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[Read before the Hom. Med. Society of the State of N. Y., May 10, 1864.]


As by a rule of the society it is made the duty of every member to make some communication at each regular meeting, I shall comply by giving a proving of the Rhus vernix or Poison Sumach. This is a beautiful shrub growing in low swampy places to the height of from ten to thirty feet, and is indigenous to the northern and middle states. Rhus vernix produces much more powerful and poisonous effects than Rhus toxicodendron or Rhus radicans.

Though we have but few provings, I am satisfied, when they are more extended, we shall perhaps find it more valuable as a remedial agent than the other varieties. My experience in its proving was involuntary, precluding me from claiming martyrdom in the cause of medical science. It was brought about in the following manner:

On the 22d of November, 1863, a stick of Rhus vernix, as large as my wrist and two feet long, was brought into my office by my friend Dr. Hawley, that I might make a tincture, he having taken the bark from one half, for the same purpose.

I held it by the part which retained its cuticle for half a minute, handing it back, saying I was very susceptible to Rhus tox. Dr. H. shaved off a small spot of cuticle, from which exuded a globule of juice as large as a pinhead, which I touched with the tip of my tongue, remembering the teaching of the books, that it would protect against the poisonous effects induced by contact with the skin. These teachings, like many others from the same source, proved false, as I found to my sorrow. The stick was put away, and the occurrence passed from my mind.

On the 30th of November, eight days after the experiment, while at dinner, my tongue felt as if scalded, and during the afternoon this feeling extended to the entire mouth and fauces, producing great dryness in the mouth, and stinging pains, which increased rapidly till I retired at night. At two o'clock next morning severe pains in the stomach and bowels came on, but being in a half-waking and half-sleeping state, I remained in bed about two hours, when I was suddenly forced from my bed, and had a large watery stool, passed with great force and attended with violent colicky pains. During the next two hours had three more profuse stools of the same character, and from that time the pain and stools ceased. In the morning I rose, feeling weak and as though I had taken a drastic cathartic-appetite gone and chills over the whole body.

During the day, December 1st, I often scratched my neck under my shirt collar, and on getting warm in bed I felt, stinging and itching about my chest and back, as though some insect was biting me.

On the morning of the second, inspecting my face, I found the forehead swollen and red; during the day this extended to the whole head and face. The upper lip was terribly swelled and the itching greatly increased, especially in the septum narium; had burning pains and swelling in the eye. During this day hemorrhoids came on, and four small tumors appeared, which remained out for several weeks, with extreme itching and burning. I had had nothing of the kind for more than two years. No movement of the bowels this day, but the itching extended to the whole body, though no eruption appeared. At night the itching was so great that I could hardly endure it, but up to this time, and until the next morning, the third of December, I had no suspicion of the cause. I had entirely forgotten the Rhus. I passed a sleepless night, and in the morning discovered the vesicular eruption characteristic of Rhus, showing itself on the forehead. Then for the first time occurred the idea that I had been poisoned. It may be thought that I was very stupid not to have sooner recognized the cause, and I must acknowledge it now appears so to me.

During this day, fourth of December, the eruption spread over the body and extremities, with a desire to scratch that was irresistible.

The scrotum, prepuce and glans penis, became covered with vesicles; transient, shooting pains in the sternum and chest, added to those of the preceding days, which continued in an aggravated form. Now lameness and soreness of the muscles came on, and 1 could hardly walk. The hemorrhoids continued - nausea and loathing of food, with entire loss of taste and smell. The pharynx and esophagus became so irritable that it was painful and difficult to swallow; food, in passing, caused pain and seemed to stop midway to the stomach; even cold water produced the same feeling that very hot tea would, and the same aching pain that is often felt after drinking very cold ice water, though the thirst was great.

December 5th dryness and pain in the larynx came on, with hoarseness and a harsh, dry cough, attended by stricture in the chest, and for more than two weeks there was pain over the sternum. I may also say that for the same time the itching, cough, lameness and hemorrhoids all continued, and

I was tormented night and day.

Now, gentlemen, if anything can be made out of this medley of symptoms, which shall add to the pathogenesis of the Rhus vernix, I shall rejoice, though sure am I that I shall not soon be induced to try the same experiment. I think I was not free from perceptible effects of this poisonous drug for six or eight weeks. Is it not remarkable that eight days should have intervened after the application of the virus to the delicate mucous membrane of the tongue, before the least symptom of its violent effects should have made itself manifest, and then that the tongue to which it was applied should have been the organ first to suffer? Where was this subtle poison all this time, which we will call the latent period?

Was it coursing through the vascular system to the extreme capillaries, ready to bite and sting when that unruly organ, the tongue, should fire up and direct it?

I leave this for wiser heads than mine to solve, and would direct the question to our allopathic friends who have ascertained that touching the tongue to poison will prevent injurious effects upon the system.


Source: The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 05 No. 01, 1864, pages 23-26
Description: Proving of Rhus Vernix.
Remedies: Rhus venenata
Author: Clary, L.
Year: 1864
Editing: errors only; interlinks; formatting
Attribution: Legatum Homeopathicum
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