**Digitalis is known chiefly for its action on the heart, and it is rare that a patient suffering from an affection of that organ does not get **Digitalis in some form. There is no doubt but that it is a much abused drug and when used in strong doses its action is cumulative and dangerous. Its symptoms are, however, clear, and briefly stated, as follows:
The pulse is slow, but primarily strong, there is great weakness of the cardiac tissue, and, secondarily, the pulse becomes weak. Extra exertion increases its rapidity, but diminishes its force, so that the quick pulse becomes irregular and intermittent. This irregular intermittency is a marked symptom.
The heart feels as if the blood stood still. There is weakness and numbness of the left arm, and often blueness of the surface of the body, or cyanosis. The patient fears that the heart will stop beating if he should make any motion. This uneasy feeling about the chest rarely amounts to real pain.
**Gelsemium has the opposite symptom to this. The patient is roused out of sleep feeling that the heart will stop beating, and he is impelled to move about to keep it going.
A number of drugs have numbness of the left arm in heart affections, notably **Aconite, Kalmia, Rhus and Pulsatilla. These are not “keynote ” symptoms, however, as is shown further on.
The Digitalis patient has a doughy look to the skin; there is often a sick feeling at the stomach after eating.
**Apis has a symptom that will lead to its use in heart affections, namely: “He does not see how he can get another breath.” In pericarditis with effusion it is one of our best remedies vying here with **Cantharis, but the latter has burning and spasms. Cartier recommends the 30th or 200th.
Like **Arsenicum and Lachesis, the tendency of **Digitalis is downwards, and it must be used cautiously and only when indicated homoeopathically. There are numerous other symptoms that will indicate Digitalis. Disturbed sleep, apprehensiveness, deep sighing, slow respiration,, dry cough, suffocative spells; in fact, such symptoms as may be caused by an irregular distribution of the blood. **Digitalis is also indicated in dropsical conditions dependent on heart trouble, swelling of feet and ankles, anasarca, cardiac dropsy associated with slow pulse, urine suppressed or scanty. **Apocynum is similar in this relation. The special field of usefulness of **Digitalis is inflammation of the heart muscle approaching insidiously and in sudden cases of myo-or endo- carditis with the symptoms above outlined. The first noticeable benefit is a steadier heart’s action and an increased flow of urine. To use it in strong doses for a long time will render the patient incurable.
Cactus grandiflorus. [Cact]
Perhaps the next most important remedy in heart affections, from the homoeopathist’s standpoint, is Cactus. Its well known characteristic symptom, “Sensation as if the heart were grasped with an iron hand,” which clutches and relaxes alternately, is ever present to the mind. It should be borne in mind that not all patients express themselves alike. A squeezed sensation may mean the same symptom. It has, however, other symptoms. It is similar to **Arnica in chest soreness and constriction; it has pains shooting into the left arm, oedema and a quick, throbbing, tense, hard pulse, which may or may not intermit. Carditis and pericarditis may call for Cactus. It presents a better picture of rheumatic carditis than any other remedy. It seems to lie midway between **Aconite and Digitalis. It controls the inflammatory condition and strengthens the heart’s contractions, and does not poison the heart like **Digitalis or Strophanthus.
There is great irritation of the cardiac nerve and **Cactus may be found to be the remedy for angina pectoris. It is a remedy adapted to hypertrophy of the heart in young people. It is also very useful in intense palpitation and fluttering sensations about the heart; it is indicated for such symptoms in young girls about the age of puberty and at menstrual epochs. Difficult breathing, suffocative, fainting, violent palpitation and inability to lie down are symptoms indicating the cardiac asthma or dyspnoea.
Kalmia latifolia. [Kalm]
**Kalmia is a remedy for cardiac hypertrophy, especially after rheumatism, and has the symptom so common in heart affections, namely, “numbness of the left arm.” There is with **Kalmia much pain and anguish about the heart, some dyspnoea, palpitation, and pressure from the epigastrium towards the heart. The heart is irregular and intermits every third or fourth beat. There are shooting pains through the chest to the scapula.