It’s been a number of years since I first met the two brothers, Jordan and Samuel. They were as different as two persons could be. Samuel, age 6 at the time, was a gentle, cheerful fellow – easy to smile and easy to talk to. Jordan, 3 years his elder, was retiring and sullen. Communicating with him was challenging at best. And his thin, wiry build was contrasted with the soft, full frame of his younger brother. Reflecting the difference in their constitutional nature, each boy was brought in for quite different reasons. Samuel easily developed respiratory ailments that turned into a bronchitis or asthmatic wheezing. Jordan’s issues were only paritially physical as they had strong emotional and behavioral components.
The boy’s parents were dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle even though it meant their father had to commute quite a distance to work. The family was active socially as well as musically in their small, tight knit rural community and the boys were homeschooled. As much as possible, they were conscientious about their diets and wished to steer clear of pharmaceutical drugs or other allopathic interventions. So, homeopathy was seemingly a good fit.
Similar to their contrasting natures, the boys were polar opposites in terms of the challenge each one presented in treating them homeopathically. Right from the start, Samuel was a textbook profile of the homeopathic remedy Phosphorus.
Phosphorus patients, especially the children, often have a certain feel to them. It is a type of glow – like the phosphorescence of the mineral itself. One can often recognize a sparkle in their eyes.
For the most part, they tend to be quite outgoing, easy to make friends and natural socializers. These are the kids in the classroom that everyone wants to be friends with. Caring by nature, they have an innate sensitivity to the way others feel.
If anything, they sometimes can be overly sympathetic, really experiencing the feelings of others and finding it hard to draw clear boundaries between what others experience and what they themselves feel. This can make them prone to anxiety because they become overwhelmed by all the stimuli that they cannot filter out. It is for this reason they are sometimes called a human barometer.
On a physical level, phosphorus patients tend to have respiratory weakness. They are susceptible to colds, bronchitis and asthma. It was a major remedy to treat tuberculosis and is considered part of the tubercular miasm – that is, a remedy for persons with an inherited ‘taint’ of tuberculosis.
The phosphorus ‘diathesis’ (meaning the susceptibility to particular diseases displayed by various types of persons or remedies) also includes disturbances of the circulatory system. Analogous to their lack of emotional boundaries, phosphorus patients tend to bleed easily, developing bruises and nosebleeds seemingly for no reason.
Rounding out the picture, the classic phosphorus physique is tall and thin, with long eyelashes (another sign of the tubercular miasm) and light hair. They love salty tastes and fish, along with fruits and bubbly, cold drinks. Above all, they display a special affection for chocolate.
Although Samuel didn’t display all the above signs (no one – or almost no one – has 100% of the attributes of any particular remedy), he was an excellent fit and did quite well being treated for acute illnesses and long-term respiratory weakness with periodic doses of Phosphorus.
Things weren’t quite so simple when it came to treating Jordan. Life was very difficult for him in general, especially when interfacing with the outside world. While he was an excellent musician, athlete and chess player, Jordan was also extremely demanding on himself and never could appreciate his talents.
Although no formal diagnosis had been made due to the fact that he hadn’t been mainstreamed into conventional schooling, his difficulties with social interactions, volatile moods that could vacillate between extreme anger, lethargy, withdrawal and fearfulness clearly pointed toward an autistic spectrum or Aspergers-like disorder.
The combination of pervasive fears and violent reactivity pointed me toward a homeopathic remedy in the Solanacea or nightshade family of plants. The Solanaceaes includes a number of important homeopathic medicines such as Belladonna (Deadly Nightshade), Hyoscamus (Henbane), Tabacum (Tobacco), Capsicum (Cayenne) and Stramonium (Thornapple), amongst others.
Each of these has its own specific indications, but what they have in common is a sense of suddenness and violence. It could be in terms of acute illnesses like spiking a high fever or other aggressive pathologies, or in the mental emotional plain where the world is perceived as a dangerous place that demands high vigilance and fierce reactivity to protect oneself.
Jordan’s specific combination of fears of the dark, of dogs and of being alone, pointed me toward a prescription of Stramonium. It was over a number of years a tremendously helpful remedy. Although still subject cycling behaviors and moods, the valleys were not as deep and extreme. Numerous acute situations were rectified by a dose of the remedy.
