The reputation of Sulphur as a remedy is perhaps as old as medicine.
“As early as 2,000 years ago,” says Hahnemann, “Sul. had been used as the most powerful specific against the itch. . . The itch, with which the workers in wool are so much affected, causes an intolerably agreeable, tingling, itching, gnawing as of vermin. Some designate it as an intolerably voluptuous titillating itching, ceasing as soon as the parts are scratched and commencing to burn, which burning continues after the scratching. Sul. frequently produces in healthy persons burning-itching pimples and vesicles resembling the itch vesicles, and especially itching in the joints, and in the night.”
The specific power of Sul. to cure itch was abused. It was applied externally as baths and ointments, and the skin affection was not cured but repelled, and a host of secondary affections appeared in its place. Hahnemann found in Sul. the homœopathic counterpart of the peculiar constitutional dyscrasia which tends to manifest in itch-like eruptions, and which he named Psora. Sul. is the chief of the antipsoric remedies. A proving of Sul. appears in the M. M. P., and this is amplified in the Chronic Diseases.
The domestic use of Sul. (in the familiar “Brimstone and Treacle”) as a “Spring medicine” is based on its antipsoric properties. “It is one of the most popular diaphoretics of the day,” says Milne, “few old women failing to use it when any eruption is supposed to be struggling through the skin.” It is this property of Sul. to divert to the surface constitutional irritants which renders it the chief of Hahnemann’s antipsorics. Sul. has also an antipsoric action independently of its power of “bringing out” rashes.
The psoric poison may be present and active in a case of disease and “apparently well-indicated remedies may fail to act” in consequence. In such cases one or two doses of Sul. will frequently antidote, as it were, the psora, and either clear up the case, or open the way for the action of other remedies.
In such cases there will almost certainly be some Sul. indications present. Sul. is a potent antiseptic, and is one of the most certain destroyers of the acarus of itch. The exact relation of acarus itch to psora and other itching eruptions need not be considered; but as Sul. has the power of repressing constitutional eruptions when locally applied, as well as the power of destroying the acarus, it is best to use other means (e.g., Oil of Lavender) for the latter purpose, and give Sul. or other indicated remedies internally. In my experience the psora of Hahnemann (which is a very real and definite dyscrasia) is generally inherited.
The symptoms of latent psora are set forth in detail in Hahnemann’s Chronic Diseases, and they are for the most part almost exact reproductions of the symptoms of Sul. But whilst Sul. is the chief of antipsorics, it is only one of many; and Sul. is in no way limited in its uses to cases of latent or declared psora. Much more important is it to know the leading features of the drug’s action, which are sure guides in any case. (1) A key to many of the Sul. conditions is to be found in an irregular distribution of the circulation: flushes of heat; rush of blood to head, chest, heart; plethora from suddenly suppressed eruptions, piles, discharges; heat and burning sensation of all parts or coldness, sweating of many parts. These irregularities may go on to actual inflammation with effusions; and to fever of intermittent or other types.
Another manifestation of this is found in the redness of orifices and parts near orifices: red ears, red nose; red eyelids and red borders round eyelids: brilliant red lips; bright red anus in children; red meatus urinarius; red vulva. The orifices are not only red and congested, but they are sore and hypersensitive as well; the passage of all discharges or excretions is painful. (2) The other side of this feeling of fulness is a feeling of emptiness.
There is no medicine which has this symptom in a more extreme degree than Sul., and there is no single symptom that is of greater value to the homœopathic prescriber than “Faint, sinking, all-gone sensation at 11 a.m.” When that symptom is marked I give Sul. (generally 30), and get all the good I can out of the remedy before prescribing anything else, and very rarely am I disappointed. There is no need to wait to be told the symptom, or to ask patients directly if they experience it. I generally ask if they get hungry out of their usual mealtimes; and if they say “Yes”; I ask “What time?” The time need not be exactly eleven; though that is the most characteristic time. People who “must have something between breakfast and dinner-time” are generally benefited by Sul.
This ravenous hunger at 11 is often associated with other Sul. symptoms, as heat at vertex; dyspepsia; portal congestion; constipation with ineffectual urging; piles; constipation alternating with diarrhœa. When the dyspeptic gets food and relieves his hunger he begins to feel puffed up, feels heavy and sluggish, and is low-spirited, he scarcely cares to live.
