Caduceus Institute of Classical Homeopathy

Willa Esterson Keizer, C.C.H., Director
P.O. Box 538
Aromas, CA 95004
Tel: 1-800-396-9778


Anthrax Symptoms and Homeopathic Treatment

Rosemary C. Hyde, Ph.D.

Evaluating the Threat of Anthrax
Forms of Anthrax
Homeopathic Treatment for Cutaneous Anthrax
For non-cutaneous forms of Anthrax
Homeopathic Remedies that Address Symptoms of an Advanced

Gastrointestinal Anthrax
Other Literature


The word "anthrax" has become synonymous with "terror." Yet, while serious, Anthrax can be contained and treated. And, since it does not spread from one person to another, its risk is much more limited than some people may believe. While some concern is appropriate, the dramatic panic Americans seem to be feeling is not warranted. Certainly antibiotics, vaccinations, and even homeopathic treatment should be restricted to those who are in danger of having actually contacted Anthrax spores.

Interestingly, this disease has a long record of homeopathic treatment. Historically, it's a disease of hoofed animals, transmissible to humans mainly on physical contact with its pathological products: growths, discharges, blood. The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, in Chronic Diseases (second edition published 1845, pp. 33-34) , writes of it:

The infection with miasmas [specific diseases] takes place, without doubt, in one single moment, and that moment, the one most favorable for infection.... After this moment of infection, no ablution, cauterizing or burning, not even the cutting off of the part which has caught and received the infection, can again destroy or undo the development of the disease within. The same is the case...when the skin of man is contaminated with the blood of cattle affected with anthrax. If, as is frequently the case, the anthrax has infected and caught on, all ablutions of the skin are in vain; the black or gangrenous blister, nearly always fatal, nevertheless, always comes out after four or five days (usually in the affected spot) i. e., as soon as the whole living organism has transformed itself to this terrible disease.

Hahnemann here describes the process of infection common to any disease -- not only the part is affected, but also the whole person-- body, mind, spirit -- simultaneously. He is also describing the important fact that with Anthrax as with other acute destructive diseases, the skin symptoms which may be the first external manifestation of the disease, actually represent a systemic development of the sickness. The sickness develops first, without obvious symptoms, within the nervous, circulatory, and organic systems. Therefore, when it erupts on the skin, it must be treated as a systemic disease rather than a local one.

Another master homeopath, James Tyler Kent, in an unpublished lecture delivered in 1894 (furnished by Dr. Ahmed N. Currim who is currently editing Kent's Unpublished Materia Medica as a forthcoming book), wrote of Anthrax :

Anthrax, a zymotic disease, a blood poison having in its nature qualities resembling diphtheria, erysipelas, gangrene, scarlet fever tending to gangrene. Malignant carbuncles, malignant pustules in man are similar to the anthrax disease in man. Smarting, burning, stinging accompany the pathology, burning like a core of fire... Eruption in parts, carbuncle, fistulous oozing, burning like fire; bloody pus; oozing of bloody watery flow. This gives us some idea of the dreadful effects of this dreadful disease.

Anthrax is not essentially an epidemic disease. Instead, it would be classified as a "sporadic" disease. It is contracted opportunistically by people directly exposed to its causative factors but it does not then spread contagiously from person to person. The different "forms" of the disease that are mentioned -- cutaneous, inhalational, or gastrointestinal -- are not at all different diseases, but different primary manifestations of the same disease, different only because of the site of initial contact with the toxin. But with this description, we can see why Anthrax may have excited the imagination of some as a terrorist weapon -- it certainly has spectacularly horrible potential outcomes.

We know from allopathic sources that, when treated early, before or soon after external symptoms actually develop, anthrax responds to modern antibiotics. It has also been treated successfully with homeopathic remedies, obviously after the appearance of symptoms, since we're looking at cases that happened before the appearance of modern lab tests.

Homeopathy bases its prescriptions on the nature of symptoms. It's important here to remember the homeopathic principle that symptoms point to the correct remedy. There is no one totally cut and dried way to treat anthrax or any other disease or condition. Because the disease may progress so rapidly and fatally, it's important for homeopaths who may be called upon to treat patients suffering from it to be ready with remedies and knowledge. On the other hand, along with a number of other acute diseases, anthrax actually qualifies as an "acute miasm," whose symptoms generally are quite predictable, and therefore whose treatment can at least be started with targeted specific remedies.

