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.

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.