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CANTHARIS
Spanish Fly

(Cantharis Vesicatoria, Lytta Vesicatoria)


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  • Cantharis Description
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  • cantharis vesicatoria


    CANTHARIS DESCRIPTION

    Cantharis (Cantharis vesicatoria, Lytta vesicatoria) is also referred to as Cantharides, Spanish fly amd Blister Beetle. Although this is not an herbal remedy, it is still included in this section for informational purposes as a homeopathic preparation.

    Cantharis is a homeopathic remedy obtained from a beetle found in Southern France and Spain. Other names for this beetle are Spanish Fly or Blister Beetle. This beetle lives on honeysuckle and olive trees in Western Asia and Southern Europe. It is bright green and about a ½ inch in length. It is an irritant that can be caustic when applied to the skin. Hippocrates used Cantharides in cases of dropsy and amenorrhea. In traditional folk medicine, Spanish Fly was used to cause blistering, increase fluid loss, treat baldness, and promote abortion.

    cantharis lytta vesicatoria


    THE SPANISH FLY BEETLE

    The Spanish fly is an emerald-green beetle in the family Meloidae, Lytta vesicatoria. Other species of blister beetles used by apothecaries are often called by the same name. L. vesicatoria is sometimes incorrectly called Cantharis vesicatoria, but the genus Cantharis is in an unrelated family, Cantharidae. The beetle, L. vesicatoria, is 0.59 to 0.87-inch long and 0.20 to 0.31-inch wide. Adult beetles feed on leaves of ash, lilac, amur privet, and white willow trees; larvae are parasitic on the brood of ground-nesting bees. The beetle lives in scrublands and woods throughout southern Europe and eastward to Central Asia and Siberia.

    Cantharidin (etymology: Greek kantharis, beetle) is a powerful irritant vesicant (blister-inducing) substance obtained from many blister beetles, and sometimes given the nickname "Spanish fly". Cantharidin is claimed to have aphrodisiac properties, as a result of its irritant effects upon the body's genitourinary tract, and can result in poisoning if ingested. Ingestion of blister beetles from infested hay causes similar serious toxic symptoms in animals.

    Cantharidin, the principal irritant in Spanish fly, was first isolated and named in 1810 by Pierre Robiquet, a French chemist then living in Paris, from L. vesicatoria. Robiquet demonstrated that cantharidin was the actual principle responsible for the aggressively blistering properties of the coating of the eggs of that insect, and established that cantharidin had very definite toxic and poisonous properties comparable in degree to that of the most violent poisons known in the 19th century, such as strychnine.

    Cantharidin, a terpenoid, is produced by various insect species. The body of the beetle contains up to 5-percent cantharidin. The crushed powder is of yellowish brown to brown-olive color with iridescent reflections, of disagreeable scent and bitter flavor. The potency of the insect species has been known since antiquity and used in various ways, in particular prepared and sold in powdered form obtained from dried and ground beetles, known as cantharides (the Greek plural form of the singular cantharis).





    CANTHARIS USES, HEALTH BENEFITS & SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

    APHRODISIAC

    As it passes through the body, cantharidin irritates the genitals resulting in increased blood flow that can mimic the engorgement that occurs with sexual excitement. For this reason, various preparations of desiccated Spanish flies have been used as some of the world's oldest alleged aphrodisiacs, with a reputation dating back to the early western Mediterranean classical civilizations. The ease of toxic overdose makes this highly dangerous, so the sale of such products as Spanish fly has been made illegal in most countries. Nevertheless, there are many historical examples:
    • In Roman times, Livia, the scheming wife of Augustus Caesar slipped it into food, hoping to inspire her guests to some indiscretion with which she could later blackmail them.
    • Henry IV (1050 to 1106) is known to have consumed Spanish fly at the risk of his health.
    • In 1572, Ambroise Pare wrote an account of a man suffering from "the most frightful satyriasis" after taking a potion composed of nettles and cantharides.
    • In the 1670s, Spanish fly was mixed with dried mole's and bat's blood for a love charm made by the magician La Voisin.
    • It was slipped into the food of Louis XIV to secure the king's lust for Madame de Montespan.
    • In the 18th century, cantharides became fashionable, known as pastilles Richelieu in France.
    • It is claimed the Marquis de Sade gave aniseed-flavored pastilles that were laced with Spanish fly to prostitutes at an orgy in 1772. He was sentenced to death for poisoning and sodomy, but later reprieved on appeal.
    • The compound was mentioned in the 1986 Beastie Boys song, "Brass Monkey", as being mixed in the title drink as an aphrodisiac between the narrator (Ad-Rock, Mike D, MCA) and a girl at a party.

    MEDICAL USES

    Medical use dates back to descriptions from Hippocrates. Plasters made from wings of these beetles have been used to raise blisters. Cantharides was used as an abortifacient, a stimulant (since one of its effects was producing insomnia and nervous agitation), and as a poison. Cantharidin is used today as a topical application for treatment of benign epithelial growths including most warts.


