Aethusa cynapium. Fool’s Parsley. N.O. Umbelliferae.
Tincture of whole flowering plant.
The essential features
Unfortunately, nowhere in our homeopathic literature do we find a clear description of the chronic conditions of the remedy Aethusa. The remedy has been considered mainly for acute conditions. Of course, Kent has beautifully described the acute picture of the remedy: aggressive gastric and intestinal conditions where “The child has the appearance as if it were dying, pale hippocratic face…” However, certain clues, which appear in the Materia Medicas, the Repertory and other sources, when combined with information gleaned from clinical cases, have helped establish a picture of the chronic state of Aethusa.
With regard to the mental-emotional characteristics, we frequently find that the Aethusa individual remains separate from others — a man apart. He is withdrawn, but in a very singular way. Inside he experiences very deep, intense emotions, yet he does not communicate these emotions to other people. He may be moved to tears, but tears do not come. He may feel friendly, but he appears aloof.
It seems that at a certain point in the psychopathological development of the Aethusa individual he has decided to refrain from communicating with other people. The emotional injury or disappointment which provokes this withdrawal may be surprisingly mild. We do not find in Aethusa a prolonged history of many bitter disappointments and griefs which can account for such introversion or withdrawal. Usually there is some past stress which does not seem very significant. The patient may say, “I didn’t grow up in a happy family” or some other such vague statement, but nothing definite seems to have occurred to explain this decided withdrawal. This lack of a definitive and sufficient causation and its strange effect is a peculiarity of this remedy.
In other cases, we find instead a slow-growing disillusionment, a sense that no one has fully understood or responded to the patient’s intense emotions. Thus the patient may feel that communicating with other people simply is not worthwhile, not worth the effort. Some patients may experience a sense of alienation. They feel that no real outlet exists for their emotions, that no other person could truly understand the strong feelings they have inside. Consequently, in the interview they may say something such as, “I am different from other people.”
Thus, the Aethusa person becomes a loner. It is not a matter of his being unable to communicate; in fact, during the interview he may be quite communicative. He is neither insecure with others nor fearful of their reaction to him; rather he appears to have adopted a fundamental conviction that communication with other human beings is practically impossible on a deeper level.
Aethusa should not be confused with certain other closed personality types, such as Ignatia and Natrum Muriaticum. These latter types are highly refined, oversensitive, almost hysterical people in whom hurts and griefs produce a type of emotional cramping or hardening. The Aethusa type is not hypersensitive, not so refined, not hysterical. He has intense feelings which are more robust, more primal — like a child’s emotions. The emotions are too vital to become cramped in Aethusa; embitterment is unlikely, and the fragile, hysterical elements of Ignatia and Natrum Muriaticum are not found in this remedy.
Such intense emotions, however, must find expression, and the Aethusa person seems drawn to one singular outlet: animals. This person who does not want to communicate with other human beings may have extraordinary communication with animals. He may develop an exaggerated attachment to animals and communicate all his pent-up emotions to his pets. From our earlier comparison of the primal emotions of Aethusa to those of a child we can understand this love for animals by recalling the love certain children develop for a pet. The Aethusa person may love animals more than he loves any human being. The patient actually may say, “I am not interested in the love of human beings, only the love of animals.” He converses with animals as if they were human, and he derives great emotional satisfaction from this communication. In some cases, he may even collect dozens of animals; he becomes an animal protector. If someone were to throw a rock at one of his pets, he could become livid and literally have the urge to kill the offender. The attachment can be so extreme that the patient may even consider bequeathing his estate to his animals.
It is interesting that in the provings as well in Kent’s Repertory Aethusa is mentioned in the rubric “delusions of animals.” Some patients may see non-existing cats and dogs for instance or a woman gets it fixed in her head that a rat or mouse is running across the room.
Such delusions suggest that even when the logical mind is no longer operative, there remains a deep subconscious connection with animals. In these advanced mental states or deliriums there is no fear of the animals seen in the hallucinations; the subconscious mind merely projects animal images.
One might argue that a love for animals is natural, and, indeed, this is true, but Aethusa’s love is exaggerated. After treatment with Aethusa these animal collectors begin to give away their animals; their degree of attachment returns to a normal level. This change of behavior demonstrates the pathological nature of the attachment to animals. The Aethusa patient may, after treatment, feel as if his departure from his withdrawn state is like emerging from a dream.
There is an alternative path for the release of the emotional energy; the patient may become extremely involved with social work. There is something quite similar here to the tendency to care for animals. Through social work he expresses love, but without the need to directly communicate about his feelings to another individual. The patient may paradoxically state in the interview, “I have finished with human beings.” However, at another point he may say that he has moments when he “… wants to embrace the whole world.” He is capable of feeling great love. It is exactly this discrepancy that characterizes the Aethusa case.
Now, it easy to imagine that if insufficient outlets are found for this intense emotionality, if the feelings remain withheld, the emotions can overload the subconscious mind. This overloading sets the stage for much of the pathology of Aethusa. As the brimming, subconscious mind overflows, we may often see the patient begin to talk to himself. He may not even notice people around him as he voices his thoughts out loud. It is a “pouring out” — symbolically, a verbal equivalent of the
vomiting and diarrhea of this remedy. Staphisagria may also talk to himself; he is very emotional and needs emotional communication but when something a little bit aggressive is said to him, he withdraws at once, goes home and talks to his mirror.