Evaluating the Threat of Anthrax

Although most Americans perceive anthrax to be a rare, exotic disease, it is endemic and even epidemic in several Asian and African countries. Apparently an epidemic of anthrax between 1978 and 1980 was identified in Zimbabwe by the World Health Organization, with approximately 10,000 reported cases (and only 100 deaths). Considering the rate of death vs. the rate of infection in this natural epidemic balances our picture of the disease -- it can indeed be horrible, but it's also treatable and survivable by most. We need to become more aware of this aspect of the disease to counteract the national hysteria that has developed around it.

In addition to realizing that Anthrax has been around for a long, long time, and is still common in many parts of the world, it should also help us become more calm about it to consider its means of transmission. Unlike colds and influenza, Anthrax is not transmitted by aerosol, through the air from person to person. Physical contact of some kind with diseased matter or tissue is essential. Consequently, terrorists can't start an ongoing epidemic with this pathogen -- only people who come directly into contact with the spores will risk becoming ill.

Forms of Anthrax

The disease may present in one of three ways, depending on how the patient came in contact with the disease substance. Worldwide, in natural epidemics, by far the most common method of contact is cutaneous ( the substance enters the person's skin through an abrasion or cut. It cannot enter the skin except through such a breach. In humans, apparently, this cutaneous form of the disease accounts for approximately 95% of all cases. In this form of transmission, the entry site forms a carbuncle that is very peculiar, and hence easily recognized. The CDC describes it:

Skin infection begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer (a carbuncle), usually 1-3 cm in diameter, with a characteristic black, necrotic (dying, gangrenous) area in the center. Lymph nodes in the adjacent area may swell.

In such cases, the disease appears first externally; thus, treatment has a very high rate of success, since it generally begins relatively soon after the patient contracts the disease, and it affects primarily the skin rather than a vital organ. In addition, the survival rate of the cutaneous form of anthrax is high (around 80%), even if untreated.

The second most common natural form of the disease is inhalational (accounting for most of the other 5% of cases). In this scenario, the patient experiences a 1-6 day incubation period with no symptoms, then a brief non specific influenza-like syndrome manifested by extremely high fever and fatigue. The intensity of the symptoms at this point should be taken as an important signal that this is not a garden-variety cold or flu. After this comes a phase of clinical improvement, although the gangrenous ulcers are developing internally and covertly. Eventually, the patient suddenly becomes much more ill, manifesting severe breathing problems (pneumonia or pneumonitis) and shock, followed by death with 1-2 days. In cases of inhaled anthrax, a simple sputum test can identify the organism so that treatment can begin. The key is recognizing the disease before the final stage is reached. Probably, patients who experience a very high fever and great fatigue in a flu-like syndrome should be tested routinely for anthrax. In addition, homeopathic treatment should probably be initiated, in addition to antibiotics, for such patients, since this form of the disease is often fatal.

Homeopathic Treatment for Cutaneous Anthrax

The epidemic simillimum, derived as Hahnemann taught in the Organon, is the preferred homeopathic treatment in epidemic diseases. To find this, we need to study the total picture of symptoms in a few people who have contracted the disease in question. With cutaneous anthrax, the remedy routinely called for, based on previous studies, is Arsenicum Album. There is some indication that the nosode may be no more effective than the "genus epidemicus." G.H.G. Jahr, in Forty Years Practice (Encyclopedia Homeopathica), describes treating two farmers for anthrax, citing his reservations about using a nosode as opposed to the "Genus Epidemicus":

For these contagious gangrenous pustules, to which alone reference is made here, Ars. is the chief remedy... I prefer it in most cases to the very unreliable action of Anthracin. I once had occasion to treat two farmers who, while flaying a cow that had died of gangrene of the spleen, had become infected with the poison by cutting themselves. One had Anthracin given him and the other Ars., the latter changing the wound to a clean ulcer in 24 hours and the former in 36 hours. This difference may of course have been founded in constitutional peculiarities as well as in inherent differences of degree in the curative powers of the two drugs. In gangrene of any form, especially if the affected part begins to look black, Ars. is always the main remedy...

