This drug as used by the Old School has done more mischief than any one drug in their Materia Medica. Every patient who had a fast heart, or anything the matter with the heart, was given Digitalis. It has caused more deaths than any drug. If administered when the heart is going fast it will soon produce a peculiar kind of paralysis; the heart then having lost its balance-wheel, compensation gives out, the patient sinks and finally dies. They do not know that many patients would have lived through fevers, pneumonia and other acute diseases if it had not been for this medicine, used as they have used it in the tincture, in many-drop doses, until the heart was slowed down. They call it sedative; yes, it is a sedative. It makes the patient very sedate. You have seen how very sedate a patient looks after he has been in the hands of an undertaker and has on his best garments. That is what Digitalis does. In that way it is a sedative in the hands of the allopath. A homeopathic physician never prescribes to bring down the pulse. He prescribes for the patient and the heart’s action takes care of itself.
Digitalis is a very poor fever medicine. Instead of being indicated when the pulse is fast, the proving says it is indicated when the pulse is slow.
It produces a great disturbance of the liver. "Congestion and enlargement of the liver. Soreness of the liver." Tenderness about the liver – but during that time the pulse is slow. It makes the bowels very sluggish, produces inactivity of the liver, and stools are bileless, light colored, putty like – and the pulse is slow. Add to that jaundice and you have a grand picture of Digitalis. Jaundice, with slow pulse, with uneasiness in the liver, pale stool, and even if you have never seen or heard of Digitalis before you will scarcely miss it. Now, you might add a myriad of little symptoms, but it does not change the aspect of things. It is Digitalis.
Another group of symptoms that belongs with the Digitalis heart, the Digitalis liver and the Digitalis bowels, is a gone, sinking feeling in the stomach. It seems as if he would die, and he does not get better from eating. It is a nervous, deathly sinking that comes with many heart troubles. You would not be surprised to find in Digitalis much nervous prostration. Restlessness and great nervous weakness. "Feels as if he would fly to pieces. Anxiety. Feels that something is going to happen." Seems as if his whole economy were full of anxious feelings and restlessness. Lassitude, faintness, exhaustion and extreme prostration. Faints on the slightest provocation. It begins in the stomach; an awful sensation of weakness in the stomach and bowels.
His sleep is full of horrible dreams, nightmare, fright. Dreams of falling – that is very common with cardiac affections. When the pulse is too slow, when it is irregular, the brain is irregularly supplied with blood during sleep, and there is a turbulent state. A shock goes through the body like an electric shock, like internal jerkings, twitchings. Sudden muscular movements, as if a current of electricity passed through the body. This, with slow pulse, with a sense of faintness, and great weakness. Bluish paleness of the lips in persons who suffer at times with cardiac spells – it seems at times as if the pulse would cease. Face becomes blue, the fingers become blue. Wants to lie on the back. Frequently startled in sleep; jerking at night.
The heart symptoms are numerous, but none is so important as the slow pulse. The pulse is slow in the beginning of the case. It may now be flying like lightning. He is anxious, restless, has horrible dreams and sinking in the stomach – that sounds like the advanced stage of Digitalis – but I want to know if in the beginning, the pulse was slow. The patient himself seldom knows, but someone says that in the beginning the pulse was 48; that is Digitalis. If the pulse in the beginning was rapid do not think of Digitalis, for it will not do any good. The Digitalis pulse is at first slow and perhaps remains so for many days, until finally the heart commences to go with a quiver, with an irregular beat, intermits, feels as if it would cease to beat, and then we have all these strange manifestations, Weakness is the very character of the Digitalis pulse, and all these characteristics go along with it. First it is slow, and sometimes strong. Slow, strong pulse when rheumatism is threatening the heart. "Violent, but not very rapid pulse. Sudden violent beating of the heart, with disturbed rhythm." The slightest motion increases anxiety and palpitation. When the pulse is going very slow, sometimes down to 40, the patient turns the head and the pulse flutters and increases in its action. If he turns over in bed it seems as if the heart would stop. If he moves he feels it fluttering all over him, and it settles back and is slow again; but, finally, it changes and flutters all the time. Palpitation of the heart originating in grief. Sudden sensation as though the heart stood still. Fluttering of the heart. The least muscular exertion renders the heart’s action labored and intermittent – in a feeble heart. A person with an enlarged liver, with a slow pulse, with jaundice and pale stool. With that he will have a troublesome cough. Digitalis is not much of a remedy for a cough unless it is a cardiac cough. Cough at midnight. Cough, with expectoration of "boiled starch." Cough, with expectoration of bloody mucus in hypostatic congestion of the lungs. Cough, brought on by talking, walking, drinking anything cold, bending the body. These are coughs associated with other troubles.
