We would now deal with the Serpent poisons from the Homoeopathic point of view. In this paper we shall take up only Lachesis, Crotalus Horridus and Naja Tripudians.
The actions of the Serpent poisons are given very elaborately by Farrington.
They have a paralysing action upon the nerves. From the experiments of Dr. Brunton and Sir. J. Fayer on animals, it would appear that “the great shock of the poison is first felt in the nervous centres of the cord, gradually involving those of the Medulla Oblongata and of the ganglia of the mesocephale, and lastly implicating the functional integrity of the hemisphere of the brain.”
The Sympathetic system (at least in its cardiac portion) are at least to suffer; as though paralysis of the Vagus is indicated by augmented pulsation of the hear as well as cessation of respiration, by inducting the latter process artificially the heart can be kept going and life prolonged for a considerable period. Farrington says, they directly weaken the brain and heart action. They follow decomposition of blood, changes in the muscular tissue and local death from gangrene. AT first, there is a condition of anxiety, mental excitability and oversensitiveness of brain, with hallucinations, anxious fear, etc.
Afterwards arises nervous depression, varying from such a debility as is observed as is observed in severe or protracted disease and advancing old age to mental confusion, stupor, low delirium and paralysis. Constrictions are noticed in the throat, larynx and sphincters in general. There is a local action on the blood leading to lowered coagulability and destruction of the red blood corpuscles, with extravasations of blood under skin. Haemorrhages, which are usually dark, decomposed, oozing from every orifice of the body; thus also ecchymoses.
They are most marked under Lachesis and Crotalus, least in Naja. Face sickly, pale, anxious; bloated, dark-red or bluish. Special senses altered; dim vision, excitability of the brain and the Spinal Cord, accounting for the mental restlessness and bodily sensitiveness. Predominent even with the pains are torpidity, numbness, twitchings, formication.
Nerves specially affected by the snake poisons seem to be the Pneumogastric, Spinal, Accessory; constantly symptoms of the larynx, of the respiration and of the heart are characteristic. All of them cause choking, constrictive sensation coming from the irritation of the Pneumogastric. All of them have dyspnoea and heart symptoms.
They produce a yellow staining of the skin (not jaundice). It comes from the blood and is due to the decomposition of that fluid, just as we find in Yellow Fever, Typhus, or Pyaemia, and not to the staining of the skin with bile (most marked in Crotalus). Hughes says, “It is not caused by obstruction of the flow of bile ; and it depends either upon disordered innervation or upon changes in the blood hindering the due metamorphosis of the reabsorbed secretion.” As the heart is weakened by all ,w e find as characteristic, running through them all, weak heart, cold feet and trembling (trembling of weakness from blood poisoning).
All the snake poisons cause inflammation of the cellular tissue. Accordingly we find them valuable when cellulitis arises in the course of Typhoid fever, Diphtheria etc. The colour of the affected part is dark-red, purple or black, like gangrene. “Locally the inflammation following a snake-bite is asthenic in character; the locaL inflammation often goes on to gangrene.
They seem to be useful whenever a local affection assumes a malignant character and from thence proceed poisoning of the blood and prostration of the nervous energies, its use is indicated. Traumatic gangrene, carbuncle, malignant pustule, malignant erysipelas, putrid sore throat are instances of such pathological states”.
In Lachesis there is local hypersensitiveness of the body due to irritation of the peripheral nerves. Inflammation of an asthenic character (cellulitis, erysipelas). General action on nervous system and blood. Nervous System: main action on the Pneumogastric nerve (throat, larynx, bronchi, heart) irritation. Nerve centres poisoned (prostration, convulsion and unconsciousness). Functional integrity of the brain implicated.
Blood decomposition and disorganisation (ecchymoses, haemorrhage, asthenic inflammation, abscess, malignant inflammation, gangrene, pyaemia, general typhoid condition and jaundice).
The action of Crotalus Horridus is primarily on the central nervous system, secondarily there is decomposition of blood (destruction of fibrin, haemorrhages, ecchymoses). The most essential peculiarity of Crotalus is the similarity of its poisoning to that induced by Yellow fever, in the treatment of which we find its chief use.
Naja Tripudians has profound action on Cerebrospinal system, Pneumogastric and Glossopharyngeal nerves–producing dyspnoea, ecchymoses and haemorrhage. The affinity of Naja for the Medulla Oblongata and Cerebellum is well shown in the classical experience of Frank Buckland. after he skinned a rat killed by cobra-bite. “I had not walked a hundred yards before all of a sudden I felt just as if somebody had come behind me and struck me a severe blow on the head and neck, and at the same time I experienced a most acute pain and sense of oppression at the chest, as though a hot iron had been run in and a hundred weight put on the top of it.”
