Rhus acts upon the whole man, every part every great function is disturbed when Rhus infects the organism. Like all members of this family the Rhus invasion first show itself in the skin, inflaming and irritating it. Upon the glandular system it produces painful swellings, inflammation and suppuration. Upon the organs of locomotion, especially the tendons it causes aching, soreness, stiffening and pain.


There are a number of varieties of Rhus of which the following are the principal ones:.

1. Rhus radicans, which is the same as Rhus tox., a creeping variety clinging to trees.

2. Rhus glabra, or the common so much which is less poisonous.

3. Rhus venenata, very poisonous and large, growing in swamps, called also poison Elder or Swamp dogwood. Leaves 5 to 12 inches long with 6 to 13 leaflets.

4. Rhus diversiloba or Californica, or the poison Oak.

5. Rhus aromatica, an aromatic species, distinguished from Rhus tox. by its red berries. It is non-poisonous and is sometimes used in enuresis. The wood exhales an agreeable odor which never leaves articles made from it.

6. Rhus toxicodendron, the present variety which is the common three leaved poison ivy, the middle leaf being stalked. It grows in thickets and low grounds and flowers in June. Millspaugh suggests that equal portions of Rhus radicans and toxicodendron be taken.

Rhus was introduced and proved by Hahnemann. All of us are more or less familiar with the effects of poison ivy, or the poison oak as it is called in some localities, on the skin. Some persons are so susceptible to it that contact with it is unnecessary, the mere passing in the neighbourhood producing the poisonous effects. This is due to a volatile acid (toxidendric acid), which the plant contains. This acid is given off more profusely during wet and damp weather and at night. This is most interesting in view of the known aggravations established by the provings and clinical experience.


The effects of Rhus are redness and swelling of the affected parts with vesicles and intolerable itching and burning. The face, eyes and genitals seem to be especially susceptible to its influence, though no part of the body is exempt. Later the mucous membranes become affected with redness, swelling of mouth and throat, cough, nausea, diarrhoea, etc. Further, the fibrous tissues become involved producing rheumatic pains and lastly a fever is produced of a typhoid nature or type. It was the recognition of this last property that led Dr. Hahnemann to his brilliant employment of it in epidemics of typhus, in which the mortality of the old school was very great while Hahnemanns 183 cases all recovered.

Rhus acts upon the whole man, every part every great function is disturbed when Rhus infects the organism. Like all members of this family the Rhus invasion first show itself in the skin, inflaming and irritating it. Upon the glandular system it produces painful swellings, inflammation and suppuration. Upon the organs of locomotion, especially the tendons it causes aching, soreness, stiffening and pain. The entire vegetative system is affected, the nervous and muscular systems are depressed as shown by the paralytic symptoms, the debility and weakness.

We deal, therefore, with a disease producing force of wide scope, one which, while it does not destroy the life of the body as radically as such drugs as Arsenic and Lachesis, yet is capable of so destroying and perverting the bodys functional activity everywhere as to seemingly interfere with it and transform normal healthy life whose pleasure is to be, to exist, into one long array of suffering, pain and decrepitude. It has its own special way of disturbing the life force. Let us study the Rhus and thereby enchain this disturbing force or spirit and according to the law of similars convert it to our service along the very paths it seeks to destroy.


We have seen that Rhus acts upon the fibrous tissue, upon joints, tendons, tendon sheaths, aponeurosis, etc., producing pains, stiffness, etc. The characteristic feature about this pain and stiffness is that the patient has a desire for motion, he wants to move the parts, because motion relieves his pains and his stiffness. The fact is the inflamed fasciae, tendons, etc., get limbered up by the motion and hence the patient feels better.

This is the first grand key-note to the action of Rhus. Whether you are called to a patient whose pains are more severe during rest, who manifests an irresistible desire to move, to change position every little while, followed by great relief for a short time, you have an indication of greatest value for Rhus.

