Creating Waves of Awareness
Conium maculatum (poison hemlock) is an old remedy and gained prominence with Plato’s graphic description of its effect causing the death of Socrates. The manner of Socrates’ death by hemlock became a matter of special interest to homeopaths, as it provided a well documented and analytical study of the action of the poison on the healthy human body of a legendary figure. Socrates a renowned Greek philosopher (469- 399 BC) born in Athens, was condemned to death by drinking the poison hemlock. He has been immortalized through the enunciation of his doctrines, mainly contained in the dialogues of Plato, his close disciple and in the memorabilia of Xenophen. Plato’s third work “Phaedo” is a portrayal of Socrates last hours and death.
Plato narrates that on the day of Socrates execution in the spring of 399 BC, his close friends and well-wishers gathered in the jail. Socrates began talking to them as was his wont, about the philosophy of death and the relationship between soul and body. At the appointed hour of execution, the jailer appeared with a cup of expressed juice of poisonous hemlock. Socrates requested the jailer to advise him as to how should he conduct himself after taking the poison. The jailer explained that he had only to walk about until his legs were heavy and then to lie down and the poison would act gradually to put him to death without any pain or agony. The jailer then handed over the cup of hemlock to Socrates, his last drink, who drank it with alacrity showing no hesitation or fear of death and continued his discourse. His friends stood around him in awe while many of them were moved to tears. As advised, Socrates continued to walk until his legs began to fail and tremble. He then lay on his back. The man who administered the poison looked at his feet every now and then and after a while he pressed his foot hard and asked if he could feel the pressure. When Socrates answered, “No”, the jailer then told him that when the affect of the poison reaches his heart and lungs that would be the end.
Socrates was beginning to grow cold and numb hut still feeling mentally alert. “In what way are we to bury you” asked his persecutor “As you please, as my soul won’t stay behind, you can neither bury nor catch it” replied Socrates. By this time he realized that his end was very near, as he lay with his eyes closed. Suddenly he opened his eyes and spoke his last words to Crito his close friend, “Crito, I owe a cock to Asciepius, will you remember to pay the debt on my behalf?” ‘The debt shall be paid” replied Crito. “Is there any thing else?” There was no answer to that question from Crito. Socrates was no more. The deadly paralysis ascending upwards finally overcame his heart and brain and with a convulsive flicker, life went out of Socrates.
The manner of death of Socrates under the influence of Conium provides a glimpse of its specific action. Socrates’ mind and brain remained clear until the end and he went on talking and replying while simultaneously experiencing paralysis ascending upwards. There is an amazing book: “The Trial of Socrates” by I.F. Stone, which provides a deeper and perspective understanding of the happening. However this well-documented historical episode has been pertinently noted by our old masters including J.H. Clarke, E.B. Nash, William Boericke, M.L. Tyler and many others. They have all made a particular mention of the death of Socrates by hemlock, in their respective writings on Conium.
Homeopathic proving of Conium was done by Hahnemann. He published two provings. The first one is briefly given in “Materia Medica Pura” and the second in “Chronic Diseases”. On comprehensive study of Conium, the inevitable trait found in it is: ‘gradual’. Everything develops gradually in Conium. Weakness turns gradually into paralysis or indurations. Everything moves slowly in Conium, it is a slow acting medicine. The cancer of Conium also develops slowly and it often, therefore escapes diagnosis. It is for this reason that we rarely find Conium indication in children, because there is not enough time to develop Conium-pathology in them. Mental and emotional problems occur early in Conium while physically they remain unaffected for a long time. However when the mental morbidity crosses over to the physical plane, it often leads to cancerous tumors. A kind of induration on the mental plane takes the form of tumor in the mind which is known by ‘fixed ideas. Such people become rigid in their approach. Superstition is said to be a kind of tumor of the mind. Conium and Zinc are the two remedies found in rubric, ‘Superstition’ (Conium in a higher grade) in Kent’s repertory page-85. A Conium patient may suddenly form an idea that sex is a sin and deliberately suppresses the desire. It is a fixed idea grafted in the mind like a tumor it’s shifting to the physical plane often causes malignancy. This type of etiology is still unknown to the present day practitioners of ‘modern medicine’. Allopaths the world over are therefore, baffled as to why many nuns develop uterine cancer.
