Thursday, December 15, 2011
Can homeopathic gelsemium reduce anxiety about public speaking?
Gelsemium sempervirens (yellow jessamine or jasmine) is a homeopathic remedy recommended for fear of public speaking, and many other ailments (like flu). Very small amounts of the root are used to prepare remedies, because the plant contains three toxic strychnine-related alkaloids: gelsemine, gelseminine, and sempervirine. (Just because something is completely natural doesn’t mean that it is either harmless or safe).
In The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1990) on page 91 she says that:
“Gelsemium is also one of the favorite remedies for people who become paralysed with fear prior to giving a talk or before an exam. This is not the active fear of Argentum Nitricum or Lycopodium; it is an acute anxiety which causes a person to seize up both mentally and physically.”
Similarly, in Easy Homeopathy: the 7 essential remedies you need for common illnesses and first aid by Edward Shalts (McGraw-Hill, New York, 2005) on page 139 he says that:
“Gelsemium is an excellent remedy for stage fright and test anxiety. People who need this remedy to perform better under various circumstances literally feel paralyzed, weak and dizzy. Their limbs become heavy. This is not a good bouquet of symptoms to have during performances or exams.”
For test anxiety he recommends taking three pellets of Gelsemium 30 C on the morning of the exam. He also suggests using what he calls the plussing method; dissolving three pellets of 30C in a small bottle of spring water and then sipping from it as needed.
On Amazon.com you can find tubes of pellets from Boiron with potencies of 6C, 12C, 30C, or even 200C.
Is Gelsemium effective for relieving anticipatory anxiety? Apparently not. This year A. Paris et al. published the results of a detailed clinical study in a magazine called Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology. You can read the abstract here. They compared the effects of Gelsemium at potencies of 5CH and 15CH with a placebo. The study began with 180 people split evenly among those three groups, but a few dropped out. Most of the co-authors are in Grenoble, France but two are with the Boiron laboratories in St Foy-le`s-Lyon (who also provided the remedies).
What does the potency ‘5CH’ mean? (It’s the same as 10X). The material has been diluted by a factor of 1:100 five times, so the final concentration is 1 part in 10,000,000,000. Similarly, ‘15CH’ means diluted by a factor of 1:100 fifteen times, so the final concentration is 1 part in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
There also are some very preliminary (and curious) results from Verona, Italy with positive results for gelsemium on anxiety-related responses in mice. You can read the full texts on PubMed Central here and here. I’m not sure what to make of these, but did note that the reported response did not increase consistently with potency as was long ago hypothesized to occur for homeopathy.
The plant image is from Wikimedia.