Finally, a distant cottage had been- hired, and the afflicted ones were there isolated, and the services of a noted ringworm curer of the non-qualified variety had been secured; but these also failing, they were put under my care. I have had no great cause to complain of the homeopathic treatment of ringworm with our antipsorics- indeed, quite the contrary-but it is apt to be a bit tedious at times.

Now their mother had been cured by me of incipient tuberculosis with the virus, and it occurred to me that ringworm might be a manifestation of the tubercular kind,*( I find Tilbury Fox and Startin were of this opinion; so are, doubtless, many others.) and so I forthwith put the whole lot under the virus, administered in the usual way, internally in dynamic dose; this I did all the more readily, as they all had numerous superficial palpable glands. And the result? In a very few weeks they were all well of ringworm and of the glands, and have thriven splendidly ever since.

Something like a dozen bad ringworm cases have come to me since then, and they were all quickly cured by the virus, and in each case the general state has been greatly improved. No doubt some bacteriologists will cultivate, some fine day, the germs of the ringworm; and astound the world with their subcutaneous injections. It is well that medical men should approach each subject from a different standpoint, as they serve to correct one another.

Since then I have systematically subjected almost all my ringworm cases to the influence of Bacillinum in high potency and infrequently administered, and of this later experience I will now proceed to treat. Ringworm is a fairly common complaint, and sends terror into the hearts of masters and mistresses of house; and schoolmasters and school mistresses give but a short shrift to any unfortunate weights who show on their scalps or necks, or elsewhere, anything approaching to a scaly, ring like patch.

They know well that if it spreads, or is reported to the children’s homes, the depletion of their school is imminent. ” No Doctor; I am very fond of Gerald, he is my own nephew, and a dear good boy, and his father is in India,- but I cannot take him back to my school unless you give me a written certificate, and that round patch on his neck is quite cured!” The very Prince of Darkness is less dreaded in a school than ringworm. Definite information, therefore, on the subject of the nature and cure of ringworm will be welcome to not a few.

Moreover, it marks a new era in the treatment of the disease. When I say it marks a new era in the treatment of the disease, I should say that for the first time it gives us a clue to its aetiology, pathology, and, best of all, to its really radical cure. The metamorphosis wrought in the bad or poor constitutions of ringworm patients subjected to the influence of Bacillinum (light, and mark well, in very infrequent doses) is simply beautiful, and a delight to the heart of the physician who loves his work for its own sake, and the more so if he has a fair share of the milk of human kindness in him.

I do not agree with those who consider that the amenability of ringworm to internal treatment- say to Sulphur, Sepia, or Tellurium-militates against it parasitic nature. *( I think Erasmus Wilson could never be brought to believe in the parasitic nature of ringworm.) There can be no question of its parasitic nature, however, it may be cured. We must read the facts thus: the disease is parasitic in its external manifestation, and if this external manifestation-the scaly, annular patches-be the disease, and the whole of the disease, then, of course, internal treatment must be regarded as little less than silly, and the only sensible thing to do is to apply to the ringworm parts something that shall kill the fungi and therefore cure the disease.

Well, few need to be told that the task of treating ringworm successfully by external means, i.e., killing the fungi, is so unsatisfactory, so uncertain, so tedious, so often an entire failure, that I well understand the state of mind of an eminent London skin specialist, who six weeks ago exclaimed to Lady X, who wished to known how long it would be before her little boy would be quite cured of his ringworm, and fit to return to school, “How long? Heaven knows, I don’t; perhaps by the end of next term, I really cannot say!”

James Compton Burnett
James Compton Burnett was born on July 10, 1840 and died April 2, 1901. Dr. Burnett attended medical school in Vienna, Austria in 1865. Alfred Hawkes converted him to homeopathy in 1872 (in Glasgow). In 1876 he took his MD degree.
Burnett was one of the first to speak about vaccination triggering illness. This was discussed in his book, Vaccinosis, published in 1884. He introduced the remedy Bacillinum. He authored twenty books, including the much loved "Fifty Reason for Being a Homeopath." He was the editor of The Homoeopathic World.