The Health Benefits of Nux Vomica

Used in homeopathy, the seeds of this plant have toxic properties

Nux vomica is a plant sourced from an evergreen tree named Strychnos nux-vomica. It is used in homeopathy and is said to help with a variety of concerns including excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking cessation, allergies, headaches, constipation, and more.

Since the seeds of the Strychnos nux-vomica contain certain toxic chemicals (including strychnine), nux vomica should not be ingested on its own. Nux vomica is available in pellets and tinctures that, like all homepathic remedies, are diluted to the point that no or very few molecules of the original plant remain. Even so, there are notable potential risks of using these preparations, making use of nux vomica ill-advised.

Close-up of a pile of nux vomica
 

Health Benefits

In addition to the uses mentioned above, nux vomica is purported to be helpful for:

But so far, very few studies have looked into the potential health benefits of homeopathic preparations of nux vomica. Due to this, it's too soon to recommend nux vomica as a treatment for any health condition.

If you're considering using it despite this, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Alcoholism

The available research on nux vomica's effects as a homeopathic remedy includes a preliminary study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2001, which found that nux vomica shows promise in the treatment of alcohol use disorder.

In an experiment involving rats, the study's authors observed that animals treated with a highly diluted preparation of nux vomica experienced a significant decrease in their voluntary intake of alcohol.

However, to date, there have been no human trials of patients with alcoholism. More research is needed before recommending nux vomica for the treatment of alcohol use disorder.

Cancer

Several preliminary studies on cell cultures indicate that nux vomica may fight cancer, possibly by inducing apoptosis—a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells.

However, a great deal more research is needed before nux vomica can be recommended in the treatment or prevention of any form of cancer.

Possible Side Effects

Because Strychnos nux-vomica seeds contain strychnine, medical practitioners recommend avoiding consumption of herbal preparations of nux vomica.

When used in small doses in homeopathy, nux vomica may cause side effects including dizziness, muscle cramps, pain, and tenderness.

Even when consumed in very small amounts, strychnine can accumulate in the body and cause severe health problems, including resulting in death. Signs of strychnine poisoning include:

  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Exhaustion 
  • Respiratory problems (including difficulty breathing)
  • Restlessness

People with liver disease should not use nux vomica as it may cause liver damage.

People with epilepsy should also avoid using nux vomica. A 2012 study in the journal Seizure found the homeopathic remedy may induce epileptic seizures.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label.

Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

While licensed medical doctors (MDs), doctors of naturopathy (NDs), doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs), and doctors of chiropractic (DCs) may add homeopathy training to their education, homeopathy itself is not a licensed area of health care. Homeopathy counselors have studied homeopathy, but they are non-medical practitioners who can only offer lifestyle advice—not diagnose or treat conditions.

If you choose to use nux vomica despite these concerns, it is best that you do so under the care of a licensed healthcare practitioner trained in homeopathy so that you can be properly monitored for side effects.

Selection, Preparation, & Storage

Homeopathic preparations containing nux vomica are available in many natural-food stores, stores specializing in dietary supplements, and online. While there is no standard dose for nux vomica, it is typically sold as 30X, 30C, or IM.

You may encounter differing opinions on the use of and recommended dosing for nux vomica depending on who you consult with, which is why it is always best to trust that advice of a medical doctor over, say, a supplement website or store clerk.

Some homeopathic preparations are made with lactose. People who are lactose intolerant should check the label for lactose-free formulations.

Homeopathic preparations can last for up to three years when stored properly (in a tightly closed container kept in a cool, dark place).

Common Questions

What does the X or C next to the number in the dose of nux vomica mean?

In homeopathy, potency is indicated by an X, C, or M, which indicates the dilution ratio. X is a ratio of 1 to 9, C is a ratio of 1 to 99, and M is a ratio of 1 to 999. While it may seem that 10X is a stronger dose than 10C, each time the medicine is diluted, it becomes stronger and the larger the dilution ratio, the greater the potency.

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