Cantharis is a homeopathic remedy obtained from the insect Lytta vesicatoria; common names 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 0.5 in (1.3 cm) in length. Other names for cantharis include: Cantharis vesicator, N.O. Insecta, and coleoptera.
The Spanish fly produces a toxic substance called cantharidin. Cantharidin is a strong poison that primarily affects the urinary tract and causes burning pain and vomiting. Cantharidian is caustic and causes skin blistering. Since homeopathy is based on the Law of Similars, a doctrine that says to treat a symptom with a diluted remedy that produces the same symptom is stronger amounts, this homeopathic remedy is used for illnesses that have burning pain as a symptom. Because cantharis is a member of the animal kingdom, its activity excites the passions of animals. As such, cantharis is indicated for anger that is very severe with fits of rage. Likewise, cantharis is indicated for conditions of the body that are extreme, ie. pain that is stabbing, burning, and sharp.
Homeopathic remedies are chosen based upon the specific set of symptoms and traits displayed by each patient. In general, cantharis is used to treat conditions characterized by burning pain and strong thirst but no urge to drink. Conditions for which cantharis is indicated will typically worsen rapidly.
Cantharis is primarily used to treat cystitis, which is inflammation of the urinary bladder because of infection or irritation. It is also used to treat burns and blisters. Spanish fly was traditionally used as an aphrodisiac (increases sexual desire). It was also used to remove warts, treat baldness, increase loss of fluids (acting as a diuretic), and for rheumatic problems (inflammation and degeneration of the joints).
Mental symptoms treated with cantharis
Homeopathy treats a person's whole being, mental and physical. The patient who needs cantharis can be confused and have odd ideas, may be maniacal and demonstrate raging fury or sexual frenzy, or may loose consciousness. The cantharis patient may be restless and excitable. He or she may be extremely thirsty but have difficulty swallowing. Also, the patient may have no appetite and a strong avoidance of food. Other mental problems that can be treated with cantharis include: excessive desire for sex (nymphomania), severe anxiety, screaming, querulousness (constant complaining), and insolence (being overbearing).
Physical symptoms treated with cantharis
The intense urge to urinate and burning pain are key symptoms for cantharis. Cantharis is indicated for the patient who experiences rapid and intense inflammation of the urinary system. There is lower abdominal and lower back pain. The severe burning pain associated with the urinary tract makes the patient afraid to urinate. There is a frequent and urgent need to urinate, however, only small amounts (drops) of urine are passed. The urine may contain blood. The patient may experience hydrophobia (fear of water) and, although extremely thirsty, cannot drink water or even tolerate seeing or hearing water. A severe, stabbing headache may be present and the patient may avoid bright light.
Cantharis is also used to treat burns or skin conditions that resemble burns. It is used for sunburn, blisters, skin eruptions, and insect bites. Symptoms associated with burns for which cantharis is indicated include blister formation, searing pain, and relief upon application of a cold compress. This remedy can relieve the pain associated with second or third degree burns. Cantharis is indicated for blisters that are burning and itching and feel better upon application of a cold compress.
The patient feels better at night and in the morning. Also, warmth, gentle massage, and lying flat on the back make the patient feel better. Passing gas and burping make the patient feel better. The patient feels worse in the afternoon, during movement, and by drinking cold water or coffee.
Other physical symptoms or conditions treated with cantharis include:
- irritation of the digestive system causing a bloated stomach
- burning diarrhea
- colitis (inflammation of the colon)
- loss of appetite
- burning feeling in the throat
- considerable thirst without the desire to drink
- pleurisy (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs)
- nighttime burning feeling on the bottom of the feet
- ice-cold hands with hot, red fingernails
- swelling and rash with pus on the hands
- stings with black centers
- erysipelas (infection of lymph ducts)
- fast spreading skin infection
- shingles (herpes zoster)
- eye inflammation
- tongue inflammation
- neuralgia (nerve pain)
Homeopathic canthous is prepared from the entire beetle, dried and powdered. It is commercially available as a homeopathic liquid or tablet. Because of the toxic nature of cantharis, the tincture (an alcoholic extract) requires a doctor's prescription.
Cystitis is treated with 30C of homeopathic cantharis every half hour, with up to six doses. Minor burns are treated with 30C of cantharis every 15 minutes for four doses. Blisters are treated with 6C of cantharis four times a day until the pain disappears. Burns may be treated locally with water containing a few drops of cantharis tincture. Shingles may be treated with an ointment made with 3X of cantharis.
Large doses of cantharidin (the poison produced by the Spanish fly found in cantharis) can cause a burning pain in the stomach and throat, difficulty swallowing, violent vomiting, diarrhea, frequent urges to urinate, and possibly convulsions and coma.
Excessive doses of cantharis may cause symptoms of cantharidin toxicity including burning pain, vomiting, and frequent urge to urinate.
The belladonna, phosphorus, mercurius, sepia, and sulphur homeopathic remedies may be used to complement the activity of cantharis. Homeopathic remedies that serve as antidotes are aconite, apis, camphora, kali nit., and pulsatilla. Cantharis serves as an antidote for the homeopathic remedies alcohol, camphora, and vinegar. Homeopathic coffea and cantharis are incompatible.
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Lockie, Andrew, and Nicola Geddes. The Complete Guide to Homeopathy: The Principles and Practice of Treatment with a Comprehensive Range of Self-Help Remedies for Common Ailments. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1995.
Homeopathy Educational Services. 2124B Kittredge Street, Berkeley, CA 94704. (510)649-0294. firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Foundation for Homeopathy. 1508 S. Garfield, Alhambra, CA 91801.
National Center for Homeopathy. 801 N. Fairfax Street, Suites 306, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Clarke, John Henry. "Cantharis." A Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica. http://www.homeoint.org/clarke/c/canth.htm.
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