Both treatments were, in essence, effective -- amazingly so; and Jahr's comment about the underlying constitution as an alternative explanation for the different healing times probably is accurate. However, the quote also underlines that the performance of the simillimum compares favorably with the nosode.

The other useful fact contained in this account is the identification of Arsenicum Album as the correct simillimum for anthrax poisoning. This has been a matter of consensus since the first homeopathic treatments of this disease in the early 1800s. Anthrax appears to be one of the acute miasms that repeatedly presents itself with the same symptoms, similar to diseases such as measles and mumps, and unlike epidemics such as colds or influenza. Thus, its simillimum also does not change dramatically, except as demanded by unusual constitutional susceptibilities in a small minority of patients.

However, it's axiomatic that things are never as simple as they seem. A homeopath wanting to be prepared to treat patients who may have been exposed to anthrax should probably stock both Anthracinum and Arsenicum Album, in 30c and 200c potencies (Boenninghausen generally used 200c for prophylactic doses and for treatment as well with patients he knew had been exposed to a disease, except where the Vital Force was seriously compromised (cf. Lesser Writings of Boenninghausen, Typhoid Fever and High Potencies).

For non-cutaneous forms of Anthrax

One major difficulty with the homeopathic literature is that any discussion of treating anthrax assumes that it is a cutaneous disease of carbuncles that become gangrenous. The inhaled and ingested forms of the disease are never mentioned specifically, apparently not rating high in awareness. On the other hand, given the fact that we are talking about exactly the same systemic disease, the same Genus Epidemicus applies.

However, it would probably be enlightening to do some original work matching remedies to the totality of symptoms supposed to occur with the other two forms of the disease.

The real problem here is finding symptoms that are relatively rare and peculiar to these manifestations of anthrax, rather than common to ordinary respiratory or gastrointestinal ailments.
One difficult peculiarity of inhalational anthrax is that the disease may take up to 60 days from the time of contamination to manifest itself. However, this is not something we can find in the Repertory. The other huge difficulty in treating this form of anthrax poisoning is the rapidity -- 1-3 days -- with which it becomes fatal after the obvious symptoms develop. At this point, it would indeed prove useful to have the nosode at hand, to begin treatment, since repertorization would not be required, and time is so short.

Clinically, according to the JAM website the pathology that develops in the final overt stage of inhalation anthrax includes:

SUDDEN high fever
Accompanied by dyspnea, shock, lymphadenopathy, stridor, delirium, cyanosis, hemorrhagic meningitis, necrotizing pneumonic lesions (leading to coughing up blood).

In an article published in the New York Times (October 23, 2001), Nicholas Wade gives a good description of the actual process through which an anthrax infection works. When a spore attaches itself to a scavenger cell in an animal or person, it wakes from its dormant state and starts to multiply within that cell. The bacteria release poisons that weaken the immune cell's walls, so they can get outside and start circulating in the blood stream. In the first few hours, they multpily furiously. Wade quotes Dr. Philip C. Hanna, a biologist at the University of Michigan as saying that their numbers double every half hour. As they mature, they produce three separate toxins, designed to kill the infected host and turn it into a meal for themselves. One toxin breaks down cell walls. The second toxin in edema factor, that deranges the cells' ability to communicate, so immune cells can't function to kill the bacteria. The third anthrax toxin, lethal factor, provokes the host's cells into creating massive inflammation. The bacteria continue to multiply unchecked, and the excessive inflammation quickly kills the host (the infected animal or person). Understanding this process gives us some insight into the symptoms that mark the end stage of anthrax poisoning described above.

Homeopathic Remedies that Address Symptoms of an Advanced Infection

Without an actual patient, it's extremely hard to do a good repertorization of symptoms, because there are no modalities, sensations, locations, sides, times -- none of the symptoms that particularize a case. Therefore, it's possible to come up with some suggested remedies, but only in general terms. They may not represent a simillimum for a particular patient who -- obviously -- in this case would be extremely ill and undoubtedly in an ICU, if hospitalized. In any case, this set of symptoms amounts to a serious state of shock, suggesting strongly that Op, Carb-V, or Acon might be useful to have around -- especially Acon. because it covers many of the important anthrax symptoms in addition to shock. In addition, Ars and Ip are strongly recommended in hemorrhagic lung conditions and Ip is a remedy for meningitis. In fact, Ipecac covers the symptoms of this form of anthrax quite well, and should be considered seriously if the symptoms fit. Likewise the venomous remedies may well have a place here. Crot-h (rattlesnake), for instance, serves in deep gangrenous hemorrhagic states. Elaps Corallis likewise fits the picture of this disease very well.

