2013 July August

Icy fingers in my brain; a case of Camphora

by Elizabeth Thompson

Patient: a woman age 42. First consultation: May 2009

Presenting complaint: migraine. This lady was referred by her GP for migraine occurring several times a week. She has had migraines since her mid-20’s. She has seen neurologists and had MRI scans, which were normal.

Medication: Triptan, Naratriptan.

Words indicating Carbon themes are in bold.

She is quiet and slow to answer.

P: “I think my migraines have been a build up of emotional stress. It goes back to my childhood, where I had a lot of trauma. My father died when I was young. I never grew up properly; I never had a sense of identity. I struggled and it built up a sense of failure.

Tell me about the sense of failure.

P: “When I look back on it, I felt inadequate and I made a lot of mistakes. I never grew up. I didn’t know who I was. I have never felt in control. Even now, I am out of control in the work situation and with my housing. I have never had a home. In my relationships with men, I am needy and demanding. I look for what I didn’t get as a child.”

What’s that like when you didn’t get it as a child?

P: “Things felt very crowded.  My mother was tired, she didn’t have a lot of energy, with three older boys. I didn’t get protection and I didn’t get any affection. I grew up in a steel town (industrial).

“I couldn’t be a natural child. I struggled with my mother. I was exposed to things; there was no protection, no one to talk about it, no sense of myself. I went from stoical to exploding. One brother was violent; he focused his hatred and anger on me. I had to become stoical but occasionally, I would explode and bang my head on the ground with rage, in utter frustration. No one was getting what was happening to me; there was so much unfairness. I wasn’t in control. I have no confidence, no self esteem, no strong sense of self. If I did have a sense of self; there were things I clung to (gesture).” 

What do you cling to?

P: “I cling to novels, the outside I, looking on life. People would see this injustice.”

What novel has stuck in your mind?

P: Jude, The Obscure. He left home, he wanted to study, he wanted a break from his origins, he wanted to break the script, but it all ends in disaster. A strong moral heart, if it can be seen it is validated, and if not, it is meaningless, like religion. There is a God who sees you, it could see me; if people could see, would they understand and give me a sense of self.”

What is it like to have no sense of self?

P: “I feel trapped, I am part of the dirt, the abuse. It was my fault, I was causing it. I have to separate myself. I have to grow beyond and away from the person I was as a child. The need to separate was complete. I couldn’t go back, it leaves incompleteness. It works in terms of survival.”

”I have been part of an environmental activist group; the relationships were difficult. I felt the sense of failure, that I wasn’t as brave as some of them.”

Talk to me more about the sense of failure.

P: “Not good enough, not brave enough, not brave enough to get arrested. I didn’t feel safe in the group. I needed to be part of the group, then, it became toxic. Someone not sure, frightened of the group, going into a den of lions. It’s a threat if I spoke out. I am not part of the group. This is a recognisable pattern for me.”

Tell me more about the migraine.

P: “It causes me nausea. There is pressure (she points to the root of her nose) around my eyes, at the front part of my face. It will build up the pain and pressure over my eyes. I get nauseated, I exhaust myself.”

Just describe this pain more.

P: “Shooting. Unbearable. It is like icy fingers in my brain. The brain is under so much pressure that the eyes would bleed. There is a sense of pressure and solidity in the brain. A coolness in the head. I need to rub my knees, I can’t keep still.”

Describe ‘under so much pressure’.

P: “It is pushing forward (gestures), forehead is very solid. I rub my forehead. The nausea is sickening, horror, pleading. The nausea engulfs you, everything around you, it’s like a force field, you can’t sense anything else. Not myself, as if I am not alive, I am trapped. The environment is hellish, like a giant fist in my brain, violent, nightmarish. It is anti-life, the worst thing you could manage. It is evil.”


P: “I dream of going into an exam room. There is panic and stress. I am not somebody, I can’t do it, I am shut out of my own life.”

Remedy: Camphora 30C three doses, 12 hours apart

Follow up July: She said the consultation emotionally stirred things up, she felt quite agitated. She felt an aggravation of her symptoms for a week after remedy but now the migraines are better. She feels more resourceful, more hopeful, less anxious.

Remedy: Camphora 30C, then increased to Camphora 200C

Follow up September: “Things in life have been very stressful. My job feels insecure, money is insecure. I’ve been forgetting things like my house keys or losing my purse but my migraines have been less frequent. I have only needed half a tablet of the Triptan. 

