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Cactus grandiflorus is an herb remedy and homeopathic medicine obtained from a species of cactus known as night-blooming Cereus, or Queen of the Night. This desert plant, which naturally ranges from the Southwestern U.S. to northern Mexico, is easily overlooked in its natural habitat because it largely resembles a dead shrub most of the time. Gardening enthusiasts, however, appreciate the rare qualities the plant has to offer. In the hours of darkness one midsummer night, a single trumpet-like blossom opens to release its delicate fragrance, and then succumbs just as suddenly with the early morning light.
Medicinally, Cactus grandiflorus is reputed to have several pharmacological effects. It is believed to increase blood circulation in the brain, thereby contributing to enhanced neurotransmission. It also possesses a mild sedative action and is frequently given to relieve nervousness, tension headache and symptoms associated with menopause in women. In men, Cactus grandiflorus is thought to counter the adverse affects of male hormone depletion, such as impotence and prostate disorders. Sometimes, the cactus remedy is combined with other herbs or homeopathic medicines, such as Serenoa repens and Avena sativa, or saw palmetto and common oat, respectively.
One of the primary medicinal applications for Cactus grandiflorus is the treatment of heart conditions. According to The American Materia Medica written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D. in 1919, cactus is useful in cases where the “heart muscle is enfeebled.” Modern herbalists and homeopathic practitioners maintain that preparations made from this cactus species stimulate cardiac contractions in a manner similar to digitalis, but without producing stomach upset or accumulating in tissue. Specifically, this remedy is said to stabilize heart palpitations and valve inefficiency associated with arrhythmias, as well as dyspnea (shortness of breath) following a bout with pneumonia or other viral infection. Other uses of Cactus grandiflorus include treating nervous disorders of all types, motion and seasickness, low body temperature, cold sweats and edema.
The therapeutic dosage of this remedy is traditionally expressed in minims, a unit of volume recognized by both U.S. and imperial systems of measurement. The standard dose used to counter the conditions described above ranges between 2 and 5 minims. Each minim represents the fluid equivalent of 1⁄60 of a dram or 1⁄480 of an ounce.
While medicinal preparations are largely derived from the stem of this cactus, some practitioners of the past have endeavored to make remedies from the flower as well. Of course, given the elusiveness of the blossom, it’s not hard to imagine that this was a difficult and time-consuming task often met without success. Others have attempted to substitute another species known as Cereus bonplandi, which is believed to possess similar properties. This practice, however, was abandoned in the early 20th century.