Other remedies seem close, but lack one or more of the important symptoms. For instance, Belladonna has the requisite pathology and intensity, but not the cyanotic color; Cantharis relates in a similar way to these symptoms. Hyoscyamus has meningitis and desperate respiratory diseases, but not the hemorrhagic tendency. Verat has the severity and cyanosis, but not the hemorrhaging. Carbolic acid would seem possible, except that it, like hyoscyamus and Veratrum lacks the hemorrhagic tendency. The same can be said for hydr-ac.

Gastrointestinal Anthrax

Now let's turn our attention from the inhaled form of anthrax to the still rarer gastrointestinal form. This is contracted only from ingesting food poisoned with anthrax toxin, as with meat from diseased animals (remember that this is basically a disease of hooved animals). In general, wherever anthrax has entered the human system, it produces the same basic pathological results: ulcers that hemorrhage and become gangrenous, produce severe edema or swelling, and turn septic and black (hence the name "anthrax", from the word for "coal."). As this process advances, the patient's whole system develops a septic state of shock, leading to coma, intense delusions and chorea, and ultimately death. So the main homeopathically relevant difference we're considering in talking about these different "forms" of the disease, is locality. When the entry point is in the upper GI tract, infection results in an oral or esophageal ulcer, leading to regional edema and sepsis. In the lower GI tract, the most likely site for lesions is in the terminal ileum or cecum. The initial results are nausea and vomiting, progressing rapidly to bloody diarrhea, acute abdomen, sepsis, and massive ascites (abdominal bloating).

Other Literature

This would seem the place to study the recommendations of a couple of other homeopathic authors who were obviously considering some of the more advanced states of this disease in recommending remedies in addition to Anthracinum and Arsenicum Album.

HC Allen, in his Keynotes to Materia Medica with Nosodes, gives the following suggested remedies, besides Anthracinum and Arsenicum, for various potential symptoms of Anthrax:

Crot-h: Haemorrhages : blood oozes from mouth, nose, anus or sexual organs; black, thick, tar-like, rapidly decomposing.

Pyrogen: Septic fever, rapid loss of strength, sinking pulse, delirium and fainting; Bad effects from inhaling foul odors of putrid fever or dissecting-room; poisoning by foul breath

Carb-Ac: Gangrenous ulcers; felon, erysipelas of a malignant type.
- Felon; the worst cases, with sloughing and terrible burning pain (Ars., Lach.).

Lach: Malignant pustules; black or blue blisters; often fatal in twenty-four or forty-eight hours ( Pyr.).

Lyc: Icterus with pneumonia, especially of right lung. but spasmodic motion of alae is replaced by dilated nostrils;

Veratrum: diarrhoea, colic, vomiting, coldness and craving for acids;

Ipecac: drowsiness from defective respiration; nausea, but >> after vomiting.

And J. H. Clarke, in The Prescriber, gives these suggestions for "malignant Pustule" or "Woolsorter's Disease," which is essentially anthrax, since woolsorters were often subject to this disease as a result of handling the remains of diseased sheep:

Anthracin. 30, 1 - 2h.
Excessive sensitiveness, purple coloration, of the parts, fear to be touched or approached, irritability of temper, Lach. 6, gtt. ii. 1h.; locally, a compress of the same (zi. - xii.); burning pain, great thirst, restlessness, anguish, Ars. 3, 1h.
If there is much fever, dry, hot skin, thirst, restlessness, anxiety, and fear of death, Acon. 3, 1/2h. If there is delirium and flushed face, Bell. 3, 1/2h.

Finally, Samuel Lilienthal, in Homeopathic Therapeutics (published 1890), provides these remedy suggestions for anthrax infections:

Anthracinum._ Induration of cellular tissue;red lines,streaks and stripes mark out the course of lymphatics;oedema of affected parts; discharge of icorous, foul-smelling pus;gangrene; absorption of ichor with ichoraemia, collapse; violent burning pains, not relieved by ars.