It is important to note that the action of the remedy probably would have been even more profound – and Jordan’s life would have been a much easier one – had he cooperated in following specific dietary restrictions. Like many – probably most – people with this type of disorder, he was quite sensitive to a number of foods, especially glutinous grains. They acted like neurotoxins in his system.
When it was possible to keep him away from them, he was much calmer and outgoing. But even at his age, the ferocity with which he opposed such restrictions, not only indicated how addicted he was to the opium-like reactions they caused in his nervous system, but also made it all but impossible to eliminate these foods from his diet.
Over those first 4 to 5 years, there was relative stability in the treatment of both boys. Samuel, who was now for the most part quite well, would be brought in now and again for an acute respiratory ailments. Jordan was seen on a more consistent basis to manage his emotional and behavioral challenges.
But, as is sometimes the case in homeopathy, this status quo began to dissolve, first with one brother and then the other. It began with Samuel, who, at around the age of ten, began to put on weight. He also began to complain of being tired and his mother described how this once amiable child was becoming stubborn and testy.
Of course, it could simply be written off as the onset of adolescence but there seemed to be more to it than that. Samuel became more timid, developing into something of a homebody who wished to avoid social engagement and attention. He no longer would answer the telephone, let alone perform solo on stage as he had done for years. His sleep became disturbed and he craved carbohydrates, which added to both his lethargy and his weight.
From a homeopathic perspective, Samuel’s ‘picture’ or constitution was changing. There were no longer significant respiratory issues, but they had been replaced by other problems. Prescribing his former remedy was no longer of any benefit; a new prescription was necessary to match his evolving presentation.
Initially, I decided on the remedy Calcarea carbonica, a mineral salt derived from a layer of the shell of an oyster. A very commonly prescribed remedy, it is often used for timid children who are averse to any attention and who have a tendency to be lethargic and put on weight. Unfortunately, after some months, there was little indication that the remedy had any positive action.
In the meantime, about a year after his brother started shifting, Jordan developed an extraordinarily debilitating fatigue, quite beyond the normal lethargy to which he was prone. The slightest exertion made him short of breath. To compound the problem, his energy would return at night and he couldn’t get to sleep. This would add to the exhaustion the next morning.
In contrast to his brother, Jordan’s difficulties seemed less a gradual change than an acute onset of illness. Initial suspects were mononucleosis or low thyroid function, but in the end it turned out to be Lyme’s disease. He choose to begin antibiotic treatment, which seemed to increase his appetite but left him feeling, as he put it, ‘quite horrible.’
Around this same time, Samuel developed the unusual symptom of one eyebrow beginning to turn white. It was yet another indication that his constitutional picture was changing as well as a clue toward what that next remedy might be.
The concept of a ‘constitution’, which goes back to Hippocrates and the Greeks, is generally understood as an underlying state characterized by the individual physical and mental make-up of an individual. While there is a degree of difference in the way that various practitioners interpret it, for the most part, homeopaths take it to be something a person is born with and, as such, does not change easily – or at all.
But, in clinical practice, we do see individuals who are apparently of a particular ‘constitutional type’ and have done well on a corresponding remedy then needing to change remedies as their picture changes.
This fact can be interpreted in a number of ways. One interpretation is that first diagnosis was either superficial or only partially accurate, and a deeper more precise constitutional picture was present from the outset. Another perspective is that people do in fact change, that the ‘constitution’ is not an immutable character of an individual but is a snap shot at any given time of the aggregate of their physical and mental signs and symptoms.
A third notion is that while the constitution may not readily change, it is sometimes the case that deep inherited tendencies or weaknesses that have remained latent in an individual will manifest in the course homeopathic treatment. This inherited disposition, known homeopathically as a ‘miasm’, can rise to the surface via signs and symptoms as more superficial imbalances and disease are addressed.
In homeopathy, a ‘second prescription’ means a subsequent remedy prescribed after the initial one acted in a positive manner. It is not always the case that a second prescription is called for, but when the first remedy no longer provides adequate benefit, one is obliged to move on.
