Benzoic acid: Materia Medica

Whenever we see in the nature of a remedy a well-defined state and condition of the human system pointed out by certain distinctive groups of symptoms we may know that there is such a diseased state in the human family.

They have not the power to create by themselves any diseased state except there is first such a state in the economy of the human race to be aroused. They simply call up in a single individual something that the individual has, and that something belongs to the human race, and so whenever we see a diseased state in the remedy we know that it exists in correspondence to something in the human race.

Things are so adjusted that everything is for use. There may be conditions in the human race that we, as yet, know no remedy for. We see certain groups of peculiar symptoms frequently repeat themselves and we know they are representatives of a state of economy, but up to this day we may not have seen in the Materia Medica their counterpart. In medicines we have the exact counterpart for the diseases of the human race.

Now this remedy has a state and condition that is sometimes called the gouty constitution, the uraemic or the lithaemic constitution, and these cases are very difficult to manage, as the state is so persistent. It is one of the manifestations of Psora. These patients suffer more or less from irregularity in the action of the kidneys; sometimes the urine is scanty and then they suffer from bodily complaints; again the urine is copious and then they are relieved of their complaints. They are subject to rheumatic attacks and pains in the joints, showing the gouty constitution, and then they have relief when the urine is copious and heavily laden with deposits; but on comes an attack when they have more or less urine, but it is light in specific gravity, and then they are full of pains; in that way they fluctuate. Now, the young prescriber will sometimes see the patient when he is passing large quantities of uric acid forming the red pepper deposits and he thinks he must stop that; his main idea is to check that one particular thing. But the patient is a great deal better off while he has it. To check it is like suppressing a skin eruption, or restraining any other manifestation of disease.

It will be noticed, as one of the foremost things in this remedy’s manifestations, that it has strong smelling urine; the urine is pungent, and it sometimes becomes so strong that it smells like hippuric acid, and so it is said urine smells strong like that of a horse. The odor in this remedy approximates that of hippuric acid.

The complaints, then, of Benzoic acid are such as are changeable, and we know why they are changeable; when the urine is copious and plenty of uric acid is being passed, and the urine is full of deposits, then the patient is at his best; when the urine is scanty or of light specific gravity he suffers from backache and pains in the joints, he suffers from atmospheric changes, is sensitive to cold drafts and to the air; but let the urine start up again, which it does in a sort of alternating way, light urine alternating with heavy urine, and the patient is comfortable again. Then, there are complaints in which the urine smells strong and pungent; this often occurs in children. It is astonishing that these little ones manifest the uric acid diathesis in early life. Mothers often describe it as intensely urinous. It smells like intensified urine; it is not the smell, so much, of decomposed urine nor of foetid urine, but urine intensified. It has cured many times wetting the bed, involuntary urination in sleep, when the bed that has been wetted several times becomes uncleanable. You can smell it almost as quick as you go into the room; the children all smell like urine, strong urine; the house smells like urine. If two or three of these little fellows wet the bed at night, the urine is so strong it tells the story at once.

This medicine needs reproving; details have not been brought out, yet its nature is known. We have a good many medicines having this nature, but this is perhaps as intense as any. This remedy does not, of course, fit all these patients, because it does not fit their special symptoms; but it has the nature or general state which, of course, precedes everything, and when it relates to all the particulars as well it does make wonderful changes.

There are a few mental symptoms. “Inclined to dwell on unpleasant things; if he saw anyone deformed, it made him shudder.” Alternation of profound sleep with prolonged periods of wakefulness. In the period of wakefulness, he dwells, during the night, upon all the unpleasant subjects that he can think of. This state alternates with nights of stupid sleep for weeks, and this fluctuates in accordance with the fluctuation of the state of urine. “Sadness.” “Anxiety while sweating.” “Child cross.”

There are many headaches; they are uraemic in character and come in many regions with many details. “Fearful pain in occiput or cerebellum.” “Rheumatic pains in head.” That is well described, because these headaches of uraemic character take on a similarity to rheumatic pains. “Pain and heat in region of organs of reverence and firmness.” “Tearing pain in vertex.” The headaches are very numerous; the remedy is full of dull, aching occipital headaches, coming on in the night from change of weather. Pains located in the base of the brain after pains have existed for some time in the joints, and they are passing but little urine. Every time he takes a little cold the urine becomes scanty and he is full of dull aches and pains in the head and especially in the occiput. Perversion of smell. “Sense of smell diminished.” “Pain in nasal bones.”

Another form of transformation scene takes place in this remedy, when all the gouty symptoms of the body cease and inflammation of the tongue comes on. The pains in the joints cease suddenly from taking cold, from stormy weather and on comes a sudden swelling of the tongue. Mercury also has this state. “Extensive ulcerations of tongue, with deeply chapped or fungoid surfaces.” Then, again, peculiar kinds of sore throat take place from this same cause. Sudden stoppage or slacking up of the quantity of urine; it becomes scanty, high coloured, and pungent, smelling like that of a horse (Nitric acid), along with acute inflammation and swelling of the tonsils and throat; inflammation of the tonsils with scanty, strong, pungent urine smelling like that of a horse. Another feature that seems almost like metastasis. Take an individual who is going around with more or less rheumatic aches in the joints; he takes cold and all this ceases, but the next day he comes down with inflammation of the tongue or sore throat, or inflammation of the stomach; so that lie vomits everything he eats. The gout goes to different parts and in this instance it goes to the stomach; and then Benzoic acid, Antimonium crud. or Sanguinaria is likely to be useful. When it goes to the throat or is followed by swelling of the tongue Mercury and Benzoic acid should be thought of. Whenever this gouty condition goes to the stomach, of course it must conform to those symptoms that are in the nature of this remedy. In this remedy we have “loathing, sickness at stomach,” “nausea with gagging,” “vomiting of a salty substance; bitter.”

