The root of Bryonia dioica, Jacquin, and Bryonia alba, Linné (Nat. Ord. Cucurbitaceae.) Europe.
Common Names: Bryony, Bastard Turnip, Devil's Turnip, etc.
Principal Constituents.—Probably a colorless, very bitter glucoside, bryonin is the chief active body in bryonia.
Preparation.—Specific Medicine Bryonia. Dose, 1/20 to 5 drops. Usual method of administration: Rx Specific Medicine Bryonia, 5-10 drops; Water, 4 fluidounces. Mix. Sig.: One teaspoonful every 1 to 3 hours. The smaller doses are preferred for specific medication.
Specific Indications.—Sharp cutting pain, or tearing pain from serous inflammation; tenderness on pressure; tearing pain with sore feeling in any part of the body and always aggravated by motion; moderately full or hard wiry vibratile pulse; headache from frontal region to occiput; soreness in eyeballs upon movement; hyperesthesia of scalp or face; irritating, hacking or racking cough or provoked by changes of air; lethargy short of dullness; tired, weary or apathetic feeling, too tired to think; perspiring on slight movement.
Action.—The fresh root of bryonia is a strong irritant, and when bruised and kept in contact with the skin blisters it. When taken internally in overdoses it causes severe gastro-enteritis, and has caused death. The chief symptoms are uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting, dizziness, lowered temperature, dilated pupils, cold perspiration, thread-like pulse, colic, and collapse. Large but less than fatal doses sometimes cause bronchial irritation with cough, hepatic tenderness, increased urination with vesical tenesmus, cerebral fullness and congestion, jaundice and depressed action of the heart. These effects are never experienced from the small medicinal doses. Tannin is said to counteract the untoward effects of bryonia.
Therapy.—Bryonia, practically unused in the dominant school, and much employed by Homeopathists, is regarded by Eclectic physicians as an indispensable agent. Personally, we use few agents more frequently than bryonia. It is a remedy for debility and the long train of miseries accompanying it, and in acute diseases it is of first importance as a remedy for pain and inflammation in serous membranes. The bryonia patient is weak and perspires readily upon the slightest movement. The stereotyped assertion, "aggravated by motion," and learned by us from the Homeopaths, is a true dictum when applied to bryonia cases. Though not necessarily dull, the patient is lethargic in the sense that he does not wish to move lest he aggravate his condition. There is no dullness or hebetude as with belladonna, but the patient is tired, languid, and torpid, and though much awake has little inclination to move about.
Bryonia patients, except in the acute infections, often display a deficiency of nervous balance and with this may or may not be associated the bryonia headache pain from the frontal region to the occipital base; thinking is an effort and the patient is irritable if disturbed. Temperature may be slightly increased, and the tissues contracted. Pressure elicits extreme tenderness and soreness, especially when the viscera are involved.
Bryonia is of especial value in fevers, and is decidedly a remedy for the typhoid. state. Many cases of severe typhoid fever may be carried through with no other medication than bryonia in very small doses. In fact, it is a medicine that gives the best results from minute doses. In fevers the patient is decidedly apathetic, the secretions are scant and vitiated, the nervous system markedly depressed, and the tendency is toward sepsis and delirium. The victim cares little whether he recovers or dies. There is a dry tongue, sordes, a deepened hue of the tissues, capillary circulation is sluggish, and there may be frontal headache. Chilliness is not uncommon, and there is a tendency to sweat easily. In such cases it proves a mainstay during the prolonged fever, and never does the patient harm.
