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Nux vomica and Bowel Symptoms

by Dr Angela Jones(more info)

listed in colon health, originally published in issue 37 - February 1999

Evelyn was referred to me by her general practitioner, who described, in his letter, a history of abdominal symptoms dating back over fifteen years. Furthermore, Evelyn and many members of her family suffer from the condition known as familial polyposis coli which predisposes to the development of bowel cancer. She has to undergo annual examinations of the bowel and, understandably, any bowel symptoms cause terrific anxiety which further exacerbates the bowel symptoms.

Evelyn's symptoms had been attributed to irritable bowel syndrome. She had acidity and burning in the upper abdomen and chest which did not respond to any of the proprietary antacids, nor to any of the medications prescribed by her doctor. She had had numerous endoscopic investigations which failed to show any pathology. She also suffered from wind, mostly flatus, and bouts of constipation and colic which caused particular consternation because they always raised the spectre of cancer. Evelyn found her fear of cancer was threatening to take over her life.

Evelyn's gastric acidity was made worse by spicy foods, coffee, chocolate, fried foods and alcohol. This was unfortunate as Evelyn is someone who really enjoys her food (and drink). One of her favourite pastimes – going out for a really good evening out at a fine restaurant – was becoming increasingly impossible as the price she paid, in terms of the increase in her symptoms and subsequent worry, was not worth paying.

Evelyn's other main complaint was one of catarrh. Nasty thick globs of sticky catarrh came from the back of her nose. It was neither stringy nor offensive but very aggravating. It could be kept at bay by a steroid nasal spray; however, Evelyn was not keen on using this in the long term.

Finally, Evelyn suffered from a rash on her legs which was itchy, dry and red and especially bad in cold weather. Interestingly. and unusually for a rash, it seemed to be better for being kept warm! Apart from these problems, Evelyn was generally healthy although she admitted to feeling the cold and hating windy weather.

As a character, Evelyn came across as a soft, caring person, often referring to her children and grandchild with great affection.

However, it transpired that she is something of a dragon at work! She is very exacting in her expectations of both herself and her staff – "a bit of a perfectionist". She can fly off the handle if provoked and can get irritable and aggressive; however, her style gets results as she proudly explains that her office has won an award in the company for good performance.

In her personal life, her main problem is her continuous worry about her health. This is reasonable enough, in view of the family history of cancer, but can get "out of hand". Evelyn wished that her symptoms could improve so that she could forget about her health for a while.

On analysing Evelyn's case, she is a chilly person with symptoms that are generally worse for cold (and windy conditions) and better for heat. This in combination with an aggressive go-getting approach, at least in public life, is suggestive of a state which could respond to Nux vomica, a plant medicine, derived from a tropical nut known as the marking nut. In the raw state, it contains many active chemicals including morphine-like alkaloids and strychnine. Like Ignatia, another Homeopathic medicine with strychnine-like qualities, it can be associated with severe cramping spasms. Patients who are likely to respond to Nux vomica often suffer from spasms and in addition, are noted for their mental characteristics of irritability and fastidiousness. Their predilection for rich foods and alcohol is also well-known. However, as in Evelyn's case, this caricature need not be the only side to their nature. Nux vomica types may be the most doting husbands or grandparents, leaving their irascibility at the workplace.

I gave Evelyn a dose of Nux vomica 30c. A month later, she reported a brief "good patch" about a week after the medicine but a rapid relapse. The improvement had been a general one with less bowel and catarrhal symptoms. I decided to advise a further dose as there had been a glimmer of a response.

Two months later, Evelyn returned looking relaxed and well. She had had an excellent summer with very few symptoms. She had been to Portugal and eaten out every night with no ill-effects – not even a tummy bug! Her bowels were now regular with very little colic or wind. The catarrh had been more or less clear but was just now beginning to start up again. Energy-wise she felt very good – the best she had felt for some years.

Of course, this good spell had coincided with warm summer weather and a nasty Welsh winter was to be the true test. Through the ensuing autumn and winter, Evelyn needed two further doses of Nux vomica 30c. To her amazement, she did not contract a single cold, whereas usually she would have had one a month and constant catarrh! Her quality of life improved dramatically, and, as she herself had predicted, she found that her cancer phobia and preoccupation with health shrank away almost completely thanks to her lack of symptoms.

Two interesting points came up in the next months regarding this case. Firstly, I met Evelyn's GP, who had referred her originally, at a course on homeopathy. He is training to take examinations in homoeopathy himself and knows a fair amount about the subject. He said that, knowing Evelyn only in the context of her home and family, he would never have thought of prescribing Nux vomica as she never appeared angry and irritable enough. This is very interesting and explains why it is so difficult for us to treat our close friends and relations as we often do not see the whole picture, and may miss an important side of their character.

Secondly, Evelyn's health insurance firm refused to pay for her Homoeopathic treatment as she was being treated for a complaint which she had had prior to joining them! This highlights the stranglehold that the mechanistic approach to medicine has on health care.

After all, Evelyn had been made generally better all round by her Homoeopathic treatment which had impacted on her catarrh and her anxiety as well as her bowel and would hopefully save them (the insurance company) money in the long run in terms of further surgery and investigations. I will help Evelyn fight this decision: it seems that the patients are well ahead of the establishment when it comes to finding a solution to their health problems.


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About Dr Angela Jones

Dr Angela Jones works in NHS general practice and also privately, using homeopathy alongside conventional medicine. Dr Jones can be contacted via the Faculty of Homeopathy on Tel: 020-7566 7800.

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