Dr Raymond Sevar describes a case that illustrates the wider medicinal use of Arnica, as well as giving a fascinating insight into homeopathic prescribing.
The Compositae plant family is well known to horticulturists but probably less familiar to those who are not keen gardeners. It is the family to which the daisy and its many relations belong, including Arnica montana, more commonly known as the Alpine daisy. For many, Arnica is the first homeopathic medicine they encounter as it is widely used to treat bruising injuries caused by a fall, a broken bone or after having a tooth extracted.
Seeing the healing benefits of using Arnica for bruising injuries often leads people taking a much greater interest in homeopathy. Yet there is much more to Arnica and all the other homeopathic medicines derived from plants belonging to the Compositae family.
Since ancient times the plants from the Compositae family have been known as vulnerary plants – useful for the healing of wounds – but it is not only wounds to the physical body, as wounds to the “emotional heart” can also be healed by the gentle action of the daisies. Vulnerable means that which can be easily wounded or harmed. This sensation of being wounded is central to what homeopaths call a Compositae state. It is their heart, their wounded emotional heart which cries out to be healed and is the nucleus, the core of their illness. This can manifest itself physically in many different illnesses but always the central sensation is of being wounded.
An inner dilemma
The language used by each of us when we are ill or under much stress can give a clear insight into our inner state. Sensations are the most highly ranked symptoms in homeopathy as they reflect an inner state, an inner dilemma that cannot be solved. If a person is oversensitive to being wounded then life will wound them over and over again. Even innocent remarks amid the ordinary hurly burly of life will wound them and keep on wounding them. Eventually resilience is eroded and illness can ensue. Physical injury is hard and slow to recover from and can lead to patients using the “never well since” statement in relation to such injuries.
Words commonly used by patients in a Compositae state:
- I feel as if I have been beaten, beaten black and blue.
- I feel as if life has kicked me in the stomach, or the bum, or the guts.
- I feel as if I have been hammered to a bleeding pulp.
- I feel my heart has been torn in two or torn to shreds.
- My husband doesn’t just explain things; he hammers me into the ground.
To compensate for the inner sensation of vulnerability many will adopt a strong external persona or try to develop their physical body to increase resilience, stamina and strength – by running, weight training, martial arts – yet the inner sensation and vulnerability remain. Others may compensate by becoming bodyguards or surgeons or lawyers or counsellors to protect others from harm or to help heal others.
Common physical sensations are:
- Pains which feel bruised, sore, torn, cutting, tearing, ripped
- The bed feels too hard or feels lumpy
- Moving the sore part and lying on the sore part can make it worse
The following case study concerns a woman whose life of suffering from severe migraine and hormonal headaches was transformed to one of resilient good health after treatment with Arnica. I would like also to share with you some of the insights that indicate when a patient might benefit from one of the Compositae homeopathic medicines.
The woman is 52, very tall and thin with blue eyes and grey wavy hair. She is wearing a blouse with a flower pattern. What follows are extracts of what the patient actually said during the consultation.
“I have had migraine for five years. Each attack lasts between one and four days. They got much worse when I was put on hormone replacement therapy, but I’ve been off that for a year and the migraine is still bad.
“I take a lot of exercise and I never seem to sit down – I love to keep busy. The pain feels as if I am walking around with a big bag of sand on my head. It is right-sided and the pain feels as if it is pushing in and squeezing. It seems to come on when I am exhausted and I feel as if I have a fever with it. It is triggered by wine especially or any alcohol really. I get nauseous and can’t drink and the nausea is worse if I try to focus my eyes and read. Also, worse if I am expected to do anything like make a meal for someone or do something by a deadline.”
(Observation: she keeps making rounded petal-shaped gestures.)
“It’s better from lying down but I get very uncomfortable in any one position, so I have to move in bed. It is worse when I’m moving, but I have to move after I have been lying still for a while. I feel so sore from head to toe, as if I am bruised all over. Everything feels so sore and bruised even my gut and my head is throbbing. I have to move very carefully because any sudden movement makes it much worse. But then after a while the new position becomes uncomfortable and I have to move carefully again.
