Beth was an 11-year-old girl whose mother brought her in for a consultation mostly to address behavioral and emotional issues. Over the years she had a number of neuropsych evaluations that led to an alphabet soup of diagnoses - ADHD, ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), AS (Asperger Syndrome) and my personal favorite PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified).
Perhaps all or none of these made sense, but it was clear in talking with this bright-eyed blond girl that in some subtle way there was something atypical about her. As her mother put it, 'her mind works differently than other children her age'. Beth's eye contact was excellent - almost too direct, so that it came across as a mild blankness verging of a stare. She also communicated well - again almost too directly, straight forwardly describing, for instance, how she hits her sister when angry (in contrast to most children her age who might deny or prevaricate).
Beth excelled academically, but had difficulty with social situations because the social cues which others her age understood were largely incomprehensible to her. This lead to a fair amount of anxiety, manifesting as dizziness and 'weird sensations' in her stomach that were largely provoked when in company.
Another characteristic of her personality was a tendency to take things quite literally. Her thinking was rigid; everything was black or white, right or wrong. This led to a great deal of frustration on her part - mostly expressed as anger - when any shades of grey were introduced into her world. Common provocations would be unexpected changes in her life or instructions from a teacher or parent that were not sufficiently clear. Authority in general was hard for her to tolerate.
Although an official diagnosis or label was not important to treat her homeopathically, my impression was that Asperger Syndrome did in fact fit her fairly accurately. The term has been discontinued as an official diagnosis in favor of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), its criteria being significant difficulties with social interaction and nonverbal communication.
Regardless, what stood out in Beth's case as characteristic beyond the more typical Asperger symptoms was the power of her anger. It was, as her mother put it, her 'go to' emotion and she was prone to hit and shout. She possessed no filter, so anyone who got in her way would feel her wrath.' Everyone is an obstruction in her path'.
Beth had nightmares of fighting, of punching and kicking, but always winning her fight. When asked to describe her anger, she replied that she felt like being on fire. 'My face is bright red with steam coming out of my ears... Red, fire, lava, blazing heat.' Even the picture she drew while in the office reflected that same energy. To the far right was a tree with red fruit, but the rest of the space was taken up by waves of strong reds, purples, pinks, orange and blue.
Mount Hekla is the most active volcano in Iceland, rising up nearly 5000 feet along its southern shore. Once called the "Gateway to Hell", it has erupted some 20 times in the last 1300 years, 4 times in the 20th century alone. Rock fragments, known as 'tephra', that are emitted during eruptions vary in size from less than a tenth of an inch to over 2.5 inches and contains silica, alumina, lime and magnesium along with high amounts of fluorine that adheres to its surface.
The smaller the size of the tephra particle, the further it was dispersed during the eruption and it was found that this finer ash had profoundly pathological effects on livestock. It is the fluorine in particular that causes the poisoning with the fine ash containing enough to kill sheep in a few days.
In 1869, a well-known British homeopathic physician James John Garth Wilkinson noticed during a trip to Iceland that the sheep had enormous exostoses (what we often call 'bone spurs' or bone tissue growing on bone). In addition the milk of both sheep and cows had dried up. He also observed that the further away from the volcano the more damaging the effect was, showing that the finer ash was in fact more toxic.
Based on these observations and the homeopathic law of similars, Wilkinson introduced this fine ash into the homeopathic materia medica and found great success in treating exotoses, tumors and other forms of swelling of the jaw as well as toothache, gum abscess and teething difficulties. Other homeopaths have expanded its application to growths and tumors, cancerous or otherwise, originating from any bone tissue.
Additionally, a profile of the emotional nature of this remedy - or, more accurately, of people needing this remedy - emerged. The chief characteristic of Hekla Lava is a powerful anger that erupts often out of the blue, "spewing out verbiage and language that is not only shocking but uncalled for."1 "Volcanoes usually look gentle, but once they start erupting, they behave very violently, blasting and blazing, the hot lava destroying and hurting everything around."2
Beth's temperament and the imagery from the consultation immediately pointed to this remedy and she has responded well to it. At her first follow-up appointment a month later, she said her dizzy feeling and anxiety had subsided, was getting along better with her sister, and that in general "I'm just not as mad as I was". Her mother corroborated this with her own observations that Beth had become much more cooperative and that her daughters were getting on much better.
Further improvements in her temperament were noted at her second follow-up after another month. After three months the remedy was prescribed again as there had been some backsliding, but over all she was still much improved and there was no return of the anxiety or dizziness.
Over time, still further improvement can be expected.
1. Tarasuk & Sarkar, 'Monsoon Medicine', 2014
2. Aleem, The Rhythm of Volcano, Homeopathic Links Jan, 1994.