Health Benefits of Nux Vomica

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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.

Uses for Nux Vomica

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.

Benefits of Nux Vomica

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

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.

 

Additionally, several preliminary studies on cells in culture 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 treatment or prevention of any form of cancer.

 

Caveats

Because the seeds of the Strychnos nux-vomica contain strychnine, medical practitioners recommend avoiding consumption of herbal preparations of nux vomica. There's some concern that—even when consumed in very small amounts—strychnine can accumulate in the body and cause severe health problems and result in death.

Signs of strychnine poisoning include:

  • anxiety
  • convulsions
  • exhaustion 
  • respiratory problems (including difficulty breathing)
  • restlessness

Other potential side effects of nux vomica include:

  • dizziness 
  • muscle cramps
  • pain
  • tenderness

It's thought that the use of nux vomica supplements may be particularly harmful to people with liver disease.

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.

You can get tips on using supplements here

Alternatives to Nux Vomica

If you're seeking natural support for alcoholism recovery, there's some evidence that undergoing acupuncture may be beneficial. Additionally, preliminary research suggests that certain herbs may have the potential to reduce alcohol dependence and lower your intake of alcohol.

Where to Find It

Homeopathic preparations containing nux vomica are sold in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements. You can also purchase nux vomica online. 

Using Nux Vomica

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.

Sources

Deng X, Yin F, Lu X, Cai B, Yin W. "The apoptotic effect of brucine from the seed of Strychnos nux-vomica on human hepatoma cells is mediated via Bcl-2 and Ca2+ involved mitochondrial pathway." Toxicol Sci. 2006 May;91(1):59-69. 

Deng XK, Yin W, Li WD, Yin FZ, Lu XY, Zhang XC, Hua ZC, Cai BC. "The anti-tumor effects of alkaloids from the seeds of Strychnos nux-vomica on HepG2 cells and its possible mechanism." J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Jun 30;106(2):179-86.

Sukul NC, Ghosh S, Sinhababu SP, Sukul A. "Strychnos nux-vomica extract and its ultra-high dilution reduce voluntary ethanol intake in rats." J Altern Complement Med. 2001 Apr;7(2):187-93.

Yin W, Deng XK, Yin FZ, Zhang XC, Cai BC. "The cytotoxicity induced by brucine from the seed of Strychnos nux-vomica proceeds via apoptosis and is mediated by cyclooxygenase 2 and caspase 3 in SMMC 7221 cells." Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Sep;45(9):1700-8.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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