This can occur for a number of reasons including an acute illness as in the case of Jordan or a shift in constitution as in the case of Samuel. Either way, the strategy is to re-evaluate the patient, taking into account both newly arisen signs and symptoms as well as those original signs and symptoms that are still present. (In homeopathy, a ‘sign’ is a characteristic of an individual that is not pathological. This could be, for instance, a craving or aversion for a particular type of food or a preference to sleep on one side or the other.) Together, they form a new picture that, hopefully, indicates a new remedy.
After the first attempt at prescribing another remedy for Samuel proved unsuccessful, I was forced to re-evaluate his case yet again. What stood out were a general lethargy, a newly acquired shyness and the development of this peculiar symptom of the eyebrow hair turning white. Although it wasn’t as obvious, it turned out that the loss of color extended to areas of the forehead as well, indicating a depigmentation condition known as ‘vitiligo’.
Taken together along with his longstanding fear of snakes and strong aversion to onions, there was a clear picture of the remedy Thuja. Thuja is made from the fresh green twigs of the coniferous tree Arbor Vitae (meaning ‘Tree of Life’). It is, in homeopathic parlance, a ‘sycotic remedy’, (not ‘psychotic’!), meaning that it has a therapeutic relationship with one of the three most fundamental inherited dispositions or ‘miasms’.
In the six months since Samuel began treatment with this remedy, there has been a distinct improvement in his energy and a decrease in timidity. As his mother put it, “He has come out of himself.” The vitiligo is no longer spreading, though has not yet diminished.
The challenge in treating Jordan, as well as most Lyme’s patients, is the plethora of symptoms that usually accompany this condition. Although a discussion of the homeopathic treatment of Lyme’s is a lengthy topic unto itself, the gist of selecting an effective remedy lies in finding the truly characteristic symptoms. That is, it is essential to differentiate those symptoms common to the disease from those that are not. It is this latter group, the uncommon or characteristic symptoms, by which one can recognize the individual or constitutional nature of the patient and thus find a deep acting remedy.
One of the symptoms that stood out as most peculiar was the fact that Jordan’s fatigue and discomfort would always disappear just as the sun was setting. Combined with his difficulty falling asleep, fear of the dark (which was an old symptom of his still present even as a teenager) and a tendency to reproach himself for the slightest fault, the picture that emerged was of the remedy Medorrhinum.
This medicine is what is called a 'nosode'. That is, it is a dilution that originates from diseased tissue. There are many such remedies in the homeopathic material medica that are derived from substances such a tubercular bacteria, cancer cells, syphilitic chancres or tissues infected with anthrax bacillus. They play an important role in homeopathy, often essential to treat deep-seated genetic or inherited imbalances.
Over the last year or so, the action of the Medorrhinum for Jordan has been nothing short of astounding. Not only have the Lyme’s symptoms all but totally disappeared, the angry, introverted and fearful adolescent that I had known for years, the one who found it nearly impossible to attend school or interact with the external world has blossomed into relatively well adjusted young man. He goes to school full time for the first time in his life, has gotten his drivers license and is a front line pitcher on the high school baseball team.
As for the remedy, Medorrhinum too is a sycotic medicine. In fact, it is derived from gonorrhea discharge. The sycotic miasm is an inherited disposition related to the venereal disease gonorrhea. From a homeopathic perspective, both Thuja and Medorrhinum are coupled together – a yin/yang pair, if you will - as the most important remedies to treat this genetic disposition.
There are many physical signs and symptoms related to this miasm, some of which Samuel and Jordan exhibited, but what may be of greater interest is the mental picture. A ‘sycotic’ persona has a deep sense that they are irreparably flawed, that they possess an internal weakness that cannot be resolved.
From this underlying disposition derive various behavior patterns such as introversion and timidity, dogmatic thinking and fanaticism or, conversely, extravagantly extroverted. All of these behavior patterns are mechanisms to hide and compensate for their inner sense of being flawed.
It is only through homeopathy that inherited traits can be understood and treated, and it is also on this deep level that one can understand how these two boys, so apparently different in physical constitution as well as personality, are indeed brothers.