The Action of Cactus on the Heart of the Aged.

Botanical name: 

I desire to call the attention of our readers to the action of cactus upon the hearts of aged people. I have been able to watch its effect in some very interesting cases during the past year, and have drawn some conclusions which I think will be of benefit to others.

I had an opportunity to watch its influence in the case of an old lady, aged eighty-five, of previously good constitution, who for the past three years has been suffering from what her friends called a rheumatic condition of the right shoulder, and progressive feebleness of the heart's action.

After the death of her physician, who had attended her many years, I was called to see her one morning, and found her pulse in a very feeble condition and the patient apparently on the very border of a collapse. I was told that that condition was quite common and that she had had digitalis and other heart stimulants for a period of perhaps fifteen or eighteen months, and that the family was not alarmed.

I was further told that the occurrence of those "weak spells" as they called them, was looked for every day, and usually in the early morning. It seemed to me that the heart did not have strength enough to continue its pulsations for any extended period.

I found no evidence of valvular disease. There was nothing except extreme weakness. For its immediate influence, I gave three drops of specific cactus every hour, and advised this to be continued after the first day every two hours. Later I gave two drops every three hours and continued this treatment for a period of five or six weeks.

For deficient stomach action and failure to properly digest the food, I give a mild digestive, and later, after perhaps a month, I gave the 1/134 of a grain of arsenate of strychnin four times a day for two or three weeks.

I have been called in to see this patient on two occasions when there was some weakness, and once when pain in the right shoulder and the soreness around and beneath the shoulder blade were severe. As there was a slight icterus in this case, I gave iris and sticta in small doses for the pain beneath and through the shoulder blade, and occasional small doses of chionanthus.

These remedies were given in port wine and continued for about three weeks, when the pain in the shoulder was materially abated. The improvement in the action of the heart under the influence of cactus, not only impressed me greatly, but caused her friends, and the patient herself, to ask me to equip them with a vial of "those green drops" for use during their winter's stay in Florida.

The patient was active and cheerful and apparently as strong as she had been at any time in the past five years when she left for the south the first of December.

Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.