Cantharis vesicatoria (Kavapis – kantharis, a blistering fly), the Spanish or blistering fly, is the best known species of the family Cantharidoea. The flies, originally perhaps, natives of Spain and Italy, are now found in Hungary and southern Russia as well, the Russian being the largest and most esteemed.
The flies, or beetles, are an inch or less in length and of a shining green color, and when crushed of a sweetish, nauseous smell. The juice being acrid, persons in shaking the trees where they swarm, must have their face and hands protected by netting and gloves. When collected, the flies are killed by exposing them to the fumes of boiling vinegar; they are then dried. If they are now exposed to the air, and if powdered they soon putrify; so they are packed whole after drying in air-tight vessels, and will thus retain their properties for many years, being powdered as needed.
While the use of Cantharis is very ancient, Hahnemann first introduced the remedy into our materia medica. He, however, did but little with it, giving us but 105 symptoms and it was left to others to re-prove it and gather together the records of poisoning so that now we find in Allen’s Encyclop. 1651 symptoms taken from 112 different sources.
The chief action of Cantharis is on the entire urinary tract, and on the intestinal canal, especially on the lower bowel. When applied to the skin it produces blisters (vesication, with inflammation).
Mentally we find Cantharis useful in acute mania of a sexual type, amorous frenzy, intense desire for sexual intercourse in either sex, nymphomania (146) or satyriasis (163).
We may have in the delirium of the remedy, crying and barking like a dog, and ending in convulsions. Talcott says of the symptom, “renewal of these attacks,” of convulsions, “at sight of liquids,” that he has seen “some Cantharis cases that were much disturbed by seeing water, or any bright, glistening substance” and suggests its use in hydrophobia (119).
In the eye, Cantharis is to be thought of in acute inflammations, with biting, and smarting as from a burn, and internally and locally it is one of our best remedies for inflammations of the eye when caused by burns from chemicals or pieces of hot metal (locally “not stronger than one part of the tincture to forty of water”) (Hughes).
A condition in which Cantharis is of value, yet frequently over-looked, is vesicular erysipelas (68), with redness and burning, biting heat, associated with nephritis.
In the throat it is to be thought of in inflammations where the burning is the prominent feature, the throat feels on fire. In diphtheria, we would have in addition, constriction amounting almost to suffocative dyspnoea, with the resultant regurgitation of drink (183).
In intestinal conditions, the especial characteristics would be the tympanitic distention (13) and the burning heat.
The diarrhoea calling for Cantharis is like meat-washings, or the scrapings of the intestines (60), the stools consisting of reddish or bloody mucus, or flakes of blood and mucus, with extreme burning at anus during stool (61). With the stool we have severe burning tenesmus of both rectum and bladder (61) and chill during stool (61) as if water were poured over him. In dysentery, we have a similar picture, only of much greater severity, and with burning of the throat, mouth and lips, unquenchable thirst, cold hands and feet and a tendency to collapse.
In the throat, rectum and bladder, the intensity of the symptoms is often the key-note to the remedy, and it is of value in cystitis, even of a most violent character, with intense burning tenesmus.
The urine is bloody, scalds the whole length of the urethra and is passed drop by drop, with great straining; associated with this, we have general fever and chilliness and always the most terrible distress, cutting and burning (194), in the neck of the bladder, or strangury. In gonorrhoea there is the most intense suffering, sexual excitement and chordee (31), with constant distress in the bladder and with discharge of blood. It is of frequent use in acute nephritis with the distress in the bladder, and scanty, bloody (85) and albuminous urine. It is to be thought of in renal calculi (124), with the bladder symptoms of the remedy, and for gravel in children (124) with constant pulling of the penis.
In the female, we find menstruation too early and dark (136), with great soreness of the breasts. The ovaries are inflamed, with burning pains, extreme sensitiveness to touch (148) and with great aggravation during menstruation. It is to be thought of in puerperal metritis, especially with mania (129) of a sexual type.
Sensitiveness to touch being so pronounced under this remedy, it is to be remembered for spasms produced by touching the larynx (191).
Cantharis is to be thought of in the exudative stage (150) of pleurisy characterized by extreme heat and burning in the chest (28).
It is an excellent remedy, internally and locally, for burns and scalds causing vesication, for vesicular eruptions, with itching and burning heat, and for eczema on the backs of the hands (65), between the fingers, or of the feet, in all these conditions with relief from cold or cold applications and aggravation from heat (122).
Coffea cr. is incompatible with Cantharis.
I use Cantharis 3rd.