Coccus cacti is a powder made from dried cochineal, an insect native to Mexico. It is sometimes used as a medicinal remedy to treat whooping cough, laryngitis, sinusitis, and menstrual issues. The insects feed on subtropical cacti from the Opuntia genus. Some of these cacti are known as prickly pear or paddle cacti. The female cochineal beetles are collected from the plants, dried, and then pulverized into a powder to use as a dye or for homeopathic remedies.
The beetles are usually harvested by carefully brushing them off of the cactus and into a cloth sack. They are usually killed by being baked in an oven, steamed, or dunked in water. The color the dessicated bug carcasses produce can be affected by how they are killed.
These insects were harvested by the Mayans and Aztecs, and used to color cloth and paint. Cochineal dye became an important export to Europe, following the arrival of European explorers in the 16th century. The powder from crushed beetles was also incorporated into European pharmacopoeia. Coccus cacti contains carminic acid, which is a complex anthraquinone derivative — a type of naturally-occurring aromatic compound that also contains pigment. This acid is most often used by patients suffering from various conditions that cause patients to suffer from an excess of phlegm.
Coccus cacti can be useful in the treatment of illnesses that affect the throat, like laryngitis, because it often soothes irritation and eliminates any tickling sensations there. Conditions that produce a great quantity of thick and stringy mucous, like whooping cough and bronchitis, may also be improved if the patient takes this substance. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bronchial infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. The most recognizable symptom of this illness is a deep cough that is so severe the sufferer makes a whooping sound as he tries to inhale.
The supplement is also thought to have antispasmodic qualities. This type of drug or supplement helps control muscle spasms. Such remedies may also aid with whooping cough or any condition that causes excessive coughing. Antispasmodics may also be helpful for controlling uterine contractions and muscle spasms during menstruation.
In terms of menstrual symptoms, coccus cacti may help menses that are too dark or thick by helping thin it out and lighten the color of the discharge. Menses is the debris, usually composed of cells and blood, that is shed during menstruation. This remedy may also aid urinary issues, like hematuria, which is the presence of red blood cells in urine. It can be beneficial for those who are having difficulty urinating as well.
Care should be taken when consuming anything that contains coccus cacti, and supplements should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision. There are a few adverse reactions that should be considered before using it. Some people experience anaphylactic shock, an extreme allergic reaction, when taking coccus cacti. It can also cause asthmatic attacks in some people and be deleterious to anyone suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD).