“To understand this remedy, we must refer to the role of potassium, an essential element in our intracellular life. Our cells contain high levels of potassium, while the extracellular medium contains high levels of sodium. The sodium-potassium pump in the cellular membranes works constantly to concentrate potassium within the cells and to expel sodium, a process indispensable for maintaining life. For this to occur, a great amount of fuel in the form of sugar (glucose) is necessary. At birth, after the umbilical cord is cut, glucose is no longer brought into the body through the blood. The sodium-potassium pump does not function as well as usual. The level of potassium falls within the cells, followed by anxiety that the cells may die. The newborn cries. The mother feeds the child at the breast or with a bottle, and everything is back in order. But Kali carbonicum infants resent others for the fact that they are suddenly so dependent. Their resulting ambivalence toward the relationship leads them to reject the company of others once their appetite is satisfied.”
Dr Didier Grangeorge, ‘The Spirit of Homeopathic Medicines’
Last week I had a case of cardiac insufficiency, which escalated suddenly to acute pulmonary arrest, accompanied by asthmatic respiration and direct life threat. The attack came about midnight, at the seaside, in a camping out of the way, where the closest hospital was at a distance of 60 km. At that time I was camping with my family at the same place, and was called to render help while the ambulance arrived, 30 minutes after the phone call was made.
The patient’s life was saved by this remarkable homeopathic remedy, Kalium carbonicum. Never before was I more grateful of the existing of Homeopathy, this great gift to humanity by God, as I was at that night. In this article I’ll place the focus on Kalium carbonicum as a life saving remedy in cases of chronic cardiac insufficiency with pulmonary edema.
Chronic Heart Insufficiency | Compensatory Mechanisms
When the heart is affected by a disease which causes considerable disturbance of its function, we face gradually arising of a clinical syndrome called cardiac failure, or insufficiency. The disturbance is in most cases due to valves disease, chronic hypertension, kidneys disease, angina pectoris etc.
When the pumping ability of the heart is disrupted, the organism unfolds its hidden capability to compensate the aggravated cardiac function in order to ensure enough blood for each organ and system in the body, and thus to preserve life. In the beginning the compensatory mechanisms relieve the heart but with time they lead to myocardial wearing out, exhaustion, hypertrophy and dilatation, and to serious cardiac damage.
One of those compensatory mechanisms is the increase of the frequency of the heart beat; which leads to increase of the stroke volume and more blood is pumped throughout the body per minute. Another mechanism of the body is to detain sodium and water. When the heart stroke volume per minute is diminished, the supply of blood for the kidneys is disturbed. The kidneys begin to secrete less sodium ions than usual. This increases the volume of the blood because more water is detained in it, and increased quantity of blood fills the ventricles of the heart. The pressure in the ventricles increases; thus the heart has more strength for pumping but the consequence after some time is pulmonary and periphery blood stagnation. The increased intra-vessel volume of the blood increases the pressure in the capillaries in the lowest body parts, and leads to exudation of liquids from the capillaries into the extra-cellular space; thus the edema is formed.
The wall of the affected ventricle becomes hypertrophic; the muscle mass becomes enlarged and allows more strength for pumping. However this results in exhaustion of the myocardium and to secondary disturbance of the cardiac function. Later on the walls of this ventricle dilate due to constantly increased pressure in it. The dilatation additionally enlarges the volume of blood which fills the ventricle; but the resilience of the ventricle grows weaker and the cardiac function again becomes less effective.
Manifestation of the Disease
First clear sign, even to unarmed eye, is that patients get fatigued from ordinary, common, every day efforts, and in very short time. They feel as if short-winded, tired, flabby; their general state is considerably weakened. The lower body parts become dropsy; the edema forms particularly around the ankles and the shin bones. The liver may be enlarged. The hands and feet become cyanotic, starting from the nails. The patients cannot lie in bed with head low; they feel shortness of breath and must sit up.
Water in the Lungs
This is the most severe form of the left-sided cardiac insufficiency. Large quantities of liquid pour out of the pulmonary capillaries and penetrate the space between the alveoli. The function of the lungs becomes severely disrupted. The interchange of gases which is performed by the lungs becomes highly restricted and all bodily tissues and organs begin to suffer from shortness of oxygen.
The symptoms in the advanced stage of this condition are quite scary. The patient can barely breathe, the respiratory tract is filled with fluids and secrets; the breath becomes short, with impossibility for expiration; there is pink-like watery expectoration. The heartbeat becomes irregular, retarded or accelerated, or arythmic. The X-ray examination shows shading in the lower lobes of one or both lungs. If no adequate measures are taken, the transuded fluids go up and spread to the middle lobes of the lungs. The state is progressive and leads to suffocation and death.
