Those of you familiar with our column may
catch your jaws dropping at the mere mention of the phrase "routine medicine," given
our tendency to regularly harp on the notion that there are two-thousand-plus
homeopathic medicines and more being proven every day. If you bristle
at needing to study homeopathy for years before feeling confident in
your prescribing, you will find this article a refreshing change of pace.
After we get you hooked on how brilliantly Podophyllum works for acute
diarrhea, you may indeed want to sink your teeth into constitutional
prescribing. After all, if you can cure many parasitic illnesses so simply
with homeopathy, why not venture into the territory of longstanding allergies,
chronic fatigue, and depression? But that, of course, is another matter
covered in other columns.
The Particulars of Podophyllum
Podophyllum peltatum (May apple or Duck's foot) is a foot-high member
of the Berberidaceae family, indigenous to the US, and was first proved homeopathically
in 1846. So, it is a mainstay of homeopathic prescribing. Judyth first remembers
hearing about this medicine, not in her homeopathy classes at Bastyr, but rather
in a small study group shortly after graduation. A classic case of traveler's
diarrhea was presented, much like the cases in this article. The Podophyllum
prescription was clear to everyone but her. An obvious gap in her homeopathic
training, she resolved to become more familiar with acute medicines, rather
than just the 40 or so "polychrest" medicines presented at Bastyr.
Perhaps this very experience was what led us to write Homeopathic
Self-Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family. There are many wonderful homeopathic
medicines, like Podophyllum, which are a godsend for acute suffering, and whose
main features, or keynotes, are easily learned.
This medicine has a primary affinity for the rectum, liver, and intestines
and, though it can also be of benefit for throat, ovarian, and scapular problems,
it is for acute GI distress that we have found it to be invaluable over and
over. We consider it to be among our top five don't-leave-home-without-it
medicines, especially when visiting the backcountry or Third World countries,
where the water systems are not so sanitized.
We don't recommend that you peruse this particular column while enjoying
a delectable lunch, for it may ruin your appetite. If you remember nothing
else about Podophyllum, think of relentless, watery diarrhea. In the homeopathic
repertories, the word used most often to describe the explosive nature of the
bowel movements is "forcible." It is also interesting that it
is mentioned in the literature under a "sinking sensation after stool" because
this is just the way we have felt, in India or other faraway lands, upon going
to the bathroom and finding ourselves in such a state. It's that, "Oh,
shit" kind of feeling (excuse the pun). The one that makes you start
thinking about what you have planned for the next day or two; where and what
you will be eating; and how close you may be to a decent bathroom, toilet paper,
etc. Though these are not significant considerations in North America, Europe,
and Down Under, they are of prime importance in many less-developed countries,
as well as when we are off enjoying the seclusion of Mother Nature.
Although the symptoms of Montezuma's Revenge or Delhi Belly can arise
anytime, it is not uncommon to awaken from a sound sleep, rushing to the bathroom
around four a.m. The suddenness of this state is memorable, as are the abdominal
cramping and resulting exhaustion. Another common feature of those needing
Podophyllum is the gurgling and rumbling sound of the gas in the abdomen. The
diarrhea is watery and profuse and may be foul-smelling. The consistency of
the stool may be pasty and the color yellowish, which is not surprising for
a liver medicine. We have most often found the stools to be brown or brownish-yellow.
Although the diarrhea, according to the literature, can be painless, cramping
A Few Podophyllum Cases
Rob: A seasoned world traveler and patient of ours for over 10 years, Rob was
very excited about his off-the-beaten-track overland trip through the Himalayas.
Already an Indiophile, he had been invited by a merchant friend to visit
mountain villages little known to Westerners. Rob's two main concerns
were acute diarrhea and altitude sickness. We stocked his natural medicine
chest with Podophyllum, Coca (for altitude distress), and our favorite Echinacea-Goldenseal
formula to use at the first sign of a sore throat or flu. Rob did, as feared,
contract a vengeful case of the runs while in Nepal, and Podophyllum came
quickly to the rescue. We might add that he found the Coca to be invaluable
for the altitude.
Samantha: Jenny and Paul were a bit hesitant to take their four-month-old pride
and joy on their vacation to Puerto Vallarta. They had read about the severe
danger, and even fatalities, resulting from acute diarrhea and dehydration
in babies. They took along our Homeopathic Self-Care book and kit just in case.