    HOMEOPATHIC USES - HOMEOPATHIC MATERIA MEDICA (by William Boericke, MD)

    CANTHARIS VESICATORIA (CANTHARIS)
    Spanish Fly

    Cantharis is a powerful drug that produces a furious disturbance in the animal economy, attacking the urinary and sexual organs especially, perverting their function, and setting up violent inflammations, and causing a frenzied delirium, simulating hydrophobia symptoms (Anagallis). Puerperal convulsions. Produces most violent inflammation of the whole gastrointestinal canal, especially lower bowel. Oversensitiveness of all parts. Irritation. Raw, burning pains. Hemorrhages. Intolerable, constant urging to urinate is most characteristic. Gastric, hepatic and abdominal complaints that are aggravated by drinking coffee. Gastric derangements of pregnancy. Dysuria, with other complaints. Increases secretion of mucous membranes, tenacious mucus. The inflammations cantharis produces (bladder, kidneys, ovaries, meninges, pleuritic and pericardial membranes)are usually associated with bladder irritation.

    Cantharis homeopathic preparations are most commonly used to treat severe cystitis with a burning, scalding pain that gets worse as urine is passed. It is also useful in treating urinary tract infections, and for scalds and burns. Cantharis is an effective remedy for irritation of the digestive tract, burning pain and scalding diarrhea, burning sensations on the bottom on the feet at night, icy hands with red, hot fingernails, pus filled rashes on the hands, and black-centered stings. Cantharis stimulates appetite and soothes burning sensations in the throat. It has also been effective in alleviating mental problems such as an excessive desire for sexual intercourse (Nymphomania), fits of rage, irritability leading to violence, severe anxiety, screaming, and insolence (being overbearing).

    Mind.--Furious delirium. Anxious restlessness, ending in rage. Crying, barking; worse touching larynx or drinking water. Constantly attempts to do something, but accomplishes nothing. Acute mania, generally of a sexual type; amorous frenzy; fiery sexual desire. Paroxysms of rage, crying, barking. Sudden loss of consciousness with red face.

    Head.--Burning in brain. Sensation as if boiling water in brain. Vertigo; worse in open air.

    Eyes.--Yellow vision (Santon). Fiery, sparkling, staring look. Burning in eyes.

    Ears.--Sensation as if wind were coming from ear, or hot air. Bones about ear painful (Capsic).

    Face.--Pale, wretched, death-like appearance. Itching vesicles on face, burning when touched. Erysipelas of face, with burning, biting heat with urinary symptoms. Hot and red.

    Throat.--Tongue covered with vesicles; deeply furred; edges red. Burning in mouth, pharynx, and throat; vesicles in mouth. Great difficulty in swallowing liquids. Very tenacious mucus (Kali bich). Violent spasms reproduced by touching larynx. Inflammation of throat; feels on fire. Constriction; aphthous ulceration (Hydr mur; Nit ac). Scalding feeling. Burnt after taking too hot food.

    Chest.--Pleurisy, as soon as effusion has taken place. Intense dyspnœa; palpitation; frequent, dry cough. Tendency to syncope. Short, hacking cough, blood-streaked tenacious mucus. Burning pains.

    Stomach.--Burning sensation of esophagus and stomach (Carb). Disgust for everything - drink, food, tobacco. Burning thirst, with aversion to all fluids. Very sensitive, violent burning. Vomiting of blood-streaked membrane and violent retching. Aggravation from drinking coffee; drinking the smallest quantity increases pain in bladder, and is vomited. Thirst unquenchable.

    Stool.--Shivering with burning. Dysentery; mucous stools, like scrapings of intestines. Bloody, with burning and tenesmus and shuddering after stool.

    Urine.--Intolerable urging and tenesmus. Nephritis with bloody urine. Violent paroxysms of cutting and burning in whole renal region, with painful urging to urinate; bloody urine, by drops. Intolerable tenesmus; cutting before, during, and after urine. Urine scalds him, and is passed drop by drop. Constant desire to urinate. Membranous scales looking like bran in water. Urine jelly-like, shreddy.

    Male.--Strong desire; painful erections. Pain in glans (Prunus; Pareira). Priapism in gonorrhea.

    Female.--Retained placenta (Sep), with painful urination. Expels moles, dead fetuses, membranes, etc. Nymphomania (Plat; Hyos; Lach; Stram). Puerperal metritis, with inflammation of bladder. Menses too early and too profuse; black swelling of vulva with irritation. Constant discharge from uterus; worse false step. Burning pain in ovaries; extremely sensitive. Pain in os coccyx, lancinating and tearing.

    Respiratory.--Voice low; weak feeling. Stitches in chest (Bry; Kal c; Squilla). Pleurisy, with exudation.

