New England School of Homeopathy

There Goes the Kayak!

A sultry, summertime remedy to remember

by Amy Rothenberg, ND DHANP

I am blessed to work with a wonderful partner, to live under the same roof with a patient, sweet, and creative man. We share so much in this life: our ­values, our love of children (our own and others), a passion for growing things, an interest in natural medicine, and sometimes… germs!

One summer a few years back, we both got a sad summer cold. I say sad because in New England, the warm pristine days of deep summertime are numbered, and losing even a handful of them to illness always seems a sad state of affairs.

It was a languid day in July. The lilacs had faded but there was a riot of cosmos in the yard, and the clematis vines were in full swing, laden with smiling purple flowers. We had decided to try to work a bit even though we both felt somewhat under the weather. Sitting side by side at the kitchen table where we do some of our best writing, we began to feel worse and worse: first Paul, then me. The box of tissues perched between us got lots of action. Our noses were running and the congested feeling in my head was mounting. Paul felt heavy-limbed; we both noted unusual-for-the-middle-of-the-day fatigue.

We called it quits after about half an hour when the words began to run together on the screen and neither of us could stay attentive or focused on what we were trying to do. We each had a headache to beat the band, and we felt achy and stiff.

The lure of the houseboat

We ate small bowls of hot chicken soup for lunch and decided to set out to our friends’ house in order to borrow their canoe and float it a little ways down the Connecticut River. It is true that neither of us was thinking too clearly. Driving a car? Navigating a river? But the lure of our ultimate destination was strong—a sublime little houseboat our friends had built. Each summer, it was launched back into the water, replete with a hammock swinging over the floating deck and a loft ­sleeping area; honestly, it seemed just the right place for a late afternoon nap, to be lulled by the river’s rhythm and warmed by the summer sun. The day was humid, the air still and heavy. Smells of Hadley loam, long favored for its fertility and richness, wafted from nearby farms after a brief, early afternoon shower. The canoe was out of commission we learned, but we could borrow their small kayak to reach our destination.

That kayak had seen better days, too, and about ten paddle strokes into the river, we noted it taking on water. Not a lot of water, but water nonetheless. I was in the front, only very intermittently raising my paddle. The sun off the water was hurting my eyes. Paul steered to our goal, where the houseboat was anchored in a private alcove, and I managed to flop myself onto the houseboat’s landing in a particularly graceless maneuver. Not my finest hour.

A deep summer’s nap

With a long rope, Paul tied the kayak loosely to the porch railings. The river was not deep at this point, perhaps six feet or so. Once on deck, we headed straight for the loft to lie down, covered only by a sheet, no words, no thoughts, no sound but the lapping water, nothing but the easy deep sleep that had been chasing us all morning. When we woke an hour or so later, the sun was slanting in through the window, coloring the wooden slats, the roofline, and the entire Connecticut River Valley in a shimmery deep persimmon. I thought we should leave, not wanting the gathering dark to befall us before we got back to shore, so we scrambled onto the deck.

To our surprise, we saw the kayak next to the houseboat, but nearly submerged. Paul describes what happened next: “I jumped in the river to help lift the boat up to empty it. Amy stood at the edge of the houseboat’s deck looking rather ‘out of it.’ When I lifted, the boat moved somewhat, Newton’s Law of Motion kicked in, and the next thing I knew, the houseboat went this way and the kayak went that way, now taking on water in earnest. We both looked at the kayak, looked at each other, and looked back at the kayak as it sank deeper and deeper to the sandy river bottom. Neither of us moved. Amy, usually incredibly quick and articulate, just stood there, pointed at the sinking kayak as it drifted, and drifted the other way back into the houseboat. It was basically impossible for either of us to truly react.”

As if in a dream…

And this is the picture you can have in your mind of a summertime cold or flu that calls for the remedy Gelsemium. Our story that day reflects the dream-like quality experienced by patients who need Gelsemium: time moving in a blur of slowness, heavy symptoms throughout the body, and a mind unable to snap to it!

We tend to see more patients who need Gelsemium in the warmer times of the year and in warmer places. People go into this state of health (or the germs have a chance to multiply and set up shop) when we have a string of sultry, warm, wet days—when there has been copious rain and everything has gotten a tad soggy.

…and under water

An illness calling for Gelsemium often begins slowly with a sense of chilliness, perhaps a slight disequilibrium, often a nasal discharge that is warm and thin. Soon the nose gets stuffy and the sinuses fill up. Patients often describe a feeling of “being under water.” Or some will say they feel as if a cement truck pulled up and poured cement into their head, and now the cement is beginning to harden. Body aches are almost always present, with a feeling as if the person has overexerted the day before or been beaten up. Or they’ll have a thought like, “Boy, did I take a bad fall yesterday?” Because that’s how they feel.

And the overarching feeling for anyone needing this remedy at any time of year or for any complaint is overwhelming fatigue. There is a yearning for sleep, a craving for lying down, and a desire to stay perfectly still, as if any exertion would be too much.

Most people will feel warm with a slight perspiration over the whole body, but they won’t be thirsty. Their vision may be a bit foggy, their eyelids droopy, and their head a little dizzy. Talking may be difficult because their tongue feels heavy, and they can’t muster a thought.

Keeping away a worse illness

When you give Gelsemium at such a time, it allows the person to get over the cold more quickly, but more importantly, it prevents the cold from slipping down to a bronchitis or a bad pharyngitis.

As for Paul and me, we did manage somehow to get the kayak up and emptied out, and we eventually got back to shore, both of us muddy and wet. We went home, took Gelsemium 30c, and woke up the next day feeling much better. We heeded our own advice and took it easy for a few days, so as to not relapse, and we came out the other side feeling just fine. We put repairing that kayak on the to-do list, but in truth, I don’t recall whether we ever did!


This article first appeared in Homeopathy Today (Summer 2012, Vol. 32, No. 2), the monthly magazine of the National Center of Homeopathy. For more information on joining the NCH and subscribing to Homeopathy Today, click here.