But further, the Rhus patient is easily fatigued, his nervous system is weak, he soon tires on exertion. Rhus produces a paralytic condition. So it gives you the rest of this characteristic of Rhus, though motion relieves, he soon tires on account of his nervous weakness and he is obliged to rest. This puts the poor Rhus patient in a dilemma. The fibrous tissue part of his being cries out for motion, which relieves, the weak nerves soon fail on account of languor and paralysis and he has to rest.

Rhus produces a rheumatic affection relieved by motion, and paralysis and languor aggravated by motion. Remember this modality of Rhus, aggravation from rest and relief from continued motion, even though on first moving them there is stiffness and pain. Dr. Guernsey has very ingeniously extended the sphere of this indication beyond its original cast to the nursing mother who has sore nipples and when the child begins to nurse the nipple hurts exceedingly, but on continued nursing it becomes much easier.

Now this affinity for fibrous tissue generally makes Rhus a remedy for ailments from spraining, overlifting, from stretching arms high up to reach things, etc., its pains are as if sprained, as if a tendon were torn loose from its attachments, as if bones were scraped with a knife, complaints from over-exertion, he has even dreams of great exertion, rowing, swimming, working hard and when he wakes he is very tired.

Another characteristic condition for Rhus lies in its application to the bad effects of getting wet, especially after being heated, getting wet while perspiring, from going in swimming too often, aversion to washing, sleeping in damp rooms and beds, lying on damp ground.

When a patient is worse in damp and foggy weather, when he is sensitive to the open air, for instance he will cough by putting the hand out from under the bed covering, think of Rhus. Nearly all Rhus complaints are made worse by cold. Rhus patients are worse in cold weather, worse from drinking cold water. Wrapping up, warm, dry, clear weather, or a warm room will improve him. It is a valuable remedy for ailments from checked perspiration.


MENTAL. The memory is impaired, the head is confused, and the patient cannot remember what he wished to write. There is listlessness and horrible depression. There is sadness and weeping and above all extreme restlessness. In fevers there is delirium with fear of being poisoned.

HEAD. Vertigo in the aged, which comes on on rising from a sitting posture, with heaviness in the limbs. Swashing feeling in the brain when moving (China). Feeling as if a board were strapped on the forehead.

EYES. Rhus is a great remedy for eye troubles, oedematous swelling, redness and acrid discharge especially when complicated with eczema. Pustular inflammations worse at night, and in damp, cold weather. Granular lids when associated with a sac-like swelling of the conjunctiva, with yellow purulent discharge. Ptosis in rheumatic subjects after exposure to dampness, suppurative iritis. Orbital cellulitis. Scrofulous ophthalmia with phlyctenulae on the cornea, photophobia, profuse flow of yellow pus, pains in eyes worse at night.

Causticum, Gelsemium and Kalmia have stiffness in the lids.

EARS. Pain in the ears with a sensation as if something were in them, or as if someone were blowing in them.

NASAL SYMPTOMS. Coryza from getting wet with inflammation of the nose, epistaxis, fever sores about nose and mouth, aching in all the bones, worse at rest and at night. Sneezing at night. Tip of nose red, sore, swollen and ulcerated.

FACE. Besides the erysipelas, described elsewhere, there is pain in the maxillary joints as if the jaw would break. The jaw cracks on every chewing motion. Easy dislocation of the jaw (Ignatia and Petroleum). Swollen face.

MOUTH. Toothache, worse by cold, better by warmth. The teeth feel loose and long and the gums are sore and feel as if ulcerated. The tongue of Rhus is very characteristic, being red and cracked in fever, or coated, except a triangular space at the tip which is always red. Dry tongue, soreness of the tongue with dryness and redness at the edges.

THROAT. Sore throat with swelling of the glands, mumps, sticking pains when swallowing. Swelling of sub-maxillary and parotid glands.

STOMACH. The gastric symptoms of Rhus are important. Here do not give the remedy too low.