The same thing is to be said of the respiration. There are difficulties of respiration, along with cardiac troubles and liver troubles. "Respiration irregular and performed with great difficulty. Constant desire to take a deep breath. When he goes to sleep the breath seems to fade away, then he wakes up with a gasp. Lachesis, Phosphorus, Carbo veg. and some other remedies have that; remedies that affect the cerebellum particularly, producing a congestion of the cerebellum. When a patient goes to sleep the cerebrum says to the cerebellum: "Now you carry on this breathing a little while, I am getting tired." But the cerebellum is not equal to the occasion. It is congested, and just as soon as the cerebrum begins to rest the cerebellum goes to sleep, too, and lets the patient suffer; and in that way we get suffocation. The cerebellum presides over respiration during sleep and the cerebrum presides over respiration when the patient is awake. We might learn that from the provings of medicines if we never found it before.
"Fear of suffocation at night." Now, to analyze that. He knows from experience that every time he drops into a sleep he suffocates, and hence he fears to go to sleep for fear he will suffocate. The fear of suffocation at night is from this origin. It is the same if he falls asleep in the daytime. "Can only breathe in gasps." Digitalis is a useful medicine when there is a filling up of the lower part of the lung. The patient is sitting up in bed, and there is dulness in the lower part of each lung and plenty of resonance in the upper portion. Then it is, if he lies down, he will suffocate. Digitalis likes mostly to lie flat on the back with no pillow, when there is no filling up of the lungs. But when there is hypostatic congestion he suffocates. If early in the case the pulse was slow and it has become fast, Digitalis may be of some benefit.
Now, a feature in connection with the genito-urinary organs. In old cases of enlarged prostate gland I do not know what I would do without Digitalis. Where there is a constant teasing to pass urine. In many instances where the catheter has been used for months or years because he is unable to pass urine in a natural way, and where there is a residuary urine in old bachelors and old men, Digitalis is a good remedy. It diminishes the size of the prostate gland and has many times cured. "Dropsy with suppression of urine." In uremic poisoning and in various phases of Bright’s disease of the kidneys we have symptoms indicating Digitalis. Retention of urine; dribbling of urine. Spermatorrhoea. Nightly emission. In persons addicted for years to secret vices. Enlarged prostate gland.
It is capable of curing chronic gonorrhea. It has cured acute gonorrhea. It has cured inflammation of that thin, delicate membrane covering the glands penis. Dropsical swelling of the genitals.
"Loss of appetite and violent thirst." Most doctors give Sulphur when the patient drinks much and eats little. The nausea of Digitalis is not like that of Ipecac. and Bryonia. It is a singular nausea. The smell of food excites a deathly nausea, a sinking, a goneness, associated with cardiac troubles, with jaundice and liver troubles. The nausea is accompanied by a deathly feeling, as if he is sinking away. Sometimes the nausea is relieved by eating, but the sinking remains after eating, showing that it is something besides hunger. "Persistent nausea. Extreme sensitiveness in the pit of the stomach. Faintness and sinking in the pit of the stomach as if he would die. No appetite, but great thirst. Soreness and hardness in the region of the liver. Sensitiveness to pressure in the region of the liver." Now remember the liver and the heart symptoms, the jaundice, the slow pulse, the awful sinking in the stomach, the enlargement of the prostate gland, the gray stool, and you have the principal symptoms of Digitalis.
After all that I have said you are not surprised at the horrible anxiety that the Digitalis patient carries with him all the time. He wants to be alone; sadness, melancholy, despondency and restlessness. He can’t decide upon anything that he ought to do; tremulousness. The stomach, bowel and liver troubles are just what you see sometimes in a hard drinker after trying to break off. He is prostrated; his heart gives out, is irregular, weak, slow; and he has sadness and melancholy; inability to apply himself. Digitalis will help him straighten out.