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Strychnos ignatii BERG.

St. Ignatius Bean

History

Strychnos ignatii

The poisonous seeds of this plant, which is native to the Philippines, were described by the Jesuit father Georg Joseph Kamel (Camellus, 1661-1706). Kamel named them Fabae Sancti Ignatii after Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the order. The Latin Strychnos means ‘a kind of nightshade’. It derives from strychnos hypnóticás, the berries of Solanum dulcamara (bittersweet nightshade), which have a narcotic effect. The name strychnos was also applied to other plants with similar effects. It is also associated with the Middle High German ’Struuch‘ and New High German ’Strauch’(bush). Amára means ’bitter’. In the Philippines, the locals refer to the plant as igasud or iga-sr. Due to their stomach- and intestine-strengthening effect, St. Ignatius beans were once used to ‘stimulate urine and wind’. The crushed seeds were used to neutralise the effects of magical poisonings and love potions, and as a medication against fever and  maw-worms (ascarids).

Botanical characteristics  

The St. Ignatius bean is a thornless, creeping plant that climbs to the highest treetops with its hooked, woody tendrils, which are compressed in the middle. The trunk can exceed 10cm in diameter and has a smooth, reddish bark. The thin twigs with felt-like hair bear opposing elliptical or broadly ovate leaves up to 25cm long. The tips of the leaves are shaped in such a way as to allow water or dew to run off. The inconspicuous, greenish flowers are arranged in clustered umbels. The superior ovaries develop pumpkin-like, pale orange-yellow, hard-shelled berries 12cm in diameter. The fruits contain up to 40, densely packed, hard seeds each about 3cm long. They are ovate, irregular in form, matt, grey brown, and very bitter. The St. Ignatius bean tree flowers throughout the year.

Habitat  

The plant is native to a few islands in the Philippines and is cultivated in China, Indochina and India.

Preparation  

A.Vogel uses a homoeopathic dilution produced from the dried seeds in accordance with the current Homöopathisches Arzneibuch (HAB) (New Official German Homoeopathic Pharmacopeia). 

Official designation

Ignatia

Family

Loganiaceae

Synonyms

Ignatia amara L.

Ignatiana philippinica LOUR.

Strychnos balansae

Strychnos philippensis BLANCO

Common names

St. Ignatius poison nut

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