Nux Vomica

From London's Ghost Acres

Nux vomica is better known as the strychnine tree. The seeds contain roughly 1.5% strychnine. The dried blossoms of nux vomica contain 1%, and while the bark contains no strychnine, other poisonous compounds such as brucine are present.(

Three preparations are listed in the Pharmacopeia (extract, strychnia, and tincture), and the only mention in the Compendium comes in the form of a warning of the plants poisonous qualities.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Nux Vomica Nux Vomica

“The seeds of Strychnos Nux vomica… Imported from the East Indies.”[1]


“Nearly circular and flat, about an inch in diameter, umbilicated and slightly convex on one side, externally of an ash-grey colour, thickly covered with short satiny hairs, internally translucent, tough and horny, taste intensely bitter, inodourous.” Used in the preparations of:[2]

  • Extractum Nucis Vomicae
  • Strychnia
  • Tinctura Nucis Vomicae

Preparations of Nux Vomica

Extract of Nux Vomica / Extractum Nucis Vomicae[3]

  • Nux vomica (1 lb), rectified spirit (as needed)
  • dose: ½-2 grains

Strychnia / Strychnia [4]

  • Nux vomica (1 lb), acetate of lead (180 grains), solution of ammonia (as needed), rectified spirit (as needed), distilled water (as needed)
  • “In right square octahedrons or prisms, colourless in inodorous; sparingly soluble in water, but communicating to it its intensely bitter taste; soluble in boiling rectified spirit, and in chloroform, but not in absolute alcohol or in ether... A very active poison”
  • dose: 1/30-1/12 grains
  • used in preparations of: Liquor Strychinae

Tincture of Nux Vomic / Tintura Nucis Vomicae [5]

  • nux vomica (2 oz), rectified spirit (1 pint)
  • dose: 10-20 grains

Nux Vomica / Strychnine

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

“Is one of the most active poisons. Dr. Christison says, ‘I have killed a dog in two minutes with a sixth of a grain, injected in the form of alcohol solution into the chest; I have seen a wild boar killed in the same manner, with a third of the grain, in ten minutes; and there is little doubt that half a grain, trust into a wound, would kill a man in less than a quarter of an hour.’ Notwithstanding its poisonous qualities, it is used in medicine, and whether given in the form of nux vomica, or in its purer form of strychnia, it acts very beneficially in come kinds of paralysis, and in a few other diseases where the nervous system is chiefly affected.”[6]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 218
  2. GMCGB, 218-19
  3. GMCGB, 123
  4. GMCGB, 301-02
  5. GMCGB, 337
  6. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 146.