The dyspepsia of Sul. is often the result of suppressed eruptions. It is well known that drunkenness “runs in families,” and the underlying disease of drunkenness is often psora. Sul. both causes and cures craving for beer and spirits. Gallavardin cured many apparently hopeless drunkards with Sul. 1m. The “sinking, empty, all-gone sensation” is a common feature in the dyspepsia of drunkards. Dyspepsia from farinaceous food. Cannot take milk; vomits it at once; sour vomit with undigested food. Voracious appetite is a frequent symptom of scrofula, and scrofula and psora are frequently convertible terms. The child clutches at all food offered to it as if starved to death. Defective assimilation; hungry yet emaciated. Stopped catarrh; nose obstructed indoors, > out of doors. The child looks dried up, a little old man; skin hanging in folds, yellowish, wrinkled, flabby. Head large in proportion to body. Lymphatic glands enlarged. Defective assimilation. When scrofula exists without particular symptoms Sul. will develop them. Allied to scrofula is tuberculosis; in connection with which many symptoms of Sul. appear: marasmus with hunger at 11 a.m.; sore, red orifices; flushes of heat. In tuberculosis of the lungs a keynote is “body feels too hot.” The patient must have windows open no matter how cold the weather may be. The caution is usually given to repeat Sul. seldom in cases of tuberculosis; and to give it only in the early stages. (3) “< By heat" is another keynote of Sul., and marks it out as the remedy in a large number of cases; the < is most noticeable by warmth of the bed. Whenever a patient says he is all right till he gets warm in bed, Sul. must be examined, it will generally cover the case. (In some cases stove heat >.) The cases of rheumatism and sciatica requiring Sul. will generally have > morning and < at night in bed. (4) "< At night" is scarcely less characteristic. Sul. is related to both the sun and the moon, which makes it one of the most important of periodics. Cooper cured many cases of neuralgia < at noon or at midnight. He regards every twelve hours as the most characteristic periodicity, but it may be multiples or divisions of twelve. Lippe cured with "a single dose of Sul. at new moon" a case of menorrhagia, patient had not been well since her last miscarriage. Skinner gave to a man who had paresis of the lower limbs a single dose of Sul. cm, with instructions to take it on a certain date (when the moon was full). The man recovered almost suddenly. Cooper recalls the fact that workers in Sulphur mines, though in malarial districts, enjoy a complete immunity from intermittent fevers. The power of Sul. in acute inflammatory conditions is allied to its action in intermittent fevers. Sul. is the chronic of Acon. in the effects of chills; and if Acon. does not promptly solve the difficulty, Sul. will be required. In the acute inflammations of the high South African plateau, where the variations of temperature are extreme, and chills and their consequences are Very common, Van den Heuvel tells me that for the pain, fever, and anxiety before physical signs have appeared, Acon. is his first remedy. But if the fever does not yield in twenty-four to forty-eight hours, Sul. will clear it up. "Chill" is "suppression" in another form. Sul. is a remedy of such universal power that it may be misleading to speak of it as more related to one side than to another. Taken altogether there are more symptoms on the left side than the right. It acts strongly on the left side of the chest: "Sharp stitching pains through left lung to back, < lying on back. < by least motion," is characteristic. All the features of asthma are produced in the pathogenesis, and Sul. has the alternation between skin irritation and asthma often met with in asthmatics. Villers (H. R., xv. p. 563) relates the case of a girl, 22, afflicted since three years old with eczemas of the most varied form, mostly moist, the chief seat being the region about the pudenda, armpits, fold behind ear; but the whole body was defaced, the only parts which had remained white and normal being the breasts. She had been continuously under treatment for the nineteen years, the worst effects resulting when external applications had been used to dry up the eruption. Then most frightful asthma occurred, which lasted till the corrosive, ill-smelling eruption appeared again. She had recently come under the care of a homœopath, who gave Ars. iod. 3. From this there resulted a condition of which the patient said, "I cannot describe it, but I felt as if I was being killed." Her doctor then sent her to Villers, who sent her for three months to a water-cure before he would commence treatment. Her general health