The plant Cactus grandiflorus.—Europe.
Preparation.—A tincture of the fresh plant.
Dose.—The dose will vary from the fraction of a drop to five drops.
Specific Indications.—Uneasy sensations in the region of the heart as of difficult or irregular movement; oppression in the praecordia; irregularity of the pulse as to time; a sense of unsteadiness and irregular contraction when the finger is placed on an artery.
Therapeutic Action.—The influence of Cactus seems to he wholly exerted on the sympathetic nervous system, and especially upon and through the cardiac plexus. It does not seem to increase or depress innervation, (neither stimulant nor sedative), but rather to influence a regular performance of function. I am satisfied, however, that its continued use improves the nutrition of the heart, thus permanently strengthening the organ. It has a second influence upon the circulation and nutrition of the brain, and may thus be employed with advantage in some diseases of this organ. We can see very readily how this may be. The cardiac nerves are derived from the upper part of the sympathetic, and judging from the anatomy of the part, the first cervical ganglion being the principal nervous mass in the cervical region, must furnish innervation through the cardiac nerves, as it certainly controls the circulation and nutrition of the brain.
The Cactus is a specific in heart disease, in that it gives strength and regularity to the innervation of the organ. Its influence is permanent, in that it influences the waste and nutrition of the heart, increasing its strength. It exerts no influence upon the inflammatory process, and hence is not a remedy for inflammatory disease.
Feelings of weight and pressure at the praecordia, difficult breathing, fear of impending danger, etc., are at once removed. Such irregularity of action, whether violent, feeble, or irregular, as is dependent upon the innervation, is readily controlled. Thus in the majority of cases of functional heart disease, it gives prompt relief, and, if continued, will effect a cure. In those cases in which there is another lesion acting as a cause, as in some gastric, enteric, or uterine lesion, this must receive attention, and be removed to make the cure radical.
In structural heart disease, the first use of remedies is to relieve the distressing sensations in the region of the heart, and the unnatural fear of danger which attends them. As these spring from disordered innervation, in the majority of cases, the Cactus gives prompt relief. As we have seen above, its continuance favors normal waste and nutrition, as well as regular action. Hence, its continued use is followed by the removal of adventitious tissue, and an increase in the strength of its contractile fibre. Thus it proves curative in many cases of structural heart disease.
I have some cases on my case-book of such aggravated form that no one would believe they could live a twelve-month; yet after a lapse of five years, they are enjoying comfortable health.
But it will not relieve or cure cases of valvular deficiency, dilatation of the openings of the heart, or fatty degeneration. It is well in estimating its action, to bear this in mind.
In its influence upon the nervous system, it more nearly resembles Pulsatilla; giving relief in that condition known as nervousness. But further than this, it gives regularity of cerebral function, and permanently improves nutrition of the nervous centers.