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.
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.
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.