“I had abnormal cells on my smear. This happened 3 years ago, it was traumatic. I ran out crying. Horrible, humiliating, invasive. I am not comfortable with touch. Nothing is stable for me, it is unstable. Just surviving is difficult. It’s chaotic, it’s a whirl.”

What is it like when life is a whirl?

P: “It’s like running fast up a hill; run into a brick wall and smash my head. It is not safe, danger. Things can fall apart badly. I am out of control. Too many threads, slipping through my hands. Am I pulled along or do I let go and fall into the water? Too many things to control.  I have no space. I can’t think, I can’t be. It reminds me of when I was a child, wrong and out of control, like a nightmare. I have to go into the exam but I can’t find the room, I am already running late. It is panic, nauseating, dizzy. I am banging my head against the wall. I will run out in front of a car, I am so preoccupied, not aware of my surroundings.” 

Remedy: Camphora 12C. I had changed to 200C but now introduce a 12C.

Follow up December 2009

Migraines are 40% better. She has stopped Imigran medication and is managing on non-steroidals. She made decisions about training, and her job is less under threat.

Remedy: Camphora 200C

Follow up March 2010

She noticed the higher strength of 200C is taking her forward. She feels her 20-year history of migraine is no longer an issue. She does not need Voltaral and anti-sickness tablets now. She has felt better in herself, more resilient.

Analysis for a hydrocarbon remedy:

The language in this case overlaps the themes of fuel and fast travel of the hydrocarbon fuels, “running fast up a hill…” with the panic and unawareness of surroundings that we see in the petroleum proving “I will run out in front of a car, I am so preoccupied, not aware of my surroundings.”

She describes the sense of self with the birth themes of the second series, Carbon: “I have to separate myself... I have to grow beyond and away from the person I was as a child.”

There are clear Carbon themes: “My father died when I was young. I never grew up properly, I never had a sense of identity.” But this is not the bland, smooth form of Graphites. It is volatile, explosive, the pressure suggests a hydrocarbon. “I went from stoical to exploding… brother was violent. I had to be stoical but I’d explode and bang my head on the ground with rage.” A child without paternal protection, “no one was getting what was happening to me.”  


Camphora, the aromatic volatile sap of a camphor tree, was proved by Hahnemann. The remedy state has faintness, unconsciousness, coma, which corresponds to the anaesthetic carbon compounds. There is nausea, and oversensitivity to chemical aromas. (Roger Morrison Carbons: Organic Carbons and Hydrocarbon Remedies in Homeopathy).

This case has the sensitivity and reactivity of the plant kingdom, self worth issues and child themes of Carbon, and the volatility of the hydrocarbons.

The Camphora patient is ungrounded in the material world, which feels harsh, without protection. They may struggle for family support or material stability. Camphora is a drug remedy in the plant kingdom, they may seek oblivion through intoxication. There is a sense of disorientation where the bewildered and weird theme of the magnolianae (see Sankaran Insight into Plants vol 2) meets the mental confusion and disorientation of a hydrocarbon dream state.

 Camphora retreats into an inner imaginal realm of spirit, susceptible to trance and religious fervour, distinct from the more materialistic petrochemicals.

There is a material struggle for survival, money, validation and personal value – “not good enough … money is insecure,” – while Carbon themes of self worth and visibility combine with search for meaning in Camphora.

 Religion, God and evil also appear in this case. “A strong moral heart, if it can be seen it is validated, and if not it is meaningless, like religion.” (Vermeulen Synoptic Key Materia Medica vol 2).

The migraine is shooting pain “like icy fingers in my brain”. Coldness sets Camphora apart among the hydrocarbons, which often burn hot. Coldness is a keynote of Camphora; pain symptoms are relieved by ice-cold applications.

For materia medica on Camphora in relation to the hydrocarbons, see Roger Morrison’s book on Carbons: Organic Carbons and Hydrocarbon Remedies in Homeopathy.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons
Ice; Nevit Dilmen
Cinnamonum camphora; KENPEI

Categories: Cases
Keywords: carbon, volatile, oblivion, disorientation, confusion, bewildered, identity, self worth, religious, nausea, icy cold
Remedies: Camphora


Write a comment

  • Required fields are marked with *.