    Heart.--Palpitation; pulse feeble, irregular; tendency to syncope. Pericarditis, with effusion.

    Back.--Pain in loins, with incessant desire to urinate.

    Extremities.--Tearing in limbs. Ulcerative pain in soles; cannot step.

    Skin.--Dermatitis venenata with bled formation. Secondary eczema about scrotum and genitals, following excessive perspiration. Tendency to gangrene. Eruption with mealy scales. Vesicular eruptions, with burning and itching. Sunburn. Burns, scalds, with rawness and smarting, relieved by cold applications, followed by undue inflammation. Erysipelas, vesicular type, with great restlessness. Burning in soles of feet at night.

    Fever.--Cold hands and feet; cold sweat. Soles burn. Chill, as if water were poured over him.

    Modalities.--Worse, from touch, or approach, urinating, drinking cold water or coffee. Better, rubbing.

    Relationship.--Antidotes: Acon; Camph; Puls.

    Compare: Cantharidin--(Glomerular nephritis). The immediate pharmacological action of Cantharidin is irritability of the capillaries, rendering the passage of nutritive fluids through them less difficult. This is most marked in the capillaries of the kidneys. The increase of blood sugar coincident with the glomerular nephritis appears to be a valuable observation. Vesicaria--(Urinary and kidney remedy. Smarting, burning sensation along urethra and in bladder with frequent desire to void urine often with strangury. Cystitis, irritable bladder. Tincture 5-10 drop doses). Fuschina coloring substance used in adulteration of wine (Cortical nephritis with albuminuria, 6th-30th potency. Redness of ears, mouth, swollen gums; deep, red urine; red, profuse diarrhœa, with severe abdominal pains). Androsace lactea (urinary troubles, diuretic; dropsy). Apis; Ars; Merc cor.

    Complementary: Camph.


    POISON USES

    Simon Bolivar may have been accidentally poisoned by the application of Spanish fly.

    In powder, mixed with food, cantharides could go unnoticed and has thus been employed as a poison: Aqua toffana, or aquetta di Napoli, was one of the poisons associated with the Medicis. Thought to be a mixture of arsenic and cantharides, this was reportedly created by an Italian countess, Toffana. Four to six drops of this poison in water or wine was enough to deliver death in a few hours. Symptoms of cantharidin poisoning including burning of the mouth, dysphagia, nausea, hematemesis, gross hematuria, and dysuria.

    To determine if a death had taken place by the effects of Spanish fly, investigators resorted to the vesicación test. One of those test methods consisted of rubbing part of the internal organs of the deceased, dissolved in oil, on the shaved skin of a rabbit; the absorption of the cantharides and its blistering effect are such that they became visible on the skin of the rabbit.

    CULINARY USES

    Dawamesk, a spread or jam made in North Africa and containing hashish, almond paste, pistachio nuts, sugar, orange or tamarind peel, cloves, and other various spices, occasionally included cantharides.

    In Morocco and other parts of North Africa, spice blends known as ras el hanout sometimes included cantharides as an ingredient. However, the sale of cantharides in Moroccan spice markets was banned in the 1990s.

    OTHER USES

    In ancient China, the beetles were mixed with human excrement, arsenic, and wolfsbane to make the world's first recorded stink bomb.

    In Santeria, cantharides are used in incense.





    CANTHARIS DOSAGE INFORMATION

    HOMEOPATHIC DOSAGE

    Sixth (6X) to thirtieth (30X) potency. Bears repeated doses well. Locally, in burns and eczema, 1X and 2X, in water, or as cerate.

    Dissolve 3 to 6 pellets under tongue 3 to 4 times a day, repeat as required or as directed by a licensed practitioner. Children half adult dose. To be used according to label indications, standard homeopathic indications or as directed by a licensed practitioner.

    Homeopathic Cantharis is prepared from the entire beetle, dried and powdered. It is commercially available as a homeopathic liquid or tablet and is an ingredient in many products. Due to its strong actions, it is advised that you use Cantharis only under the supervision of a homeopathic practitioner.





    CANTHARIS SAFETY, CAUTIONS & INTERACTIONS

    In high concentrations Cantharis can be toxic and cause abdominal cramps, burning pains in the throat and stomach, vomiting of blood, diarrhea, kidney damage, convulsions, coma, and death.

    Not for use by young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease.





    CANTHARIS HOMEOPATHIC PRODUCTS

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    CANTHARIS HOMEOPATHIC PRODUCTS

    Cantharis is a homeopathic medicine used for bladder irritation and painful urination. Cantharis (Spanish Fly) is a homeopathic remedy used for acute inflammations of the mucosae, the urinary orgasms, the reproductive organs, the gastrointestinal tract, and the skin with formations of blisters, effusions in cavities of the body, minor burns and scalds.

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