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Latrodectus Mactans

PREPARATION.--The spiders are triturated in the usual way.

(The following paper by Dr. Samuel A. Jones appeared in

the Homoeopathic Recorder, July, 1889, under the

title, "Latrodectus Mactans: a Suggested Remedy in Angina


"The great result of the grim doctor's labor, so far as

known to the public, was a certain preparation or extract

of cobwebs, which, out of a great abundance of material,

he was able to produce in any desirable quantity, and by

the administration of which he professed to cure diseases

of the inflammatory class, and to work very wonderful

effects upon the human system."--Dr. Grimshawe's


I do not know that the doctor who is the direct occasion of this paper

was grim, nor do I imagine he ever dreamed of such an application of

his paper as I purpose to make. I never met him; though he wore the gray

and I the blue during a struggle wherein fate might easily have thrown

us together. It was not until the autumn of '76 that I became aware of

his existence, and then by a contribution of his to a medical

magazine--the special copy of which was found amongst the multifarious

waifs of a bookstall. I could not "decline the article," although I was

then entering upon a field of labor that would leave little time for

such quiet research as the old doctor's paper so powerfully suggested,

so I bought the odd number, and fourteen years later I am making such

use of it as my sense of its significance enforces.

It is due Mr. A. J. Tafel to state that but for his most efficient

services this paper of mine would never have been written. To his

endeavors, stretching through some years, I owe the identification of

the remedy, without which I should not have put pen to paper; and having

secured this, from unimpeachable authority, too, he never rested from

his labors until he had put in my possession dilutions of the poison

itself. If, then, this magis venenum shall prove itself magis

remedium, most assuredly the pars magna of its introduction is his.

From the days of Dioscorides and Pliny to the present a venomous quality

has been ascribed to "the fluid emitted from the orifice in the fangs of

the arancidae." That this quality was even lethal has been both believed

and questioned. Insect Life, Vol. I., No. 7, pp. 204-211, Washington,

1889, contains "A Contribution to the Literature of Fatal Spider Bites,"

in which the credulity of mere medical observers and the emphatic

incredulity of professed "entomologists and arachnologists" are dwelt

upon, and concerning which its author cautiously concludes as follows:

"It will possibly appear to the reader that after collecting this

testimony we are as far from the solution of the question--'Do spider

bites ever produce fatal results?'--as we were before; but it seems to

us, after analyzing the evidence, that it must at least be admitted that

certain spiders of the genus Latrodectus have the power to inflict

poisonous bites which may (probably exceptionally and depending upon

exceptional conditions) bring about the death of a human being.

Admitting in its fullest force the argument that in reported cases the

spider has seldom if ever been seen by a reliable observer to inflict

the wound, we consider that the fact that species of the Latrodectus,

occurring in such widely distant localities as South Europe, the

Southern United States, and New Zealand, are uniformly set aside by the

natives as poisonous species, when there is nothing especially dangerous

in their appearance, is the strongest argument for believing that these

statements have some verification in fact. It is no wonder that a

popular fear should follow the ferocious-looking spiders of the family

Theraphosoidae; but considering the comparatively small size and modest

coloring of the species of Latrodectus so wide-spread a prejudice,

occurring in so many distinct localities, must be well founded." P. 211.

Is it indeed an argument that "in reported cases the spider has seldom

if ever been seen by a reliable observer to inflict the wound?" How an

Orfila, a Christison, and a Caspar would smile when asked if the

evidence of a poisonous quality depended upon the administration of the

poison being "seen by a reliable observer." Toxicology detects a poison

by the physiological test as well as the chemical. Strychnia in quantity

too small for the coarse chemical test is revealed by the tetanized

muscles of a frog whether that "arch martyr to science" be in "South

Europe, the Southern United States, or New Zealand," and that

infinitesimal fractions of Strychnia will display its characteristics

whether or not its administration is "seen" by a Christison, or a

college janitor. Of course, a Christison would recognize Strychnia from

and in the phenomena, while a college janitor (and here and there an

over-scientific entomologist) might not.

It is neither the aim nor the purpose of this paper to establish the

lethal property of spider poison; though I must acknowledge that, until

I read the paper in Insect Life, I had no thought that its possession

of such a property would be called in question. I shall content myself

with calling attention to the pathogenetic quality of the poison of

Latrodectus mactans, leaving my reader to discern the resemblance of

its tout ensemble to an attack of angina pectoris, and therefore to

infer its homoeopathic applicability in that dread disorder. I shall

not enter upon the pathology--various and much confused--of that cardiac

seizure, because, as I get older, I find the "like" more and more of a

"pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night," whilst in my short

life I have found "pathology" as changeable as a dying dolphin--and

every one knows that a dead fish "stinks and shines, and shines and