New England School of Homeopathy

The Cycle of Kali Carbonicum

The New England Journal of Homeopathy
Spring 1996, Vol.5 No.2

Paul Herscu ND, MPH

Our materia medicas of old describe remedies in extreme ways. In these, patients have gone through a spiral of disease several times until the symptoms become severe enough that they are recognizable to the homeopath. But there is a way to find the remedy before major shocks have altered the patient in so significant a way. Perhaps there is a way to find the Arnica or Hypericum constitutional patient before the injuries and to find the Kali carbonicum patient before severe pathology develops.

While rigidity is the major point that stands out for Kali carbonicum, a single point cannot reflect a whole life and cannot draw up a realistic image of someone’s existence. How does Kali carbonicum become stiff? Why does Kali carbonicum become stiff? These are important questions to ask and to try and find answers for.

In Kali carbonicum we have a patient who has a unique type of weakness that makes them feel too exposed, structureless, and they decide to form a structure to hold in everything that they feel is formless – either getting it from the outside or forming it on the inside. But just like all actions of the vital force, since it cannot cure chronic disease, it causes other symptoms to arise, to overshoot the mark. Now the patient trying to close off becomes overly rigid and dogmatic, essentially stuck in a mode of retention.

The retention eventually leads to different forms of irritation that then lead to discharge of all that has been held in. The discharge leaves them weaker and more exposed and then they go around again.

For me, chronic disease is a cycle and because rigidity is the most recognized stopping point on the Kali carbonicum spiral, let’s begin the description there with the understanding that one can jump into the cycle anywhere in the telling or in the living out of the remedy.

Rigidity, obstructions and closing off is found in Kali carbonicum on the physical, emotional and mental levels. Physically we find it in the arthritis, so well known for this remedy. The arthritis leads to stiffness and rigidity, and tightening or clenching of any muscle. The look of the patient may be stiff, as in Rhus toxicodendron and Natrum muriaticum. We find it in the cramping that occurs in the different parts of the body, not just in the muscles but also in the hollow organs of digestion. We find it in the spasms that lead to asthma. We find it in the cramping of the uterus during menses and in the famed labor pains of Kali carbonicum. We also find rigidity in the body in the form of mucus that refuses to be dislodged, in constipation, and lastly, in the formation of kidney stones.

It is interesting to note that even the way a Kali carbonicum patient tries to relieve their pains – such as in asthma – is to close off, by bending double, by closing off the midsection in a protective posture.

The rigidity or closing off may also be seen in the emotional/mental plane. First and foremost, is the conscientiousness of the remedy. They want to get everything done right: perfection and correctness are paramount. This is not just for show, not just the big things but also the smallest detail, every-thing. They become inflexible emotionally, not able to see things from others point of view. They know what they want and the reason why they want it. If you do not see it that way it’s too bad, here seeming like Nux vomica, and at times Calcarea carbonica and Natrum muriaticum. The reason for the rigidity here has more to do with perfection. They do not take positions to get fame or to put others down but to ‘ do the right thing.’ Proper, correct, exact, right, conservative, orderly, work-oriented and duty bound are all words that are used to describe this aspect of the Kali carbonicum patient.

We must also take into account the words which describe the person who overshoots their mark: dogmatic, obstinate, judgmental, overly strict, and domineering. They become so stiff that they are not able to express themselves properly. In the interview some may answer monosyllabically or with only a few words. More importantly, they may stare at you after you asked your question. Their eyes stare out from behind a mask which is difficult to penetrate. After a few seconds the homeopath may feel uncomfortable, not liking the scrutiny and feeling like they did something wrong. Here the response of the homeopath may be similar to being in the presence of a Lachesis patient.

In a broad stroke, the paragraphs above describe what we know as common for the remedy: rigidity. All those symptoms are different expressions of the same idea. Now we can go forward and see how the weakness, diarrhea, sensitivity to noise, and other seemingly unrelated or irrelevant symptoms all can meet under the umbrella of this remedy logically and how all these symptoms fit in place with clarity and predictability.

In Kali carbonicum, the closing off leads to retention, most especially but not only, of fluids. The eyes develop the classic swelling in the lids, but we also find swelling of the glands. We can see congestion in different parts of the body, as in congestion of the head, and the sinuses. Kali carbonicum can have hemorrhoids and accumulation of mucus in different parts of the body. Even strange symptoms such as the sensation of the stomach being full of water characterize this ‘retention.’ There is the well know edema anywhere in the body as well. Some of the fluids are held in for so long that they turn putrid and offensive smelling.

Hating, resenting and holding on to offenses are the emotional correlatives of this aspect of the remedy; mostly not being able to believe that some people can do things that are just not correct, not right. Self-reproach, in the form of blaming themselves for not doing a good job or that they are not good enough, are all further examples of this retentive mode.

The retentive quality leads to the hypersensitivity found in the remedy. The person is not only oversensitive to weather changes but to noise, pain, and touch – be it emotional or physical. This is why the remedy is listed in aversion to consolation. He is self-contained, tight, controlled, and official. Things are going to be done, and they will be done correctly. When someone tries to enter into their realm or tries to touch them emotionally, they become aggravated.

