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What is Ignatia Amara?

By Helen Krasner
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ignatia Amara, also known as St. Ignatius bean, is a homeopathic remedy used to treat emotional conditions, particularly depression, and their related physical symptoms. Usually taken by mouth, the drug varies in potency and dosing recommendations. Although people who like alternative medicine might turn to it, and even though it is readily available, most Western medical professionals consider it to be unsafe. The concern is due to its strychnine and brucine content, both of which are toxic and potentially deadly.

Source and History

This remedy comes from Strychnos ignatii, a large tree found mainly in the Philippine Islands. In the 17th century, Jesuits were very attracted to the plant, so they brought samples back to Europe. People call Ignatia Amara by the common name St. Ignatius bean in honor of the Jesuit leader, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who is the modern patron saint of spiritual retreats and exercises. Today, homeopaths take the seeds from this plant and grind them up into a fine powder. This then usually goes into capsules or is made into pills, although some people use it in tonics.

Recommended Uses

The main use for St. Ignatius bean is the treatment of emotional upset, especially depression, grief, anxiety and stress. In fact, some individuals refer to it as “homeopathic Prozac®.” The symptoms often linked to these problems, such as poor digestion, headaches, crying and insomnia, all are said to lessen when taking it. Here, the idea isn’t that the substance will totally erase symptoms, but rather that the person taking it simply will have a greater mental strength to cope with them. People who advocate using it also typically say it is a good remedy for other illnesses, as well, such as asthma, gout, cholera and even epilepsy.

Target Market

The broad target market for Ignatia Amara includes people who are looking for alternative, natural treatment options, or who don’t readily accept traditional Western medicine. Within this group, individuals who are very idealistic, sensitive or who tend to bottle their emotions are supposedly more prone to emotional difficulties, so they might look to this treatment for relief. Manufacturers usually direct their St. Ignatius bean toward adults, but some labels provide directions for how to give it to kids.


How much Ignatia Amara a person is supposed to take depends on factors like height and weight, as well as how bad the symptoms to be treated are. The dosing recommendation starts at 200c, meaning that the preparer or manufacturer diluted it at a ratio of 1/100 and repeated the process 200 times. It's also available in 6c and 30c potencies. Another way of looking at dosing is by weight, in which case the recommendation in the apothecaries’ system is one grain of the powdered seed, or about 65 milligrams.


Manufacturers’ and homeopaths’ assertions vary about how long to take Ignatia Amara. Some say to stop taking it if symptoms don’t go away within three days. Others claim it’s okay to take it for up to a week, while still more professionals suggest keeping up a routine until a homeopath says to stop, or until the physical or emotional problems are better. Part of the reason for this variance is that no standard use levels have been set by any official homeopathy organizations, mainly because research is still ongoing about how effective the drug is and the side effects it might have.

How to Take a Dose

St. Ignatius bean is an oral medication. The general practice is to take several pellets or pills and let them dissolve under the tongue, although the exact number to use depends on their potency. In terms of timing, experts typically advise taking a dose a half an hour before or after a meal. The labels on most versions usually say to take a dose in this way at least three times a day, gradually reducing the number of doses as symptoms get better.

How It Works

Homeopaths and related workers typically assert that this drug works as a spinant, or a substance that affects the spinal cord. Western practitioners often point out that it contains the toxic chemicals strychnine and brucine. Both of these substances influence the ability of nerve signals to travel through the body.


In the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally banned St. Ignatius bean from nonprescription medical products in 1989, but as of 2013, is not an illegal substance and still can be sold by itself. It also has a strong tradition in other cultures and countries, such as in Chinese herbal medicine. As a result, many websites and drug stores still offer forms of it for sale, making it extremely easy to get around the world. Many people buy it through their local licensed homeopaths, who have better connections to the suppliers of many plants and herbs.

Dangers and Warnings

With Ignatia Amara containing brucine and strychnine, both of which are poisonous, a person has to take extreme care when preparing or taking a dose. Miscalculating by even a small amount can result in serious side effects, such as excruciating muscle cramps that can lead to trouble breathing. It also builds up in the liver, damaging it, and can cause problems during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The drug is potentially deadly and, therefore, isn’t recommended for general, unsupervised use. The dangerous nature of this substance is what led to the FDA ban, and modern healthcare professionals typically still classify it as unsafe.

