This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
This is a dropsy owing to a disease of the kidneys. Dr. Bright, of England, first pointed out, 1827, the frequent connection which exists between dropsy and what has since been called granular degeneration of the kidneys, or "Bright's Disease." This state of the kidneys is not an inflammation, but a slow degeneration of its structure, commencing by an abnormal deposit of fat in the cells lining the little tubes in the kidneys. It is a degeneration similar to the tubercular deposit, or the fatty liver common in consumption, and may properly receive the name of fatty kidney. It is a slow, insidious disease, beginning generally much further back than the patient is aware of. By degrees the tubes of the kidneys become blocked up with excessive fatty deposits; the result of this is, that the tubes become dilated, so as to press on the network of the portal veins which surround them. The veins being thus compressed, the capillaries which open into them are unable to discharge their contents, and so become distended with blood, and either allow serum to exude from their walls, or else burst and admit the escape of red particles and fibrine. This may be illustrated in a familiar way. If the mouth of all the little brooklets that flow into a brook be effectively dammed up, so that the brook received none of their supply, the brooklets by constant accession would naturally overflow their banks and inundate the adjacent land, and the brooks go dry. So as the accumulation of the fat goes on, the portal networks of veins and the uriniferous tubes waste away or become atrophied, and hence shrinking of the kidney and deficiency of the kidney ensue. Albumen is always present in the urine in this disease. This can be discovered by boiling the urine in a small tube, the albumen becoming like the white of an egg boiled. Urea, a natural constitiuent of the urine, is deficient.
The symptoms in the first stage are weakness and dyspepsia, and the blood loses its red particles very rapidly, but there is little to call attention to the kidneys. In the second stage the symptoms are a pallid, pasty, complexion, a dry hard skin, drowsiness, weakness, indigestion, and frequent nausea, often retching the first thing in the morning, and palpitation of the heart. A most characteristic symptom is that the patient is awakened several times in the night with desire to make water. In the third stage, if the patient is exposed to cold, the kidney becomes congested; anasarca or general dropsy with perhaps ascites, makes its appearance; debility increases, the urinary secretion becomes more inefficient, urea and other excrementitious matter accumulate in the blood; a drowsiness and coma, signs of effusion of blood, are sure precursors of death. It is caused by intemperance, privation of air and light, and neglect of proper exercise; frequent exposure to cold, and the other causes of scrofula and consumption.
TREATMENT. -- This is one of those harassing complaints which physicians in family practice seldom have the patience to investigate and manage with sufficient care.
The condition of the stomach, bowels and skin should receive especial attention. Free action of the skin should be maintained, as in this way the kidneys are relieved and the blood purified. Stimulating diuretics should not be used. Mecca oil, tonic teas, etc., may be given. There is no better specific agent than helonin, from three to ten grains a day. Eurpurpurin and populin may also be given with good effect. Vapor baths are beneficial, and counter-irritation should be made over the region of the kidneys.
It is my confident belief that this grave disease can be cured in nearly every instance if not too far advanced. I am induced to such a belief by the success that attends my treatment. I should be happy to correspond with any one of my readers who may suspect this affection, and shall cheerfully analyze any urine that may be sent to me for that purpose, as in my laboratory there are all conveniences for that purpose. (see page 390). For those under my treatment the analyses are gratuitously made, but to others a fee of $5 must in all instances be remitted.