The Health Benefits of Nux Vomica

Nux vomica is a plant sometimes used in certain systems of herbal medicine, including traditional Chinese medicine. Sourced from an evergreen tree named Strychnos nux-vomica, it's far more commonly used in homeopathy.

Since the seeds of the Strychnos nux-vomica contain certain toxic chemicals (including strychnine), nux vomica is usually not consumed in herbal remedies.

In homeopathy, a form of alternative medicine that involves subjecting substances to a long process of dilution, preparations of nux vomica may contain no or very few molecules of the original plant.

When used in homeopathy, nux vomica is said to help with the following health conditions:

Homeopathic preparations of nux vomica are also sometimes used to stop excessive consumption of alcohol, as well as help with smoking cessation.

Health Benefits

So far, very few studies have looked into the potential health benefits of homeopathic preparations of nux vomica.

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 alcoholism.

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 alcoholism.

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

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

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

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

There's also some concern that—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

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.

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Homeopathic preparations containing nux vomica are sold as pellets and tinctures and are available in many natural-foods 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. Check with a homeopathic doctor or ask advice at your local health food store to determine the best dose for you.

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. Be sure to close the container securely and store 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.

A Word From Verywell

Due to the lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend nux vomica as a treatment for any health condition. If you're considering using it, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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Article Sources

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  2. Maji AK, Banerji P. Strychnos nux-vomica: A Poisonous Plant with Various Aspects of Therapeutic Significance. J Basic Clin Pharma 2017;8:S087-S103.

  3. Sukul NC, Ghosh S, Sinhababu SP, Sukul A. Strychnos nux-vomica Extract and Its Ultra-High Dilution Reduce Voluntary Ethanol Intake in RatsThe Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2001;7(2):187-193. doi:10.1089/107555301750164280

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