Portrait: Arsenicum album

I don’t see a lot of Arsenicum constitutions or maybe I do but I miss them.

My colleagues describe the fearful intense patient that clings to the owner and will bite if you come near because they are so frightened or anxious. Chihuahuas?


Mostly Arsenicum is used in my practice of Holistic Animal Medicine as an end of life palliative. It has taken many animals to a peaceful and natural death when their time has come and it is an invaluable adjunct in this arena. It is also one of the coldest medicines in our repertory, which may assist in prescribing. The coldness of extremities could look like secale and if you were in a region that had below freezing temperatures, arsenicum could be a good medicine to have on hand. Vedic seers of the hoary past, in the Himalayas used to take arsenic to keep warm in caves on freezing nights.

Other common applications are as a first aid for acute gastroenteritis medicine, although animals rarely get ‘food poisoning’.

Arsenicum trioxide (ars alb) is also used in material doses as a treatment for promyelocytic leukaemia in people which is a derivative of homeopathic lore, “like cures like”, since the compound causes this disease. It was used historically as a sheep dip for ectoparasites and as an intravenous injection to kill heartworm in dogs. The toxicological picture is therefore very well known after centuries of use and abuse.


I have taken Ars alb in homeopathic doses myself on a few occasions but the incident that springs to mind most and demonstrates a keynote of arsenicum is a bizarre and acute episode of extreme photophobia I had recently………….after midnight!! There are numerous photophobia medicines but this experience was as though I had a bright light shining in my eyes while they were closed in a dark room after midnight. Eye, pain burning, night. A single dose of Arsalb200 had immediate and hours duration of effect until I needed a top up around 4am.

The pathogenesis of this disease initially concerned me as much as the watering and pain until I realized it was probably from swimming in the sea earlier that day as it was closely reminiscent of this sensation, albeit more painful. The thing I remember is how clearly this experience demonstrated the ‘after midnight’ keynote of Arsenicum that I so often remind my patients to use as a guide to using it.

I have come to realise, with homeopathic medicines, that the little personal insights we have into the essence of the medicines can often be the main prescribing indication despite a paucity of other parallels in the clinical picture. More and more often in this modern world, the clinical pictures of these medicines that have been developed over centuries are becoming more clouded by obstacles and interferences brought into the mix by our modern environment and lifestyles. It is only the strong keynotes at times that shine through this cloud. An increasing number of my canine patients these days demonstrate anxiety but I don’t usually give them arsenicum. I am now considering what it may take for me to see that arsenicum may be helpful to more of my patients since anxiety is becoming an increasingly difficult disease to cure.images-7

Animal pictures can be even more difficult to see because they don’t often give us enough information apart from the physical. With arsenicum that could be dry flaky skin, acute gastroenteritis, malignancies, restlessness and anxiety especially after midnight. They are generally chilly, thirsty patients. Arsenicum is associated with short bursts of exceptional physical ability and we can be reminded of the racehorse in this picture. It is an excellent pick me up for added energy and endurance. There is  controversy over the death of PharLap and the involvement of material doses of arsenic as it was used as a racehorse tonic in the early 1900’s.


I am not confident that I could pick a young arsenicum. The older ones are a little easier because I think that arsenicum is also a feature of aging and losing control of oneself and ones environment. The picture is one of the ensuing attempt to keep a close, controlled world as they get more routinised and fastidious as the necessity of losing control or dying, demands.


I have an enormous debt of gratitude to the provers of arsenicum for providing me with such an invaluable medicine for supporting animals to a natural death with Holistic Animal Medicine.



At the end of our life’s journey
God wishes us all
To come back Home safely.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 14

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