A case for Club Moss

One of the many astonishing, delightful and almost incredible things about homeopathy, writes John Hughes-Games, is the fact that unlikely and sometimes completely inert substances, when prepared homeopathically, are transformed into powerful and deep acting medicines

I have an historic oak medicine chest, which belonged to relative, a Dr Clover who was a pioneer anaesthetist who devised the apparatus, which was used to give chloroform to Queen Victoria during the birth of some of her children. Inside the cabinet are rows of beautifully made glass bottles with ground glass tops and in one of them are four or five hand-rolled pills with traces of a powder. The powder almost certainly consists of the spores of Lycopodium (club moss) that was used to dust pills to stop them from sticking together.

Lycopodium is an excellent example of an unreactive substance within which are extraordinary healing properties. Although normally inert, if a powder of Lycopodium is thrown into a naked flame it explodes. The Lycopodium patient, although normally retiring and outwardly calm, is capable of sudden bursts of violent temper when things become “just too much” for him.

Reading the homeopathic textbooks, there seems to be an implication that it is almost always possible to “fit” your patient into a “constitutional” type. Unfortunately this is not true and very often one has to give the preparation which most nearly meets the case. Fortunately, this will often help a great deal but it is necessary to reassess the patient after a few weeks when quite a different medicine may now become indicated. I would like to tell you briefly about someone whom I saw at the homeopathic clinic at Sidmouth.

The patient
Mr S, a 60 year-old male (he looks considerably younger), consulted me because of headaches which started three years ago for no particular reason; there was no change in his life and he had no illnesses or stresses. He describes the headache as bursting. They would occur whenever he bent down and might last for a minute or two. They were worse if he coughed or sneezed and straining would increase the pain. Cigarette smoke, which he detested as it made him feel sick, seemed to make the pain worse. The headaches were bilateral and all the investigations were negative (including an MRI scan).

He sleeps poorly and often wakes at about four o’clock in the morning when his brain is very active. Sometimes he will drop into an uneasy sleep just before its time to get up. He is a very self-disciplined person and always makes himself get up at 7.30am. Occasionally in the night he gets very hot and he likes to throw off the bedclothes and uncover himself.

On examination
The patient is well dressed and a very good historian; he communicates well and seems quite at ease during the interview. He is articulate and co-operative.

Past history
He has always been a very healthy person but for the last few years he has suffered from time to time from attacks of labrynthitis, sometimes associated with vomiting, which were diagnosed as being due to inner ear viral infections. He had a slightly raised cholesterol (but normal blood pressure) that has responded successfully to diet. He does not suffer from indigestion.

Family history
His mother is still alive at 78 but little is known of her parents. Nothing is known of his natural father. He has a sister who is alive and well and two children, a son and a daughter, both alive and well plus two healthy grandchildren. There are no severe or recurrent illnesses in the family.

Food
He has a moderately sweet tooth and quite enjoys well-salted dishes. He prefers his food hot rather than cold.

Weather and temperature reactions
Although he quite likes the heat, he is a warm person and is much better for cool weather. He likes being by the sea but hates to be on it as he is always seasick.

Social history
He had a very stressful and unhappy childhood. His natural father and mother were divorced when he was two years old and he had a bad time with his stepfather. He had a younger stepbrother who was always favoured and spoilt, whereas our patient was treated with severity and almost dislike. His stepfather died when Mr S was about 11 years old but our patient has never got on well with his mother even after his stepfather’s death. He disliked school intensely and didn’t do very well. He left home as soon as he could at 17 or 18 and enlisted with the RAF.

Mentally
Although he denies being a worrier, in fact I think deep down there is a very real element of worry and insecurity. He is good at planning and he anticipates events. Although much involved in committees etc, he really prefers small numbers of people and is very happy with his own company. He says he is intolerant of stupidity although he very rarely loses his temper, however when he does he may blow up. He is tidy and neat and a very good planner. He quite likes speaking in public so long as he has the subject well prepared – which he always has!

(I am always interested in patients who say that they have no apprehension at all before speaking in public and that they enjoy it; it often transpires on questioning that initially they were terrified but by sheer determination, or demands made on them, overcame their fears and now rather delight in doing what used to frighten them!)