Most of the symptoms of Conium, one often comes across in old age. Complaints like difficult and trembling gait, loss of strength while walking, general debility, giddiness, hypochondriasis, hypertrophy or induration of prostate and other glands, cancerous diathesis. Mentals generally include aversion to society, loss of interest in business, unable to sustain mental efforts, weakened memory, depression etc.
Incidentally, I happen to be living in a region which has the large percentage of elderly persons. My town Mohali is almost an extension of Chandigarh which has earlier been famous for green hedges and grey beards and was known as the retired man’s paradise. It is but natural therefore for me to come in contact with elderly persons more frequently as they constitute a majority among my patients. Believe me; Conium has almost never failed me to relieve the aged of myriad sufferings befitting the Conium characteristics. This takes me to an interesting case of a retired army officer that I resolved primarily with Conium. He has been coming to me for a variety of his problems since many years. Once after a long gap he appeared suddenly out of the blue, a tall stiff and tense figure, almost like somebody having broken open a coffin, rising from a grave, there he stood, motionless and speechless, in front of me. He wore a collar around, his neck, looking very sick and gloomy. I offered a seat and asked him to sit down and tell me his problem. He said grimly that he had a severe attack of cervical spondylosis. He was admitted in a military hospital. His X-Ray showed narrowing of disc spaces between C4 and C5 and bilateral rudimentary bony cervical ribs were also visible. He was put on traction in the hospital for a few days and discharged with the instruction to put on the collar around his neck and to take the prescribed medicines. He admitted that he could pull along, only as long as he took pain killers and other prescribed medicines, otherwise on stopping those medicines, he was not able to move, or to get up from the bed: Even walking to the toilet made him feel giddy, as if his room was moving around him or the floor tilting. He had to take somebody’s support to prevent a fall. He did not find comfort even in bed. Seeing a running fan made him dizzy. So much so that seeing sideways or even turning over in bed; he confronted the same feeling of giddiness. I reassured him and told him that he would be all right soon. I further asked him whether he had anything else to report about his condition. He replied that he was not bothered about any other complaints that he felt pathetic with the problem he already mentioned. However on second thoughts he revealed about his growing intolerance to any type of noise around him. On further questioning he told that he had always enjoyed his drink but lately even one peg of whiskey had the effect of three pegs, though he took it as a blessing in disguise as his drinking had reduced considerably.
I picked up the following prominent repertorising rubrics from his afore-mentioned condition.
Vertigo : Looking either way right or Left. Turning in bed on.
Mind: Sensitive noise to.
Generalities: Alcoholic Stimulants.
Considering above rubrics along with a few more concomitants Conium came out to be the remedy. I prescribed Conium-30 to be taken four times a day. He was also instructed to take certain precautions, such as to keep on wearing the cervical collar during the day and to restrict his neck movement. His sleeping posture was equally important, he was told, especially that the pillow thickness should be so adjusted as to cause no strain on the neck while lying down on bed. He came to me after a week and reported feeling almost normal except that he could not take liberty with his neck movements nor could he do without the precautions advised. Any negligence in this direction made him painfully aware of his complaint. At times he strongly felt a tearing pain in right shoulder extending far away into fingers, sometimes there was burning in palms and soles. But on the whole he found that his condition was much better than before. However it took another month to restore free cervical movements and ameliorate his wandering pains. This was made possible by: giving him Lachnanthes, another remedy that suited his subsequent condition. He was also administered suitable miasmatic remedies in between. The case was followed up in the ensuing months, No recurrence of symptoms was found.
Practicing medicine is indeed an art and everybody gathers one’s own experiences. I, for one, have had my own. As I said earlier, senior citizens have been frequent visitors to my clinic, most of them retired government servants, well educated and fairly enlightened about health and medicine. I had occasions when somebody came feeling worried about his trembling gait with twitching and jerking and said, “Doctor, am I suffering from Parkinson’s disease, can I he cured with homeopathic treatment ?“ Another person comes and says, “Doctor, I don’t know whether I have an enlarged prostate, because during micturition I have sluggish and intermittent flow. I feel my bladder does not get emptied. It seems I lack expulsive power.” Cases like these have been galore and where-ever I found Conium the indicated remedy, the results have almost always been highly satisfying.
Ironically, Conium once recognized as the death causing agent was quixotically converted into a health restoring remedy, by the founder of homeopathy. Somebody rightly said, “There is a soul of goodness in things evil, would men discerningly distil it out,” It was left to Hahnemann to discern, distil and discover Conium’s immense healing potential!
Source images: wikipedia