was somewhat improved thereby, but the skin remained the same. He then thought of some very high potencies he possessed, and gave a few pellets of Sul. cm. Three days later he was sent for in a great hurry late one evening, and on arrival found the patient had torn off all her clothes, was rolling about on the floor of her room, continually trying to rub her back and her legs on the legs of chairs or the edge of the door. Then she jumped up, brought a knife from the kitchen and scraped her whole body; would eat nothing and only drank enormous quantities of cold beverages. This lasted five days, after which she slept for two full days. Then this happened: The eruption dried up completely and scaled as after scarlatina. The girl had always had very weak menses; the next three were increasingly strong and intolerably fetid. There was very disagreeable discharge from the ears, corrosive secretion from the eyelids, and a dreadfully tormenting and burning discharge from the pudenda, strongly exciting to voluptuousness. Under the action of the single dose steady improvement occurred, and in four months she was a youthfully blooming maiden in the full flow of all her functions, and the skin in perfect condition. To test this Villers made the patient wear rough wool; dip her hands in first hot and then cold water; and for two weeks he made her rub her body daily with pretty coarse sea-salt. The only effect of these measures was to make the skin improve in texture.─Sul., when indicated, will cause absorption of effusions, pleuritis (plastic, or hydrothorax), hydrocephalic, or synovial. I have frequently cured ganglion of the wrist with Sul. cm and lower, given on general indications. In the rheumatism of Sul. the affection begins below and spreads upwards. (This is analogous to the "from without inwards" direction of the psoric complaints which Sul. meets and reverses.) There is also a headache on coughing. I have cured a severe occipital headache < on coughing with Sul. 30. Among the characteristics of Sul. are: (1) Aversion to be washed, always < after a bath. (2) Complaints that are always relapsing (menses, leucorrhœa, &c.); patient seems to get almost well when the disease returns again and again. (3) Congestions to single parts: eye; nose; chest; abdomen; ovaries; arms; legs; or any organ of the body, marking the onset of tumours or malignant growths, especially at climacteric. (4) Chronic alcoholism; dropsy and other ailments of drunkards; they reform but are continually relapsing. (5) Sensation of burning: on vertex; and smarting in eyes; of vesicles in mouth and dryness of throat, first right then left; in stomach; in rectum in anus, and itching piles, and scalding urine; like fire on nipples in chest rising to face of skin of whole body, with hot flushes; in spots below scapulæ burning soles, must find a cool place for them at night. (6) Hot head with cold feet. Lutze (N. A. J. H., xv. 286) finds that Sul. 1m will make feet that have been cold for years comfortably warm. (7) Cramp in calves and soles at night. (8) Hot flushes during day, with weak, faint spells, passing off with a little moisture. (9) Diarrhœa: after midnight; painless; driving out of bed early in morning; as if bowels were too weak to contain their contents. (10) Constipation: Stools hard, dry, knotty, as if burnt; large, painful, child is afraid to have stool on account of pain; or pain compels child to desist on first effort; alternating with diarrhœa. (11) Boils: coming in crops in various parts, or a single boil is succeeded by another as soon as the first is healed. (12) Skin: itching, voluptuous; scratching > (“feels good to scratch”); scratching = burning; < from heat of bed; soreness in folds. (13) Skin affections that have been treated by medicated soaps and washes; hæmorrhoids that have been treated by ointments. (14) Nightly suffocative attacks, wants doors and windows open; becomes suddenly wide awake at night; drowsy in afternoon after sunset, wakefulness the whole night. (15) Happy dreams, wakes up singing. (16) Everything looks pretty which patient takes a fancy to; even rags seem beautiful. (17) Ailments from the abuse of metals generally. (18) Offensive odour of body despite frequent washing. (19) Red nose < by cold: the colder the redder. (20) Cutting, stabbing pain in right eye. (21) Poor breakfast eaters. (22) Worried by trifles. (23) White, frothy expectoration. (24) Empty sensation (head; heart; stomach; abdomen). [Sul. aggravates much more in high dilutions than in lower ones; especially where extensive collections of disease-tissue exist, a single globule of 200th will often set up violent disturbance. In the early days of vaccination it was found that the