When we think of Benzoic acid for the stomach symptoms, it is important that we have in mind its whole- nature, how it brings about its complaints and what characterizes a Benzoic acid patient. We would not be able to distinguish from the stomach symptoms alone; we must carry with them the character of the remedy.

It has much disturbance of the liver, and many liver symptoms. As to the bowels, the stool, the rectum, anus and urinary organs, it is very rich in symptoms. Its striking ones I will call your attention to, but remember its migrating, metastatic nature, its complaints going from one part to another, which will accompany these symptoms. “Stools copious, watery.” This is true in summer diarrhoea, that has come on suddenly, “excessively offensive.” The white stool, like soap-suds, is so strong a symptom that the remedy does not fail to cure even when the gouty constitution is not present. “Excessively offensive, scenting the whole house.” “Putrid, bloody.” “Watery, light-coloured, very offensive stools (in children).” So we get the idea that the stools are white and that the first passages are like soap-suds, but later the soapy appearance subsides and leaves a white stool. It is well, often, when a stool is passed that is of a light liquid, to bear in mind a few remedies that produce this state and ascertain whether it is like soapsuds or filled with bubbles of air. “Diarrhoea of children.” The urinous odor of the body, and especially that peculiarly pungent, intense smell of the urine. “Slightly elevated, wart-like, round surfaces around anus.”

The urinary symptoms are too numerous to read. “Foetid urine.” “Urine of a very repulsive odor.” “Effervescing with hydrochloric acid.” The odor is sometimes like hartshorn; it is pungent; these are only efforts to describe the strong smell. “Urine dark brown.” It is true that normal urine after standing a while will get a foetid odor, but, in this remedy, that just passed is properly described as being intensely urinous. “Urine contains mucus and pus.” “Morbid condition of urine.” “Renders urine acid,” It says in the text “hippuric acid,” but this is a rare condition. “Brown urine smells sour.” “Too frequent desire to evacuate bladder.” “Nephritic colic.” “Urine dark, urinous odor highly intensified.” Gouty troubles of the liver; rheumatism; nephritic colic; it has cured such states after gonorrhoea, but it is not much of a gonorrhoeal remedy. When the rheumatic states and these symptoms are present there are more or less pains in the kidney. “Sore pain in the back; burning in the kidney.” “Prolapsus uteri with foetid urine.” “Retention of urine in infants.”

“Asthma with inflammatory rheumatic complaints.” “Cough followed by expectoration of green mucus.”

The organ that is most commonly affected in these rheumatic complaints is the heart. No organ is so likely to be affected when rheumatism leaves the outermost parts as the heart. Pains in the heart. So in this diathesis, with the strong smelling urine and the gout, we may expect affections of the heart. “Pains change place incessantly.” “Palpitation of the heart.” The rheumatism, of course, is affecting the heart. “Awakens after midnight with violent pulsations of the heart.” Think a moment and you will see in what kind of a case you will need Benzoic acid. The constitution of the remedy comes to mind at once with the heart symptoms, the dyspnoea, pain in the heart with rheumatic symptoms; “cannot go to sleep.” Think of the alternation of sleeplessness with sleep; think of the strong urine, of the fluctuating complaints, of the erratic constitution. “Palpitation worse at night.” “Rheumatic pains in extremities relieving heart.” There we get relief; complaints going back to the extremities with relief to the heart. The heart will relieve when the urine becomes copious or when the rheumatism goes back to the extremities, into the fingers and knees, especially the knees in Benzoic acid. Rheumatism alternating between the extremities and heart. This medicine has cured affections of the heart when the rheumatism has a long time ago disappeared from the extremities and has ever since been affecting the heart; after Benzoic acid has been administered a very good sign of its action is that the extremities become painful and the urine becomes copious; free urine and solids increased; the urine becomes heavy, whereas it was light. “Hard, frequent pulse.”

The extremities are full of rheumatic affections. “Lassitude in lower limbs.” “Swelling of knee.” All gouty affections belong to this remedy. “Gouty concretions.” “Nodes on joints.” Benzoic acid is often an excellent palliating remedy in old gouty constitutions; they want to be relieved of the pains in their fingers and in the nodes and joints. The fingers crack and are clumsy and painful. But often the pain has been relieved and gone to other parts. This is one among the remedies that will drive the complaints away from the internal organs and generally increase the pain in the extremities, which they will scold about. “Trembling with palpitation of heart.” “Extreme weakness; sweat and comatose condition.” Note that comatose condition with sweat; the Benzoic acid patient sweats without relief. Copious, exhaustive sweat and profound sleep, but there is no relief. “Awaken with difficulty of breathing.” Pulsation all over.

“All sorts of catarrhal states; gouty diathesis, gout with arthritic nodosites, syphilitic rheumatism, etc. These patients are getting low down in the scale of life, the tissues become feeble. Ulcers form upon the skin and mucous membranes.


Written by James Tyler Kent (1849–1916) and published first in his book "Materia Medica" (1905) 

James Tyler Kent was an American physician best remembered as a forefather of modern homeopathy.

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