HomeMateria Medica by Carroll DunhamHyoscyamus Niger | Materia Medica by Carrol Dunham

Hyoscyamus Niger | Materia Medica by Carrol Dunham

Hyoscyamus Niger | Materia Medica by Carrol Dunham

Homeopathy Materia Medica by Dr. Carroll Dunham
Homeopathy Materia Medica by Dr. Carroll Dunham

Dr. Dunham (1828-1877) graduated from Columbia University with Honours in 1847. In 1850 he received M.D. degree at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York.

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Hyoscyamus Niger

HENBANE. Is classed along with Belladonna among the narcotics, or among the cerebro-stimulants. It resembles Belladonna in some respects, though lacking its power to act on a number of organs and systems of the body, and acting very differently on others.

It has been used as a medicine from the earliest ages; but was brought into prominent notice by Stoerck.

Swine eat it with impunity. It is peculiarly fatal to fowls. Hence its name.

It acts on dogs as on men.

On men it produces, in large doses, delirium resembling that of drunkenness,—a garrulous delirium, with proneness to altercation and quarrelsomeness. Hence one of its ancient names, ALTERCUM. Its power to produce an excited or quarrelsome or fantastic mania is universally conceded. The effects are, moreover, “fullness and heat of the head, flushing of the face, injection of the eyes and cerebral excitement, manifested by indistinct or clouded vision, and sometimes total blindness, giddiness, delirium and hallucinations. Sometimes natural objects assume a grotesque appearance, or the field of vision is filled by luminous figures.

There is little or no inclination to sound sleep, but a sort of somnolence with incoherent mutterings, like that which is so common in typhoid fever.

Sometimes the hearing is lost. The pupils are often, but not always, dilated; the muscles of the throat and chest, and of the lower limbs, are affected with tetanic rigidity or clonic spasms; and there is more or less complete loss of power in the same parts, which is apt to continue after the attack. Aphonia is by no means uncommon. General sensibility is in most cases very much impaired, while at the same time there may be severe neuralgic pains in the course of the principal nervous trunks. The skin is apt to be bathed in perspiration, which is sometimes cold when a large dose has been taken. Sometimes the tongue is paralyzed and the pharynx spasmodically contracted. (Stille, vol. ii,, 24.)

The summary taken from Orfila and Stille shows the homeopathic relation of Hyoscyamus to many cases in which homeopathists have successfully used it, as we shall see.

Our knowledge of its physical action is derived from Hahnemann’s proving. (R.A.M.L., iv.)

The whole plant is used in medicine.

The action of Hyoscyamus on the vital power is marked.

1. On the sensorium it produces perversion of perception, so that illusions perplex the patient; he sees things which have no existence; also perversion of intellectual action; he reasons erroneously. A distinct mania of the quarrelsome or obscene character. The patient would escape, or would be undressed and walk about nude, or use offensive and unbecoming language and gestures, or quarrel with by-standers.

2. On the muscular system. It paralyzes and convulses the voluntary muscular system, E. G., the extremities, and paralyzes the involuntary system, produces convulsions and paralysis (with pale face, quiet pulse, nervousness). As, for example, paralysis of the constrictors of the pharynx, and also of the sphincter ani.

The action on the organic substances of the body is so slight that we can hardly define it.

The sphere of action of the drug seems to be confined :

1. To the sensorium, producing the peculiar forms of mania and delirium alluded to.

2. To the muscular system, producing partial or general convulsions, and also paralysis of the sphincters.

3. To the nervous supply of the larynx and trachea, producing a tickling cough.

4. To the sleep: Produces at first, under small doses, an unwonted liveliness and difficulty in getting asleep; sleeplessness and frequent waking, with exaltation of mind and vivid imaginings. Even when it occurs the sleep is very unquiet, the limbs twitch or are contorted into various grotesque shapes, the hands clutch at the bedclothes or grope about here and there; there are convulsive twitches, startings up in affright, grinding of the teeth, groaning and starting in sleep.

The peculiarities of Hyoscyamus may be noted as follows: First the convulsions, the mania, the delirium, the cough, the sleeplessness, all occur almost absolutely without any manifestations of fever. In this respect it presents a marked contrast to Belladonna.

2. The singular and definite character of the mania, which is loquacious and quarrelsome, the subject of it being especially inclined to unseemly and immodest acts, gestures or expressions.

It differs from that of Stramonium in these particulars: The latter produces mania with some degree of fever (though less than Belladonna), and in it the patients, though loquacious, are good-natured and fully occupied with the observation of the phantoms by which they fancy themselves to be surrounded.

The spasmodic affections may be either SUBSULTUS TENDINUM of a single extremity or general epileptic convulsions; the limbs are forcibly curved and the body is thrown up from the bed; the patient then falls with a cry and is generally convulsed. It resembles and is useful in convulsions from intestinal worms, and especially in puerperal convulsions; also spasm of pharynx and oesophagus.

The cough of Hyoscyamus is a dry, nervous, spasmodic cough, which occurs at night, and ceases when the patient sits up; this is a certain characteristic of Hyoscyamus. The Belladonna cough often compels the patient to sit up, but does not thereupon cease.

The symptoms generally are aggravated at night.

The forces sink quickly; the patient gets easily fatigued; syncope is readily produced; the limbs become cold and tremble. These symptoms, with those of the sleep, the paralysis of the sphincters, point to the use of Hyoscyamus in some conditions occurring in the course of continued fevers.


The vertigo of Hyoscyamus is attended by obscuration of vision, and loss of the general sensibility of the external surface of the body.