In diseases of the respiratory tract and pleura, bryonia heads the list of useful remedies. The well-known indications given by the founder of specific medication hold good, to-wit: "A hard, vibratile pulse, flushed right cheek, frontal pain extending to the basilar region, and irritative cough." It is a splendid agent for cold in the chest. It is the most decidedly efficient remedy we possess for acute pleurisy, being usually given with, or in alternation with, the indicated special sedative-aconite (quick, small pulse), or veratrum (full, bounding pulse). It promptly meets the sharp, lance-like pain, or the cutting or tearing pain, all made worse upon movement. Not only does it subdue pain, but the temperature is lowered and capillary obstruction is overcome, thus freeing the disordered circulation. After the acute symptoms have subsided, it may be continued alone for a long period, to prevent, or to absorb, effusion. In these cases the apathy observed in the febrile diseases is absent, the pain and circulatory excitation throwing the patient into a condition of nervous excitement, which is quite readily controlled by bryonia. While of great value in all forms of pleurisy, it is particularly valuable in that form that comes on insidiously. In pleuro-pneumonia, it should be given to promote absorption of exuded serum. In la grippe, it is one of the best of remedies, both for the cough and the debility. We use it confidently in pneumonia to control pain, when present; but above all, to allay the harsh, harassing cough. Bryonia is an excellent agent for cough brought on by use of the voice, or by motion of any kind, as walking, swallowing food, entering a warm room, and for that form of cough induced by tickling sensations in the throat, or when excited by vomiting. The cough which bryonia relieves is laryngotracheal; it is most frequently dry, hacking, rasping or explosive, showing its origin in irritation or erethism. Tensive or sharp pains are almost always present, and the secretion, if there is any, is small in quantity and of whitish or brown, frothy mucus, sometimes streaked or clotted with blood. It is one of the most efficient remedies in la grippe, for the cough, pain, and the headache, and in bronchitis, bronchopneumonia, and even phthisis, all with blood-streaked expectoration, it is a great aid in relieving the distressing, hacking cough.
Bryonia is an invaluable agent in the treatment of peritonitis. In peritonitis, from septic causes, as in puerperal peritonitis, it will only aid; a surgical or cleansing process will prepare the way for its use. The pain indicating it is colic-like, attended with marked tensive tenderness. Similar conditions indicate its employment in cholera infantum and typhomalarial fever. In synovitis it is one of the most certain drugs to relieve pain and remove effusion. Nor should bryonia be neglected in the treatment of pericarditis, in which it will help to control inflammation and to prevent and absorb effusion. Recent reports confirm its earlier reputation as a remedy of the first value in cerebro-spinal meningitis.
Disorders of the liver and gall apparatus frequently call for the small doses of bryonia. It is especially serviceable when there is jaundice, deep orange-colored urine, and soreness upon pressure. There may or may not be an accompanying headache. A peculiarity of the tongue that we have seen bryonia clear up in these cases is a semi-transparent coating of the organ, appearing like a wash of buttermilk. When the liver capsule is involved, with sticking or cutting pain, bryonia will materially help to bring about a healthy condition. The prolonged use of bryonia and aconite in small doses has given us better results in cholecystitis than anything we have ever used, and we believe it has often warded off surgical intervention. Bryonia is a strong aid in the medicinal treatment of appendicitis. In indigestion, where the food lies heavily like a stone, bryonia is often very effective. Scudder valued it for relief of abdominal pain and tenderness in typhomalarial and zymotic fevers, and with ipecac or euphorbia in similar conditions in cholera infantum.
For mammitis, aconite, bryonia and phytolacca are our three best remedies. The first two are to be employed when the inflammation is marked, and the glands are swollen and tender and feel knotted. Phytolacca is always indicated in this trouble. Both bryonia and phytolacca are equally effective in orchitis and ovaritis, with tenderness upon pressure.
Bryonia is a remedy of much value in the treatment of acute rheumatism, being best adapted to those cases where the joints are stiff and swollen. Locke declared it the most certain remedy for rheumatic swelling of the finger joints. As a remedy for headache, bryonia has long enjoyed a well earned reputation. There is frontal pain (some claim on the right side chiefly), sometimes rheumatoidal; again, it may be from a disordered stomach, or a hemicrania, with sharp, tearing pains and a tender scalp. Occasionally it relieves facial neuralgia, but ordinarily it can not be relied on in that complaint. All bryonia headaches are made worse by motion. Bryonia is sometimes useful in rheumatic iritis, and in partial deafness from pressure of swollen glands after scarlet fever, or from colds. A very true indication for it is soreness of the eyeballs, upon movement, occurring in any acute disorder. The best bryonia preparation is specific medicine bryonia. For all the uses mentioned above, from one to ten drops may be added to a half-glass of water, and of this mixture a teaspoonful may be given every one to two hours.
Finally, but in larger doses than are required for the preceding uses, bryonia (up to drop doses) is one of the best agents to overcome infantile constipation due to difficult digestion of cow's milk and in other forms of constipation, where the stools are dry and scybalous.
In former years, when it was the prevailing belief that insanity was caused by indwelling evil spirits, drastic cathartics were invoked for their removal. In England large doses of a syrup of the fresh juice of bryonia were given. Hence the oft-recurring reference to bryonia in literature as a cathartic—a use to which it is never put in Eclectic Therapy.
The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.