This section is from the book "Botanic Drugs Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics", by Thomas S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: Botanic Drugs, Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
Bryony, Bryonia dioica. Not official in any except Homeopathic and Eclectic standards. In these two schools bryonia is a prominent drug. The National Formulary lists it. Bryonia is an active hydrogogue cathartic formerly employed in doses of from 10 to 60 grains. It has been wholly displaced in such indications, jalap serving the purpose better.
Bryonia is an irritant drug, especially to the serous and mucous membranes. Introduced into the pleural cavity of animals, it caused death from fibrinous effusion. The cerebrum is irritated and the heart depressed. So far as the action in small doses has been investigated, it seems to lessen arterial tension and the frequency of the pulse. It acts similarly to aconite in inflammatory processes, but more particularly upon the serous membranes. Bryonia opposes inflammatory dryness of the serous membranes if given in small doses frequently repeated. Unlike aconite, small doses of bryonia may be administered safely for long periods of time.
Homeopathic physicians employ bryonia in congestive headache and meningeal involvements. In my experience, this indication is not well borne out in practice. The circulation can be quieted better by other agents. Then, too, meningitis is generally resultant from causes quite beyond control by small doses of any drug.
The Homeopathic and Eclectic use of bryonia in affections of the serous membranes is well justified, generally speaking, upon both scientific and clinical bases; but in the meninges of the brain any increase of fluid would be detrimental. But it is dryness of the serous membranes bryonia benefits. Very minute doses may be effective in some cases of such dryness, but not in all. In certain frontal headaches, with dry sinus membranes (frontal sinus), it is of some value. While there may not be a true "rheumatic headache," there is a form of headache often associated with rheumatism, and in this form bryonia may be indicated.
In rheumatic affections, after salicylates or other remedies have reduced the swelling, bryonia is of direct value in many cases. When the synovial membranes are involved, and the parts are stiff and aggravated by movement, bryonia will aid in what might be called "resolution." But bryonia has no specific influence upon rheumatism, like the salicylates in acute rheumatic fever or colchicum in gout. The drug does little for fever, and hence aconite may be combined with it.
In my hands, in cases of arthritis - so-called rheumatism - not of specific character (gonococcic, etc.) bryonia has aided as a symptomatic remedy; but to depend upon it in acute rheumatic fever seems to me to be most unwise. As a cooperating remedy, it may have its uses in this connection, and it often does have.
In pericarditis with exudation and in pleurisy with exudation, as well as in other sero-purulent exudations, it is claimed that bryonia promotes absorption. I don't believe it does unless pushed to the extent of severe purgation. I have tried out the matter in many cases, and have abandoned such uses of the drug. The modern management of sero-purulent exudations is not by giving drugs. I am fully convinced in my own mind that bryonia is very useful in alleviating pathologic dryness of serous membranes, and to a lesser degree mucous membranes; but I am just as strongly convinced that the opposite indication - exudation - is not met by bryonia. There may be exceptions in the case of fibrinous or plastic exudates which have not become organized.
But the Homeopathic and Eclectic indications for bryonia in dry cough, especially with bloodstained expectoration and pain in the chest while coughing, seem to me to be abundantly justified. This condition may eventuate in any one of several conditions - various forms of bronchitis, pleurisy, so-called "grippe" and pneumonia. Now, it stands to reason that in these diseases other medication is necessary, as well as general case management; but clinical experience has convinced me that bryonia, in these diseases, meets successfully the indication in italics heading this paragraph.
Other serous-membrane disease, such as orchitis and even idiopathic peritonitis, may be aided by bryonia.
The "Normal," "Specific Medicine" (both Eclectic and of fluidextract strength) are available and are given in doses of 1-10 to 1/4 drop every hour or two. The tr. (Homeopathic mother tr.) is given in 1-drop doses; but Homeopathic physicians sometimes use the decimal dilutions.