‘Phosphorus’ is derived from the Greek words ‘phos,’ light, and ‘phoros’, bringing or bearing. Phosphorus was discovered by the German alchemist Hennig Brand in 1669, while searching for the philosopher’s stone. Brand had been involved in experiments with urine, which contains significant amounts of dissolved phosphates from normal metabolism. In the process of heating urine residue in order to create salts, Brand accidentally released a shining liquid from his furnace, which he soon discovered to be extremely flammable. When he contained this liquid in a vessel and allowed it to cool, he saw that it continually emitted a greenish-light, hence the name – phosphorus mirabilis ("miraculous bearer of light") – that he bestowed upon it. Elements of light and fire come through in the symptomatology of the homeopathic remedy made from phosphorus as can be seen, for example, in the following symptoms: delusion of a flame of fire seems to pass through him, sees a sea of fire on closing the eyes, sees flashes in the dark, sees sparks and lightning on falling asleep.
Homeopath George Vithoulkas describes the primary theme of phosphorus as diffusion: “the process of spreading outward into the environment, like smoke spreading outward into the air.” The phosphorus patient often experiences a similar diffusion on the level of their energy, awareness, emotions, and even physically on the level of the blood. Due to their notable absence of barriers and boundaries, phosphorus patients tend to be extremely susceptible to a variety of external influences and highly sensitive to many external impressions. There can be an excessively free flow of outward emotions, without the ability to recognize or guard against the vulnerability that results from such a state of openness. In phosphorus, brightness, excitably and extroversion exist alongside a variety of phobias (of e.g. darkness, deep water, storms, and death), and a heighted anxiety state, especially when alone. On the level of self-consciousness and awareness, there can be a kind of self-forgetting in which the mind becomes scattered, unfocused, and diffused – the phosphorus patient may appear to be “spaced out.” Concentration can be very difficult, and endless cycles of procrastination may be a problem. In addition to this excessive openness, impressionability, and sensitivity to external impressions, the phosphorus patient’s sensibility may also be heighted to the point of clairvoyance. They can have out of body experiences and can enter into somnambulistic (sleep-walking) states.
Yubraj Sharma describes the psycho-spiritual transformation that phosphorus can help to bring about in such a patient: “It facilitates entry into the darkness of one’s own being, to face the inner fears of loneliness, abandonment and separation from spirit. This involves moving the consciousness from superconscious into sub- and unconscious experience. There is the potential along this journey to take one’s inner light into the darkness, and to assist humanity as part of a collective ‘fall.’”
On the physical level, phosphorus covers a wide variety of symptoms. It is commonly prescribed for frequent vertigo that can come on at any time of the day and be accompanied by nausea and pressive headaches. There can be a feeling of congestion in the head with burning, humming, buzzing and throbbing pains. These sensations may be localized in the forehead, and there may be a redness and heat of the face (though the face can also be pale during the phosphorus headache). Migraine headaches are made worse from fasting and heat and are better from sleep, the cold and open air. Generally, phosphorous patients sleep very well, have a preference for sleeping on their right side, and feel revitalized and refreshed from sleep. Phosphorus is generally worse from fasting and feels better after eating. There can be a ravenous appetite and tremendous thirst, especially for cold drinks. Hunger may be greatest during the late hours, and the patient can wake up with an unignorable desire to eat in the middle of the night. Phosphorus patients can be easily dehydrated and experience dryness of the lips, mouth, tongue and throat. Phosphorus also has a strong affinity for the skin and is used in conditions such as dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema, especially where the itching is worse from heat and at night. As one of the most commonly used polychersts in the homeopathic materia medica, phosphorus covers a great many more symptoms in addition to those just discussed.