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Strychnine tree

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  • Botanical: Strychnos nux-vomica
  • Family: Loganiaceae
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Strychnine tree

Botanical

Strychnos nux-vomica

Family

Loganiaceae

Known as

nux vomica, poison nut, semen strychnos, quaker buttons, Gewöhnliche Brechnuss, Brechnuss, Krähenaugenbaum, Strychninbaum, Brechnussbaum

Old Use

medical

Parts Used

seed

Medicinal

anorexia, circulation, gastric acidity

Heart & Circulation

circulation, high blood pressure

Mind & Nerves

loss of appetite

Stomach & Intestinal

constipation, gastrointestinal, gastric acidity

Properties

antispasmodic, digestive, emmenagogue, tonic

Description

S. nux-vomica 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 colour with a shiny coat. The leaves have an opposite decussate 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 colour 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 mild shade orange colour. The flesh of the fruit is soft and white with a jelly-like pulp containing five seeds covered with a soft woolly substance. 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 grey horny endosperm where the small embryo is housed that gives off no odour but possesses a very bitter taste.

Properties & Uses

The propertiesof Nux Vomica are substantially those of the alkaloid Strychnine. The powdered seeds are employed in atonic dyspepsia. The tincture of Nux Vomica is often used in mixtures - for its stimulant action on the gastro-intestinal tract. In the mouth it acts as a bitter, increasing appetite; it stimulates peristalsis, in chronic constipation due to atony of the bowel it is often combined with cascara and other laxatives with good effects. Strychnine, the chief alkaloid constituent of the seeds, also acts as a bitter, increasing the flow of gastric juice; it is rapidly absorbed as it reaches the intestines, after which it exerts its characteristic effects upon the central nervous system, the movements of respiration are deepened and quickened and the heart slowed through excitation of the vagal centre. The senses of smell, touch, hearing and vision are rendered more acute, it improves the pulse and raises blood pressure and is of great value as a tonic to the circulatory system in cardiac failure. Strychnine is excreted very slowly and its action is cumulative in any but small doses; it is much used as a gastric tonic in dyspepsia. 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 convulsion there is great rise in blood pressure; in some types of chronic lead poisoning it is of great value. In cases of surgical shock and cardiac failure large doses are given up to 1/10 grain by hypodermic injection; also used as an antidote in poisoning by chloral or chloroform. Brucine closely resembles strychnine in its action, but is slightly less poisonous, it paralyses the peripheral motor nerves. It is said that the convulsive action characteristic of strychnine is absent in brucine almost entirely. It is used in pruritis and as a local anodyne in inflammations of the external ear.

Cautions

In cases of poisoning by strychnine an emetic or the stomach pump should be used at once and tannin or potassium permanganate given to render the strychnine inactive. Violent convulsions should be controlled by administration of chloroform or large doses of chloral or bromide. Urethane in large doses is considered an antidote. Amyl nitrite is also useful owing to its rapid action during the convulsion, and in absence of respiration 3 to 5 minims may be hypodermically injected.

Distribution

The plant is native to southeast Asia and Australia normally in tropical and subtropical areas.

Constituents

Nux Vomica contains the alkaloids, Strychnine and Brucine, also traces of strychnicine, and a glucoside Loganin, about 3 per cent fatty matter, caffeotannic acid and a trace of copper. The pulp of the fruit contains about 5 per cent of loganin together with the alkaloid strychnicine.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.