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Herbal Monograph


Cereus grandiflorus, Cactus grandiflorus; Cactaceae)

Other Names: Peniocereus (Cereus); Queen of the Night, Reina de la Noche  (44)

Sweet-scented cactus.    (57)


Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:      

Parts used: the roots and stems   (44) 

Fresh plant.    (57)

Habitat:  Coarse sand and gravel plains and bajadas, from 1,500 to 4,000 feet. As mentioned, most of the, with their great height and slender stems, need the protection and support of shrubs to grow within or against. Although seldom noticed, they are really rather abundant, growing from nearby Kingman, Arizona down through southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, West Texas, and northern Mexico.  (44)

Identification & Harvesting: This cactus sends out beautiful 2-3” white flowers during June; each blooms at night and fills the air with honeysuckle-like fragrance. Usually they all bloom in one or two nights, but sometimes a large individual may apportion them out over a week. By the fall they mature into red, pear-shaped delicious fruit. The rest of the time, the excitement over, this cactus sits in the middle of Chaparral, Mesquite, or Palo Verdes, undistinguished and dead-green colored, formed of tall skinny stems one-half to one inch around, two to six feet tall, weakly spined along the four to six ridges of the stems. These arise out of a huge, turnip-shaped brown tuber that may weigh as much as ninety pounds, although five to ten pounds is the norm.

The root is the strongest part of the plant, but the renewable stems serve the same function, though more feebly. If you just remove the stems, the tuber will regenerate the green stems the same or the following year. Tincture the stems fresh, Method A (see pgs 6-7 of text). If you are surrounded by the plants, take a part of one of the roots as well as the stem…generally, just taking the green part seems better to me; they’re such nice plants. (44)

Stem and flowers are usually sold crushed and preserved in spirit.  Stems are, when fresh, fleshy and five to seven angled and 1/2-3/4 inch in diameter, and the flowers 4-5 inch across.  Petals are oblong-lanceolate and white.  The small dried flowers of Opuntia decumana, which are of little or no use and are only about 1-1/2 inch in diameter, and other spp. of Opuntia, are sometimes sold as Cereus grandiflorus.    (57)

Active constituents: peniocerol, viperidone, desoxyviperidone, viperidinone, B-sitosterol, and (probably) caffeine.  (44)

Actions: cardiotonic   (44)            

Cardiac stimulant and tonic, diuretic.    (57)

Conditions and Uses: Called “Pain in the Heart” by Death Valley Shoshones, the roots and stems are a useful cardiac stimulant. It is not a digitalis-like cardiotonic. Instead, it is useful in helping the tachycardia, arrhythmia, and vague chest pain and shortness of breath often associated with tobacco and caffeine abuse, and for those people who get adrenaline rushes with a panicky tightness in the chest and intercostal pain. These are not necessarily any more than a coronary equivalent of ulcers or hay fever….incipient bronchitis, with rapid, shallow breathing and a dry, tight sensation across the chest… (44)           

Gives prompt relief in most cardiac diseases, such as palpitation, angina pectoris, cardiac neuralgia, etc.  Also useful in prostatic diseases, irritable bladder, and congested kidneys.  Recommended for nervous menstrual headache.    (57)

Combinations: If the doc says it’s just nerves (which you already knew), and all that is offered is dome form of tranquilizer (which you don’t want), try some of this strange little cactus, and maybe some passion flower tea…and cut down on those recreational drugs (like coffee or tobacco) and take 35-500 milligrams of L-tryptophan in the evenings for a couple of weeks.

The root tea or stem tincture with a little wild cherry bark (1/2 tsp) is a good first stage treatment for incipient bronchitis, with rapid, shallow breathing and a dry, tight sensation across the chest.  (44)


Tincturing Process:

Dosage & Applications:  Tincture:  1/4-1/2 tsp 2x daily.  (44)    


General Notes: 




(44) Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West  by  Michael Moore, pgs. 79-80

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 248-49