Persons with a saturation of the subconscious mind, such as is the case with Aethusa, tend to manifest a host of symptoms at night and especially before falling asleep. The Aethusa person is aggravated by the dark. The darkness seems to permeate his being producing a heavy sensation in his chest. He fears suffocation in the dark and, as a consequence, is forced to turn on a light and open a window. He also fears death; this fear in Aethusa is especially peculiar and striking in that it tends to occur just at the moment when the patient is falling asleep, startling him to wakefulness. It seems that as the patient relinquishes rational control of his mind, the force of his loaded subconscious mind asserts itself in its entirety. Just as he begins to fall asleep subliminal, tumultuous emotions force themselves into his awareness, threatening to overwhelm him, and he starts with a marked fear of death.
In the Repertory Aethusa is the only remedy listed under the rubric “Fear of sleep –– fears to close his eyes lest he should never wake,” a very impressive and highly characteristic fear of this remedy. In many cases the Aethusa patient does not want to sleep. He is afraid to go to sleep, fearing that somehow, he will die during his sleep. A corollary to this fear is a fear of surgery; the patient fears that he will not awaken from the anesthesia — an expression of the combination of the fear of suffocation and the fear to go to sleep. When he finally does drop off to sleep, the sleep is restless and often interrupted by frequent startings; he talks in his sleep and may even be prone to somnambulism.
There is another peculiar fear seen in Aethusa. As previously mentioned, the Aethusa person has very deep emotions, and although he does not express it, he may feel a very strong attachment to his family. He may dread the thought of a family member dying. The emotions that he invests in his family may be so intense that he literally feels that he would be unable to cope with such an eventuality. He fears that such a grief will cause him to lose his emotional control, that he may go insane. However, despite such a strong attachment to his relatives, direct emotional contact between himself and his family is almost non-existent. In a similar fashion, the patient is unable to tolerate other situations which may stimulate his emotions. He may say, for instance, “I cannot go into a doctor’s office when there are many sick patients there. I cannot bear to see that someone is suffering.” The Aethusa patient may appear sympathetic, but will never show it in a direct way, rather he will remain aloof, hiding the intensity of his emotions.
The Aethusa emotional sphere is like a volcano, the surging activity within portending eruption, yet it never does erupt. Instead it finds other outlets, outlets in the physical body, most notably through vomiting or diarrhea. The vomiting and diarrhea of Aethusa possess an extreme intensity, bordering on violence, a violence most probably proportional to the unexpressed intensity of the emotional level.
It is interesting to observe the violence with which food, especially milk, that was recently ingested is forcibly ejected. The organism quickly deteriorates to an almost deathly state, so serious is the vomiting. One intuitively has a sense that a similar emotional purging could take place in the patient, a purging that could be so violent as to threaten self-annihilation — death.
When the emotions remain controlled and without outlets for a considerable time, irritability may arise, and can reach the dimensions of fury. Women may, with the approach of menses, display a steady increase in irritability. Tremendous irritability can occur from two days before until two days after the onset of the menses. As the menstrual flow begins to taper off the whole system begins to relax. Some women may say that they experience great sexual desire as this relaxation occurs. As the month progresses the sexual desire diminishes until, with the approach of the next menstrual cycle, it is entirely absent.
The lives of Aethusa patients are usually relatively devoid of sexual concerns. It is not that they are asexual, rather they just do not consider sex, do not think about it anymore. Sexual activity has disappeared from their lives gradually in the same way that “communication” with other human beings has gradually subsided. It is as if they have sublimated their sexual energy and directed it instead into their social work or their love for animals. Such sublimation does not take place dramatically; it is instead a gradual, almost unconscious process, a process which may follow a serious love disappointment. Usually, rather than suffering an immediate big reaction to their disillusionment, these patients seem to become resigned to a life devoid of sex in consequence of a series of small but cumulative disappointments. The withholding of their sexuality makes these persons appear to others as rather serious and unhappy individuals. There may even be a total aversion to sex. One woman said, “In the beginning I had a strong desire for sex, but my husband was not so interested, and so I developed an aversion to sex eventually.”
Generally speaking, however, there is a strong sexual desire, but, just as there is a withholding of other forms of communication, there can also be a withholding of sexual feelings. As a consequence, these patients may become quite agitated or perturbed when they hear a ribald or risqué joke. They cannot tolerate anything which excites their already intense inner emotional state.
The Aethusa patient seems to be too serious. He will give you the impression of one who seriously meditates all the time. This strong meditative inclination is depicted in the linea nasalis which are deep and well-marked, giving the impression of an older age and a kind of wisdom. The Aethusa face is an old wise face with deep furrows.
