Nux vomica is an evergreen tree found in Southeast Asia. Its seeds and bark are said to have healing powers. It’s also been claimed that nux vomica can treat male infertility problems, such as premature ejaculation and impotence.
Unfortunately, there is very little research to back that up.
“I can’t say there is no study out there, but there is no reputable study,” says Dr. Yan Yan Li, an assistant professor of nutrition at Husson University in Bangor, Maine. She says that the studies that do exist on nux vomica were mostly conducted in laboratories on cell cultures or on animals.
“We don’t know about humans,” she says, adding that such claims are based on nothing more than speculation. Li questions any claim that it helps premature ejaculation and impotence, and further wonders how such research would be structured.
No Clinical Proof That Nux Vomica Kicks Cancer
Li says some scientists have shown that nux vomica can kill cancer cells, particularly in the liver. But the studies only have been on lab cultures. The American Cancer Society warns that there is no evidence whatsoever that the herb is effective in treating cancer or any other illness.
The plant actually has components that are poisonous to humans. For example, it contains strychnine, which is extremely toxic to humans. It is often used as an ingredient in rat poison. As a result, it can cause vomiting, anxiety, convulsions and difficulty breathing, even with the amount found in just one seed. Because of its strychnine content, nux vomica is not safe for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. Nux vomica seeds and bark also contain brucine, an alkaloid related to strychnine.
People who practice homeopathic medicine believe that poisonous substances can be beneficial in heavily diluted amounts. They believe that people can be treated with a small amount of something that induces similar symptoms.
Laws regulating homeopathy vary from state to state. Homeopaths create customized treatment plans for each patient. Some people may receive different treatments for the same ailment.
“In traditional Chinese medicine they mix things together,” Li says. “Nux vomica contains hundreds of thousands of different chemicals. And when it gets mixed with other herbs it’s hard to tell what really works.”
A Real Cure-All or Just an Antioxidant?
Other ailments that advocates of nux vomica claim it can help include headaches, vomiting, and a host of stomach and digestive problems. But, again, there is no scientific evidence to support this, Li says.
Still, nux vomica is packed with antioxidants, Li notes. Antioxidants help keep cells healthy and their benefits can be applied to a variety of conditions. This may be why the plant has been linked to the treatment of so many conditions, despite a near total lack of evidence.
But the National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns that high doses of antioxidants in supplement form can be linked to health risks, including some forms of cancer. As always, it’s best to talk to your doctor before you begin taking any supplements.