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The plant used as homeopathic gelsemium is gelsemium sempervirens, a creeping vine found in woodlands and along coastal areas. Homeopathic gelsemium can be made of the creeper’s runners or roots, which are combined with alcohol to make a tincture. In colonial America, the plant was used as a treatment for fevers, and today it is used to ease a number of problems, including some phobias, fatigue, flu, sore throats, colds, headaches, stage fright and nervousness prior to examinations. Homeopathic gelsemium is also sometimes used to treat diarrhea and measles.
Many practitioners of homeopathy prefer to use other remedies in place of gelsemium because this plant can cause death, even in small doses. Even bees that pollinate its flowers have suffered from poisoning, and honey made from gelsemium is considered poisonous. All parts are considered toxic, and they have a harmful effect on the respiratory system. Serious side effects that indicate toxicity include dizziness, headache, problems with breathing, swallowing or vision, a slowing of the heartbeat and seizures. Gelsemium ingestion also can lead to paralysis.
Gelsemium should not be administered to children or to people who already have heart trouble. Some children who have eaten gelsemium’s nectar after incorrectly identifying the flower as a honeysuckle blossom have been poisoned. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding also should avoid gelsemium. A portion of the population also experiences an allergic skin reaction after touching the plant’s sap.
Uses of gelsemium include treatments for a type of pain that strikes in facial nerves. Gelsemium has also been used for certain breathing problems, including asthma, especially at the turn of the 20th century. Chinese medicine uses the plant in treatments for neuralgia. It is believed the plant contains compounds that work in the brain to lessen pain. Gelsemium dosage is dependent on a variety of factors that include a patient’s health and age.
Gelsemium sempervirens is an evergreen plant that produces scented yellow flowers shaped like bells, and the flowers bloom in the spring. The plant is an aggressive creeper and can travel far via an extensive underground system of roots, and it can wind its way to the top of trees. Other names for this plant are begonia sempervirens and gelsemium nitidum, and it is commonly called yellow jessamine root, yellow jasmine, Carolina jasmine false jasmine, evening trumpet flower and woodbine.