“Any noise makes it worse and anyone else being in the room; I am much better being left alone. During a migraine no one can get near me. I feel repulsive to people and people feel repulsive to me. Sleep helps, if I can get to sleep. Each attack lasts between one and four days. They begin slowly and build up slowly and fade away slowly. The day after the migraine I feel empty inside and tense. I lose 3 or 4kg during each attack because I can’t eat and I can only drink very little, but I put the weight on very quickly again afterwards. I get the attacks every two weeks or so – just about mid-cycle and then just before my periods. The ones before my periods go away within a few hours of the bleeding. Yes, my periods are still regular so I don’t know why I was put on hormone replacement therapy.
“I still get bad PMT which makes me fierce and short-tempered and aggressive. I’m usually polite and anticipate other people’s needs and feelings but not during the PMT.”
“I have been prone to misery and depression since my periods began when I was 13. I suppose melancholy is the best word for what I feel. I was at a girls’ boarding school. At 13 I was very tall, as tall as I am now. At school it was an advantage to be tall and I was quite strong, but when I left and went into the real world I felt a freak because I was so much taller than other girls. It was a paralysing experience; people used to stop in the street and stare at me. I became a bit of a loner because of it and did not get married till I was 42. I became obsessed with dogs instead and put all my love and feelings to my dogs and I still do. My husband is 66 and without any emotion. He even gets cross with me when I cry.
“I am told I had a big abscess in my umbilicus for a long time when I was an infant. I was raised as if as I was an orphan – it was as if I had no parents. I remember screaming for such a long time when I was little and no one came to me. I was the middle child. My mother preferred my older sister and my younger brother to me. I was ostracized. I wanted to be treated like my sister. I fought like a dingo to be noticed.
“My parents are both in their 80s and seem indestructible.
“I am always warm all the time. I have never been good in the sun. I get headaches or it will trigger a migraine and I feel generally rotten in the sun. I spend the summer in the shade. I am better at high altitude and I love skiing. I love chocolate but too much gives me migraine.”
The patient describing the sensation of the bed being too hard and uncomfortable along with her saying “I need to move but I am uncomfortable moving” is common to all the Compositae, and a strong symptom of Arnica, Bellis perennis (the common daisy) and Edelweiss. Umbilical discharge or abscess in infancy is a keynote of the homeopathic medicine Abrotanum – which is derived from the plant Artemisia abrotanum (Southernwood), another member of Compositae family – but her infancy was over 50 years ago. Arnica is the only Compositae under the rubric, or heading, for head pain that increases gradually and decreases gradually. Therefore, I prescribed Arnica 10m one dose plus a 30ml bottle of Arnica 30c drops, two drops to be taken for severe attacks of migraine or hormonal headaches.
Six months later, I saw the patient again. This is what she told me:
“I have had no migraine and no hormonal headaches since the first dose. I am OK unless I go and poison myself with lots of chocolate and then I feel awful all day and have a mild headache. I had a migraine the same day I took the Arnica 10m. It started as soon as I had sucked the tablet and it was a full-blown attack lasting days. I have not needed to take the 30c drops.
“My energy is fine. I am better tempered. I am less foul to my husband, and the PMT is much better. The melancholy that I have felt since my first menses is definitely better. I have been really busy in my garden and I’m sleeping a lot better. I am not waking at 4 a.m. and I don’t hear my husband get up at 5 a.m. I have had a little spot at my umbilicus since yesterday and it is leaking a bit today.”
This temporary return of an old symptom is a fairly common reaction when a homeopathic remedy leads to profound inner healing.
For several years I received a Christmas card from the woman in which she reported all was well and that she remained in remarkably good health.
Dr Raymond Sevar MRCGP FFHom was an NHS GP from 1983 to 1993. Since 1993 he has worked as a medical doctor practising homeopathy in Carlisle. He was Dean of the Faculty of Homeopathy from 2004 to 2011.