A good homeopath should take all such observations into consideration because they will sometimes help him make a “unique” prescription. Once I had under my care an Indian philosopher who had been around the world to see the best homeopaths of the time. According to his own estimation, nobody was ever able to help him substantially. I was a young homeopath when he invited me to treat him. He was taking a lot of allopathic medicine at the time. He told me his medical history, and I could not make head nor tail of it. However, I noticed that his face resembled the description of Aethusa; then I looked carefully at the tip of his nose, and I there saw an eruption that was similar to the typical nasal eruption of the remedy. Consequently, I was able to correctly begin the case and successfully treat his chronic bronchitis, as well as a host of other quite bothersome symptomatology.
Aethusa benumbs the mind and makes it feel empty and incapable of perceiving, retaining and processing information. Schoolboys or students cannot concentrate their mind on their work. It seems to them that is an utter impossibility to prepare for an examination because they are unable to read anything; unable to think or to fix their attention. Their head is confused and sometimes they feel a kind of stupefaction as if a barrier were erected between their organs of sense and the external objects. This state arises especially after having become overtaxed from mental exertion. I used to almost always give Picric acid to such cases until I witnessed the results Aethusa could achieve. The effort these people make while being so intellectually compromised leaves them looking extremely tired and exhausted. Aethusa children may resemble Calcarea phosphorica as both remedies can present headaches coupled with inability to focus the mind and learn.
The mind of Aethusa becomes weak and seems to have abandoned all efforts to operate effectively in much the same way that the emotions and sexual desire have been relinquished with no considerable resistance. The idea is that with relatively little provocation the organism gives up. Aethusa would most likely be indicated when the student tells you that he cannot continue studying despite the fact that, according to his estimation, he has not overexerted himself tremendously.
There is a peculiar anxiety and restlessness that sets in as the mind seems to be giving up; then a form of sleeplessness ensues with the peculiar fear that he may not wake up if he goes to sleep. The patient is exhausted, and yet sleep does not come. During the day, he may display reactive episodes of extreme fury which arise and subside quickly. His irritability is aggravated especially when walking outside in the open air; when indoors, he feels better.
General weakness, especially in children: tired in body and mind, aversion to milk and a tendency to vomit easily.
Violent convulsions; epilepsy with eyes turned down, flushed face, foam from mouth, pupils dilated and thumbs clenched. The time of aggravation for Aethusa is three to four in the morning. Vertigo with sleepiness.
The face has several very characteristic symptoms. There is on occasion a peculiar flushing of the face. The face becomes red and drawn, giving it a rather wild look. The patient may during the interview complain of having noticed this wild, red face at times when looking in the mirror. Other cases may demonstrate the chronic analogue to the “Hippocratic” face which Kent describes. Here the face becomes deeply furrowed and makes the person appear very old, ancient. It is a disturbing face to behold, and it convinces one that the patient is seriously ill, perhaps approaching death.
Another prominent characteristic of this remedy is a herpetic-like or eczematous eruption on the nose. This eruption is frequently but not exclusively on the tip of the nose (Causticum); it may be around the nostrils or near the septum.
Mouth: Salivation during sleep may be present.
Stomach / abdomen / rectum
In acute enterocolitis, or cholera infantum, we have one of our best remedies in Aethusa. As Kent describes superbly: “It applies to the cases that come on very suddenly in hot weather, in infancy, with extreme prostration. The mother does not suspect the child is sick and she takes it from the crib; only a few hours before it was well; but when cholera infantum is prevalent in hot weather, this little one fills its stomach with milk and almost before it has had time to coagulate or form, the milk comes up partly in curds and partly liquid, and accompanying the vomiting there is a thin yellow, greenish, slimy stool. The child has the appearance as if it were dying, pale Hippocratic face, there is a whitish blue pallor around the lips, the eyes are sunken and there is a sunken condition around the nose. The mother is astonished and sends for the doctor hurriedly. The child sinks into an exhausted sleep. It wakens and again fills the stomach with milk which comes up again in a few minutes, partly in curd and partly liquid, and again there is an awful exhaustion, deathly appearance and prolonged sleep. Without Aethusa, in two or three days the undertaker gets the child. This is nearly the whole story of Aethusa.”Colitis is a common chronic condition of Aethusa. There is often distention of the abdomen, especially when irritated or after overeating. Sometimes these patients will be compelled to induce vomiting because of this uncomfortable sensation.
There is a desire for cheese, farinaceous foods and salt. There may be an aversion to fat. Most characteristic, however, is a marked aversion to milk. Rarely, there may be a craving for milk, but with either the desire or the aversion there is invariably an intolerance to milk. In some cases, milk is not digested; it curdles in the stomach and induces vomiting of curds. In other cases reactions can range from general indigestion to abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
There can be a marked yellowish vaginal discharge. Aethusa should be added to the rubric, “Yellow leucorrhea, stains linen.”In summarizing the salient points of Aethusa, the following deserve emphasis:
An isolated person — a loner.
An unwillingness to communicate or express deep emotions (often without any apparent justifying cause).
A strong attachment to animals.
The emotional energy may be directed into social work.
Fear of going to sleep. Starting with fright on falling asleep.
Skin eruption on the nose.
Aversion to or aggravation from milk.