Evergreen tree growing to 49 ft (15 m). Has glossy oval leaves, tubular white flowers, and yellow fruit containing 5–8 disk-shaped seeds.
Habitat & Cultivation
Nux vomica is native to Southeast Asia. It grows wild and is cultivated commercially. The seeds are gathered when mature.
Nux vomica contains 3% indole alkaloids (predominantly strychnine, with many others), loganin, chlorgenic acid, and fixed oil. Strychnine is a lethal poison, producing intense muscle spasms.
History & Folklore
Nux vomica seeds were first brought to Europe in the 15th century, probably as a poison for game and rodents. In 1640, the seeds were first used in European medicine, as a stimulant.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Though rarely used internally due to its toxicity, nux vomica can be an effective nervous system stimulant, particularly in the elderly. In Chinese herbal medicine the seeds are used externally to relieve pain, to treat various types of tumors, and to relieve paralysis, including Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis). Nux vomica is a common homeopathic remedy prescribed mainly for digestive problems, sensitivity to cold, irritability, and melancholia.
In a Chinese clinical trial, a paste made from nux vomica seeds was applied to 15,000 patients with Bell’s palsy. The treatment was reported to have been effective in more than 80% of the cases.
Many Strychnos species are equally potent and have been used as arrow poisons.
Take nux vomica only in homeopathic preparations. This herb and strychnine are subject to legal restrictions in most countries.