Not all products used in alternative healing come from plants. Lachesis is the venom of the bushmaster snake, Lachesis mutus. It is used in homeopathic medicine.
L. mutus is a tropical snake that lives in the jungles of Central and South America, growing to a length of 12 feet (3.6 m). It is the largest poisonous pit viper in the Western hemisphere, and second in size in the world only to the king cobra. L. mutus is related to the familiar North American rattlesnake.
A large bushmaster can have fangs more than 1 in (2.5 cm) long. Its venom is deadly and kills rapidly by inhibiting nervous impulses or slowly by interfering with blood clotting and accelerating the destruction of red blood cells. The bushmaster is also called the surucucu (sometimes spelled surukuku).
Homeopathic medicine operates on the principle that "like heals like." This means that a disease can be cured by treating it with substances that produce the same symptoms as the disease, while also working in conjunction with the homeopathic law of infinitesimals. In opposition to traditional medicine, the law of infinitesimals states that the lower a dose of curative, the more effective it is. To achieve a low dose, the curative is diluted many, many times until only a tiny amount remains in a huge amount of the diluting liquid.
In homeopathic terms, fresh L. mutus venom was "proved" as a remedy by Constantine Hering around 1830. Although born in what is now Germany, Hering is considered to be the founder of American homeopathy. In 1827 he went to Surinam, South America, to conduct biological research for his government. In experimenting with lachesis venom in an attempt to find a homeopathic inoculation for smallpox, he accidentally poisoned himself with a small amount of venom. This led him to his "proof" that lachesis was a homeopathic remedy. Ever the curious scientist, Hering later accidentally paralyzed his right side by continuing to test higher and higher doses of lachesis on himself.
Lachesis is used in homeopathy to treat a wide range of symptoms. These fall into the following general categories of:
- menstrual and menopausal complaints
- throat and mouth complaints
- fear, paranoia, and associated mental complaints
- nervous system complaints
- circulatory complaints
All these complaints exhibit certain patterns or modalities that indicate they should be treated with lachesis. These symptoms may:
- worsen after sleep and upon awakening
- worsen in the spring
- worsen after drinking hot beverages, taking hot baths, or direct exposure to the sun
- worsen if touched or if the body is constricted by tight clothes
- worsen with alcohol consumption
- produce surging waves of pain
- move from the left side to the right side of the body
- result in a mottled, engorged, congested face
- result in a very sensitive neck
- improve from eating
- improve from the onset of bodily discharge
- improve from exposure to cold and fresh air
In homeopathy, certain remedies are thought to be especially effective in people with specific personality and physical traits. The "lachesis personality" tends to be egocentric, self-important, unstable, and jealous. They may be possessive. This personality type often talks about doing great things, but rarely follows through. Physically, lachesis types tend to be overweight and bloated. They often have red hair and freckles.
Lachesis is a major homeopathic remedy for hot flashes associated with menopause. It is also used to treat premenstrual and menstrual symptoms such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstrual pain, and short menses.
Throat and mouth complaints are also treated with lachesis. A sore throat that worsens when hot liquids are swallowed is a good example of the type of throat complaint for which lachesis is considered appropriate. Similarly, so is a sore throat with left-sided pain or pain in the left ear, and a purplish, engorged throat, swollen gums, tongue, and foul-tasting saliva. The throat, neck, and larynx are extremely sensitive to touch.
Lachesis is used to alleviate certain mental or emotional symptoms. These include suspicion and distrust that can border on paranoia, extreme talkativeness that reflects nervousness and restless, depression, petty jealousy, and unsociability.
Circulatory complaints treated with lachesis include:
- swollen and engorged veins that give the skin a bluish cast
- varicose veins
- nose bleeds
- slow-to-heal, bluish wounds
- a throbbing sensation in various parts of the body
- weak, irregular rapid pulse
The main nervous system complaint treated by lachesis is cluster headaches. These are headaches that produce pulsating waves of pain, often on the left side, or beginning on the left side then moving to the right. They often precede menstruation and improve once menses begins. Petit mal seizures and angina are also treated with lachesis.
Other complaints that lachesis is said to alleviate include stomach pains, appendicitis, vomiting and gastrointestinal complaints, anal spasms, bleeding hemorrhoids, and cravings for alcohol, coffee, and shellfish.
Fresh venom is commercially prepared in a very highly diluted form. It is available in tablets or liquid and is known as lachesis 12X. It can be taken with other complementary homeopathic remedies.
No particular precautions have been reported when using lachesis, however, caution must be taken when using this—and any homeopathic treatment. Individuals should consult a licensed homeopath or physician.
When taken in the recommended dilute form, no side effects have been reported. However, concentrated quantities of the venom cause paralysis and hemorrhaging, and can be fatal.
Studies on interactions between lachesis given in homeopathic doses and conventional pharmaceuticals are nonexistent.
Hammond, Christopher. The Complete Family Guide to Homeopathy. London: Penguin Studio, 1995.
Lockie, Andrew. The Family Guide to Homeopathy: Symptoms and Natural Solutions. New York: Prentice Hall, 1989.
Lockie, Andrew and Nicola Geddes. The Complete Guide to Homeopathy. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1995.
National Center for Homeopathy. 801 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 306, Alexandria, VA 22314. (703)548–7790
Homeopathic Internet Resources. http://www.holisticmed.com./www/homeopathy.html.