The head becomes heavy and confused. The pains which, however, are ill-defined, are mostly in the forehead. When walking there is a sensation as ot a wave within the cranium with pressing in the forehead.

Heat in the head and in the forehead.

The eye presents no evidence of organic affection, whether subjective or objective. On the other hand, vision is eminently affected.

The sight is obscured; illusions are very various; fiery red objects appear. When reading, the letters move about, small objects appear large ; in sewing, the needle goes to the wrong place.

The eyes become short-sighted; they are distorted ; they stare and protrude.

Hyoscyamus has proved an excellent remedy for squinting and for double vision.

The face is distorted; the RISUS SARDONICUS is produced.

There is roaring in the ears.

In the throat, dryness and inability to swallow, but not from swelling or soreness. The affection is purely nervous or spasmodic.

The digestive organs present nothing characteristic.

The stool is inclined to be loose and diarrhoeic. It is characteristic that it passes involuntarily.

The secretion of urine is perhaps diminished. The bladder itself is often paralyzed, so that urine accumulates and the patient is unable to expel it or unconscious of its presence.

A number of these symptoms suggest Hyoscyamus as likely to be useful in the puerperal state.

The menses are too copious, and are preceded by labor-like pains.

The symptoms of the extremities have been noted.

The disposition is exceedingly despondent and melancholy (save in the mania). A peculiar feature is the production of a state of mind resembling jealousy. Hence Hyoscyamus acquired some reputation in illness arising from disappointments in love, etc. The physiology of this is a matter of speculation.


A few only of the applications of Hyoscyamus which, according to the law SIMILIA SIMILIBUS CURANTUR, would suggest themselves in accordance with the above symptoms, need be specified particularly.

In spasms of various kinds, involving the voluntary muscular system, Hyoscyamus has proved a most valuable remedy.

If general, the convulsion differs from that for which Belladonna is indicated in this particular, that it is neither preceded, accompanied nor followed by symptoms of cerebral congestion or of great arterial energy of action, as is the case with Belladonna convulsions. Indeed, the absence of all such signs is remarkable under Hyoscyamus. Now, of all convulsive affections that could exist without these symptoms, none are so probable as convulsions from the irritation of intestinal worms, and more particularly the convulsions that sometimes unhappily attend and complicate labor and the puerperal state. Of course some puerperal convulsions are accompanied by the cerebral congestion and arterial storm, and these may require Belladonna. But there is a large class which have them not, and of these Hyoscyamus is a conspicuous remedy.

Similar remarks might be made respecting the mania which is curable by Hyoscyamus. The especial adaptation of it to certain non-congestive or non-inflammatory forms of puerperal mania has been fully recognized and established in clinical experience.

The character of the mental affection is one which is prevalent in puerperal mania, or in mania relating to, or in any way depending on, functional or organic maladies of the sexual organs of women.

The tendency to loquacity, to quarreling, to the use of indelicate language and of immodest gestures and actions, all remind one forcibly of the graphic instances of this distressing affection described by Gooch, and which we sometimes see.

An example of this kind of mania, occurring, however, in an unmarried young woman, in sequence of some menstrual irregularity, and cured by Dr. Guernsey, of Philadelphia, is a remarkable instance of—

1. The efficacy of Hyoscyamus in mania.

2. The efficacy of a single small dose of a remedy, if well selected, in the cure of a terrible malady.

3. The value of the homeopathic law as guiding us in selecting the right drug.

A young woman, apparently well, except that she had recently had irregular menstruation, one morning refused to rise from bed and dress herself. She assigned no reason. After a few hours she insisted on rising, but would not wear a single garment of any kind.

Her parents, alarmed, sought advice. Dr. Guernsey called. The patient received him without any apparent consciousness of her singular condition, conversed intelligently, but would not admit that she needed any advice to clothe herself. She refused medicine, and cunningly evaded all stratagems to give it clandestinely.

Several days passed in this way. She escaped from her room, went through the house, and sought to escape into the street. At length, when matters were growing worse, Dr. Guernsey succeeded in getting her to take a dose of Hyoscyamus 200. In a few hours she was well, dressed, and behaved as when in good health.

The symptoms which controlled Dr. Guernsey’s choice of Hyoscyamus are the following:

(445.) He makes himself naked.

He lies in bed nude and chatters. He walks about insane, naked, wrapped in a skin during the summer heat, etc., and others to the same purport.

In convulsive affections of the pharynx, which interfere with or prevent deglutition, the symptoms would lead us to infer the usefulness of Hyoscyamus; and Hahnemann speaks confidently of its power to cure hydrophobia, the symptoms otherwise corresponding.

In affections of the eye, involving the special sense alone, Hyoscyamus may be a valuable remedy, as the symptoms show.

As regards the digestive apparatus, it will have been observed that Hyoscyamus produces a kind of diarrhoea. This is characterized by involuntary evacuations during the sleep at night, apparently from inertia of the sphincter ani. This must not be confounded with the involuntary defecation which attends the blood dyscrasia in typhus, etc. It is a paralysis of the sphincter.

Dr. Wurmb says: “Hyoscyamus is indicated in those fever cases in which torpor of the entire organism predominates. The patients have a dull, fixed expression of face, delirium is lacking, or if present, it consists of a confused farrago of complex images; the perceptive faculty is almost suspended.”

The cough of Hyoscyamus has been described. It is a very useful remedy.

For sleeplessness or dozing with the brain full of figures and bewildering images, Hyoscyamus is a very valuable remedy if other symptoms correspond.

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