Materia Medica: Gallic Acid


Massimo Mangialavori's Gallic Acid case is, in many ways, characteristic of this lesser-known remedy. One key symptom of the remedy (and a characteristic of this case) is an extreme fear of being alone. This fear is pronounced both day and night, but is worse at night, when it can also be accompanied by a fear of ghosts. Massimo s client s need for his childhood servant to sleep in his room, even as an adult, his need to travel only to places where he could find someone to stay with him at night, and his sleep patterns (e.g. jumping out of bed), precisely match symptoms described in the Materia Medica for this remedy.

Gallic Acid is noted for many other symptoms that come up in this case: difficulty in moving the bowels and weakness afterwards, a penchant for cursing, jealousy (e.g. of one's servant), and amorous dreams. Another important keynote for Gallic Acid, seen less directly in this case, is extreme rudeness and abusiveness, even violence. A Gallic Acid child will absolutely dominate the household with violent, manipulative behavior, coupled with an extreme need for approval and fear of being alone. In this case, this tendency may be reflected in the client being a criminal attorney and his love of cursing. As he says, "I like to cuss and I like to invent new cuss words. I really like people from Tuscany...Perhaps this is a reason I chose to be a criminal attorney, I like the idea of helping those types of people." There were also points of contention between Massimo and this man during the case-taking; the client gets upset and tells Massimo that "he has no right to say these things."

It is also interesting that familial tuberculosis figures in this case. Boericke writes that Gallic Acid"should be remembered as a remedy in phthisis" [ 1] and Ananda Zaren writes that Gallic Acid"can look like a cross between Tuberculinurn and Stramonium, but it is neither. You do not feel good about giving either." [ 5] Remember that Massimo writes he had a feeling in this case of the Solanaceae family, which includes Stramonium.

Substance and Signature

Gallic Acid is a substance derived from gall nuts, and is related to tannin. Gall nuts are growths on the branches or leaves of trees, especially oak trees. An insect, typically the gall wasp, stings the leaf and then lays its eggs. The sting injects corrosive digestive enzymes into the plant. In response, the host plant creates a growth around the wound-the gall nut-which also serves to protect and nourish the wasp larvae.

In the 1990 IFH Professional Case Conference, Ananda Zaren published two cases of Gallic Acid, along with her thoughts about this remedy, which she uses frequently. She points out how the situation of the gall nut reflects two key aspects of Gallic Acid patients-the violence of the wasp and the need for the protection of the nut. Often, she has seen the remedy needed in states that began with a sudden shock. For example, a typical situation is that of a child who has been suddenly separated from a primary caregiver. The child will feel abandoned [Stramonium] and react with extreme manipulation, even violence, to prevent this from reoccurring. As she writes,

"From that time on, the child insists on constantly being watched and never lets the parent out of sight. Adult Gallic Acid patients make sure that they live and work with people so that they are never alone....Sleep is a very difficult time for Gallic Acid. They are restless, kicking and moaning....They have to be physically next to one of the parents...The parents will report that these children never have a deep sleep because they are always on guard, watching, so that they are not alone." [ 5]

Given Massimo's client's lifelong difficulties with being alone, it is perhaps not so surprising that his family servant continues to live with him and sleep in his room at night. He has not been able to sleep alone his entire life, except for ten times and with the aid of sleeping pills! He suddenly wakes and jumps out of bed-as if he is always on alert, in case of sudden abandonment. During the day he still needs his secretary to work where he can see her. This man is manipulating his environment to get the protection he needs.

Both Boericke's and Clarke's materia medica on Gallic Acid describe these exact mental symptoms, first recorded in a case book of Duncan Macfarlan, M.D. in 1875. Gallic Acid was administered in a case of aneurysm and produced the following effects:

"[V]ery restless, jumps out of bed, swears profusely, is afraid to be left alone, insists upon constantly being watched. Is exceedingly rude and abuses every one, even his best friends. Is jealous of his nurse, and curses every one who speaks to her."

Physical Symptoms

The original proving of Gallic Acid was conducted by D.S. Kimball, M.D. and was published in the American Homeopathic Observer in November 1872. Kimball describes numerous physical symptoms proved by himself that were also later clinically verified in cures. These include: increased urination (a straw-colored urine) and distention of the bladder, diminished appetite, amorous dreams, roughness and increased phlegm in the throat and posterior nares (< morning), a gnawing, faint, sick sensation in the bowels. The process of moving the bowels is difficult: "Sensation of contraction of the anus requiring a greater effort for expulsion at stool, which comes, at length in bulk, as if accumulated there." [ 3] After moving the bowels, there is a smarting, aching, faint, sick, hungry, nauseous, gnawing sensation in bowels, extending to the stomach, that can last for hours.

Kimball also mentions the symptoms of photophobia accompanied by burning and itching of the eyelids and inner canthi, dryness of the throat and mouth with a bad taste during sleep and dreams, heartburn, flatulence in the evening and night, as well as itching skin in various parts, and a pimple on the vertex of the head. The remedy is also associated with jerking limbs and convulsions. Zaren has noticed a pronounced aversion to herring (in 27 cases!) and a strong desire for smoked food.

As mentioned above, Gallic Acid is recommended as a remedy for lung afflictions as well as "passive hemorrhages when pulse is feeble and capillaries relaxed, cold skin." [ 1] Hence the relationship to Tuberculinurn. The pains are worse when rising in the morning and when coughing, breathing deeply, or yawning. There is right lung pain, better from lying down, as well as aching in the middle/upper lungs, worse on the left, in the morning, and upon turning the head, extending through the neck muscles to the right shoulder and down the upper spine.


Examining the physical symptoms overall, one can see a polarity in Gallic Acid between a state of dry contraction and one of wet relaxation. On the dry, contracted end of the spectrum we have dry mouth and throat (especially at night), the sense of contraction in the anus, gnawing in the stomach, a small appetite, constipation, and the burning and itching eyelids. Indeed, Gallic Acid is known for its astringent properties and was used as a styptic by the old school. It was considered the best internal styptic for the relief of mucus discharges, menorrhagia, hemorrhage, and excessive expectoration in tuberculosis and bronchitis. On the wet end of the spectrum, we see the hemorrhagic tendency, excessive mucus and phlegm, profuse foot sweats and night sweats, and increased urination, sometimes with a thick, cream-colored mucus.

Tying this polarity into the mental states, we note that Gallic Acid exhibits both selfish holding and grasping -- a kind of dry/contracted state -- (jealousy, fear of being alone, manipulative) as well as expulsive, outwardly-directed anger (cursing, violence, destructiveness to others, abusiveness, rudeness, and babbling speech at night).

(1.) W. Boericke, M.D. Pocket Manual of Homoeopathic Materia Medica and Repertory, pp. 297-298.

(2.) John Henry Clarke, M.D. A Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica, Volume 1, pp. 795-796.

(3.) D. S. Kimball, M.D. "Proving of Gallic Acid," in American Homoeopathic Observer, Volume 9, November 1872, pp. 523-525.

(4.) Frans Vermeulen, Introduction and Characteristics of Gallic Acid, extracted from Referenceworks, Kent Homeopathic Associates.

(5.) Ananda Zaren, "Two Cases of Pediatric Behavior Disorder," in 1990 IFH Professional Case Conference, pp. 275-291.

The American Homeopath.


By Amy L. Lansky

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