Baptisia: Side Effects to Baptisia

by Gill Stannard and Paul Bergner

Medical Herbalism 10-31-95 7(3):15

I am beginning an adverse reactions file to herbal tinctures I have been using in practice. Baptisia tinctoria (wild indigo) tops the list thus far with two different adverse reactions, and both also come up in homeopathic materia medica as a side effect.

1) patient felt as though she was hallucinating, which was not a pleasant experience for her (though all her friends wanted whatever she was having.)

2) patient had a fine, burning skin rash (urticaria).

Gill Stannard: Melbourne, Australia


Baptisia, a powerful antiseptic, was used by the Eclectics both internally and externally, but originally was mainly used externally for septic ulcers and gangrenous ulcers and wounds. It was also used internally for peptic and duodenal ulcers. Baptisia is included in some versions of the famous Roberts’ Formula for ulcers — curious note because it has only recently been discovered that internal ulcers are usually accompanied by infection with Helicobacter pylori. It was also used for very serious infections such as typhoid and diphtheria. A guiding symptom was fullness of the tissues with bluish discoloration, i.e. infected gangrenous conditions with no blood supply.

The Eclectics also noted a mental component to Baptisia, and report use for mania, dementia, and melancholia, without specifying doses or more specific pictures.

It is a powerful herb, and emetic and cathartic in large doses, and was preferred in serious illnesses. Felter says that the “dry plant is practically worthless,” and used fresh plant tincture preparations. A sign of the strength of this herb is the dose recommended by Felter: 20 drops of “Specific Baptisia” (a proprietary tincture preparation) in four ounces of water. Dose: teaspoonful every 1/2-1 hour. This is the same sort of dosing strategy used for other powerful and potentially toxic herbs such as aconite. Contemporary herbalists often use larger doses without noting side effects.
  Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner

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