1. Want of appetite with unquenchable thirst.

2. Bitter or metallic taste.

3. Sleepiness, fullness of stomach, giddiness after eating.

4. Nausea and inclination to vomit after eating or drinking.

5. Bloated abdomen after eating.

Indigestion where symptoms are brought on or made worse by eating, or drinking, especially with putrid, bitter taste. Remember that gastric derangements can be rapidly and effectually cured with Rhus when these symptoms are present. Desire for milk is very characteristic, thirst, desire for water or beer.

STOOLS. Rhus produces a diarrhoea of blood and slime mixed with reddish mucus. Dysentery with tearing pains down the thighs on defecation. Nightly diarrhoea with violent pain in the abdomen, relieved after an evacuation or by lying on the abdomen. Involuntary stools at night when asleep. Stools of cadaverous odor in typhoid or involuntary stools. Abdominal affections assuming a typhoid state. Great exhaustion.

SEXUAL ORGANS. Swelling of glans and prepuce, dark red and erysipelatous, scrotum becomes thick and hard with intolerable itching. Oedema of scrotum. Humid eruptions on genitals. No other drug has such a tendency to produce inflammation and oedema of these organs.

RESPIRATORY. A dry, teasing cough, worse from midnight until morning, during a chill or when putting the hands out of bed is characteristic. Haemoptysis from over-exertion, blowing on wind instruments, blood bright red. Influenza with aching in all the bones, sneezing and coughing from tickling behind upper half of the sternum. Pneumonia when it assumes a typhoid condition. It is a useful remedy in the bronchial coughs of old people with expectoration of small plugs of tough mucus.

CIRCULATORY. Rhus causes an increase of the circulation. It is indicated in uncomplicated hypertrophy from over-exertion as in athletes, machinists, etc. Palpitation from over-exertion. With Rhus there is a sensation of numbness in the left arm, worse after exertion.

Aconite. Tingling in fingers as if going to sleep with heart disease.

Actea racemosa. Sensation as if the arms were bandaged to the body.

Phytolacca. Same symptom on right side as Rhus has on the left.

As Rhus produces depression the pulse is not full and strong. Under Aconite it is quick, weak and irregular or intermittent with the numbness of the left arm.

EXTREMITIES, BACK, ETC. Rhus and rheumatism are intimately associated associated. Almost any case of acute rheumatism would present some symptoms like these, red, hot, painful swelling of joints, skin burning, affected part intolerant of touch or motion, pulse increased in frequency, hard and full; scanty, high colored urine. But, however complete this picture is for diagnosis, for purposes of prescribing you must look further.

Rhus has pains of a drawing, tearing character, shooting in the joints, pain like a bruise or sprain, sensation as if the flesh were loosened on the bones. Pains better on moving about, dull redness of the swollen parts, rheumatism brought on by a chill from getting wet. Its chief favourite seat is the tendons, ligaments and fasciae. If the muscles are affected it is through the extension of the rheumatic affections from the joints and not from rheumatism primarily in the muscle substance.

The poison generated by Rhus is one of extreme subtlety and shows a tendency to invade large surface, rather than penetrate deeply into the tissues, hence the acute pains and ataxic effects produced by Rhus. Its effects tend to spread. (Teste). Rheumatic pains which are sometimes very violent and always spread over a large surface at the nape of the neck, loins and extremities. Gout, especially when characterized by cutaneous symptoms.

Rhus has an important symptom in that prominent projection and condyles of the bones are sore, as aching in occipital protuberance, etc. All the limbs feel stiff and paralyzed, aching everywhere with inability to rest in any particular position but for a moment. The cold, fresh air is not tolerated, it seems to make the skin painful. (This symptom is of inestimable value in treating rheumatic patients). There is a pain along the ulnar nerve which should be remembered. Pain between shoulders when swallowing, better from warmth. Pain in shoulders and down arms.

Lumbago, pain in the small of the back as if bruised, relieved by walking. Great pain on attempting to rise but relief from continued motion. Tearing from hip to knees. Tearing down thighs during stool is a good indication in dysentery.

We have seen that Rhus was a grand remedy for strains and sprains. This will bear a wide application, for instance, singers and public speakers who have strained their voices will find in this remedy an excellent help. Dr. Martin gives it to garrulous old women. Again, it is useful in heart strain of gymnasts and others who have hypertrophy of the heart from over-exertion, and in displacement of the womb occasioned by strain or protracted labor, when the patient is very restless and cannot sit or lie long in one place.

Arnica is similar, but Arnica acts more on muscles than on ligaments and there is great soreness of the muscles. The patient feels as if he had been pounded. For sprains Rhus is better except where there has been considerable injury to the soft parts other than the ligaments, then Arnica is the remedy.

Arsenic has over-exertion combined with effect of rarefied air.

NERVOUS CONDITIONS. Sciatica. Here Rhus is indicated when it is caused by exposure to damp or wet or when due to straining in lifting, if relieved for a short time by continuous motion and worse in the open air.

Ammonium mur. is somewhat relieved while walking and entirely relieved when lying down.

Calcarea. When caused by working in the water.

Rhus must be remembered as a great anti-paralyticum, it produces a paralysis that is generally in the right side, arm or leg. Infantile paralysis of one side of the body from lying on cold or damp ground. Paralysis in the face from taking cold, Bells palsy, paralysis of a rheumatic character from sitting on cold stones, standing in the wet with much pain in the paralyzed parts.

Weakness of the lower extremities worse from rest. Weak ankles. The weakness of the limbs is attended with an oedematous condition, and puffiness, transparent watery, appearance of the skin. When grasping anything there is a feeling as if pins were pricking the fingers. Trembling after exertion, even if moderate rheumatic palsies.

FEVER. Do not be misled by the numerous fevers. We hear much of typhoid, bilious, gastric, remittent, intermittent fevers, etc. Let me quote for your comfort from Watson, the old school authority:.

Now, admitting that fever shows itself under various forms, I am persuaded that the effect upon the mind of all this sub-division is bad and hurtful. It encourages a disposition already too prevalent to prescribe for a disease according to its name! There is no line of genuine distinction between continued fevers that can be relied on.

Hear that from an allopath!.

Frequently in fevers bearing any of these names, the careful prescriber will select Rhus with the happiest effects.

A form of catarrhal fever, so-called, which is met with frequently calls for Rhus more than any other remedy. This condition commences with weakness of the whole body, (adynamia, you see) with desire to lie down, soreness or bruised sensation of the limbs, aching of limbs and bones, sometimes extending through the whole body.

Great pain in back, restlessness, worse lying still, sickness at the stomach, loss of appetite, repugnance for food, great thirst, dry tongue and mouth, tongue red with a somewhat similar condition but no thirst. Moist mouth and heavy white coating of tongue, great nausea, irritable, peevish condition finds Antimonium crudum as its remedy, the condition of mouth and tongue distinguishing.

Rhus is the corrective to use on that borderland where febrile cases merge into typhoid conditions. It is the remedy to arrest that tendency to blood deprivation which later must be met by Baptisia. Indications, extreme restlessness and partial delirium. It nips many a case of continued fever in the bud when indicated. In these low fevers there is frequently delirium, rather mild, especially with fear of being poisoned.

Rhus is frequently indicated in typhoid fever proper or when diseases take on a typhoid type, a low type, due to sinking of the vital forces. Rhus is then indicated by these symptoms: Extra-ordinary sense of debility, he gets fits of trembling in consequences of this sinking of the vital forces, then comes restlessness, he cant be still, must move, wants to go from one bed to another, becomes fearful, thinks he is poisoned, hence refuses to take his medicine or food, great apprehension at night, cannot remain in bed.

Tympanitic condition, abdomen bloated and hard as a drum. There is rush of blood to the head, dizziness and sensation as if a board were strapped across the forehead, as if brain were pressed together from the sides of the head. The tongue is red especially at the tip, restless sleep with dreams of great exertion, dry cough. Involuntary stools with great exhaustion.