Allopathic or Homeopathic Treatment
This is one of the conditions where modern medicine cannot and must not be ignored. In chronic heart failure the morphologic morbid alterations of the heart, the large blood vessels and the kidneys are so much advanced, that patients need to be hospitalized in order to be saved their life.
Where is then the place of Homeopathy in such cases, would someone ask. Yeah, there is a place for homeopathic treatment. The modern medicine itself recognizes that it can suppress the high blood pressure but cannot stop it and cannot heal it. It recognizes also that when kidneys are damaged by such long standing high blood pressure, no medicine can help to stop the progress of the disease. However effective it might be in mastering the life threatening state of cardiac insufficiency, sooner or later the patient will die either from vessel incident or from kidneys failure.
Homeopathic remedies can go further from the chemical medications. Their curative capabilities can restore the function of affected organs, as long as there is a resource left for rehabilitation. There are limits also to Homeopathy, especially when the physical damage (the necrosis) of the affected tissues is considerable. Therefore, homeopathic treatment should go hand in hand with the allopathic medications, and thus the life of those patients can be prolonged and improved. Of course, the proper diet and healthy regimen of living are of utmost importance for the success.
In cardiac failure with pulmonary edema there are certain specific remedies which may save the life of a patient, when there is no immediate access to medical assistance. These remedies are Aconitum, Arsenicum, Carbo vegetabilis, Kalium carbonicum, Lachesis, Spongia tosta; and there are others, according to specific symptoms of every patient. However, only two amongst these remedies are most effective to interrupt heavy attack of suffocation, which comes during the night, while lying asleep in bed, when the patient suddenly jumps out of bed, sits up and starts to strive for air. And these two remedies are Arsenicum album and Kalium carbonicum.
Mental Pattern of Kalium carbonicum
The pathology of this remedy remains mainly on the physical level. Depressions or confusion of mind are possible but very rarely met in practice. The individual is conservative, moral, loyal and dogmatic; with a ‘matter-of-fact’ thinking and strong aversion to changes of all sorts. The things in life are only colored in black and white.
Kali carb people keep themselves strictly to the rules for appropriate behavior, both within their closest environment, family and business, and into the extended society. They follow the established laws and orders, never leading out of the ordinary way.
This patient will get worse from everything beyond his control and influence – in other words, from imaginary, vague, uncertain things. He fears from the future, from ailments in incipient stage, from the dark. But he will continue to work hard and will never complain, until his pathology advances considerably; because he has the strongest sense of duty.
As J.T. Kent writes in his ‘Lectures on Homeopathic MM’, “The Kali carb patient is a hard patient to study, and the remedy itself is a hard one to study. It is not used as often as it should be, and the reason is that it is a very complex and confusing remedy. It has a great many opposite symptoms, changing symptoms, and thus it is related to patients that withhold their symptoms and have many vague symptoms. The patient is whimsical, irascible, irritable to the very highest degree, quarrels with his family and with his bread and butter”. And we see that Kali carb is the only remedy under the rubric “Desires company, but treats those who approach him outrageoulsly.”
Affinity & General Features
This remedy has its affinity to muscularity of heart and womb; to the ligaments in sacral region; serous membranes and mucous membranes into the chest; to the lungs, where affected is either the left lung or – and especially – the lower lobe of the right lung; joints, eyes, the left half of the body.
Kalium carbonicum is one of the chief anti-psoric remedies in homeopathy. This means that when indicated, it will cure serious chronic diseases like amenorrhea, asthma, bronchitis, dropsy, heart disorders, kidneys disorders, liver disorders, lumbago, pleurisy, pneumonia, tuberculosis.
Generally these patients aggravate by cold and draft, in the winter; from loss of fluids, from sexual intercourse; from lying on the left side; between 2 and 4 o’clock in the morning.
Left Ventricle Insufficiency & Edema of the Lungs
The heart is weak, the mitral valve functions insufficiently. The chest feels weak, from walking fast, or ascending. The breathing is difficult; the pulse is accelerated, small and hard. The lungs are affected, in most Kali carb cases it starts from the lower lobe of the right lung. The edema grows up and causes heavy cardiac asthma, which wakes the patient at night and compels him to get up from bed and start moving around, grasping for air. The breath is short with difficult expiration, the hands are cold; and the best position to alleviate the obstruction of the respiratory passages is to sit up or stand up, and to bow forward, leaning the elbows on the knees. The mental state of the patient is highly anxious and irritable.
When this picture is objectively present, Kalium carbonicum given as first aid will interrupt the attack and restore respiration. The potency should be high, and the remedy must be repeated in short intervals diluted in water, even by just moistening the lips. Immediately the patient should be hospitalized.
*Bibliography: R. Murphy, Homeopathic Remedy Guide; J.T. Kent, Lectures on Homeopathi Materia Medica.