The closed off nature and the retentive nature lead to a sensitivity to stimuli. Kali carbonicum does not like outside influences trying to break through their hard exterior; it irritates them. It also leads to capriciousness, restlessness, and the desire for something different. The darting pains, migratory pains, and altering moods are expressions of this.

They feel they are getting very tight and need some form of release, but what they look for irritates them, making them feel discontented rather than peaceful. The mental control is finally beginning to break up; their emotions so long denied have their day in the sun. This is why Kali carbonicum has the famed rubric: desiring company yet treats them outrageously.

This is also where the electric shock pains upon going to sleep come in. As the patient is relaxing – as they are letting their tight over-controlled mind and emotions relax – and drift into the sleep, they begin to experience irritations and pains.

With enough irritation, discharge eventually occurs. It takes many different forms: diarrhea, hemorrhage, salivation, excessive perspiration, nosebleeds, profuse menses, bleeding during labor, and blood in the stool are among the more common types of discharge we see. Some of the discharges are very toxic, such as pus from the ears and gums and post-nasal catarrh. This remedy covers involuntary urination, trying to get rid of the excess fluid being built up due to retention, a byproduct of rigidity. We also find flatus, eructations, and vomiting.

So now we have identified one clear idea of the remedy: rigidity followed by a closing off or retention, leading to hypersensitivity, and then discharge. The last idea is in fact almost opposite to the idea most commonly described. Emotionally, their rigid inflexibility or façade has broken and they let their emotions free, but mostly at this point the emotions that led to the freedom are not that pleasant; irritability, anger, yelling, shrieking, and at times even violence.

The discharges lead to weakness on all the levels of the Kali carbonicum patient. The weakness is found in the physical plane, such in the vision, but also weakness of integrity of the person in general. They may have an exhausted look on their face. They may have a weakness of memory, as well as a diminished libido. Just as their joints may give way, their emotions let loose. This is why there is found a lack of confidence, irresolution and timidity.

I also find that in the weakness they have a lack of protection, a diminished guardedness, where they are sensitive to drafts and cold air. They develop fears that something is going to get them, that they are weak and that they will become ill, as does Calcarea carbonica. The fear and emptiness is felt in the stomach/solar plexus area which in some will lead to the next idea: a desire to eat. In others this same fear will lead to an apprehension in the stomach with a fear and aversion to eating.

This weakness leads to a need for containment, a need to figure out how to protect themselves and replenish themselves. This is where the idea first comes to create some order out of this weakness. This is where the idea of looking for a stronger partner, someone who would tell you what to do at different times. This is likewise where the Kali carbonicum first turns to religion as a way to access a strong definite structure for themselves.

They also have a need to replenish themselves, to fill themselves from the weakness and the relative chaos that characterizes their emotion at that time. Here we find the symptoms of desire heat and desires to be covered. The person has a feeling of forsakenness and is desiring food, especially comfort foods such as sweets. They may also desire hugs and physical comfort from their loved ones. This is one of the reasons they may do things to try earn affection.

This replenishing idea also explains the strange finding that the Kali carbonicum is listed in the rubric Kleptomania, clearly a different side to the moralistic side that we find in the remedy. Kleptomania: stealing and taking things. Though they seek to replenish themselves to fulfill themselves and seek support, they wind up rejecting it at times. The question has to be why? The answer leads us to the next idea of the remedy, the desire to close off to create a structure which is the first, and more well-known point with which we began.


Notice that this description of Kali carbonicum is not mental or emotional or physical, but rather a description of a pattern, a flow or motion of the remedy. I believe that if we are truly vitalists in our form of medical tradition, we cannot say that their problem is emotional or began with this emotional symptom or that mental symptom or this physical symptom. The problem must have begun at the level of the vital force and then percolated through every aspect of the individual all at once; that is one of the natures of vitalism. I think that any description of the remedy that begins after the patient is already experiencing the effect of the disorder will not describe the disorder itself.

Notice that this also explains why a remedy can be listed in so many contradictory rubrics. For example Kali carbonicum is listed in the rubric aggravated before the menses (the retentive part), beginning of menses (opening up when she does not wish to), during menses (too open), during menses ameliorated (amelioration of the retention by the discharge), aggravated after the menses (the weakness following the discharge). These represent all different places on the spiral of the disease we call Kali carbonicum.

This spiral also explains any symptom within the patient’s or remedy’s disease. For example, the replenishing idea has the desire to eat, the need to eat. The closing off idea has the cramping in the stomach. The retention idea has the symptom of stomach full of water. The discharge has the vomiting and gas and the weakness has the ulceration. And so we find that Kali carbonicum is a good remedy for ulcers with the above mentioned symptoms.

I did not wish to list every single symptom of the remedy here, as that would take too long. In contrast, my new book on the materia medica of Stramonium, has its own cycle and is over 120 pages long. But if you were to read your materia medicas of Kali carbonicum you will be able to place every single symptom of the remedy into one of these ideas.

There is one more aspect to this type of work. Not only do people learn the remedy more fully but the process of learning the remedy becomes a heck of a lot more fun by using many parts of the individual, not just the memory. I hope I expressed enough in this article so that you can use this method for other remedies. Good luck and have fun! Before I finish, I want to present a thumbnail sketch of a patient who responded well to this remedy.

To Read More About Cycles & Segments, click here