It was a good thing that they did because within days of their arrival Sami,
who was still breastfeeding, did come down with a case of copious liquid stool,
along with loud rumbling and growling of her abdomen. Jenny, too, developed
an explosive, frequent, watery stool, which left her feeling wiped out. Both
mother and daughter took Podophyllum promptly with complete success.
Judyth: Five years ago, during our first trip to New Zealand, we spent five
days hiking the Milford Track. Curiously, the area, which is well-known for
its copious rainfall, had just enjoyed a rare 30 solid days of glorious sunshine.
That was until our guided group of forty arrived, complete with six or so Seattleites.
And, so, once again, we all brought the rain with us. It poured throughout
our hiking adventure, ending with a squall upon our arrival the last night
at Te Anau. The plentiful water from the skies made for overflowing waterfalls
in all directions. Tempted to drink directly from a flowing cascade, the guide
assured Judyth that the falls and streams were positively Giardia-free.
Nevertheless, within a week, Judyth experienced the classic watery stools,
rumbling, and gurgling of you know what. The stool color was markedly lighter
brown. These GI symptoms persisted until she took a dose of Podophyllum 200C.
Within a day all of the stool symptoms normalized. Three weeks later, upon
returning to the US, the symptoms returned, and again resolved completely after
another dose of 200C.
Truffle: Last year we noticed that our eight-year-old golden retriever, Truffle's,
stools were yellowish and blood-tinged. We wondered whether to attribute the
change to an errant sharp-edged bone, yet they persisted for several days.
A veterinary stool analysis confirmed the diagnosis of Giardia and the recommendation
was Flagyl. A dose of Podophyllum 30C did the trick. The stools normalized
within a day.
If Podophyllum Doesn't Work
Although there are many other homeopathic medicines for acute diarrhea, the
differentials that most come to mind are Croton tiglium, Aloe, Arsenicum
album, Veratrum album, and Cuprum metallicum. We think of Crot-t for yellowish
diarrhea that comes on immediately after eating or drinking. The main keynote
of Aloe is acute diarrhea with mucus lumps in the stool and a strong feeling
of being unable to hold back the stool. Arsenicum album is indicated when
the patient has diarrhea, often from food poisoning or after fruit, accompanied
with extreme restlessness and anxiety, chilliness, and a craving for sips
of water. Veratrum album and Cuprum are known to be of benefit in severe
acute diarrhea. The keynote symptoms of Veratrum are watery diarrhea, excessive
vomiting and sweating, coldness, and a desire for iced drinks and juicy fruit.
Cuprum is most known for its tight, band-like cramping, constriction, and
spasms. The colic can be quite violent. Of course, there are other acute
diarrhea medicines that will be needed in other cases, as well as a myriad
for chronic diarrhea.
"Don't Leave Home Without
It" is More than a Cliché
It is more likely that you will need Podophyllum in the middle of your
long-awaited hike in Nepal or journey down the Amazon than when you
are within a phone
call of your homeopath or pharmacy. Short of radionically broadcasting the
medicine, which is not the practice style of a classical homeopath, we prefer
to rely on the real thing. Homeopathic medicine kits containing up to 50
medicines are small enough to stuff into any backpack or carry on bag. And
don't forget a book that tells you how to use the medicines. The pound
or so of additional weight of an entire book and kit can make all the difference
between a rapid recovery during your exotic vacation or a miserable few days
in bed, or even lingering discomfort after you return. Patients have come
to us even years after returning from India, Africa, or South America, still
needing to be treated.
But, again, that is another story.
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, LCSW and Robert
Ullman, ND are licensed naturopathic physicians board certified in
homeopathy in practice for
over 20 years. Authors of six books on homeopathic medicine, as well
as Mystics, Masters, Saints, and Sages: Stories of Enlightenment,
their upcoming book is A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger's and
Autism: Homeopathic Care for Exceptional Kids (Starfish
Specialty Press, June 2004) . The doctors treat patients in person and
by phone and teach internationally.
They have also traveled around the world, by land and sea, with their
homeopathic kit close at hand. To reach them, call 425-774-5599 or visit
them online at www.healthyhomeopathy.com.