Strychnos nux vomica
Note: This post mentions indications for several remedies. Nothing in this post is to be construed as health advice. Please consider working with a certified professional homeopathic practitioner to address health concerns.
One of the most vital aspects of prescribing a Homeopathic remedy is determining the etiology of a symptom or set of symptoms. Etiology is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, simply, the “cause” or “origin.”
In many forms of medicine, this aspect of a disease is overlooked, or its importance in minimized. However, a homeopathic practitioner recognizes that the cause or origin of a health problem must be addressed; the energetic imprint of the trauma, however minor it may seem, acts as a blockage and it must be resolved so that the body can move back into balance.
Possible etiologies for a case are numerous… in our homeopathic literature, rubrics for “Ailments from _____” or “Ailments after _____” number in the hundreds. Any event, emotion, injury, or really anything affecting someone might add what we refer to as a “layer” of pathology onto a person, and this layer must be removed in order to get back to the prior level of health. Even if the etiology appears to be something minor, it all depends on how it affects someone.
To understand the importance of etiologies, let’s take the example of a headache. Obviously treatment in any health modality will differ if someone comes in with a headache due to sun exposure, or a head injury, or altitude sickness. However, how would that treatment differ if someone complained of a headache ever since losing their savings? Or a headache since a severe fright? Or a fight with their partner? Or a strong wind? (Don’t laugh please, I once had to take Aconite for a headache from being on a very windy beach!).
All of these etiologies are homeopathic indications. Sometimes, other symptoms can be considered less important when the etiology is obviously the distinct cause of the client’s ailments. No matter what the symptoms, Ignatia for example is widely considered the #1 remedy for deep, unresolving grief. Arnica is usually the first choice for many injuries, particularly with bruising or extravasation. If someone hasn’t been well since a period of excessive joy (which believe it or not does happen), the first remedy to look at is Coffea. If someone is exhausted from taking care of an ailing loved one, Cocculus is definitely the first remedy I think of. Someone who has never felt well since surgery to the trunk of the body often needs Bellis Perennis.
When a homeopath takes a case, we look at existing and past symptoms, and compile them like puzzle pieces into a picture. Etiology is sometimes an overlooked, but always a vital aspect of that picture.
I personally experienced how important etiology can be a determining a quick and accurate remedy recommendation.
I specifically used the example of headaches above for a reason. One afternoon recently, out of the blue, I started having a headache. It continued to get worse and worse into the evening. By that point, it was incapacitating. I didn’t have any characteristic symptoms (such as the location of pain, the nature of the pain, anything that made it better or worse, etc); it was just a crushing headache, nothing but pain. The only things I had to go on was that I lacked an appetite, and that I believed I hadn’t drank enough liquids that day.
By dinner time, I couldn’t bear to eat. I wasn’t hungry but felt I should ingest something. I also wanted to get some liquid and electrolytes in my system, so I made my go-to shake – green banana, avocado, coconut milk, greens, and chocolate protein powder.
This was a big mistake.
Within a few minutes, bloating set in, and then intense nausea, and then an increasing urge for a bowel movement. At the risk of supplying too much information here, I will say I then spent about 45 minutes in the bathroom. While I didn’t vomit, I will only say that I left the bathroom a lot lighter than I was when I walked in. The need for the bowel movement was gone, but I was still very nauseous and still had a raging headache.
I went straight up to bed, assuming that I might be awake all night feeling absolutely terrible. Just before laying down, I grabbed a small trash can (in case I had to throw up), and one of my general acute-illness homeopathy kits.
I felt completely chilled to the bone, and slid into bed fully clothed under extra covers. Feeling as I was, I did not have the time or capacity to do my usual analysis and research to find the perfect remedy. I could barely even think. My symptoms were so uncomfortable, yet nothing stood out as characteristic from a homeopathic perspective.
So I relied on Etiology to find a proper remedy. When I thought back to why the headache originally started, the best I could think of was that I was dehydrated. A major remedy for dehydration (or “loss of fluids” in the literature) was China Officionalis. The remedy picture of China includes symptoms that I was experiencing – headache, debility, weakness, and bloating with no relief. I knew I was also craving sweets because I was so strongly looking forward to dissolving the little sugar pills under my tongue.
I took a dose of China 30c, and immediately felt a shift in my state. It wasn’t a complete relief, per se, but there was a certain shift. While my headache was still crippling, my locus of discomfort shifted even more strongly to the distressing feeling in my stomach. I had the sense that the smoothie I had was just sitting there and was almost some kind of poison in my stomach. I again deeply regretted drinking it. (Note: Looking back on this sequence of events, perhaps China had addressed the original dehydration and headache, opening up my system to now address the second issue. This is in contrast to optimally treating symptomatology, in which we treat the newest set of symptoms first, and then “peel the onion” so to speak to remove deeper and deeper layers of dysfunction.)
But then I had an insight… that this feeling was the revelation I needed for my case. The etiology I needed to attend to then was the digestive “overindulgence” that was so characteristic of my symptoms at that point. The main remedy for overindulgence is Nux Vomica. The remedy also matched my basic symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, chills, headache… but the important part of this is the etiology of too much of a rich food.
I took a Nux Vomica 30c, and almost immediately fell fast asleep. I have no memory of the pellet dissolving in my mouth. This was a pleasant turn of events… much better alternative than laying awake half the night feeling terrible! In truth, though, sleep is the great healer; when an individual treated with a remedy for an acute issue lapses into a restful sleep, it is a very optimistic sign for a successful treatment.
I woke up about four hours later, the nausea completely gone, and the crushing headache about 80% resolved. After sleeping the rest of the night away, I woke up as normal, with just a faint ghost of a headache. Within an hour or two, it was as if nothing had happened the day before.
This is what a swift recovery from an illness looks like, thanks again to homeopathy.
Were it not for my focus on the etiologies of dehydration and overindulgence in rich foods when my system couldn’t handle it, I would have had a more difficult time finding good remedies for this situation. None of my symptoms were characteristic, meaning they didn’t have specific signs that would point me to one remedy or another. As I mentioned above, perhaps I could have given myself Nux Vomica first and China second, as we usually “peel the onion” of pathology from the latest layer to the earliest layer, but given my condition at the time and the end result, I did quite well.
In this case, and many others, the focus on etiology as a large part of the basis for a remedy recommendation solved the case rapidly and completely