Leisure
So far as his hobbies are concerned he is good at a number of ball games – all of which he has taught himself by determination rather than by a natural aptitude. He likes travel and is computer literate. He is not an animal lover. Collecting is not among his hobbies.

Treatment
Although, far from having in any way a “closed personality”, I decided to give him Nat mur as I thought that the early traumas in his life might well have had an important part in the aetiology of his headaches. I also gave him Belladonna 6c to take at the first twinge of pain in the hope of aborting the attacks.

A month later
There was no improvement so I reconsidered the history.

Mr S told me that he had had occasional difficulties on the telephone when he would find it very difficult to choose the right words. He said moreover that when he was at school, which he hated, he became very easily confused by numbers and words particularly in stressful conditions; quite often he became inarticulate because of this confusion. His teachers interpreted this as stupidity. After he left home and joined the RAF he found difficulty in finding the right words when he was under pressure or stress; for instance, if addressing a senior officer. This anxiety-motivated confusion suggested Lycopodium to me. I gave him three powders of Lycopodium 30c.

I saw him a month later when there had been a slight improvement in the headaches just after taking the medication, but it only lasted a few days.

On 7 June last year, I gave him three powders of Lycopodium 1M, since when he has had no headaches even though he continues to play a number of different sports involving some bending and stooping. He feels very well.

Discussion
There is a type of Lycopodium personality who forced by pressures or stresses or even by expectations of other people, learns sometimes at an early age, to surmount and cope with the sensitivities, fears and apprehensions, which are so typical of this remedy. Such people however, although able to overcome them, retain the Lycopodium anxieties and misgivings, particularly about things like public speaking and responsibilities, all their lives. These people, toughened by experiences, show great determination and often achieve eminence in many walks of life, including the arts, medicine and the forces. They are almost always basically gentle, retiring, sensitive patients who are thrust into public life by their considerable achievements and abilities.

I think that Mr S is an example of somebody who, because of the severe stresses put upon him in early childhood, was forced to overcome his natural apprehensions and fears to a very large degree and who has coped with them and almost completely subdued them. In fact he turns them to good account in that he is very sensitive to other people, good at conducting meetings and so on.

Our patient had none of the Lycopodium features, which are usually so evident. His brow was unfurrowed, he is athletic and forthcoming and is involved a number of societies and at meetings he is a good chairman (I think that the overcoming of his natural fears and anxieties makes him more inclined to undertake things than he would otherwise have done). He is not a collector (the Lycopodium personality often finds some degree of reassurance in surrounding himself with attractive, beautiful and valuable objects and Lycopodium patients are often connoisseurs of these things). He certainly isn’t in any way miserly. He doesn’t have any of the unpleasant attributes that according to some authorities are a tendency to whistle tunelessly between the teeth and to dribble a great deal in their sleep!

Lycopodium suggested itself very strongly in his mental confusion in times of stress, in his four o’clock aggravation, particularly at night when he would wake up and worry, in his becoming over-heated at night and wanting to uncover himself and in his preference for warm food. The headaches were worse for bending or stooping.

Of these things, of course, the mentals are the most important and this rather peculiar mental of confusion over words and figures, which I have found more than once in Lycopodium patients, is particularly significant. It is also most interesting that he hardly responded at all to the 30c of Lycopodium but 1M completely cured him. The Nat mur, often so useful for mitigating, lessening or undoing the ill effects of past mental trauma, may have prepared the way for the Lycopodium.

There are, I think, two interesting observations here; one is that the mentals are, as we all know, by far the most important in selecting a remedy and if one has a strong or peculiar mental, it carries a great deal of weight in deciding the prescription. The second is that potency can be extremely important.

Mr S is now thoroughly well and enjoying life without the headaches. As you might imagine, he is now a keen PR man for the homeopathic method.

A Fellow of the Faculty of Homeopathy and a past president, John Hughes-Games FFHom MBChB, was taught homeopathy by Margery Blackie and used it in general practice for nearly 30 years. He now lectures and examines for the Faculty as well as working privately in Bristol.