This section is from the book "A Practitioner's Handbook Of Materia Medica And Therapeutics", by Thos. S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: A Practitioner's handbook of Materia Medica and Therapeutics.
Cactus Grandiflorus, or Cereus Grandiflorus. a beautiful, large-flowered cactus growing wild in parts of the tropics where frost does not occur. Cultivated in hot-houses under the name of Night-Blooming Cereus, it but feebly develops its medicinal properties. Its sophisticants are Opuntia Rafillesqui, which has some slight value, and the species of opuntia growing upon our own southwestern deserts and which are of no established therapeutic value whatever. Cactus is dependent for its activity upon a resinous substance, soluble in alcohol, and of so unstable a nature as to thus far baffle analysis or separation except by slowly evaporating the tincture. This extract soon loses all activity. In consequence, the tincture of the fresh cactus must be employed, and attempts at making a fluidextract each minim of which represents one grain of dried cactus has most dismally failed. The "eclectic tincture" is of this strength, based upon the green drug. The "normal tincture" is semi-normal, and the "mother tincture" is of less strength. By drying cactus loses 95% by weight. Green plant fluidextracts are eligible, but do not differ from the tinctures. They are really tinctures in the case of this drug. Anhaloniuln is a species of cactus described in this volume under its own heading. Cereus Bonplandi is very nearly allied to cereus grandiflorus, and is similar in action. Homeopathic physicians are inclined to think bonplandi most effective in convulsive heart affections, while grandiflorus is best where there is constrictive pain.
Cactus was almost exclusively employed by the homeopaths until the eclectics took it up, and now is coming into general use. Regular physicians who have employed cactus in some reliable form are equally well pleased with it. It is a drug in which its employment is along similar lines by all schools of medicine. Briefly stated, cactus influences the circular muscular fibres. In large doses it gives rise to more or less irritation, in which the sphincters are involved. It is useful in medicine for two reasons: first, because the muscular tissues of the heart and blood-vessels respond to it in doses never dangerous nor unpleasant; and secondly, because the nervous symptoms of functional heart diseases are much more favorably influenced by cactus than by any of the other cardiac tonics and stimulants. The nervous system is impressed by quite small doses.
Ellingwood says: "This remedy increases the musculo-motor energy of the heart, elevates arterial tension, increasing the height and force of the pulse wave. This is accomplished by increased heart action, stimulation of the vasa-motor center, and stimulation of the spinal-motor centers, increasing their activity and improving the general nerve tone. . . . It produces no irritation of the heart muscles, like strophanthus, or gastric irritation or cumulation, like digitalis. It increases the contractile power and energy of the heart muscle through the intercardiac ganglia and accelerator nerves, and improves the nutrition of the heart.' * Castus has impressed me as in no sense a substitute for digitalis, but is exceedingly useful in case of a debilitated heart muscle needing encouragement, but not the whip. It fills a place no other agent does in functional heart difficulties and progressive valvular inefficiency. It is a reliable remedy, not disturbing digestion in proper doses, and it gives a sense of ease to many a distressing heart case, leaves no after-drug effect, and is often preferable to older drugs. For the heart, give I to 6 I. doses of ec. tr., 2 to 10 111. doses of fluidextract, or 3 to 15 I @. Small doses, frequently repeated, act nicely.
Rubini, of Naples, who introduced cactus, claimed that it resembles aconite in action, differing in that it increases the strength and tone of the nerve centers instead of paralyzing them, as do large doses of aconite. He was probably correct in his claims. At all events, cactus in I I doses, frequently repeated, and even in less dose, is a true sedative where a rapid and feeble pulse accompanies a weak and exhausted nervous system.
* Materia Medica and Therapeutics," by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.-The Chicago Medical Times Pub. Co.
In asthenic fevers, in headaches with a feeling of constriction, anemia of the brain, nervous palpitation, in cold and clammy hands and feet, and in other states in which the vasomotors are at fault with more or less nervous irritation, cactus acts well in very small doses.