action of Sul. on the frame was decidedly adverse to the receptivity of vaccine. According to Dr. Tierney, Dr. Jenner failed in vaccinating thirty soldiers, all under treatment by Sul. (B. M. J., Jan. 6, 1872. George Gascoin, letter on antiseptic treatment of small-pox). Seeing that operatives in sulphur mines enjoy an immunity against ague when prevalent in surrounding districts; and that, before going on hunting expeditions in malarious districts, men in Ethiopia submit themselves to fumigations with Sul., and find it an efficient prevention of ague, the probability of Sul. having a power of destroying the organisms in the blood of ague patients is certainly great, and deserves investigation (Cooper)]. Sul. is a great resorbent, and is frequently needed after acute illnesses which do not entirely clear up. Peculiar Sensations are: As if a band were tied tightly round forehead; round cranium. Vertigo as if swinging. As if bed were not large enough to hold him. As if one stood on wavering ground. As if hair on vertex stood on end. As from a weight pressing on top of brain and a cord tied around head. As if head soft; brains bashed in. As if brain were beating against skull. As if eyes were pressed down. As if he had taken too much alcohol. As if hair would be torn out. As if head would burst. As if head were enlarged. As if she would sneeze. As if head had been beaten. As if top of head were being pressed against wall. Occiput as if hollow. As if flesh of scalp were loose. As if scalp had been beaten. As if cornea had lost its transparency. As if eye were gone and a cool wind blew out of socket. As if eyes had been punctured. As if a needle or splinter were sticking in eye. As if a thick veil were before eyes. As if eyeballs were dry. As if balls rubbed against lids. As if eyes were rubbed against spicules of glass; eyeballs dry; salt in eyes; cornea covered with fine dust; lids would become inflamed. As if sounds did not come through ears but forehead. As of water in ears. As if he smelt perfume. As if nose were swelled. Nostrils as if sore. As if lower jaw would be torn out. As if air just in front of her were hot. Teeth as if too long; as of a hot iron in teeth. As of a hard ball rising in throat. As if swallowing a piece of meat. As of a lump in throat. As of a hair in throat. As if throat too narrow. Stomach as if puffed up; as if torn with pincers. Intestines as if strung in knots. As if hernia would form. As if muscles of abdomen and peritonæum had been bruised. As if obliged to urinate, in urethra. As if something in larynx. As of a lump of ice in (r.) chest. As if lungs came in contact with back. As if strained in chest. As if he had fallen upon chest. As if chest would fly to pieces when coughing or drawing a deep breath. Heart as if enlarged. As if muscles of neck and back were too short. As if vertebræ gliding one over the other. Small of back as if beaten. Left shoulder and hip as if luxated. Like a weight on shoulder. As if something heavy hanging on upper arm. Arms as if beaten. As of a mouse running up arms and back. Thigh as if broken. As if too short in popliteal space. Skin as if denuded and sore. Sweat may occur on one side of the body only; or on neck only. Sul. is Suited to: (1) Lean, stoop-shouldered persons, who walk and sit stooped; standing is the most uncomfortable position. (2) Persons of nervous temperament, quick-motioned, quick-tempered, plethoric, skin excessively sensitive to atmospheric changes. (3) Dirty, filthy people, with greasy skin, and long, straight, matted hair, prone to skin affections. (4) Children who cannot bear to be washed or bathed; emaciated; big-bellied; restless, hot, kick off clothes at night; have worms. (5) Persons of scrofulous diathesis, subject to various congestions, especially of portal system. (6) Lymphatic temperaments, nervous constitutions disposed to hæmorrhoids, with constipation or morning diarrhœa; diseases caused especially by, suppressed eruptions, peevishness, sudden and frequent flushes of heat all over body, followed by perspiration, hot palms, soles, and vertex; faintness in epigastrium in forenoon. (7) Children, emaciated, old-looking faces, big bellies, dry, flabby skin. (8) Full-blooded persons with great irritability, restlessness, and hastiness. (9) Old people. (10) People with hot, sweaty hands. (11) "Ragged philosophers"; dirty-looking persons who are always speculating on religious or philosophical subjects. (12) Freckled people. (13) Light-complexioned people. (14) Red-haired people. (15) Dark-complexioned people; negroes. (16) People who refer all their sufferings to the epigastrium "everything affects me there." Ref: Dctionary of Practical Materia Medica. J. H. Clarke