The Rhus scarlet fever is attended with similar conditions, here is an oedematous condition of the fauces, soft palate and uvula, vesicles itching, smarting and burning still further indicate it. It corresponds to a dynamic case where weakness and debility are marked. The glands enlarge, especially the left parotid, the cellular tissue is infiltrated and the skin overlying, dark and erysipelatous.

Lachesis and Ailanthus follow Rhus here but they have even more adynamia and a bluish rash.

In Arum the corners of the mouth are sore, cracked and bleeding the child is irritable and restless.

Therefore remember in Rhus scarlatina, the adynamic character, the miliary rash, vesicular eruption like millet seeds itching violently, the fauces dark red and oedematous, the glands and cellular tissue around the neck inflamed, rheumatic pains, drowsiness with restlessness.

In other kinds of fever Rhus is indicated when the chill is accompanied by a dry cough and great restlessness. The chill is apt to begin in one leg. During the heat urticaria breaks out over the body with violent itching. Great craving for milk. Hydroa on upper lip, rheumatic symptoms.

SLEEP. Rhus disturbs the sleep greatly, the patient becoming restless, constantly turning about and often suffering from great nervous depression.

SKIN. The properties of Rhus were brought into notice before Hahnemann to a limited extent in 1798 by Dufresnoy, a physicians of Valenciennes. Dufresnoys attention was attracted to the plant by the circumstance of a young man, who had suffered for six years with an herpetic eruption on the wrist, which was cured by accidental subjection to its influence.

It seems that at a lecture at the Botanical Garden of Valenciennes, where the doctor held forth on the poisonous effects of contact with Rhus, one of the students, with a certain amount of mischievousness, common to the species, knowing his own non-susceptibility to the poison, gravely assured the young florist that that was all talk and idle assertion of the professor and to prove it took some of the leaves and rubbed them over himself.

The young florist, not to be outdone in exposing the professors wild statement, did likewise but with a terrible result and an acute poisoning such as you can readily imagine. In about ten days the young man recovered from the effects and to this and the doctors great surprise, found that his eczema, a constant companion of six years, had disappeared. This led Dufresnoy to experiment freely and successfully with Rhus in this case of ailments but it remained for Hahnemann to show the law.

The most prominent seat of action of Rhus is on the skin, with this we are made very familiar by the susceptibility of most people to the poisonous emanations of the plant. Redness, swelling, intense itching with formation of vesicles is the condition produced. Hence it corresponds to cutaneous affections of the vesicular order, herpes, herpes zoster, eczema, pemphigus, also to erythema erysipelas and prurigo, vesicular eruptions on the feet, burning and stinging. There is a tendency to invade large surfaces rather than dip down into the tissues.

Erysipelas of the vesicular variety with blistering, burning and itching and swelling, large blebs, blisters filled with bloody serum, skin purple, spreads to the right. Urticaria from getting wet during rheumatism, worse from cold air. Pemphigus, each bulla with a red areola. Carbuncles and boils, malignant and gangrenous, miliary eruptions, hence measles. Extensive but superficial burns, with tendency to erysipelas and typhoid conditions. Variola with dark pustules. Rhus is almost a perfect simillimum to septicaemia and it has proved one of our most useful remedies in this condition.


1. Anacardium gastric symptoms.

2. Croton tig. Fine vesicular rash, especially of face and genitals, great itching and painful burning with redness, formation of vesicles and pustules which dry up and fall off, especially useful in children.

3. Mezereum. Scrofulous cases, thick crusts which crack and ooze pus continually and copiously. Thick chalky scabs. Intense itching.

W.A. Dewey
Dewey, Willis A. (Willis Alonzo), 1858-1938.
Professor of Materia Medica in the University of Michigan Homeopathic Medical College. Member of American Institute of Homeopathy. In addition to his editoral work he authored or collaborated on: Boericke and Dewey's Twelve Tissue Remedies, Essentials of Homeopathic Materia Medica, Essentials of Homeopathic Therapeutics and Practical Homeopathic Therapeutics.