Nux Vomica (Strychni semen)

Published September 18, 1986.
List of German Commission E Monographs (Phytotherapy)


Name of Drug

Strychni semen, nux vomica, strychnos seed, poison nut, Quaker buttons.

Composition of Drug

Nux vomica consists of the seeds of Strychnos nux-vomica L. [Fam. Loganiaceae], as well as preparations thereof.


Nux vomica and its preparations are used in combinations for diseases and conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, organic and functional disorders of the heart and circulatory system, diseases of the eye, nervous conditions, depression, migraine, climacteric complaints, in geriatrics, for Sympatalgien, diseases and conditions of the respiratory tract, Raynaud's disease, secondary anemia, and a tonic and appetite-stimulating remedy.

The effectiveness of most of the claimed actions is not documented.


Nux vomica alkaloids, especially strychnine, act on the central nervous system as spastic poison. At low dosage, the spinal cord is selectively affected. Strychnine is antagonistic to the inhibitory transmitter glycine, leading to heightened convulsive response of the muscles; external irritations or substances with stimulating actions on the central nervous system can initiate convulsions. A therapeutically useful action exists at sub-convulsive dosage. Strychnine accumulates during extended administration. This occurs especially if liver damage exists.


Since the effectiveness of most claimed applications is not documented, the therapeutic use of nux vomica and its preparations, even as bitter principle and tonic, is not justifiable due to the risks.