Apis mell._ Stitching,burning pain in anthrax, with sensitiveness to the list touch, and erysipelatous redness around it; furuncles, with manifold sloughs of dead connective tissue; chronic tendency to furuncles.

Arsenicum_Anthrax burning like fire; reddish bluish spot becoming gangrenous; sensation in swelling as if boiling water were running beneath the skin; cold , blue, skin dry as parchment, peeling off in large scales; cold sweat, puls small, irregular, frequent.

Belladonna_phlegmonous inflammation, affecting adjacent glands; tendency to cerebral manifestation; erysiplatous redness around anthrax.

Camphore_Skin tenses, hot and dry, like parchment; nervous anxiety and stupefaction, great exhaustion; threatening gangrene; bed sores; fear of being left alone.

Chin._Exhaustion of vital power, with excessive sensitiveness and irritability of the nerves, deficiency of animal heat; decomposition of animal matter with symptoms of putrid fever; malaria.

Hepar sulph._formation of boils or pustules around the anthrax; relieves the severe pain favors the suppurative process and hastens the discharge of the slough.

Hyos._ Anthrax in nervous and hysterical people; great restlessness caused by the excessive nervous excitement, shaking of head in all directions, optical illusions, constriction of pharynx; itching around the part.

Kali iod._ Anthrax on a syphilitic basis or combined with scrofula; tissue distended by interstitial infiltration, enlarged glands.

Kreosotum._ Tendency to decomposition; great irritability, <by rest.

Lachesis._ Dark redness around the sore, which discharges dark, bloody pus; tension of the skin around the carbuncle, as if too short; nightly burning of the ulcer, obliging one to rise and wash it with cold water. GANGRENE , carbuncles from blood poisoning.

Lycopodium._ Warm poultices aggravate all the pains; boils returning periodically; carbuncles, with burning stitches all around, with alternate chilliness and heat of the body.

Rhus tox._Burning itching around the carbuncles with vertigo as if one were about to fall; stupor; pale face; disfigured and convulsed; pointed nose; bloody or serous frothy diarrhea

Stramonium._ The pains are so severe as to set the patient nearly distracted.

Tarentula cubana._Anthrax, specially on back of neck, with burning, excruciating pain, banishing all sleep; great prostration.


Anthrax is actually a fairly common disease in many parts of the world. It has fearsome consequences in its internal forms, but is not an epidemic disease, since one must personally be in contact with diseased tissue or spores. Therefore, it makes no sense to panic and to administer prophylactics to everyone regardless of actual risk of exposure. Once exposure is confirmed, early treatment is crucial for those susceptible to the disease. The staples of homeopathic treatment are the nosode Anthracinum and the polychrest Arsenicum Album. In addition, depending on the stage of disease development and the predominant symptoms, other remedies that could be useful to have on hand in addition to Anthracinum and Arsenicum, include: Aconite, Apis, Ipecac, China, Crotalus-Horridus, Elaps-Corralis, Hyoscyamus, Kali-iodatum, Kreosote, Lachesis, Carbolic-Acid, Lycopodium, Rhus-tox, Stramonium, Tarentula cubensis, Veratrum-Album, Belladonna, and Pyrogen. The nosode or the epidemic simillimum can be administered prophylactically to patients who are likely to have suffered exposure to the anthrax toxin. However, it makes no sense to administer remedies to people who have not been exposed, especially because the disease does not spread from person to person. In cases of exposure, however, timely treatment is essential, the earlier the better, and it would make sense to treat with the appropriate homeopathic remedies in addition to recommended antibiotics where these are also available, especially since the antibiotics kill the spores but don't eliminate the toxin, which is the essential factor that renders the disease fatal.

Berkeley, CA November 7, 2001

To register or for more information email or call 1-800-396-9778

Homeopathy- Healing for the 21st Century
Why Homeopathy?
Conditions affected by Homeopathy
Why our Program is special
Our Program:
Acute Homeo- therapeutics
The Curriculum
The Syllabus - Session by Session
Further Studies in Homeopathy - Chronic Care
Admission Policy
Book List for Module One
Clinical Training
About the Instructor
What Students Say
Tuition and Financial Policy