[Read before I.H.A., Bureau of Materia Medica, June 17, 1938].
I should like to discuss the remedy Ustilago maidis. This substance belongs to the order of Fungi. It is found growing on Indian corn or maize and is commonly called “corn-smut”. It belongs to the same natural order as ergot and has many symptoms analogous to those produced by Secale cornutum, especially in the female sexual sphere.
Ustilago appears as a dark grey or black fungus-like growth upon the ears of the corn. It has a moist feel and a not unpleasant, corn-like odor. I have seen it many times growing on “swear” corn. No doubt it appears also on “field” corn, though I cannot state this positively from personal observation. The tincture of Ustilago is prepared from the fresh, ripe fungus.
The remedy was first proved and introduced by Burt whose monograph related many of its clinical applications. It was also given a proving by Hoyne, a description of which appeared in the Transaction of the American Institute of Homoeopathy for 1872. These provings demon started that the drug had a definite affinity for the generative organs of both sexes, and especially for the left ovary and the uterus.
This action was suggested by the observation that pregnant animals feeding on smutty maize were quite likely to abort. Another observer noted that men and animals using infested corn for food sometimes lost hair and teeth, mules cast their hoofs, and hens laid shell-less eggs. It is implied in Clarkes Dictionary of the Materia Medica that these observations led to the actual proving of the drug.
Before describing any of the symptoms produced by Ustilago, I should like to relate the incident which occasioned my first use of this remedy. Less than three weeks ago I delivered a woman of her second child. She had been under my care for about eight weeks, having moved to Brattleboro from one of the larger New Hampshire cities. Her pregnancy had been perfectly normal up to the time of consulting me and remained so during the time she was under my care.
In short, she was one of those disgustingly healthy persons for whom there seemed to be no occasion to prescribe. This condition was most irksome to me, for if there is anything I dislike, it is not being able to give a remedy! In type she was large, obese brunette. Calm, serene and easy-going, she always had a smile for everyone and bore the vicissitudes of life with equanimity and fortitude. In keeping with this character she went eleven days over her “time”. Eventually, however, nature asserted herself and Mrs. R. came into labor one morning about four oclock.
I saw her at six thirty and made an examination which revealed a cephalic presentation, R.O.A., the commonest and easiest position to deliver. The cervix was practically completely effaced, soft, and dilated to three and a half fingers. The membranes were unruptured. Since it had been previously determined that all her measurements were normal and that she had easily delivered in eight-pound first child, I congratulated myself on having a case that would be over and done with in the course of the next three hours.
Well, you all know the answer to that one! What I did not take into consideration was the character of the pains. These were irregular, both in rhythm and force, were felt in the lower abdomen, occasionally in the back, and did not produce what one might consider the usual amount of disease. I thought that the trip to the Hospital and the excitement of admission and preparation for delivery, even my presence and examination, had all caused the pains to subside.
So I elected to give Nature a “break”, and the patient an opportunity of adjusting herself to a new environment, by removing myself from the vicinity, which I did. On my return at one oclock in the afternoon, conditions being in status quo ante, I made another examination, only to find still more status quo ante. Now, one would suppose, after eight and one-half hours labor in a multipara who was, mechanically, at least, perfectly normal, that some progress would have been shown.
But no! So then it would appear that the problem was one of dynamics. Well, again, you know the answer to that the dynamised remedy. But what remedy? Well, I did not know the answer to that one; but Dr. Yingling did. The only symptoms of note we had to guide us were two: (1) deficient pains; (2) soft, pliable cervix. I found them in Yinglings Accoucheurs Manual under Ustilago.
Well, to shorten a story already too long, I gave the patient a single dose of the 200th potency of this remedy at one-twenty in the afternoon. In fifteen minutes her pains began to be vigorous and normal, and at 2:32 p.m. she presented us with a healthy, lively girl which weighed eight pounds, four and a quarter ounces.