Phytolacca Poisoning.

Botanical name: 

Editor Ellingwood's Therapeutist:

At about 11 o'clock p. m. one night in April last, I was called to see four people who had been poisoned. The ground had thawed early as the weather was quite warm, and a root which was supposed to be horseradish had been dug up and grated with vinegar. Of this root five persons of a family of ten, had eaten a very small portion, in fact the minute quantity that any one had swallowed, was one of the curious factors of the case.

About three hours later four of these five people began to vomit. Two of them were not further affected than this simple emesis, and two were very sick at the time I was called. The following were the symptoms that I observed. The patients were much depressed and anxious. The features were collapsed, the pulse was weak and rapid, with temperature of ninety-eight degrees. About every half hour there was vomiting of a slimy mucus mixed with streaks of blood. This was followed by a profuse watery diarrhea. The pain was sharp and paroxysmal in character and was located midway between the sternal notch and the umbilicus and seemed to pass straight across the body.

I gave these patients carbo-veg. and arsenite of copper. In the morning all were much better only weak and sore from the muscular effort of vomiting. I suspected the root to be phytolacca decandra, but only last week had I the opportunity to verify the plant in situ. The next visit after the attack I specially and carefully inspected the tongue and buccal mucous membranes for the indication of phytolacca. They were absolutely absent. There were no pallid membranes, no viscid red exudation in patches, nor any other visible signs of variation from health. If there is any truth in the law of similia the following indications should be relieved by the use of phytolacca: paroxysmal pains of a burning character between the stomach and the umbilicus, attended by vomiting of bloody mucus and by a diarrhea of the same character.


Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.