Strychnos nux-vomica L. belongs to the genus Strychnos of the family Loganiaceae and grows in Sri Lanka, India and Australia. The traditional medicinal component is its seed, called Nux vomica. This study provides a relevant and comprehensive review of S. nux-vomica L., including its botany, ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology, thus providing a foundation for future studies. Up to the present day, over 84 compounds, including alkaloids, iridoid glycosides, flavonoid glycosides, triterpenoids, steroids and organic acids, among others, have been isolated and identified from S. nux-vomica. These compounds possess an array of biological activities, including effects on the nervous system, analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions, antitumor effects, inhibition of the growth of pathogenic microorganisms and regulation of immune function. Furthermore, toxicity and detoxification methods are preliminarily discussed toward the end of this review. In further research on S. nux-vomica, bioactivity-guided isolation strategies should be emphasized. Its antitumor effects should be investigated further and in vivo animal experiments should be performed alongside in vitro testing. The pharmacological activity and toxicology of strychnine [Formula: see text]-oxide and brucine [Formula: see text]-oxide should be studied to explore the detoxification mechanism associated with processing more deeply.