Night Blooming Cereus

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Cereus grandiflorus (L)

Synonyms: Selenicereus grandiflorus (Britt. & Rose), sweet-scented cactus, vanilla cactus, large-flowered cactus, queen of the night, reina de la noche

Order: Cactaceae

Description: This fleshy, creeping shrub with cylindrical branching stems, has clusters of small spines in radiated forms. Terminal and lateral flowers up to 30cm in diameter emerge from the clusters of spines, expanding in the evening and lasting for about 6 hours; they are vanilla scented. The petals are white and spreading, shorter than the sepals which are linear, lanceolate, brown outside and yellow inside. The ovate fruit is covered with scaly tubercles, orange-red, with small acid seeds. The plant contains a milky acrid juice. It is a native of tropical America, the West Indies, and Mexico.

Parts used: Fresh or preserved young stems, flowers

Collection: The flowers and young stems should be collected in July and a fresh tincture made. 

Constituents: alkaloids (including cactine), flavonoids (based on isorhamnetin), resins

Actions: cardiac tonic , cardiac stimulant, diuretic sedative

Indications: angina pectoris

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: This herb has a reputation as a heart tonic, especially in problems related to nerves and debility. It is used in the treatment of palpitations and angina pectoris. The alkaloid cactine is reputed to have a digitalis-like activity on the heart. It is said to greatly increase renal secretion and does not appear to weaken the nervous system. It frequently gives prompt relief in functional or organic heart disease. It also has been used in haemoptysis, dropsy and incipient apoplexy.

Caution: In large doses Cereus produces gastric irritation, slight delirium, hallucinations and general mental confusion.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Liquid Extract BPC 1949, 0.05-0.5ml

Tincture BPC 1934, 0.1-2ml

Additional Comments: The Death Valley Shoshone called this plant 'pain in the heart', and used it to treat angina-like pains. Several groups of Native Americans use the stem to treat diabetes. The Neapolitan homeopath Rubini used Cereus as a specific in heart disease.



Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Moore, M. 1989 Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


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Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH

Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK

Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals