Strychnine tree
The Strychnine tree also known as Nux vomica, Poison Nut, Semen strychnos and Quaker Buttons, is a deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

 native to India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, a member of family Loganiaceae
Loganiaceae are a family of flowering plants classified in order Gentianales. The family includes 13 genera, distributed around the world's tropics.Earlier treatments of the family have included up to 29 genera...

. It is a medium-size tree growing in open habitats. Its leaves are ovate and 2–3.5 in (5.1–8.9 cm) in size.

It is a major source of the highly poisonous alkaloid
Alkaloids are a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds that contain mostly basic nitrogen atoms. This group also includes some related compounds with neutral and even weakly acidic properties. Also some synthetic compounds of similar structure are attributed to alkaloids...

s strychnine
Strychnine is a highly toxic , colorless crystalline alkaloid used as a pesticide, particularly for killing small vertebrates such as birds and rodents. Strychnine causes muscular convulsions and eventually death through asphyxia or sheer exhaustion...

 and brucine
Brucine is a bitter alkaloid closely related to strychnine. It occurs in several plant species, the most well known being the Strychnos nux-vomica tree, found in South-East Asia.While brucine is related to strychnine, it is not as poisonous...

, derived from the seeds inside the tree's round, green to orange fruit. The seeds contain approximately 1.5% strychnine
Strychnine is a highly toxic , colorless crystalline alkaloid used as a pesticide, particularly for killing small vertebrates such as birds and rodents. Strychnine causes muscular convulsions and eventually death through asphyxia or sheer exhaustion...

, 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 (10.2 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.
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.

Medical 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
IGE was one of the largest services company buying and selling virtual currencies and accounts for MMORPG. During its peak time, it had offices in Los Angeles, China , and headquarters & customer service centre in Hong Kong. IGE was one of the main monopoly in virtual economy services, also known...

 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
Unani-tibb or Unani Medicine also spelled Yunani Medicine means "Greek Medicine", and is a form of traditional medicine widely practiced in South Asia...

 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
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine in which practitioners claim to treat patients using highly diluted preparations that are believed to cause healthy people to exhibit symptoms that are similar to those exhibited by the patient...

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
Commission E
The German Commission E Monographs are a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine with 380 monographs evaluating the safety and efficacy of herbs for licensed medical prescribing in Germany. The commission itself was formed in 1978, and no longer exists....

 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
Potassium permanganate
Potassium permanganate is an inorganic chemical compound with the formula KMnO4. It is a salt consisting of K+ and MnO4− ions. Formerly known as permanganate of potash or Condy's crystals, it is a strong oxidizing agent. It dissolves in water to give intensely purple solutions, the...

 should be given to inactivate strychnine. Violent convulsions can be controlled with modern anesthetics. Treatment is supportive. The convulsions may cause lactic acidosis
Lactic acidosis
Lactic acidosis is a physiological condition characterized by low pH in body tissues and blood accompanied by the buildup of lactate especially D-lactate, and is considered a distinct form of metabolic acidosis. The condition typically occurs when cells receive too little oxygen , for example...

 and rhabdomyolysis
Rhabdomyolysis is a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle tissue breaks down rapidly. Breakdown products of damaged muscle cells are released into the bloodstream; some of these, such as the protein myoglobin, are harmful to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure...

. There is no specific antidote.
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