Strychnos nux-vomica – Karaskara

Strychnos nux-vomica - Karaskara

The Strychnine tree (Strychnos nux-vomica L.) also known as Nux vomica, Poison Nut, Semen strychnos and Quaker Buttons, is a deciduous tree native to India, southeast Asia, a member of family Loganiaceae. It is a medium-size tree growing in open habitats. Its leaves are ovate and 2–3.5 inches (5.1–8.9 cm) in size.

It is a major source of the highly poisonous alkaloids strychnine and brucine, derived from the seeds inside the tree's round, green to orange fruit. The seeds contain approximately 1.5% strychnine, and the dried blossoms contain 1.023%.[ However, the tree's bark also contains brucine and other poisonous compounds.


Strychnine is a medium-sized tree with a short thick trunk. The wood is dense, hard white, and close-grained. The branches are irregular and are covered with a smooth ashen bark. The young shoots are a deep green color with a shiny coat. The leaves have an opposite arrangement, short stalked, are oval shaped, also have a shiny coat and are smooth on both sides. The leaves are about 4 inches (10 cm) long and 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide. The flowers are small with a pale green color with a funnel shape. They bloom in the cold season and have a foul smell. The fruit are about the size of a large apple with a smooth and hard shell which when ripened is a lovely orange color. The meat of the fruit is soft and white with a jelly-like pulp containing five seeds covered with a soft woolly substance.


Strychnos nux-vomica - Karaskara


The seeds are removed from the fruit when ripe. They are then cleaned, dried and sorted. The seeds have the shape of a flattened disk completely covered with hairs radiating from the center of the sides. This gives the seeds a very characteristic sheen. The seeds are very hard, with a dark gray horny endosperm where the small embryo is housed that give off no odor but possess a very bitter taste. The plant is native to southeast Asia and Australia normally in tropical and subtropical areas.

edical uses

There are no uses in modern medicine, although it was widely used in medicine before World War II. Strychnine is a deadly poison with a lethal dose to humans of about 30 to 120 mg. Survival of substantially higher doses has been reported. The properties of Nux Vomica are those of the alkaloid strychnine. The powder made from the strychnine seeds was used to alleviate indigestion. Mixtures of Nux Vomica were also used as a stimulant on the gastro-intestinal tract. In the mouth it acts as a bitter dietary, increasing appetite by stimulating peristalsis. It was formerly combined with cascara and other laxatives to treat chronic constipation. Strychnine also increases the flow of gastric juice.] It is then rapidly absorbed as it reaches the intestines, after which it affects the central nervous system and the movements of respiratory system causing a quicker and deeper breathing motion. The heart is also slowed through excitation of the vagus center.The senses of smell, touch, hearing and vision are rendered more acute. It increases pulse and raises blood pressure and was once used as a tonic for the circulatory system in cardiac failure. Strychnine is eliminated with a half-life of about 12 hours.

The most direct symptom caused by strychnine is violent convulsions due to a simultaneous stimulation of the motor or sensory ganglia of the spinal cord. During the convulsions there is a rise in blood pressure. Brucine closely resembles strychnine in its action, but is slightly less poisonous as it only causes paralysis of the peripheral motor nerves. It is said that the convulsive action of strychnine is absent in brucine. It was used in pruritus and as a local anodyne in inflammations of the external ear.

Strychnos nux-vomica has shown to suppress allergen-specific IgE antibody response in mice. Suggesting its possible application in allergic conditions.

In vitro Strychnos nux-vomica inhibited the growth of AGS human gastric carcinoma cells.

Herbal medicine

Advocates of certain alternative medicine practices have suggested strychnos for liver cancer, upset stomach, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, intestinal irritation, hangovers, heartburn, insomnia, certain heart diseases, circulatory problems, eye diseases, depression, migraine headaches, nervous conditions, problems related to menopause, and respiratory diseases in the elderly. In folk medicine it is used as an appetite stimulant. Strychnos is used in Chinese herbal medicine to unblock channels and reduce swelling. It is also used to alleviate pain and can treat abscesses and "yin-type" ulcers. In traditional Chinese treatment of cancer, it can be used in combination with other herbs.

In the Indian Unani system of medicine, "Hudar" is a mixture containing Strychnos nux-vomica and used to elevate blood pressure.The seeds are first immersed in water for 5 days, in milk for 2 days followed by their boiling in milk.In India the quality/toxicity of traditional medical crude and processed STRYCHNOS seeds can be controlled by examining the toxic alkaloids using established HPLC methods and/or HPLC-UV methods.

Strychnos Nux vomica is also used in Homeopathy

Strychnos has not been proven effective for the treatment of any illness. Since the seeds contain strychnine poison, conventional doctors do not recommend it as a medicine. It is on the Commission E list of unapproved herbs because it is not recommended for use and has not been proven to be safe or effective. There is also no clinical trial evidence of Strychnos supporting it being a viable cancer treatment.


If poisoned, a stomach pump should be used immediately and potassium permanganate should be given to inactivate strychnine. Violent convulsions can be controlled with modern anesthetics. Treatment is supportive. The convulsions may cause lactic acidosis and rhabdomyolysis. There is no specific antidote

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