Nux Vomica, or Poison Nut Tree. Nat. Ord. Loganiaceae. Linn. Syst. Pentandria Monogynia. Hab. Indian Archipelago, Southern India, Ceylon, &c.
Med. Prop. and Action. The seeds (off.) (Nux Vomica) and the bark (formerly known as the false Angustura bark) are powerful stimulants of the nervous system and spinal cord. The activity of the seed depends upon the presence of Strychnine and Brucine conjoined; that of the bark, according to Pelletier and Caventon's analysis, on Brucine alone, in combination with Gallic Acid. Dr. Garrod, however, states that the bark contains the same alkaloids as the seeds. In the seeds both Strychnia and Brucia are in combination with Igasuric Acid. The seeds yield about 0.4 per cent. of Strychnia. The bark is rarely employed, but its effects are very similar to those of the seeds, which are as follows: - In doses of gr. j. - gr. iij. of the powdered nut, Nux Vomica is a tonic, improving the appetite and the tone of the digestive organs, without any increased arterial excitement; promoting the urinary secretion; occasionally acting as a laxative, and more rarely as a diaphoretic. In larger doses, it causes a feeling of weakness in the limbs, a slight trembling or stiffness of the muscles and joints, a staggering gait, much anxiety of mind, which is expressed in the countenance, increased nervous sensibility, and loss of appetite. It is also said to act as an aphrodisiac. The intellect remains unimpaired. In larger or poisonous doses, the above symptoms, increased in intensity, are followed by frequent fits of tetanus, which affect both the limbs and the trunk of the body. There is also a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. The spasmodic contraction of the muscles of the chest cause a suspension of respiration, and consequent fatal asphyxia. When it does not prove rapidly fatal, intense thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea, and severe colic, are present. The pott-mortem appearances are those of other acro-narcotic poisons. Some turgescence of the vessels of the brain, and traces of inflammation in the alimentary canal, have been found; amongst the rare appearances is softening of the brain and spinal cord. The smallest dose which has proved fatal is gr. iij. of the alcoholic extract, or gr. xxx. of the powder; the shortest period, one hour; the longest, three or four days. Recovery has taken place after very large doses of the poison (Dr. Guy*). Habit, however (as in the case of Opium, and other powerful medicines), blunts the sensibility, and allows of large quantities being taken without injury. Mr. Baker, a surgeon of the Bengal Service, states that the natives of Hindostan take Kuchila nut (Nux Vomica) morning and evening, continuously for many months, beginning with an eighth of a grain, and gradually increasing the dose to an entire nut, or about 20 grains. If taken immediately before or after meals, no unpleasant effect is produced; but if this precaution is neglected, spasms are apt to ensue.
* Med. Jurisprudence, p. 556. See Bengal Dispensatory, p. 439.