Spanish fly, Blister bee

 Spanish fly, Blister bee
Lytta vesicatoria, Cantharis vesicatoria


This is a green 11-21mm long European beetle with an unpleasant smell. It feeds on tree leaves; the larvae grow in the wasps’ nests. When the Spanish fly feels in danger, it secrets a kind of buttery liquid which causes reddening and rush on the skin. After long researches, it was established that the poisoning effect is due to a colorless, odorless crystalline substance which was called cantharidin, after the French chemist who first extracted it. The lethal dose for a human is about 0.03g. High doses of cantharidin cause excessive salivation, stomach, kidneys and urino-genital system inflammations as well as headache, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. The affected person can develop even seizures but a lethal end is not very common. 

This substance was very often mentioned in the old books of pharmacology. People used cantharidin tincture to stimulate the growing of the hair and to heal rheumatism, pneumonia, swellings and gout. Another interesting application of the substance was as an ingredient of “love drinks”. It really increases the sexual attraction but the chasing of extreme effects often led to severe poisonings. There is a true story which can illustrate this best:
Once, marquise de Sad (that’s where sadism comes from) decided to make a joke with his guests. To stimulate their sexuality, he gave them Spanish fly-eaten sweets. His idea resulted in a mass poisoning with many death cases. Sad was sent to prison for life. 


Spanish fly
Lytta vesicatoria, Cantharis vesicatoria

So knowing this it is easy to understand the homoeopathic keynotes of Cantharis: All complaints show a burning pain and an intolerable, constant urge to urinate while only losing a few drops of urine! Cantharis is a remedy for serious and violent complaints; all pains are sore, raw, burning, cutting, biting and smarting. Especially the urinary organs and the genitals are affected, and intense sexual desire arises from the inflamed pelvic region. The patient is highly aroused, talks dirty and sings obscene songs. Erections are painful. Priapismus is possible as well as satyriasis and nymphomania, all these symptoms are intensely painful and keep the person from sleeping. The person can masturbate so much that it leads to bleeding of the genitals. The urge to urinate is intolerable and constant; before, during and after the painful urination. Probably only a few bloody drops will pass at a time and the pain in the urethra and bladder are intense burning, cutting and itching.

People with Cantharis characteristics don't eat and especially don't drink. They do have enormous thirst, but the sight or drinking of water - and even worse: coffee - increases their urge to urinate immediately. It is understandable that they loose their temper under these conditions: they are extremely restless and anxious with the constant urge to move. There is great mental excitement as well, with fits of anger and violent insanity. These attacks can be caused by drinking of water, but also by seeing glittering objects or surfaces.

Cantharis is for instance used in case of:

  • inflammation of the bladder or the kidneys
  • inflammation of the genitals
  • any other violent inflammation with burning pain and intolerable urge to urinate all the time
  • acute gonorrhoea
  • burns, blisters and skin-eruptions that burn from touch.

Symptoms get worse by drinking of water or coffee, urination, glittering objects, the sound of water. The person feels better by warmth, rubbing and massage.