His face turned green. He staggered into a chemists shop and managed to get some Ammonia, and was then able to walk to a friends house, where he drank four large wineglasses of brandy without feeling tipsy. He was then able to start for his own house, and for the first time felt a most acute pain under the nail of the left thumb, the pain running up the arm. About an hour before he examined the rat he had cleaned his nail with a penknife, and had separated the skin, and that was how the virus entered.
These symptoms of Bucklands are highly characteristic and valuable. The “hot iron” symptom and weight on the chest should be specially noted. According to Hering, nervous phenomena predominate in Naja over the other serpent poisons. It “acts primarily upon nervous system, specially on respiratory nerves, pneumogastric and glosso- pharyngeal”.
The virus of Lachesis has been more carefully proved than that of any other. The specimen used by Dr. Hering in his experiments was obtained from the living snake, which was stunned with a blow; the poison was then collected on sugar by pressing the poison fang upwards against the bag, and the three first attenuations prepared by trituration.
Crotalus Horridus was first proved by Dr. Hering. The proving were made from triturations of the venom with sugar of milk and from dilutions prepared from them. The venom of this deadly snake may be obtained by pressing the poison gland situated between the ear and eye,the serpent being either pinioned or chloroformed, and as the venom drops from the fangs it is received on pulverised sugar of milk, with which it is triturated, in proportion of one to ninety-nine. Of late the preservation and potentization of the venom in glycerine has been recommended.
Naja was first proved by Dr. Stokes of England. The poison obtained by compressing the gland (of the live animal) which secretes it, is triturated in sugar of milk.
There are three very characteristic general symptoms, as distinguished from the local ones, that belong to all the serpent poisons more or less- and all in a high degree of Lachesis. (1) Aggravation of all distressing symptoms after sleep. The symptoms manifest in a multitude of ways; thus an asthmatic patient may wake to a violent paroxysm–it is characteristic that the patient sleeps into aggravation, there is no interval between sleep and increase of distress; pains of all kinds may become so acute that they wake the patient, palpitation or vertigo may increases even at the first onset of drowsiness and effectually banish sleep.
In such cases as this last example, if sleep does come on, the patient will be better for it, because sleep is impossible until there is a change in the body condition, thus the power to sleep is the indication of the change and the improvement after sleep, the evidence that the change for the better has for far endured. The aggravation from sleep of the serpent poisons concerns physical rather than mental symptoms. (2) Very marked sensitiveness of the body surface, so that even touch is intolerable, and specially the slightest tendency to constriction. The patient desires all clothing to be loose and cannot endure collars or any garment in the least tight.
Even the slightest pressure round the neck is particularly resented, and headache, if present, is worse from wearing a hat. If the larynx is affected, merely to touch it externally will bring on a paroxysm of coughing or spasm and dyspnoea. Patients who suggest Lachesis as their remedy often suffer much from flatulence, but the desire to loosen clothing with they show is not a result of this only. Indeed, the cause of the intolerance of any touch or constriction is not so much that pain follows, as a kind of nervous uneasiness, quite uncontrollable as a rule.
This points to the fact, that nervous, unbalanced, hysterical subjects are very likely to come into the sphere of action of the drug, and the intolerance of pressure is to be read mainly as a tactile hypersensitiveness. Associated with it in a strong desire for air: patients who feel suffocated when windows are shut, who cannot endure heat well, and long for cool fresh breeze, whose symptoms are worse in the summer–these are often found to call for Lachesis by other indications.
(3) Relief of distressing symptoms from the onset of a discharge. Dysmenorrhoeal pains come before the flow and are at once relieved when it appears or severe headache is relieved when a nasal catarrh begins. It is also true that if an expected discharge does not appear normally, symptoms of pain or discomfort begin or are aggravated if already present. The explanation of this probably lies in the fact that great vasomotor instability is a characteristic effect of the serpent poisons.
Consequently local congestions and hyperaemias are common, and possibly the onset of the free discharge relieves these. The vasomotor instability is expressed in the provings by local flushings, rushes of blood to the head and face. These and allied nervous symptoms make Lachesis, a remedy of great value at the climacteric, specially at the onset of that period when the menses becoming delayed and when the non-appearance of the monthly discharge results in symptoms of discomfort and distress.
It will be out of place here to deal with the details of symptoms of the drugs from serpent poisons, for which a book of Materia Medica is sufficient. We would now speak of the Therapeutic uses of the serpent poisons in a very outline.