Despite the fact St. Ignatius bean is potentially fatal if accidentally or purposely mishandled, many people in the homeopathic sector still put their support behind it. They generally claim that, with proper dosing, the amount of strychnine and brucine a person gets is so slight that it’s inconsequential. These individuals usually recommend half a dose for children as young as two years old, although they often suggest consulting a professional before using it if a person is pregnant.

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Discussion Comments

By anon346787 — On Aug 31, 2013

After trying five antidepressants with negative results, I tried ignatia mara 30c last week. I took it as directed for a few days -- then out of nowhere had a massive panic attack and my pulse went up to 115. I stopped it for a week and tried it a few hours ago. I dozed off and woke up with another panic attack. This time, my pulse went up to 120.

By anon322554 — On Feb 28, 2013

@Sherlock87: Your story makes me think of Wallace Shawn's Vizzini in "The Princess Bride," who built up a tolerance to arsenic.

By anon318240 — On Feb 06, 2013

I just want to talk about the good effects of the ignatia. I was introduced to it by a pharmacist and homeopathic instructor. I was depressed and immediately I began to notice that I was getting better. Thanks to nature, God and the person who introduced it to me.

By anon295244 — On Oct 05, 2012

Ignatia was recommended to me by a natural foods store clerk. I was looking for, put simply, a "calm down" pill, supplement, anything. I occasionally have panic attacks and always have general anxiety, and had started to form a habit of using wine to calm down. I decided that habit needed to stop, but after a few days without it, I felt lost, anxious, and like nothing but prescription drugs would help.

As a last ditch effort, I tried the natural foods store. I feel, no joke, like a miracle has been worked over me. After trying Ignatia the first time, the craving for something to help me calm down stopped immediately. Then about an hour later, this thought came to me: "Everything is going to be okay. I can do this." For anyone who has suffered anxiety and panic attacks, the feeling that everything is going to be okay is rare and precious. I am so grateful I was introduced to this remedy.

By anon276853 — On Jun 27, 2012

Ignatia saved me a lot. I had deep-seated anger, grief and a lot of mental trauma. I used ignatia 200 three tablets two times daily, up to 10 in one week. Now I feel amazingly better. Thanks for who invented this remedy.

By anon250944 — On Feb 27, 2012

I have had many bouts with panic/anxiety attacks. I have been to the hospital and spent the night several times with no diagnosis and a large bill to pay. After a paramedic once mentioned a panic attack, I searched and found this to be a remedy for it. I have since carried Ignatia Amara 30c. There have been recurrences, but I have found when I take Ignatia Amara, the attacks subside very quickly.

I no longer fear having an attack and will recommend it every chance I get. I am not joking in any form or by any means. If you suffer from panic/anxiety attacks, please try Ignatia Amara.

By anon226944 — On Nov 02, 2011

I was given this to help my body better absorb nutrients from food. I am utterly confused.

By anon217584 — On Sep 26, 2011

I have been giving this remedy to my daughter and cannot explain the difference it has made. Her ability to communicate and reason has just amazed me as prior to Ignatia, there was so much anger and an inability to confront her own emotions.

By anon169027 — On Apr 19, 2011

Ignatia Amara is/has been a life saver for me. I've suffered great loss/death/trauma more than the average person, and discovering this homeopathic with the help of a store clerk changed my life forever.

I am one of the lucky people who experiences the effect of it immediately. I can find myself in grief induced hysterics (loss/memory of a loved one via death/end of relationship) and within a few seconds of putting the homeopathic under my tongue be able to breathe/stop crying/and have a clear mind. It is a godsend to me.

By sherlock87 — On Feb 22, 2011

This is not the only instance of people consuming what is believed to be a poisonous substance and surviving. Perhaps the best known occurrence of this in the history of the United States is the consumption of arsenic by some evangelical Christians in the Appalachian mountains, specifically those who believe in serpent handling.

In this part of Christianity, people actually drink amounts of arsenic while handling rattle snakes, in response to the Bible passage that "they shall take up serpents". While it's not always clear whether these people develop an immunity to the poison or are able to handle it under the circumstance, they don't die from the arsenic. However, many people do die from complications due to the rare occasions when the "serpents" bite.

By afterall — On Feb 22, 2011

I feel skeptical of this, but I imagine if I had suffered a great loss in my life I would be willing to try almost anything to overcome the pain. I imagine it is also better, at least, than things like drinking and drugs, which too many people fall prey to doing to alleviate grief.

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