Strychnos nux-vomica (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Strychnos nux-vomica L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 1: 189 (1753).

Vernacular names

  • Nux-vomica tree, strychnine plant (En)
  • Cambodia: slaêng, slaêng thom
  • Laos: 'sêng bua1(Vientiane)
  • Thailand: krachee, tuumka daeng (central), salaeng thom (Nakhon Ratchasima)
  • Vietnam: củ chi (general), cô chi (Khanh Hoa), mã tiền.


India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China (Cambodia, Laos, southern Vietnam), Thailand and northern Peninsular Malaysia; introduced and locally naturalized in the Philippines (Mindoro).


The seeds have been used in traditional medicine in many regions as a nervine, stomachic, tonic, aphrodisiac and respiratory and cardiac stimulant, the bark as tonic and febrifuge. The seeds are used in Vietnam to treat rheumatic arthritis and paralysis. In Thailand the leaves are used in the treatment of skin diseases. In India, they are also used as mild irritating rubefacient product to treat alopecia by itensifying the capillary blood flow and keeping the scalp and hair follicles active. In traditional Chinese medicine the dried seeds have been used for promoting blood circulation, alleviating blood stasis and relieving pain. The seeds constitute a major source of strychnine, and the plant is cultivated for this purpose. The wood is used in India for agricultural implements and tool handles, cart wheels and fancy cabinet work.


A small to medium-sized tree up to 25 m tall, bole up to 100 cm in diameter, sometimes a liana, branches not rough, yellowish-grey, sometimes with axillary thorns, tendrils absent; leaves broadly ovate to elliptical or suborbicular, 5-18 cm × 4-12.5 cm, petiole 5-12 mm long; inflorescence terminal on short axillary branchlets with usually one pair of leaves, fairly many-flowered; corolla 10-13 mm long, tube about 3 times longer than lobes, sparsely woolly hairy in lower half inside; fruit globose, 2.5-4(-6) cm in diameter, 1-4-seeded; seeds lenticular, orbicular to elliptical, 20-23 mm × 18-20 mm × 4 mm, densely sericeous. S. nux-vomica occurs often at the edge of dense forest, on river banks and along the shore, on loamy or loamy-sandy soil.

Selected sources

107, 160, 163, 193, 202, 208, 285, 287, 332, 580, 790, 839, 911, 1035, 1126, 1178, 1460, 1475.