Nux vomica: A Clinical Snapshot

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By Todd A. Hoover, MD

“Geez Doc! I’ve been sitting in the waiting room for 10 minutes. I need to get out of here to make my ten o’clock appointment. You really need to get better about staying on time.” I respond, “Yeah, I know, but my last patient had some issues that needed addressing today.” He says, “What about my issues?! I have heartburn like there’s no tomorrow. And if I don’t start getting some sleep, my business is going to crash. You gotta do something! I need this fixed now!”

Patients who benefit from Nux vomica often come into the office like a freight train. They are not necessarily mean or nasty, but they have momentum. Their drive and intensity is striking. It is of a nervous system nature. One might think of Belladonna for this kind of intensity, but the difference is that Belladonna has a fullness of blood and pressure in the body that is missing for the patient who needs Nux vomica. The Nux vomica patient has intensity on the one hand, but there is also a feeling of exhaustion waiting around the corner, as if they pushed the needle too far and now there is no more steam in the chamber.

The full picture of Nux vomica when seen clinically is often rich in clinical features: intensity, drive, and pushing of the nervous system driving them to do more, be better, achieve or accomplish. The nervous system becomes strained from the push. This creates an irritable or sensitive nervous system. Sensitive to noise, sensitive to interruption, sensitive to intrusion. All this pushing makes it hard to relax.

These individuals are often unable to fall asleep. Thoughts keep them awake. These thoughts are often of projects they would like to do or things left undone. They may have the urge to wake and complete more work.

Disruption of sleep often causes a disruption of the digestive system. Constipation is very common for these patients. The constipation is not initially due to weak muscles or lack of urge that one might find with a patient who needs Calcarea carbonica or Silicea. This is often associated with a lot urging or cramping. They can become upset by the lack of ability to have a bowel movement. The urge is there, but nothing comes.

In the same way, when the sleep is poor, their work suffers. They try to push the nervous system with stimulants like coffee, further increasing the nervous system irritability. Vise-like headaches and body cramps can develop. They may develop Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder.

These patients like to be medicated. They will often self-medicate with alcohol or stronger sedatives because they cannot sleep. Over time, pushing the body with stimulants and slowing the mind with depressants take a toll on the nervous system. The end result is nervous system exhaustion and severe fatigue. In this state, the patient may suffer from environmental sensitivities like allergies or sensitivity to chemicals or other noxious compounds. The weakness may also come in the form of dementia or depression.

If you put this all together, you have a patient with the following issues:

  1. Pushing, striving
  2. Straining the nervous system
  3. Irritability of the nerves
  4. Restlessness, sleeplessness
  5. Body wants to function, but cannot, as in constipation
  6. Using drugs or other means to push or control
  7. Ultimately, weakness of the nervous system and mind

As you have read the characteristics of patients who may do well with this medicine, some clinical conditions probably have come into mind. Some clinical conditions that I have seen improve with Nux vomica include the following:

  1. Insomnia
  2. Tension headache
  3. Hypertension
  4. Leg cramps
  5. Constipation
  6. Chemical sensitivity
  7. Allergies
  8. TMJ dysfunction
  9. Chronic fatigue

While these clinical conditions might respond to Nux vomica, those patients with the clinical picture as described above will be much more likely to respond to this medicine than others.