Rhododendron | Materia Medica by Carrol 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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SIBERIAN SNOW-ROSE. ALPINE ROSE. This plant, which is most abundant in the Alpine regions of Siberia, but is found likewise in other mountainous and snowy regions of Asia and Europe, and perhaps (?) of North America, is not mentioned in the English and French works on materia medica. It is noticed in German works on the subject; by some of them a high value is set upon certain of its therapeutic properties.
Like most of our valuable remedies, it was successfully used by those pioneers of therapeutic science, “the old grandmothers,” in domestic practice for centuries before it attracted the attention of scientific men.
The Cossacks and Mongolians used it as a specific for rheumatism and gout. The hunters and mountain rangers used to drink an infusion of it to remove the weariness and pains from their limbs after fatiguing expeditions. These facts were brought to the notice of Gmelin during his travels in Siberia, and he was the first to recommend Rhododendron in Europe as a remedy for gout and rheumatism. The first publication on the subject was by Professor Kolpin, of Stettin, in 1779. It was used with greater or less success, and recommended accordingly by many German physicians.
Our knowledge of its physiological properties is derived chiefly from a proving published by Seidel. “Archiv,” 10, 3, 137, in 1831.
Seidel introduces his provings with a general RESUME of the action and character of Rhododendron, as follows:
Although many remedies may produce effects that are in their general aspect quite similar, nevertheless each remedy possesses certain characteristic effects which belong to it alone, and which cannot be imitated, and for which no substitute will avail. It is these peculiarities of Rhododendron which he seeks to unfold to us.
Turning vertigo. Early in the morning confusion of the head ; drawing pressing pain in the forehead and temporal region, extending into the bones; headache very markedly increased by drinking wine; itching of the scalp in the evening; dry burning of the eyes; earache; early in the morning, obstruction of the nose, especially back in the left side of the nose; drawing tearing pain in the molar teeth, which is excited by uncertain (stormy) rainy weather; pressure in the epigastrium, and dyspnoea; a kind of splenic stitch in the left hypochondrium; tardy evacuation of faeces, although the stool is normal; disposition to semi-fluid diarrhoea; itching, sweat and wrinkling up of the scrotum; soreness between the genitals and the thighs; swollen and hard testes; crushed pain and drawing in the testes; abundant offensive urine; the suppressed menses are brought on; coryza and other catarrhal difficulties; dyspnoea, rheumatic drawing pains in the muscles of the throat and nape of the neck; digging, drawing (gouty, rheumatic) pains in the extremities, especially in the bones of the forearms, hands, legs and feet; digging, drawing pains in the joints; occurrence or increase of the pains during repose; increase or re-appearance of the pains in unsettled, rough weather, and at the approach of storms; formication and itching in isolated spots on the limbs; weak, paralytic feeling in single limbs; the sleep is sound before midnight; toward morning it is disturbed; increased warmth in the hands; the disposition is indifferent, with disinclination to exertion.
It is further to be noticed, that the symptoms often intermit for indefinite periods of time, sometimes longer sometimes shorter (two to twelve days), during which nothing will be felt of them; after which they will come again, and be felt for several days. They are most likely to come back when the weather becomes raw and unsettled, and a storm is threatening.
The majority of the symptoms manifest themselves early in the morning, though some are experienced only in afternoon or evening. Seidel, therefore, recommends giving Rhododendron in the evening, before the patient goes to sleep.
The action of Rhododendron on the healthy extends over a period of three or four weeks.
To recapitulate, we find the action of Rhododendron to be eminently upon the fibrous and serous tissues. The pains in limbs and joints affect chiefly the forearm and hand and the leg and foot; they seem to have their seat in the bone or periosteum ; they attack but a small extent of the limb at once; they disappear and re-appear as it were spontaneously and capriciously, nevertheless are always worse on the approach of bad weather. They are aggravated by motion and toward morning.
Rhododendron acts also upon the testes; and clinical experience has shown it serviceable in chronic enlargements and indurations of the testes and epididymis, and in hydrocele.
The only practical application to which I shall call your attention is that in chronic rheumatism of the smaller joints and their ligaments; to chronic periostitis, and especially to that form of chronic rheumatism which simulates rheumatic gout, but is distinct from it in this respect: that, as I believe, the enlargements of the joints are produced by fibrinous deposits and not by chalky excretions.
In the affection of the great toe joint, often mistaken for bunion, but which is really rheumatic, Rhododendron is of great value. For true bunion from mechanical pressure Silicea is preferable.
The application to affections of the testes and to hydrocele is apparent.
It is analogous to and follows as regards the testes, Pulsatilla, Aurum, Spongia; as regards hydrocele, Clematis, Graphites.