Bryonia, also called bryony, is a plant-based homeopathic remedy that’s been used to relieve constipation, upset stomach, and fluid retention. It’s also been used to treat chronic conditions such as arthritis, cancer, and liver disease.

While people swear by bryonia, there’s not a lot of clinical research to back up their claims. In fact, there’s reason to believe that most people would be better off avoiding bryonia.

This article will cover the science behind bryonia and the potential risks and side effects of taking it.

Bryonia is a gourd plant family with 12 different species. Bryonia alba, or white bryony, is the species that many associate with homeopathic tonics.

The plant is native to eastern and central Europe, particularly the Scandinavian and Balkan regions. Its white flowers turn to poisonous red berries during the summer.

The thick root of the bryonia plant contains a resin-like substance that’s used in holistic remedies. The extract can be ground into a powder or distilled into gel capsules for oral consumption.

The bryonia root’s extract has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years. However, as one review of its history notes, bryonia is less popular as a medicinal remedy today than it once was, and its value as a medicinal plant seems to be declining.

People who use bryonia as a home remedy claim that its natural plant properties provide a specific set of health benefits.

Can relieve constipation

Bryonia is an emetic. That means that taking it orally can induce vomiting. It’s also a diuretic, meaning it can increase urination. This is why some people take bryonia for relief of constipation, an upset stomach, or fluid retention.

May be anti-inflammatory

Bryonia root may also have anti-inflammatory effects. For this reason, many people take it to relieve joint pain, and as a general analgesic. You’ll find bryonia on the list of ingredients for several popular homeopathic arthritis formulas.

People also use bryonia as a headache remedy, believing that it can dilate blood vessels that constrict and cause migraine attacks and headaches.

But the research on using bryonia for this purpose is conflicting, at best. A 2010 clinical trial using bryonia and arnica extracts did not find that the extracts had an effect on inflammation and bleeding after heart surgery.

May have anticancer properties

The unique compounds in bryonia might have potential as an alternative cancer treatment. At least one older study has shown that extracts from bryonia root have anti-tumor properties, meaning that it might slow the spread of cancer cells.

As recently as 2017, bryonia was demonstrated to have a toxic effect on two cancer lines — head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and cervix adenocarcinoma — in an in vitro study. This theory has yet to be clinically tested in human trials.

Large doses of bryonia can make you very sick. Taking bryonia in any dose can cause:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • loose stool
  • excessive urination

The berries of the bryonia plant are poisonous and should never be consumed.

If you’re pregnant

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to a doctor before you take bryonia orally for any reason.

As with any homeopathic remedy, it’s wise to talk to a doctor before you start using bryonia as a treatment for any health condition.

Keep in mind that bryonia can’t be used as a substitute for any prescription medication. If you’re looking to make a change to your treatment regimen, discuss it with your doctor before making the switch.

Bryonia may have some diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties. However, if you’re looking for a homeopathic remedy to treat an upset stomach or a liver condition, there are many powerful plant-based options available that have fewer risks of side effects.

There’s not a lot of conclusive evidence about how bryonia treats cancer in humans, and whether or not it’s an effective pain reliever for joint inflammation.

Speak to a doctor before you start taking bryonia. Ask them about alternatives to bryonia for the conditions that you’re looking to treat. Don’t ever take bryonia as a substitute for medication that has been prescribed to you by a doctor.