Lycopodium is one of the deepest and broadest acting remedies in the entire Materia Medica, potentially affecting all conditions know to mankind. Despite its wide application, however, there is a central thread which runs through the remedy and clarifies its highly interesting image.
The main theme in Lycopodium has to do with cowardice. Inside, Lycopodium patients are constantly contending with cowardice – moral, social and physical. They feel themselves to be weak and inadequate, incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities in life, and so they avoid responsibilities. Externally, however, the Lycopodium patient may present to the world an image of capability extroverted friendliness, and courage, which can make the true image of the remedy difficult to perceive without skilful probing on the part of the homoeopath.
The central idea in which Lycopodium shows itself in early stages is in relationship to sex. The Lycopodium patient seeks situations in which the desire for sexual gratification can be satisfied without having to face the personal responsibilities which are implicit in such intimacy. It is commonly observed in such patients that there has been a long history of one night stands, in which the patient seeks satisfaction and then walks away without further responsibilities. If a sexual partner shows interest in marriage, the Lycopodium patient becomes fearful of the responsibilities and whether he will be able to fulfill them. Usually, he will leave before becoming “penned in” by the responsibilities of marriage, children, or even other forms of commitment in life.
This relationship to sex is a superficial one. Gratification is the primary motivation; he wants it quick, easy, effortless and without consequences. If such a patient meets a secretary who is by chance alone in an office, the first thought on his mind will be that this is a sexual opportunity, and he will likely make advances. Such patient may also visit prostitutes frequently, as this contact implies no responsibilities. It is not as if the Lycopodium patient’s desire is so intense, as it is in Platina; the Lycopodium constitution is too weak for such intensity, but when the desire does arise, the Lycopodium way of handling it is focused on the superficial gratification of the moment and the avoidance of responsibility.
Once married, the Lycopodium man or woman may well experience sexual dysfunctions because of the fear of being unable to fulfill responsibilities of intimacy. The woman may be unable to have orgasm or the man may experience impotence in the form of either premature ejaculation or absence of erection. Internally, the Lycopodium patient feels a deep state of inadequacy and weakness and this is challenged most noticeably in the intimate marriage relationship. The Lycopodium patient sensing this feeling of inadequacy, usually presents strong, courageous competent image to the world, but his bluff is called when responsibility and performance are required as in marriage. So, it is in the marriage situation where administration of Lycopodium can have some of the most gratifying results.
Such patients are in constant fear that others will discover the truth about their inner state of weakness. They are constantly worried about what others think of them. Because Lycopodium fits highly intelligent and intellectual people, it is found frequently in professions requiring public performance – priests, lawyers, schoolteachers, even politicians. A priest may feel perfectly well before giving a sermon, but upon reaching the pulpit and realising that so many eyes are upon him, he may suddenly suffer gastritis pain or great anxiety. Such a person may be able to carry out the task properly, but very often the physical or emotional suffering will seriously interfere with functioning. Again, this situation is a manifestation of anxiety in the face of responsibility, and the patient may well attempt to escape from his profession, sometimes seeming to use the physical illness as an excuse.
Lycopodium patients may go overboard in presenting a bluff to compensate for the inner feeling of inferiority. They may exaggerate their attainments, their capacities, the people they know. They may go so far as to tell outrageous lies which cannot be supported when the moment comes to produce results. This bloating of their ego is a compensation for the presumed state of weakness inside, and it is based upon a powerful need to receive admiration and respect from others in order to “prove” themselves.
Eventually, the Lycopodium patient may end up becoming a loner, a spinster, or a celibate spiritual seeker. By attempting to avoid responsibility and gain a measure of control over the desire for instant gratification, the patient may decide to become celibate. This is a fragile state of celibacy, however, because the Lycopodium patient is now constantly obsessed even more strongly by sexual thoughts. After years of discipline, the most pious celibate may break down with surprising ease once an opportunity is presented, only to immediately return to the disciplined state later.
In the second stage of development of Lycopodium pathology, the external bluff becomes even more exaggerated. The patient becomes dictatorial and tyrannical with those around who can be controlled. Lycopodium patients may be timed and passive with coworkers on the job who are not under their control, but become despots at home. A mother may be sweet to her neighbors but tyrannical with her children. By exerting power over others, such people attempt to generate their sense of personal power, just as they previously attempted to bolster their sense of power by seeking the admiration of others through lies and exaggerations. It is also in the second stage that the Lycopodium cowardice becomes more intense. At this stage, many fears become evident. Lycopodium can become terrified by almost anything – being alone, the dark, ghosts, even strange dogs. It is because of such fears that Lycopodium patients, while basically loners because of their fear of facing responsibility, are said to desire company, but in the next room. There is a great fear of suffering of any kind; thus the Lycopodium patient can become anxious about health to the point of hypochondriasis. The fear and anxieties affect mostly the gastrointestinal tract.
In the third stage, prolonged dissipation of energy either in the search for sexual gratification or in struggling with the attempt to control it through celibacy, finally results in a deterioration of the mental functions. This may begin initially as a confusion or poor memory in the morning, and gradually progresses to a more marked memory loss and intellectual weakness. Finally, the patient degenerates into a state of imbecility or senility. Such patients are likely to end up in rest homes at a relatively early stage.
On the physical level, the Lycopodium appearance is fairly distinctive. There is an emaciation of the face, neck and upper torso. The tissues seem to waste away in these regions, while an excess of fat may accumulate around the abdomen, the hips and lower limbs. The face tends to be excessively wrinkled, particularly in patterns reflecting the prolonged anxiety and concern Lycopodiums have over what others think of them. The hair may become gray at an early stage and the person may appear considerably older than his actual age, the flapping of the alae nasi (outer boundaries of the nostrils), which is described so frequently in the books, is rarely seen in actual practice, because it is mostly limited to acute illness involving dyspnoea (labored breathing).
The primary region of action of Lycopodium centers on the genitals, the urinary tract, the gastrointestinal system and the liver. This includes such complaints as impotence, frigidity, nephritis, peptic ulcer, colitis, haemorrhoids and liver disorders. The gastrointestinal tract, in particular, represents the qualities seen throughout Lycopodium.
Just as there is a bloating of the ego presentation in compensation for the inner sense of weakness, there is also a bloating of the intestines in reaction to weak digestion. The patient is “full of wind” and suffers severely after eating. Also, just as there is an emphasis on superficial gratification in sex, the Lycopodium patient frequently seeks gratification of the palate by craving foods, according to their taste – especially sweets and oysters. This comparison extends even further; the Lycopodium patient feels empty and unsatisfied after coition, and suffers excessively after indulging in a meal based on gratification of taste. Lycopodium patients are constantly trying to control their desire for such indulgence.
The weakness of digestion is frequently a consequence of a liver ailment. Lycopodium is often indicated in liver dysfunctions and it is interesting to note that the liver is commonly associated with mental disturbances which fit the Lycopodium image.
Lycopodium can be compared with many remedies, of course. The anticipatory anxiety which causes such suffering during public functions in Lycopodium can be compared to Gelsemium; in Lycopodium, it refers more to the state of suffering which occurs during the actual task, while Gelsemium is indicated more for the anxiety and symptoms which occur hours and days prior to the task. Silica is a remedy which has a lack of self-confidence, but it suffers mostly from the inability to cope with any circumstance, not only the social and moral responsibilities which concern Lycopodium. Calcarea and have many similarities to Lycopodium but does not have the characteristic cowardice. Natrum mur. is also a remedy which presents an outer image in compensation for an inner weakness, but the Natrum mur. inner state is one of emotional and sentimental vulnerability rather than the sense of inadequacy felt by Lycopodium.